Reloading your own ammunition can be a massively daunting project, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you have the right equipment it can be a smooth and easy process. This is particularly true for having the best hand primer possible.
It’s possible to purchase pre-primed shells, but this is much more expensive than reloading cartridges yourself, not to mention the shells aren’t always the best quality. Having the best priming tool will ensure the reloading process is efficient and produces high quality cartridges.
How to choose a hand priming tool?
In order to choose the the best priming tool, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind:
- Design – This may be the most important factor, as you’ll be using your hand primer for an extended amount of time. Some a more portable while others are require being attached to a surface.
- Caliber Size – The type and size of caliber size the priming tool is capable of handling is important, and unique to your situation. Generally speaking, you’ll want a tool that can handle a variety of caliber types and sizes, but if you stick to one or two, keep that in mind.
- Portability- Do you want a portable priming tool that you can take with you? Or do you want one that needs to be attached to a work bench (not as portable, but often more stable)?
- Safety – All reloading primer tools are built for safety, but some are more “accident proof” than others. Keep this in mind if you’re a safety conscious user or a complete beginner.
Portable or bench priming tool?
As mentioned above, you have a choice of portable or attached, bench priming tools. While neither is particularly “better” than the other, personal preferences will often be a factor. Think about how you intend to use it, will you be taking it with you to the range or on projects? Or will it primarily be used at the house or your workshop?
The bench models tend to be more durable and long-lasting, so if you don’t need to take your hand primer with you, it can be a good investment. However, if you’re constantly on-the-go, a portable model may be the better option. It’s also common to purchase one of each.
How to use a hand primer
The goal of hand primers is to prime the shell for optimal firing by injecting a bit of powder into cartridges in the proper manner. All you need to do is insert a pit of gunpowder into the projectile base and use the hand primer to lock it in in a quick and safe manner.
1. RCBS 9460 Priming Tool
This is a great hand primer for the money. It’s designed to be easy-to-use and durable, not to mention it has the capacity to handle a large array of cases. It will make priming your shells more fun and efficient than it’s ever been in your life.
The hand primer is very lightweight, coming in at just 2.25 lbs, making it very portable, perfect to take out hunting or to the range for the day. It’s also small enough to fit in your pocket or not take up too much space in a hunting bag.
With your purchase, you’ll also receive two rod assemblies and feed tubes, more great additions to your reloading supplies. All of which will make you even more efficient in the reloading process. This design is single-stage lever, very fast and precise.
- Finicky primer tube
2. Lee Precision 90700 Bench Primer
This is one of the best hand primers out there and is a great price. The durable and design is perfect for constant reloading and will long outlast many other priming tools on the market.
This extremely affordable hand primer is specifically designed to mount to your bench, making it a great choice if that’s your preferred design. It’s also great for beginner’s or anyone less comfortable with hand primers and don’t want to try with a portable right away.
This simple model only requires you to pull down one lever (that’s so easy it could be done with minimal effort) and is compatible with both right and left handed users. The triangular tray can handle most brands of primer boxes, as well as any press shell holder, very unique compared to other brands.
This is definitely one of the most versatile and best value bench hand primers out there, and it’s ability to change primer size and shell holder in seconds is worth the affordable price.
- Bench primer
- Very affordable
- Polyester = flimsy
- Shell holders not included
3. Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Primer
This unique design from Frankford Arsenal makes reloading as easy as pushing a lever. It’s also very versatile and works well with both large and small primers. It also comes with a case where you can store collets and other accessories as well – very handy!
The simple thumb release is all you need to push to switch between large and small primers. The best part however, is the special safety audit, which makes sure you won’t crush a primer.
This is one of the best hand priming tools on the market, made of durable zinc and steel, ensuring it won’t crap out on you at a critical time. Along with this great priming tool, you’ll also receive 12 different shell holders that allow use of 652 different calibers – definitely one of the most versatile options out there!
- Storage space
4. Hornady 0500021 Handheld Primer
This is one of the best handheld primer tools out there, with a solid, yet light design, you can take it anywhere while still having a stable primer (not flimsy like many of the other lighter options on the market).
This is a very “safety conscious” tool and thus isn’t as adjustable or flexible as other models, but on the other hand if you’re a beginner or less confident with hand primers, it’s a great choice. It’s also easy to change the shell holders and tray, as the design doesn’t require removal of the springs or punch in order to do so.
If you’re looking for a safe, stable and easy to use handheld primer tool, you won’t want to miss this!
- Not adjustable
- Heavier than other portable models
5. Frankford Arsenal Hand Primer/Deprimer
This handy tool from Frankford is perfect for those who prefer versatile tools as it has the ability to both prime and deprime cartridges. This is thanks to Frankford’s patented universal collet system, which has the ability to handle many different types of cartridges.
This reloading priming tool primes in the standard way – with a simple pull handle that’s great for experienced and beginners alike. However, as it is both a primer and deprimer, you’re able to move or add cartridges with choice of setting.
This is definitely one of the most versatile tools you’ll find on the market and retains powder making for easy cleanup!
- Easy use
- Not very flexible
6. Lee Precision 90180 Breech Primer
This tool from Lee is one of the best handheld primer tools out there! Extremely portable and requiring no batteries it is the perfect hand primer to take on the go!
Weighing in at just a little over a pound, it’s easy to take with you or stick in your pocket for later. It’s one of the quickest ways to prime and reload and very simple as no power is required to use. Made out of sturdy aluminum, it’ll last longer than many of the larger (and less portable options).
Buy yours today and you’ll quickly realize you may want more than one!
- No battery required
- Requires man power
7. RCBS 90201 Hand Primer
This universal hand primer from RCBS is one of the best on the market! It’s easily attachable to any bench and can be use with any brand of primers, large or small. It also accepts all types of shells and will prime for optimal firing.
The removable tray allows you to adjust to your liking and combines the best features of all the previous RCBS primers.
This is a great reloading primer for all levels, but the patented safety gate makes it perfect for beginners, definitely one of the best hand priming tool available!
- Removable Tray
- Safety gate
- Flimsy tray
Do I really need a hand primer?
Yes, there are many benefits, mainly that it makes the reloading process much more efficient and it’s often more accurate, ensuring your case will be primed properly. Unlike pre-primed shells that more often than not, are poor quality.
A reloading primer tool makes everything so much easier, it primes your shell casing so that cartridges are ready for optimal firing. Hand primers are also much more productive than the primers that come with reloading presses. Reloading primers are simple and easy to use, not to mention often portable (should you choose that model) and thus, a very good purchase.
How to shell holders fit?
This is entirely dependent on the priming tool you purchase. Some reloading primers require shell holders specific to that brand, others are more versatile. Keep this in mind when purchasing, as if necessary, new shell holders are an additional cost to factor in.
How to seat a primer?
There is no hard and fast answer, as you will develop a “feel” and preference for this over time. After a few uses, you’ll begin to know instinctively when the primer is seated properly, this is often easier with portable models. It just takes practice.
How to ensure no primer becomes crushed?
This shouldn’t really be of concern, but if you’re a beginner, it’s advisable to choose a hand priming tool that is specifically designed to ensure this doesn’t happen. If this isn’t an option, it’s another “practice and feel” situation just like figuring out how to seat your reloading primer properly. After 5 – 10 tries you should have it down, in the meantime, it’s only a marginal amount of primer that could be crushed.