Hand Priming Tools and Other Forms
By Joseph D'Alessandro Editor
these days I will rewrite my ancient articles that address the
subject of handloading equipment selection. I
don't believe much of the original choices would remain, as experience tends to temper judgment
and handloading is an activity that forms to the specifics of the
One piece of equipment I use constantly,
and without complaint, is my bench mounted RCBS APS priming tool. It is
fast, consistent and easy to use. In addition, primers are not
directly handled so there is little concern for process contamination.
The only task it does not handle well is insertion of the odd one or
two primers during load development. After some consideration, mostly
accompanied by my grumbling every time I had to break out the bench
tool to seat a couple of Large Rifle Magnum BR/Match primers, I
decided a hand priming tool was about what I needed.
There is a decent selection of tools of
this type available, basically the same tool, but positioned for a
different purpose; some for use as I've described, others in use for
volume production with portable convenience, some as a commitment to
ammo quality control and precision handloads. The various models run a
wide spectrum of cost, not so much an indication of features and
capability, as much as a pricing strategy determined by the
Hand-Held Priming Tool is sold through most outlets for approximately $30.
It is supplied with a large primer tray, it has the
ability to seat small and large primers and requires only the addition of
applicable $5 Hornady shell holders to make it fully operational. The
stand is a nice touch for providing a firm hold on the press while
primers are being seated. The Hornady product includes an adapter to
permit the use of RCBS shell holders. No doubt, Hornady recognizes the
benefits of drafting the leaders, as they also provide Lock-N-Load
bushing adapters for RCBS reloading presses.
The Lee Auto Prime Priming Tool $16
is a low cost hand primer, in fact, the lowest priced tool in the
group. It comes with small and large primer trays and seating rods, and
requires the use of Lee shell holders at about $5 each. The primer
tray is large capacity and has integrated primer flipping ridges.
Very similar in construction to most of
the other brands, there is not much that can go wrong with the tool,
and seating leverage mechanical advantage is about the same. The Lee
tool may be one of the better buys out there for anyone not sitting on
a large inventory of another manufacturer's shell holders.
Sinclair's Stainless Priming Tool $98
(right) is the expensive unit in the bunch. The tool is CNC machined,
fabricated from stainless steel, but requires the addition of Lee Auto
Prime shell holders before it can be put into service. It's a little
curious that such an expensive tool would pick a budget shell holder
to control a critical alignment, however, the Sinclair tool is very
shiny. On a more serious note, I don't believe there is a material
difference in this product, when compared to other brands, that
would warrant this price difference. This does not negate anyone's
desire to just buy expensive stuff.
The RCBS Hand Priming Tool APS $35 (right)
utilizes RCBS APS mounted primer strips and includes a universal shell
holder that will grip about any case. It's an interesting combination,
as the APS strips work well in production, and they do cut down on
direct handling of sensitive material. The universal holder is a nice
touch and will accommodate folks who do not use RCBS shell holders. It
just seemed a little redundant within my set up so I decided to use my
existing shell holders and go with the standard loose primer fed
product. If I had seen this model, before I bought the other, I
probably would have purchased it and would not feel compelled to
present this logic stretching justification. Crap.
The RCBS Hand Priming Tool
at $23 is a
moderately price piece of equipment. Not as neat as the APS model, but
still pretty nice. It requires the use of $5 RCBS
shell holders, but does include bushings for large and small primers. The primer
tray is grooved to flip primers correct side up and has capacity
for 100 primers. The clear plastic lid rotates to close off the flow
of primers. With shell holder installed, the seating rod, bushing and
shell holder are locked into vertical alignment. Very nice set up and
very easy to use.
For those of you who like to take
everything apart, and retain a shoebox full of disassembled watches
left over from a misspent childhood......
Handloading equipment is mostly received covered with a gunk that
kills primers. The hand primer was given the traditional bath in
special grease removing solution, also knows as whatever stuff my wife
left out next to the kitchen sink to wash dishes.
A thoughtful part of the design is the safety gate. It allows a single primer to
safely pass from the primer
tray to a well in the primer feed, beneath the shell holder and above
the primer rod. As actuation of the handle begins, the slot in the
gate moves out of alignment with the primer tray port, preventing any other
primers from passing through. The rest of the linkage works like an
old flathead Ford valve train, with the fewest parts and the highest
design reliability. The only thing I'd like to see is spring loaded rather
than gravity return of the primer rod. Considering this design has
been in service since slightly before the discovery of fire, and French
anthropologists have found no trace of exploded Neanderthal Man, the
unit is probably just fine the way it is.
I used the RCBS Hand Primer Tool to seat 50 primers
for a .270 WSM project I have in progress. It took a little getting
use to the seating pressure, only because it was quite different
than the APS press and I kept wanting to put my fingers in my ears
as I squeezed in what seemed a pretty aggressive manner. No singed
eyebrows, and the work moved along pretty quickly after the first 5
or 6 cases were completed. I did follow up with a depth mic and
compared these to a previously completed lot of APS production. They
both showed a primer depth .002"~.003" below case head surface. This
may seem a bit shallow, but that seems to be where my Norma brass
and Weatherby cartridges end up regardless primer tool selection. I
can't see using this tool exclusively, I will continue to use the APS press
for production, but the hand tool will be
great for miscellaneous primer installation and experimentation.