Hand priming tools


November 23, 2007, 01:48 PM
I am trying to decide which priming tool to buy. So far I am looking at these two:

1) RCBS APS hand priming tool.


-Universal built in shell holder
-Can be used with any primers

-Costs $47 for the unit, $29 for the strip loader, say $10 for misc strips = $86 for the whole setup.

2) Lee Autoprime hand priming tool:


-Costs $12 for the unit, $13 for the proprietary shell holders = $25 total
-Doesn't use the (semi-disposable and expensive?) strips.... feeds from a metal tray

-Only recommended for CCI and Winchester primers? Huh?
-Does require proprietary shell holders

So, has anyone used both of these? Can CCI and Winchester primers cover everything you could need to prime? Is there anything about the first one that really makes it worth more than triple the price of the second one?

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Wil Terry
November 23, 2007, 02:23 PM
I have used 'em all and the LEE will not hold up over the long haul. Furthermore the LEE is no where as easy to use, as easy on the hands, and as easy to feed.

November 23, 2007, 02:53 PM
I have the Lee Autoprime tool, and agree you get what you pay for, as with a lot of other Lee products it will get the job done but for a little more you can get a better tool.

The round primer trays can be a pain to load and the thumb squeeze can make you sore after a few hundred primers. Grease and breaking it in make it better but it is still fairly cheaply built.

RCBS also makes a unit that doesn't require APS and has a square primer tray, making it easier to load it with primers.

Hornady makes a hand priming tool that allows to squeeze with the fingers instead of the thumb.

John C
November 23, 2007, 02:57 PM
I have both the RCBS APS hand priming tool with the universal shellholder, and the RCBS non-APS version of the tool, also with the universal shellholder.

I first bought the APS tool, and I love it. I was living in an area with a bunch of reloading/gun stores and I figured that the extra 0.3 to 0.5 cents per primer was worth it just to buy them already on strips. I never intended to reload the strips.

Then I moved to an area with one shop that kind of carries some reloading stuff. They didn't carry preloaded APS strips, and weren't interested in doing so. So I bought the same handloading press, but non-APS, rather than buy strips (I'd thrown literally hundreds of them away) and a strip loader. I'm also very happy with it, although I prefer the APS loader.

The APS is worth it because there's no setup time when you have to dump the primers into the tray and shaken them right-side up. Also, with the APS, if you stop loading in the middle of a strip, you just take the strip out and put it back in the box. Loose primers are a pain to put back in the tray. Finally, there's no risk of multiple primer detonation should one primer accidentally get cooked off, since all the primers are separated by thick plastic. (This is a remote possibility, I know, but real nonetheless)

I looked at the Lee, and while I like Lee products and own many of them, the RCBS was obviously superior and worth the extra $. The universal shellholder of the RCBS not only eliminates keeping track of a bunch of shellholders, but is also easier to take the case in and out, and automatically centers the case. This speeds up the reloading process.

Just my opinion.


November 23, 2007, 03:00 PM
I use the Lee. I've owned two in the last 11 years, the second one is still going strong on its 7th year. Mine feeds the primers from a black plastic disk/tray, didn't know that nowadays the disks are metal. The worst part is accidentally jamming two primers into the primer pocket because I wasn't paying attention. The squeeze handle is a plastic composite so if you force the primer, it will snap the handle. I've done this twice with the first one. But now that I know that a hard headed primer means that it is not aligned correctly, I've had no problems. Good thing is that it is easy to take apart to rectify any jams.

November 23, 2007, 03:01 PM
I have a Lee auto prime. It sits on the shelf, but works just fine. No, it won't last as long as an RCBS.

I have this RCBS (http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=329291&t=11082005) hand primer which uses shellholders and a primer tray. I use it all the time. I won't ever wear it out.

November 23, 2007, 03:01 PM
I disagree with responses so far. "you get what you pay for" does not apply to Lee precision, I have THOUSANDS of rounds through my auto-prime, other than a few blisters after priming 2K rounds in an afternoon, I have no complaints. The top of my tray is frosted by all the scratches but the thing is rock solid.

It works, and it works well! if want to spend 100$ on the RCBS setup it's up to you, the strips are more expensive and not nearly as common. Why not spend that extra 70$ or so on bullets?

November 23, 2007, 03:05 PM
I wouldn't recommend either one.

I have a complete Lee unit in my reloading bench junk drawer that's been there for several years.

The APS either adds unnecessary expense buying primers already loaded in strips, or unnecessary extra handling loading the strips before you can load shells.

I have been very happy with the regular RCBS hand priming tool.
Just buy a cheap set of Lee Green-box RCBS shell holders and keep in in the box with the RCBS tool and you are good to go with any brand primers you have on hand.

Or, get this one with the same universal shell holder the APS uses.


lee n. field
November 23, 2007, 03:07 PM
Any reason not to get RCBS' Universal Hand Prime (http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=319794&t=11082005) tool.

No shell holders to buy, feeds from tray and it's cheaper than the one you're looking at.

This is what I would spring for, if I was looking for one.

The Bushmaster
November 23, 2007, 03:10 PM
I highly recommend that you spend the extra money and get Lee's Auto Prime II. You do need a single stage press, but it's more then worth it. And you don't have to buy extra shell holders as the ones that come with your Lee and RCBS die sets fit it...And another bonus...It vertually does not wear out or break...

November 23, 2007, 03:56 PM
I have not used both, but I've been using the Lee tool since it came out. I've used it for Federal, Remington, Winchester and CCI primers, with no complaints. You do need to lubricate the points recommended. I suggest you seat primers by feel, then turn the cartridge case 90 degrees and seat again to get a flat primer, as it will otherwise be higher on one side.


November 23, 2007, 05:02 PM
I have and use the lee hand primer and have had no problems with it at all ! I like the feel i get when the primer goes home in the pocket ! I put a small dab of grease on the excentric in the handle ! as for the shell holders ,if you buy the set you are ready to prime almost every case out there ! also if you turn the handle around so that you use your fingers to pull instead of your thumb ! your thumb wont get tired !

Peter M. Eick
November 23, 2007, 05:02 PM
One comment on Lee:


This is the remanents of 3 different lee primers loaders. I now have all 3 fixed by lee, so they do stand behind their warantee. I find that they last about 3 to 4 years of steady use and then they break. I would guess they do around 10 to 15,000 rounds before failure.

I am going to buy a sinclair one next even though I now have 3 repaired lee's. There is just an agrivation of having them break I don't like.

November 23, 2007, 05:19 PM
I don't have a recommendation, only observations. I can tell you that the APS strips are becoming harder to find (you can sometimes get them mail-order, but end up paying way more due to the haz-mat fee). They started out being pretty much the same price as regular primers but have now increased in price for some reason. In terms of the RCBS APS hand priming tool, it works just fine but my only complaint is that my hand becomes fatigued. My guess is that this will happen with any hand priming tool. I switched to the RCBS press mounted APS unit and am happy with it, if only I could find those APS primer strips!
I tried talking with CCI about it and they were completely non-helpful, which didn't give me a warm fuzzy that APS has a long-term future.

November 23, 2007, 05:54 PM
I have this RCBS hand primer which uses shellholders and a primer tray. I use it all the time. I won't ever wear it out.



November 23, 2007, 06:04 PM
I do appreciate everyone's input so far.

Any reason not to get RCBS' Universal Hand Prime tool.

No shell holders to buy, feeds from tray and it's cheaper than the one you're looking at.

This is what I would spring for, if I was looking for one.

This one is interesting; I guess I didn't look at it much before since its average review on Midway is not as good as the others. It does look like it has a nice feature set though... will it work with .223 Rem cases? It says it works on case heads down to the size of .32 auto, but I'm not familiar with the dimensions of that cartridge.

November 23, 2007, 06:16 PM
The .223 rim is .020" larger then .32 ACP, so it should work.

Besides, I can't imagine RCBS trying to sell anything that wouldn't handle the .223 size caseheads!


November 23, 2007, 07:00 PM
I had the RCBS Hand Priming Tool and thought it was a pain to convert between large/small primers.

Eventually, I called Sinclair to purchase their tool. They actually recommended the Lee due to better feeling during the seating process.

While I'm positive the Sinclair tool is the Cadillac of hand priming tools, they said it was extremely slow. AFAIK, the process includes placing one case and one primer in the tool, twisting the top knurled piece in effect locking it all together. Squeeze to prime, unlock and remove case. If benchrest if your game, by all means have at it!

Now, I'm the last guy to recommend Lee anything. I sincerely believe that spending a few extra bucks will get a better, longer lasting tool....but when I have F-class guys telling me that they use the Lee priming tool, I listen.

In fact, they're so cheap I bought two. One for large, one for small. It'll probably be the only Lee products I ever purchase too.


November 23, 2007, 07:44 PM
I like the Lee hand prime. I replace the handle every year or so - costs me two bucks or so. Keep the pivots greased, and it'll do a terrific job. I prefer it over the other hand priming tools because it compresses from the palm end, not from the fingertip end. Try priming a couple hundred pieces of brass in a sitting, and you'll really appreciate the leverage difference between the Lee and everything else.

It works with all brands of primers. Federal pistol primers tend to be the most volatile, and as a result many brands of priming tools will recommend not using them. I've probably primed in excess of 10,000 rounds of pistol brass with Federal primers using the Lee tool, and I've never had an issue.

November 23, 2007, 07:46 PM
I have the Sinclair hand priming tool and the only thing I ever used it for was loading for my Benchrest gun. It is slower than the Lee or RCBS because you have to put every primer in the tool one at a time. Outstanding tool, but not geared towards volume reloading.

kart racer
November 23, 2007, 07:53 PM
I have 2 Lee's,one for large primers,one for small.

November 23, 2007, 08:30 PM
The Lee in my junk drawer I mentioned seats primers crooked unless you turn each case 1/2 turn and hit them again.
But you have to be careful you don't let go too far and pick up a second primer, which is a real PITA!

IMHO: Get the RCBS and be done with it.


November 23, 2007, 08:48 PM
I picked up a Lee auto prime in college, thinking it would last me the remaining year of college and then I'd buy a nicer unit. I still have it, I've primed about 10,000 cases so far. It's pretty basic, but I've had good results with mine. When it breaks, I'll probably shell out the cash for an RCBS hand prime.

November 24, 2007, 09:11 AM
Hornady makes an excellent hand priming tool, and they have recently introduced an upgraded version, which is better than the original. I have both -- one set up for small pistol primers, and one for large pistol. You certainly don't need two of them, but you know how it is when reloading becomes a hobby...

Don't know if this is the new or older model, but here is a link:


November 24, 2007, 10:32 AM
I had the Hornady and sold it to a buddy because it only worked with Hornady and RCBS shellholders and I had a lyman set. :( It was a a great tool and that was my only complaint. I've since switched to the RCBS Universal and couldn't be happier. It's pretty simple to change from large primers to small primers but I think they could've engineered the plastic insert bit a little better. I've since gone to two of them, one for small and one for large and I don't thinK I'll ever look back. I can sit in the lazy boy while watching TV and do all my priming. The "feel" on the RCBS tool is as good as the hornady. (IMHO)

Good Luck!

Have a good one,

lee n. field
November 24, 2007, 10:47 AM
This one is interesting; I guess I didn't look at it much before since its average review on Midway is not as good as the others. It does look like it has a nice feature set though... will it work with .223 Rem cases? It says it works on case heads down to the size of .32 auto, but I'm not familiar with the dimensions of that cartridge.

Call RCBS and ask.

My Speer manual shows case diameter at the base for .32 ACP at .3365". For .223, the same dimension is .3773", so yeah, it should work.

November 24, 2007, 11:11 AM
+1 for the hornady hand primer, i have mine set up for small pistol primers .
it sits in the hand & you use all of the fingers to seat with ,important when you have itisis in you hands !!!
my lee auto prime sits on a rcbs partener press for seating large primers.
once again the hornady handles the smallpistol primers good enuff for me ,&WWSP boxes will fit inside of the hornady tray.


November 24, 2007, 12:04 PM
The RCBS with universal head has worked for me from .223 - .50 S&W with no problems. I've never tried it with anything smaller than .223.


November 24, 2007, 12:18 PM
Of the hand primers I've used I recommend the RCBS tool, I was happy with it and it was very reliable.

Currently I let my press do the priming, but I keep the RCBS around in case.

November 24, 2007, 12:31 PM
I have 2 of the RCBS/APS and find them worth the effort. I have the original Lee and an early Autoprime and found each of the Lee a vast improvement as each became available. Much better than priming on the press or the then common RCBS bench mount with the tipping tubular reservoir or priming on the 310 tool I started with. BUT priming odd head sizes or odd size primers or some Berdan takes tools that do that.

November 24, 2007, 01:01 PM
I had a Lee hand priming tool and it just never felt "right" to me. I then purchased an RCBS hand priming tool (not the universal model) and have been very satisfied with it for more than 15 years.

November 24, 2007, 02:34 PM
I had the Hornady and sold it to a buddy because it only worked with Hornady and RCBS shellholders

Too bad you never saw the instructions or the little spare parts that come with it. They have two different sized pusher tubes. One for Hornady shellholders, another for the rest. They come with all you need to load large or small primers as well.

November 24, 2007, 02:48 PM
Believe it or not, I read the instructions and it only came with one for Hornady and one supposedly for RCBS and others. The RCBS "and others" wouldn't fit in a lyman shellholder, nor would the hornady one . . .believe me I tried . .even boogered up a shellholder trying to modify it to work with the damn thing one day when I was desparate.

November 24, 2007, 03:08 PM
It worked with my Reddings and RCBS. I probably don't have any Lymans.

November 24, 2007, 10:52 PM
Big +1 for RCBS Universal Hand primer (square tray). I still use my old lee for small primers (only one cartridge I reload takes those, and I don't reload very many of them).

I suggested last week on RCBS' website that they come out with an RCBS Universal hand primer "add-on kit" which would consist of just another handle without the primer punches, primer guides, tools, or tray. That way, one could just use the extra punch and guide from their Universal Hand primer, and have two handles ready to go (the tray just slides in/out of the handle, and could be shared easily between them). Haven't heard anything back... maybe if more reloaders suggested the same thing?... Failing that, I asked how much for the parts to assemble my own extra handle (prolly more than a whole 'nother unit)

BTW, for those who have the older, round tray model, and would like to use the newer square tray (it feeds better from its corner than round trays do), RCBS also offers a square tray upgrade kit. The larger square tray also lets you set a factory sleeve down inside it, so that all the primers come out right side up without even shaking it.


November 25, 2007, 04:50 AM
I use the RCBS hand prime tool and just use the larger priming rod for all cases.

I purchased it after I returned my Lee hand primer.

November 25, 2007, 11:25 AM
If you want to spend some bucks, there is the Sinclair model. No primer feed though. A lot of benchrest shooters use these. They say it has a better 'feel' when seating the primer.
Priming tool (http://www.sinclairintl.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?category=REPTSI&type=store)

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