Self-loading firearm ammunition is an artform on more than one level because it requires patience, concentration, and education to achieve the desired result. Without one of those three, the result could be very negative with the possibility of misfirings, small explosions, or even simply loss of time and money invested. This is obviously not the goal, and why it takes those three principles in order to successfully and unfalteringly reload your own shells.
There are an array of tools to aid in this process including bulkier bench mounted tools and smaller hand tools, but those who consider themselves professionals get the best equipment and ensure the best quality by insisting on doing some of the processes by hand. This is exactly why those who are skilled at recycling ammunition use the best hand priming tool to set the primer in each casing after thoroughly cleaning it out.
A Quick Overview
Once you have blown through your rounds at the range, pegging targets with pinpoint accuracy at close and from afar not missing once (of course), and you’ve picked up the casings to be recycled, it’s time to clean them inside and out extremely well. Once they are cleaned to an impeccable standard, you can now add the primer.
The primer is the little metallic dot on the flat butt-side of the round. It reacts to intense friction or even electrical impulses and it is designed to ignite the charge. It is what the hammer in the firearm specifically hits as you pull the trigger. Due to this, you must use caution when handling them to prevent accidental explosions. Even when cased and boxed up they are almost always flipped upside down to prevent such things from happening.
These primers have to be ‘set’ in the refurbished casing by use of a tool that delivers a slow, steady, but a strong force so the primer does not become dislodged in any way at any time.
This is where the hand primer comes into play because it offers consistency, control, and best of all convenience. The small tool fits in one hand and has a grip that when squeezed it presses the primer up into the base of the shell which is being held in place on top of the tool. Attached to the side is a container housing all the primers. It’s as simple as set, press, and repeat.
Of course, you always want to be cautious when using a hand priming tool, or simply when reloading in general. Always wear protective eye-ware and always do it in a well-ventilated area. If one of those bad boys should happen to accidentally go off, although nonlethal, you most certainly will not want any lingering gasses in the air. Just be sure to exercise caution and take your time when reloading because like I said, reloading is an art form in and of itself.
Things To Look For
Whether your reloading Ruger brass or any other brass for that matter, you’ll want the best hand priming tool for reloading. This means there are some key features to be aware of that make a great tool.
Things like an ergonomic design so it fits comfortably in your hand, or the ease and smoothness of the grip squeeze. You might also consider extra safety features to prevent accidental primer detonation.
Other things to keep an eye out for are the shape of the primer tray and whether or not it helps to funnel the primers towards the mouth or not. Not that a circle tray is bad, it’s just more of an added bonus. Also regarding the trays, make sure the tray can fit an array of primer brands so that the whole process can be easier on yourself.
One last important thing to keep an eye out for is the size of the cartridge the hand primer can take. Obviously, you’ll want to get one that fits your shell size.
Hand Priming Tool Reviews
So, in no particular order, here are what we think the top three best hand priming tools are and why.
RCBS Universal Hand Priming Tool
The RCBS universal hand priming tool is absolutely top of the line when it comes to hand primers. This little guy may look simple, and relatively speaking it is a simplistic tool, but it is packed with some amazing features which bring this hand primer into a category of its own.
The RCBS hand priming tool can hold and prime brass cases as small as the .32 ACP as well as much larger casings like the .45-70 Government. This primer tool can easily switch between large and small rifle/pistol primers via the accessories it comes standard with.
It also features a wonderful safety barrier so that only one primer can be loaded at once. The smoothness is also in part due to the angled primer holding case, and overall the purpose being to prevent tray detonation of one or more primers.
Other notable features include the ergonomic shape to help eliminate fatigue and injuries by being more comfortable and easier to operate. This hand priming tool also has an upgraded primer tray that now accommodates any brand of primer which makes this tool even more convenient.
This is arguably the best ammo hand primer, and if you decide to go with this one you will not be disappointed. The RCBS universal hand priming tool will prime virtually any shell you need with ease and consistency which allows you to prime more in a shorter amount of time. It is a tad more expensive than some of its competitors but is worth it in the end.
Lee Precision Ergo Prime
The Precision Ergo priming tool from Lee is another incredible hand primer that has some unique features and is among the best. For starters, this hand priming tool has a uniquely sensitive pull. It also has a very forward-thinking design in regards to the contoured grip and how ERGOnomic it is. These two features alone make this one of the best hand primers for older hands or those who look to do large amounts of priming by hand.
Another great thing about the Lee Precision is its simplistic design which adds yet another convenience level to the tool. This is mostly due to the fact that no tools are needed to change the primer size because all you have to do is remove the piece holding the shells in place and swap out the trays.
The hand primer itself is constructed from very strong and very durable metals, and it is powder coated for an added layer of protection which ultimately gives a longer life for the tool. Lee boasts that because of its ergonomic shape and colorful powder coating it is one of the best hand priming tools not just to use, but also to look at. Not too many will argue that. It’s a bargain for what you get, and it will surely last as long as you need it while outperforming the competition.
Hornady Handheld Priming Tool
The Hornady handheld priming tool is a fine example of a hand primer that is very effective but designed to be as simple as it gets. The body and the grip are both functional but hardly ergonomically designed, and in the case of the body is not at all. It may not be the most comfortable hand priming tool but is going to get the job done and done well.
The top is designed for typical Hornady shell holders but unfortunately, they are sold separately. A couple of nice features include the extra bushings inside the mechanism to keep this hand primer consistent and reliable.
It also features an updated primer tray that aids in funneling primers to the seat, along with being adapted to house larger primers. The Hornady hand primer comes with an additional primer tray, and the new tray designs also get rid of the need to have separate primer bushings. One of the best features, specifically in regards to the second tray, is it can be used with RCBS shell holders which make this tool even more functional and pragmatic.
With this hand primer at a reasonably low price you really can’t go wrong. It may not be the most eye appealing, but it will certainly get the job done.
All three of these hand primers a great in their own respects and each one will get the job done. It really comes down to personal preference and how ‘comfortable’ you want your tool to be. That will rely mostly on the amount of ammunition you plan on recycling at any given time. The more you plan on doing, the more I would recommend a more comfortable grip. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with any of the above mentioned hand primers.