Product Review - Lee Hand Priming Tool
by "Histed"

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Handloading ammunition is becoming ever more popular. We get into handloading for many reasons, such as creating more accurate loads, tailoring ammunition for a specific firearm, making an obsolete caliber/firearm come to life, or just to be able to shoot more. For a novice, acquiring the equipment and skills to "roll yer own" can be daunting. Many of the articles here are intended to take some of the confusion out of the equation and help the neophyte on his or her way. Here we are going to review one of the most popular hand primers on the market today.

For anyone just getting started, there are four basic components required to make a round of ammunition - brass (the case), bullet, powder, and primer. Another article coming soon will discuss the different types of primers. For now, the primer in general is the spark plug of the ammunition. To create a new round, one must remove the old primer (done during the resizing stage) and insert a new primer of the proper size. Though nearly all reloading presses are capable of performing this task, many experienced handloader prefer a hand priming tool over using the press. Many, including myself, believe they give a better "feel" when seating a primer; that is, it allows the loader to feel the primer seat so that he/she can make sure the primer is seated deeply enough and the primer pocket is not overly large. The tool reviewed here is one I am familiar with and have used in my own loading.

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[Lee brand Hand Priming Tool]

One of, if not the, least expensive hand priming tools on the market is made by Lee. Lee is famous for producing quality, budget priced tools. Many of us own and use Lee dies, presses, measures, and powder scales. Unfortunately, my experience with the Lee Hand Primer has not been encouraging. The tool is easy to assemble/disassemble and, when it functions properly, it provides plenty of leverage to seat the primer easily.

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[Closeup of Lee Hand Priming Tool]

The problem lies in the primer delivery system. Look closely at the closeup photo above and you will see a plastic protrusion just above the shell holder. This protrusion is designed to be a buffer between the primer being inserted and the primers in loading tray above, preventing all of the primers from detonating should the one being inserted accidentally go bang. Only one primer at a time can drop into position to be inserted. The idea is sound.

In this primer seating tool, however, the moving chamber that carries the primers from the tray to the shell holder ram is too large. Primers tend to turn sideways or even flip over and enter backwards. When either of these happen, the primer can be mashed or inserted backward. Either sets up a potentially dangerous situation in which a damaged primer - still live - must be removed from the case.

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[Left: Primer in sideways and mashed. Right: Primer inserted backwards]

A primer can also turn completely sideways in the chamber, causing the tool to malfunction completely until the offending primer is removed. The only safe way to do that is to totally disassemble the tool. From experience I can assure you that this is a complicated and time consuming task best done inside a box. Twice was quite enough for me. My Lee Hand Priming Tool now lives in the back of the "Unwanted Tools" drawer.

As stated earlier, most of the reloading tools supplied by Lee are budget friendly and well worth the buying. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those. At about $20.00 plus the proprietary shell holder, give this Lee tool a miss.