are three primary types of priming tools currently used in handloading.
Probably the most common are the press mounted units available for
most single stage reloading presses. Primary advantages of these units
are price and availability; many presses come equipped with these
units right from the factory. Most are based on a movable arm that
picks up a primer from the primer tube (also mounted on the press
frame) when the ram is at the top of its stroke. This may be either
during the sizing/decapping operation, or as a separate step done
specifically for priming. On the downstroke, the arm is shifted into
a slot cut into the center of the ram, aligning the primer with the
hole in the center of the shell holder. The ram is then brought the
rest of the way down, until the primer is inserted into the primer
pocket. One of the biggest disadvantages to this system is the tremendous
leverage the presses generate. While necessary for tough jobs like
resizing and case forming, priming does not require anywhere near
this much force. Primer seating is a delicate
operation, which calls for a deft touch if the handloader is to feel
the primer anvil bottoming in the primer pocket. The force that can
be generated by a reloading
press simply isnt needed for this operation, and is a bit like
trying to drive a thumbtack with a sledge hammer.
is fast and easy with a remote bench mounted unit, like this
RCBS priming tool.
second type is the remote bench mounted priming units, such as those
produced by Bonanza
and RCBS. These are considerably more sensitive than the press mounted
units, but still generate a great deal of leverage. Some are equipped
with an automatic primer feed, and provide a good compromise between
speed, sensitivity and convenience for most reloaders. The RCBS
units use the same shell holders as the reloading press, while the
Bonanza uses an independently adjustable, universal shell holder.
cases with a hand priming tool. The best models, such as this
Sinclair tool, offer tremendous sen sitivity, allowing you
to feel the primer bottom out in the pocket.
last type is the hand held priming tools, typified by the Lee Auto-Prime.
These tools are used extensively by benchrest shooters, as they allow
the handloader to feel the primer bottom out in the primer pocket.
Those with an attached primer tray, such as the Lee or RCBS Hand Priming
Tool will speed up the priming process considerably by eliminating
the need to handle each primer individually. On the high end of the
hand priming tools are the benchrest grade tools, such as the Sinclair
Priming Tool. These are considerably more expensive than the more
common units, but are second to none where quality is concerned. Machined
to much closer tolerances and made of stainless steel and aircraft
grade aluminum, its smooth operation allows for an excellent feel
in the seating operation.
correct choice of priming tool will depend on the job at hand. Obviously,
large quantities of ammunition to be loaded will call for one of
the faster tools. Match grade ammunition, normally loaded in smaller
lots, will call for a tool that emphasizes precision over speed.
The beginning reloader and those on a tight budget or with limited
space may choose to stick with the press mounted units. By carefully
reviewing some of these options, a handloader should be able to
select the equipment best suited to their personal needs.
Pocket Swagers and Reamers
military ammunition intended for full-auto weapons use primers that
are crimped in place to reduce the possibility of a backed-out primer
jamming the action. Before these cases can be reloaded, the remains
of this crimp must be removed. Failure to do so will result in difficulty
repriming the case, damage to the new primer, accuracy and ignition
problems. This is a onetime operation, and will not need to be repeated
for subsequent reloadings.
are two approaches to removing this crimp; swagging and reaming.
Reaming involves using a specialized cutter to ream a slight radius
around the mouth of the primer pocket. This should ease the edges
enough to allow the new primer to be easily and properly seated.
Although this can be done with a small-bladed knife or a deburring
tool, we strongly recommend that only those reamers specifically
designed for the task be used. The use of other cutting instruments
may result in the removal of too much metal, rendering the case
unsafe. Primer pocket reamers are available from Lyman, Forster,
preferred method of removing the crimp is to swage the primer pocket.
Not only does this eliminate the possibility of removing an excessive
amount of material from the case head, it produces a smooth, even
radius around the primer pocket. Swagging also results in a slight
degree of work hardening around the primer pocket. This in turn,
may yield increased case life, and more consistent primer seating.
Swagging tools vary considerably in operation, depending on their
design. Some, like the RCBS swagging tool, are accessory units to
be used on single stage presses. Others are separate tools dedicated
solely to the task of swagging primer pockets. Some of the more
advanced progressive presses, such as the Dillon RL1050, actually
swage the primer pockets as a routine step in the reloading process.