I have several LEE molds. There is a learning curve, and once you get the hang of it the molds perform well. The other day I cast a bunch of 9mm round nose bullets. Normally I have to toss the first few castings back into the pot. This time I started casting good bullets and continued to cast good bullets throughout.
I preheat he molds on a hot plate set between low and medium. This takes about thirty minutes or so. When the mold is ready and the pot is about 750 degrees I get started. Most of the time this works very well for me.
I have never seen any benefit from smoking a mold.
I load, 9mm Luger, 38 and 40 S&W, 38 Special, 357, 45ACP, 45 Colt, 223, 243 and 30-06