What to use to handload Federal primers?


March 28, 2007, 11:17 PM
I purchased a Lee Auto-Primer (clerk forgot to sell me the case holder, but thats a separate issue), got it home, read the instructions, and it said to NEVER use Federal primers with it. Since I only want to use Federal primers for my .357 revolver, this puts me in a bit of a bind.

I'm using the Lee hand press, at least for now, so I either want an independent priming tool or one that would work with the hand press. Lee has some tool that fits into the press (though I forget what it is called). Anyone have any recommendations on that tool or others?

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March 28, 2007, 11:23 PM
I have a Lee hand priming tool and most of the time use it with Federal primers. I believe Lee claims you can have mass detonation of Federal primers and that this allegedly doesn't happen with other brands. I have not used the Lee Auto Primer but if I did, I would probably use Federal primers in it any time I wanted to. Do what seems right and safe to you.

March 28, 2007, 11:41 PM
Use CCI, I have never seen a reason to be brand spacific in regard to primers, they all make the gun go bang. :confused:

March 29, 2007, 12:21 AM
Alot of revolver shooters favor Federal primers as they use "softer" cups. As to the Lee, I dunno. Mine says the same thing in the manual. No big deal to me, I don't use anything made by Federal except the occasional piece of brass I rat up.

The reason is mass detonation. Maybe if you only put 5 in the tray at a time, it wouldn't be as bad if they did go off. Another option would be the Lee ram prime system. Did you buy the hand press kit or just the press? One comes with the press kit but I've never used it. Maybe get your hands on a RCBS manual and see if it says anything against Federals in it. Supposedly the primer tray is separated from the one being seated in the RCBS one.

March 29, 2007, 12:47 AM
Consider the RCBS hand tool with APS. I like the tool with versatile (not really universal but it covers everything I handload) shell holder and have 2; one for small and one for large primers.

Although the RCBS does no more than move the risk from priming the case to loading the APS strip stage, the APS system does pretty well at automating primer feed and eliminating chain detonation simultaneously.

March 29, 2007, 01:01 AM
This is a bit off subject, but I have Richard Lee's Modern reloading manual. here's what he has to say about using anything other than CCI or Winchester Primers.

"We do not think that the other brands are inferior or more powerful. They are simply not safe to use with the auto prime. What I am saying is, if you do not take my advice and believe the instructions that come with the tool, you may get hurt. If it happens, it's no ones fault but your own. We care about your safety and want you to enjoy reloading. It's a very satisfying and rewarding pastime.

Some shooters prefer Federal brand primers; just as some drivers prefer Ford or Chevrolet. Federal brand primers must not be used with any Lee tray-type primer feeding device. A single exception; A primer explosion guard is available for the Lee Load-Master. Should you use primers other than as reccomended at the end of this chapter, be sure you feed them one at a time. I have never found Federal brand primers to be better or worse than other brands, so I avoid them only because they are dangerous in automatic feeders."

I dont know if that helps at all, but that's straight from the horse's mouth.


March 29, 2007, 01:23 AM
I have loaded thousands of Federal primers with my RCBS Rock Chucker, never a problem. I prefer this primer for my S&W's with adjustable main springs.

March 29, 2007, 01:27 AM
I use a Lee hand primer and Federal primers, have not had a problem in over 2,000 primes. It's a lawyer statement, I believe.

March 29, 2007, 07:29 AM
I purchased a Lee Auto-Primer (clerk forgot to sell me the case holder, but thats a separate issue), got it home, read the instructions, and it said to NEVER use Federal primers with it.

I did the exact same thing. I sent it back and got the RCBS hand primer.


March 29, 2007, 09:32 AM
I wore out a couple of Lee Priming Tools, and after that I got the RCBS. That was a long time ago! Lee priming tools whether bench mounted or hand held seem to be problematic. And, Dillon advises not use CCI primers because they run a bit over sized......

I have detonated a few primers in my life, the first couple were with Lee Loader set up. And, I sucked one into vaccum.......

Of course the 650 Dillon has rep for going Kaboom, and there are some stories of Lee press mounted ones going Kaboom. But, when it comes down to things, I really would not want 100 primers just encased by plastic vs the metal of a Dillon......

uk roe hunter
March 29, 2007, 10:23 AM
I use the lee auto prime, i use all sorts of primers in it. I wonder if lee said that becuase they are in bed with CCI . or were at the time it was printed. Business is a tough old game and all sorts of deals are done.

stay safe


March 29, 2007, 10:42 AM
Federal primers are softer and that's why most shooters love them. I try and avoid them as the big boxes are a real PITA, you nearly always drop one or two. I usually keep my trigger on my target S&Ws a bit heavier than most guys because I used to carry a Model 10 at work and didn't want to confuse the issue with getting used to a woofy trigger. I'm retired now, so it doesn't matter any more I suppose. I tend to prefer Winchesters for my pistols and have been using Remingtons for years in my rifles after making a huge bulk buy years ago.

My Lee has primed 1000s of cases with Federals, which I used exclusively until they went to the silly big packets and other brand primers. I have never managed to detonate one ( I did a few back in the early 70s with my Lee loader until I stopped using Dad's claw hammer :D Whoops!). I have turned them inside out, crushed them sideways, but obviously you need a bit of a shock to detonate them.

The only problem I had with the Lee auto prime that I bought in 1981 and still use is a burred part which started screwing things up. I smoothed it off and then used grahite grease on it, no probs since. I also had a faulty 44 mag shellholder. A bit must have broken off and it tipped the shells sideways occasionally. Took me a while to work it out, duh! I replaced it, no probs since.

I have since bought a second one and after giving the old one a smooth over, which wasn't really needed I now have one set up for small and one for large primers.

Go ahead and use them, just make sure you use safety glasses no matter what brand you use. Being blind would really cramp your style as a shooter.


March 29, 2007, 11:33 AM
+1 on what mick said. I have NEVER detonated any primer while seating it with ANY primer seating tool. That includes several that were crushed sideways in a faulty lee turret seater! As far as the theory that a whole tray of primers going off at once, I don't believe it for a second! The primers are side by side, how in heck are you going to get a chain reaction from the side of a primer??? The primer compound that makes it work MUST be crushed between the bottom of the cup and the anvil, by a sharp, sudden, blow. How is that accomplished by any force from the side?!

March 29, 2007, 11:46 AM
I'm on my second Lee, having just plain worn out the first with Federal primers. I too have gotten them cockeyed and crushed them with no problems. I also have the RCBS but I find it much less convenient, especially when changing shell holders.

And yes, agd1953, it does matter what primer you use, especially with max loads. Not just safety-wise, but accuracy-wise. Not that one primer is better than another, but if you change any component of the load you may get performance changes and need to work up a new load, because you have just made a new load.

March 29, 2007, 02:51 PM
What gun are you handloading for? The gun manual probably says not to shoot reloads/handloads in it and only shoot factory ammo. Otherwise the warranty will be voided.

It's the same thing with the Lee auto primer. How often has a primer detonated when priming a case? Especially if you are careful. It's just a legal statement and I load hundreds of Federals both with the Lee hand primer and the priming tool that goes on the top of the press.

Car Knocker
March 29, 2007, 03:42 PM
Here is a current thread at another forum detailing a member's experperience with a chain detonation in a Lee Pro 1000 using Federal primers:

March 29, 2007, 08:00 PM
I loaded a lot of Federal Primers with my Lee Hand priming tool. Never had a problem. Usually only put 20 to 50 in at a time. Being doing this for about 15 years or so.

On my second Lee Hand pirming tool. Wore out the first one.

March 29, 2007, 08:57 PM
I don't understand what is so difficult to understand about the directions of the manufacturer (Lee.) They seem to think it is a bad idea to use Federal primers in their machines. I have no idea why, but I think I'll take them at their word since they designed and built their machines.

If you want to use another brand of primer, buy a new tool. You are out, what, $30 bucks? Is your health worth less than that?

BTW, this topic has come up bookoo times lately, you might run a search.

March 29, 2007, 08:59 PM
I have loaded many, many thousands of different brands of primers and a good percent of them have been federals.

I used an RCBS Press with the primer tubes, The old RCBS priming tool and mostly the Lee priming tool. I have never had a detonation and I have severely mangled a few primers.

I bought a Lee Turret press last year with their safety prime system and in none of the paperwork for the press, powder measure or primer tool is there any warning on Federal primers. It is strange that they put a warning on the hand priming tool and not the turret ram operated tool.

I have several tuned S&W's that are not reliable with CCI primers. I switched to Federals and have had 100% reliability. However, in my area the Federals are impossible to find and I have been using the Winchester primers and so far so good.

Anything involved in reloading could be dangerous and we just need to be careful and do what you are comfortable with.

March 29, 2007, 09:54 PM
Thanks for all of the replies everyone. I was just mulling this over and one thing that I can't understand is why the Federals would be ok to use in the Lee ram prime (or any primer for that matter) but not in the hand primer? They both work exactly the same: a rod pushes a single primer into primer pocket. As long as you don't slam the handle of either device abruptly, I don't see how there could be a problem.

Or, more precisely, I don't see how you would be more likely to do something to cause detonation in the hand primer than in the ram prime.

Anyone know or want to speculate as to what exactly the hand prime does or features that would make it more dangerous??? :confused:

March 29, 2007, 10:06 PM
Over the past 46 years of reloading, I have never detonated a primer in the press. I have put them in backwards, sideway, and horribly deformed some, but no kabooms.

About 25 years ago I started using the Lee hand primer, and have loaded many thousands of the Federal primers on it. About 12 years ago I stopped using the Lee hand tool on pistol cartridges when I got my 550. 5 years ago I got my LNL progressive and only use the Lee hand tool for the Magnum rifle cartridges.

Whether it is an urban myth or not, there was scuttlebutt on the reloading forums that Richard Lee had a falling out with the Federal Corp. some years ago, and as revenge put the "don't use Federal primers" comment in his literature.

March 30, 2007, 08:38 PM
TargetTerror wrote:
Anyone know or want to speculate as to what exactly the hand prime does or features that would make it more dangerous???

First off. . . I bought the Lee Auto Prime in 1979. I've used Federal; CCI; Winchester primers in it, and have (like others wrote) gotten them into the primer pocket in every condition.
Correctly; upside down; crushed; sideways; any way you can think of.
NOT ONE DETONATION!!!!!!! Not one.

Now, to reply to your question, above.

I believe that the 'issue' is that the primer tool is in your hand, with the other hand inserting cases, and the whole operation is in close proximity to your face.

IF you had a 'mass detonation' from ANY defective primer(s), you could do harm to your face and hands. (Maybe. . . just maybe, something worse.)

Again, I've had NO 'issues' with my Lee Auto Prime.

The only detonation that I've ever experienced was with my Dillon RL-550B.
(Actually a hunting buddy did this.)
He was loading 9mm and trying to be cheap, was using some scrounged brass that he didn't inspect.
When he punched out the primer, it left the 'ring' inside the pocket.
When he inserted and tried to 'seat' the primer. . ."CRACK"!!:eek:
"What the . . . . .?":what:

Only one primer went off. The one being crushed.

I told my buddy to use safety glasses.
He reached into his pocket and got his reading glasses out and has used glasses ever since.

Sorry for the long post.
Thanks for reading.

March 30, 2007, 08:40 PM
Oops. Double post. Sorry.

March 30, 2007, 09:18 PM
I have one of the new Lee Turret presses with the primer feeder and have loaded over 500 Federal Magnum primers without a glitch. Mr Lee is a nice guy but he seems to be the only expert that sees Federals as potential bombs.

March 30, 2007, 09:24 PM
I bought an AutoPrime with several case holders before I read the directions. I kinda like to take the mfg'r at his word and since I really like to try all brands of primers - I brought the darned thing back and bought RCBS' bench-mounted primer. It has a beautifully machined, cam-action wheel that drives the primer in evenly, with great "feel". It's fast, accurate and extremely reliable. My hand doesn't get tired from hundreds of primings like my buddy's hand with the Lee A-P.
If, like someone earlier said, "Lee had a gripe with Federal and that's probably why Lee put the warning in his tools' instructions", then Lee's plan just back fired 'cause he didn't make a sale to me. So there - "Ha!"

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