Handloading ammunition is a popular practice among gun owners, especially those engaging in shooting sports or who shoot regularly.
It permits firearm enthusiasts to create custom ammo that best fits their firearms and specific needs. This leads to enhanced precision and capability on the range. For regular shooters, handloading can be a cost-effective practice over time.
Reloading your ammunition is not complete without priming a brass case. Period. Without the primer, no spark would be created by the firing pin’s strike.
Having said that, many gun enthusiasts are using hand priming tools these days instead of single-stage presses, especially for match-grade and rifle ammo.
What is a Priming Tool?
Single-stage presses, which are a quintessential tool in the handloading process, don’t always provide an easy way of installing primers to cases. They can be cumbersome objects to install and configure.
This is when a priming tool can become an invaluable asset in the handloading process that will save you money and allow you to work from anywhere.
This handheld device offers the user optimal control and precision when seating the primer into a cartridge case. These efficient and reliable tools allow you to securely position your primers with greater accuracy.
You may find that using a hand priming tool is much more reliable in terms of consistent primer seating depth when compared to using a machine press.
The Best Priming Tools Available on the Internet
Today’s leading priming tools surpass all expectations, redefining the standard for quality and performance.
Not only do they securely and quickly insert primers, but these handheld devices also come equipped with small and large primer plugs and safety mechanisms to ensure added protection.
The ideal priming tools are uncomplicated to use and fill, responsive enough that you can sense when the primer settles at the bottom, as well as allowing you to prime different calibers.
Here’s our list of the best priming tools on the market:
Lee Precision Auto Prime XR
Lee Precision Auto Prime XR (starting at $31) is a good example of how priming tools have become much easier to use, as well as more sturdy and reliable – especially for those who are on a budget.
Despite the body of this product being composed of plastic, it still achieves exceptional results comparable to more expensive alternatives. I find the Auto Prime XR to be wonderfully compact, fitting snugly in a pocket and ready to be used anywhere – a great convenience.
Additionally, Lee Precision provides an efficient solution with the square holder; it fits over the entire tray of primers and I was able to neatly turn them upside down into the holder. The reloading process is also made easier because of its primer tray, which happens to be compatible with many types of primers.
A notable feature is the elevator pin safety design. This system guarantees that each primer tray remains isolated, eliminating any possibility of a detonation caused by contact between trays. Without exaggeration, I can assure you that using it will improve your overall experience.
Hornady Handheld Priming Tool
The Hornady Handheld Priming Tool ($60) is renowned as one of the simplest, ergonomically designed hand primer tools on the market. Its one-piece tray and advanced retention technology (that uses a lid-lock to keep everything together) make it almost effortless to use. This device has earned many loyal users thanks to its ease of operation.
This model was designed with user-friendliness in mind. I find the plier-style handle to be ergonomic and comfortable to use, which helps to reduce hand fatigue. Conveniently, there is no need to break apart primer bushings as they are molded in one piece for hassle-free and efficient usage.
This product gives you several options as it’s designed to work with both small and large primers, and is compatible with Hornady shell holders as well as an included RCBS tray.
Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat Hand Primer
The Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat Hand Primer ($60), made of heavy-duty zinc, is an effortless tool that offers amazing performance and versatility. When designing this unit, the primary focus of the manufacturers was to ensure accurate primer seating. To achieve this result, they equipped it with an innovative, customizable seating system that keeps primers from being crushed into cases.
I love how you can precisely adjust the primer depth in .001″ increments so that you can always have consistent primer depth without having to guess or “feel” the case.
Once you get used to this hand primer, it’s remarkably fast and accurate. The quick thumb release system makes it effortless for you to quickly transition from small primer shells to large ones, and the hard stopper ensures that you don’t accidentally over-crush a primer.
This is an excellent feature considering the fact you can use this portable hand primer anywhere to prime hundreds of cases in a few minutes, granted you have the dexterity and hand strength. The reloading kit offers 12 shell holders for the most popular cases, as well as a self-righting primer tray that can hold up to 100 primers.
The Frankford Arsenal Hand Primer is quite a versatile tool for reloading enthusiasts who need to prime handguns with a multitude of calibers such as 9mm, .45 ACP, or .380. Moreover, you won’t find many hand primers that provide multiple sleeves and priming pins without an additional cost.
Overall, the Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat Hand Primer is a reliable and easy-to-use hand priming tool that can be used for multiple reloading tasks. Its adjustable seating mechanism, ergonomic design, and compatibility with both large and small primers make it an ideal tool for serious reloaders.
RCBS 90200 Hand Priming Tool
If speed and safety are your top priorities, and I imagine they certainly are, the RCBS 90200 Hand Priming Tool ($65) is an excellent, user-friendly tool that you should consider.
Constructed of cast-iron metal, the device is straightforward to set up, providing good leverage to seat the primer. I find the lever to be remarkably smooth, which is a major benefit to anyone who experiences hand fatigue.
A “safety gate” ensures all other primers are kept away from the one being seated – an extra layer of protection that greatly reduces the risk of explosion. The primer tray is not only secure with a rotating cover to open and close the feed chute, but it feeds consistently without any spilling
The portability of this tool is a plus, especially for anyone who doesn’t want to spend too much working at a desk. Moreover, the unit is designed in a size and shape that makes it easy to carry and work anywhere.
I’ve read several testimonies from folks who have loaded hundreds upon hundreds of rounds without a single primer flipping issue.
Lyman E-ZEE Universal Priming Tool
The Lyman E-ZEE Universal Priming Tool ($50) is a great option for beginners because its affordable, efficient, and easy to use partly due to its ergonomic shape that provides increased leverage.
Boasting a two-tray setup for both small and large sizes, this priming tool is designed to make the process easy and comfortable. And the process is faster and more efficient when you can switch between trays in a few seconds. Honestly, having the instant changeover between primer sizes is a must-have.
To make things easier, the tray also serves as a flipper, so the primers are always organized. You don’t have to worry that much about handling difficult or small pieces when punching thanks to the E-ZEE Priming Tool’s built-in shut-off gate to ensure safe and efficient primer replacement.
This handheld primer tool is constructed from a sturdy metal body and works with most standard shell holders.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Hand Priming Tool?
Hand priming tools allow you to cheaply and efficiently prime cartridges of various calibers (for rifles and pistols) anywhere without having to deal with a bulky pressing machine. They also allow you to control the depth of priming better than a hydraulic machine.
Additionally, hand priming tools reduce fatigue if they have an ergonomically designed handle. Hand priming tools also offer trays that can easily be swapped in and out for various-sized primers.
Here are the main benefits of using a priming tool:
- Consistency: Using a hand priming tool gives you more finesse and control over the loading process, thus allowing for better uniformity in your projectiles.
- Safety: A hand priming tool allows you to safely handle small, delicate parts and avoid accidental discharge.
- Convenience: Hand priming tools are a great alternative to press-mounted ones if you’re looking for convenience and simplicity. With no mounting hardware or press required, it can easily be used on any flat surface.
- Portability: Priming tools are lightweight and portable.
Hand priming tools can be a wise investment for those who want to take control of their priming process, prioritize safety, value effortless use, or need portability.
How To Use a Priming Tool
To use a hand priming tool, first, fill the primer tray with compatible primers and slide in a case onto the shell holder or collet. Then push down on the handle to insert the primer into the pocket of that specific case. You can modify seating depth as needed.
Here are the general steps to using a priming tool:
- Load the primer tray: For your reloading session, fill the tray with the exact number of primers required.
- Insert a brass case: Place a case into the shell holder that is sized for the correct caliber.
- Position the hand primer: Place the tool above the case so that the primer pocket is level with the seating system.
- Seat the primer: Push down on the handle of the hand priming tool to seat the primer into the primer pocket of the case.
- Remove the case: After the primer is securely placed, take out the brass case from its shell holder and repeat this procedure with your next piece.
Following the manufacturer’s instructions for your hand priming tool is essential, as each model may have unique operating procedures.
Hand priming tools are highly beneficial for reloaders looking to have more control over the primer application process or desire to prime cases independent of a machine press.
With a hand priming tool, shooters have the opportunity to save some money by reusing their spent cartridges.
As a shooter, regardless of your skill level, you should consider investing in reliable and efficient hand primers to ensure that your cartridges are set up for the right situation.
As you search for the ideal hand priming tool, don’t forget to consider other important aspects such as size and portability, user-friendliness, and construction materials – all these features play an integral role in enhancing durability and making the overall process much safer and quicker.
Finally, it’s essential to recognize that handloading ammunition requires knowledge, skill, and diligence toward safety. It should only be carried out by individuals who have obtained proper training and education on the matter.