lee hand primer & exploding federal primers?


November 16, 2008, 12:56 AM
in the instructions for my hand primer it states not to use federal primers because they will explode and frag the cover
1. why do they do this
2. how can it be avoided (i bought 400 primers before i read this:banghead:)
3. i loaded 50+ shells before i saw the warning:o
4. is it that the cups are too soft and the primer seating rod will set them off
5. are the anvils too sensitive an go off if they bump the lid
6. does this have something to do with why federal primers are stored on there side in the package and not face down like cci and winchester?
7. has anyone here had a federal primer actually go off in there hand primer?:scrutiny:

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November 16, 2008, 04:20 AM
I asked the same question of myself after I had bought Lee Auto Prime. After reading a heap of pages via Google, as best I could figure out, if a Federal primer tips in the feed shute to the ram & you then try to seat it, the priming compund is more liable to ignite than others that Lee say are OK, from memory, CCI, Winchester & Remiington. Having said that, if you check the orientation of each & every primer before you insert the case to be primed & wear safety specs at all times (a good idea anyway) you should be OK, BUT, I'm not saying as a practice this is OK, its your call. I'd recommend doing what I did & searching Google, & probably this site to get your own take on this. Try key words like lee autoprime federal primer for starters.

November 16, 2008, 06:01 AM
My guess is that if you do a search here in the forum you'll likely find something on it as well.

November 16, 2008, 11:58 AM
I've read several posts on this topic, here and elsewhere. Except for Lee's warning, I have personally never read of anyone having a problem using Federal primers in a Lee tool. Interestingly enough, RCBS does not advise against the use of Federal Primers in their hand priming tool. Then again, I don't believe a lot of what anyone associated with Lee professes. Mr. Lee's Reloading Manual is the most self-glorifying book I have ever read. After reading it, I had to come to terms with my own stupidity for buying products from Redding, RCBS, Forster, etc. when everything Lee manufactures is "just perfect" or has the other manufacturers "running scared."

As was stated in a previous post, use normal caution, a minimum of primers on the tray, and wear safety glasses and you should be OK. I do not usually use Federal primers, but I have used them many times in an Autoprime with absolutely no catastrophic results. I've also (slowly and carefully) deprimed live primers with a sizing die and never had one go off, and how many times has you read that doing so is unsafe. Incidentally, I have been reloading since the mid-70s and I still have all of my fingers, my eyesight, and my hearing.

November 16, 2008, 12:30 PM
Will all reloading you should practice safe procedures, with that said I think Lee's warning is a CYA statement. Federals are more likely to be set off and if they're in a tube it'll blow the whole column.

As others have said, keep a minimum # of primers in and work slowly and methodically and you shouldn't have any problems.

In the end it's your call and you should do more research till you either feel comfortable or you decided not to use them...

BTW I use CCI because when I started that's what Alliant recommended for their Unique powder. I've since bought a ton at a gun show for a good price....

November 16, 2008, 12:32 PM
I have used Federals a couple of times with no problems.

November 16, 2008, 12:57 PM
I have been using the Lee hand primer from the time it came on the market and federal primers are all i use with out any trouble I have loaded 10's of thousand of rounds being an old bullseye shooter & for the last 10 yrs a benchrest shooter & now a BPCS & Federal primers all the way with the lee primeing tool.

November 16, 2008, 01:16 PM
...so we may never know why the warning is printed.

Very often, warnings on consumer packaging are related to one of two things:
The government required it.
Someone's lawyer made a claim.

So, whether the warning is useful or not, it now gets printed on every package or instruction manual so manufacturers can cover both cheeks with both hands, yet still produce the product. And I don't blame them. Reluctantly, I'm sure I would do exactly the same.

[Kinda like the sticky titled "Required Read..." the top of this Reloading forum where the THR staff asks us to include a disclaimer when we offer heavy load data to each other.]

November 16, 2008, 06:53 PM
I avoid Federal Primers. What makes Federal primers so dangerous in Lee loading equipment eludes me, but better safe than sorry since LEE says "don't use Federal primers." Once I crushed a CCI primer sideways in a Lee hand-crimper with no ill-side effects. T'was my bad, because I didn't bother to look before seating a sideways-positioned primer. CCI makes a great primer, so why experiment with "iffy primers." cliffy

November 16, 2008, 07:02 PM
Federal primers are, by reputation, the most sensitive of the primers. CCI are, by reputation, one of the least sensitive. For this reason, I use Federal primers for my handgun loads (where I need 100% hit reliability even with soft hammer springs) and CCI primers for my rifles (where many of my rifles have floating firing pins).

I have seen Dillon presses that had a Fed primer go off and make a mess of the primer tube. But I have put, literally, tens and tens of thousands of Federal primers thru my Lee hand primer with ZERO issue. Never had one go off. Had a few get stuck sideways in the primer pocket due to my inattention and despite being crushed sideways, they did not pop. Ever.







November 16, 2008, 07:18 PM
I just primed my first 15 cases ever!

I used the Lee auto-prime and Federal Primers!

Ok... the first ten I fed in one at a time but I soon became bold and loaded 5 in the tray. No mishaps, I think its going to be OK. :evil:

Ol` Joe
November 16, 2008, 08:18 PM
I`ve done lots of Federal primers over the years in a Lee hand tool. I`ve never had a problem, but my dad once set one of some forgotten brand off in a Lee thumb tool.
The Federal uses a different priming mixture then the other makers and it`s more sensitive. Shooters often go to federal when they have a problem with light primer strikes failing to set primers off reliably. They often blame the cup material as being softer, but it`s the mixture.

The two formulas are normal & basic. Most brands of primers use normal formula. Federal primers, on the other hand, are made with the formula known as “basic”. Basic is the most sensitive. Studies have shown both formulas have about the same amount of “power”, however, basic requires much less kinetic energy for the primer to go off

There is a reason Lee warns against useing Federals, but with a little caution....:rolleyes::rolleyes:

November 16, 2008, 08:25 PM
great job ncmike! i had done about 300+ with a mallet and steel rod with the lee classic loader, then got the lee hand prime, bought all 800 win lp the store had, then bought their last brick of 1000 cc1 lp primers, then i saw about 6 packs of fed for 2.99 each and after reading reviews of them got 4 packs, as i was changing out the shell holder i saw the warning under the pack saying no fed's! so now i just rais the prim up near to the mouth seeing it is upright and level, then slide the shell in and seat a new primer. worked ok for 99 rounds, still have one left in the tray, guess i lost a piece of brass:banghead:(45 colt aint easy to get free roun' here apparently)

.38 Special
November 16, 2008, 08:27 PM
2. how can it be avoided (i bought 400 primers before i read this)

Don't use Lee, would be my suggestion. :D

November 16, 2008, 08:35 PM
Lee's warnings also place limits on how many primers are allowed in the tray...

Winchester sm. pistol 100
Winchester sm. mag pistol 20
Winchester lg. pistol 20
Winchester lg. mag rifle 20
Winchester lg. rifle 10
CCI all primers 100
Remington sm. & lg. pistol 100

Richard Lee also considers case tumblers and primer tube systems unsafe and does not manufacture them.

November 16, 2008, 08:41 PM
ridicules! i think case tumblers are wonderful ways to clean brass, partly cause i still use steel wool on mine and i have to lock each one in the shell holder which is chucked into the drill lol.... i have used the rock tumbler and(fresh) cat litter as media, worked ok but took quite a while

The Bushmaster
November 16, 2008, 10:28 PM
I have been priming with winchester, CCI, Remington and I have never rationed the amount of primers in the tray. I use a Lee Auto Prime II and have not had a primer go off on me in 22 years of reloading. And that's how old this Auto Prime II is...I just pour them in, shake'em and place the tray and shute on the priming die and go for it...

And as far as tumbling my cases I also have a 22 year old Lyman Turbo 1200 tumbler too...I like shinny cases.:D

November 16, 2008, 11:08 PM
Ol Joe, I've tried to tell reloaders that same thing for decades, but the concept of 'softer' brass cups is just too entrained into the lore of reloading. I guess it really doesn't matter. People don't know how their automobiles work, but most of them learn to drive safely anyway. If reloaders learn the craft safely, it doesn't matter if we don't fully understand all of it. A little knowledge surely would help, though.

Good post, friend.

November 17, 2008, 02:10 AM
we have done this one a couple of times before. we have to remember that all of these big companies are in bed with each other. maybe federal is not owned by the same manufacturing company or they have not done some special backroom deal to be recomended in lees books? i have noticed that some reloading data sources is squed quite heavily in favour of particular powders and bullets. when you do the research it turns out that they are owned by the same firm.


November 17, 2008, 05:15 AM
I've had exactly one primer go off in my Lee Autoprime. That was a Winchester LR that popped because I missed a crimped pocket and thought I'd be able to shove it in anyway. It jumped the crimp and slammed home with enough impact to go off. It was louder than I expected and the flame from the case mouth was impressive.

I think the warning is there due to fear of sympathetic detonation of the rest of the primers in the tray. The Federal primers I've bought were packed with a lot more separation than the Winchester, Remington, ot CCI primers I've had so maybe there's something to that.

When I have used my Autoprime with Federals I would start the primer and then turn it over so the rest would fall further away when I pressed it home.

November 17, 2008, 06:18 AM
I've been using Winchester more lately, but the Lee priming machine never gave me any trouble with Federals.


November 17, 2008, 06:58 AM
Whether or not Federal small pistol primers have softer/thinner cup metal. I'm not so sure, I've used them in 357mag and I notice with upper loading and I've always got 'more' flatterening of the primers than any other brand.
Iuse them cause my 686's main/hammer spring is lightened and Fed SP primers go off everytime, where CCI's don't.
I've been loading these with a Lee 1000 loader, without incident for many years, And if I ever did have any incident, I know I shouldn't blame Lee, as the instructions said NOT to do it.

November 17, 2008, 09:30 AM
I've used Lee's primer tools since they came out, mostly with Federal caps. Never a problem, with any primer. I suspect some do tho, especially those who believe that if something doesn't go easy the right response is more pressure. (They are the ones who break Lee alum alloy presses!)

Not sure why Lee cautions against Fed.s but heard someone had a law suit against Fed and Fed blamed Lee's primer tool. It cost Lee a good chunk of money and they obviosly would not want a repeat of that event.

"I had to come to terms with my own stupidity for buying products from Redding, RCBS, Forster, etc. when everything Lee manufactures is "just perfect" or has the other manufacturers "running scared."

There is a lot of truth to that running scared. Hornady has copied Lee's method of holding a decap rod centered. And ALL of the others have sure maintained a much lower price point than they would have without Lee's competion.

Lee simply makes good tools, no matter the price, IF you gage a tool by the quality of the ammo it produces. I do. No one has ever tried to show me any superior targets because they were shot by ammo made with their favorite tools instead of Lee tools! Surface fluff, like shiney finishes, really neet knurling, yeah. But, better ammo? No.

The Bushmaster
November 17, 2008, 09:54 AM
Wow...Now there's a testimonial...I don't know as I would go that far, but Lee does make a good product (except for their "safety scale") for the price and is a good way for people on a limited budget to get started. Of the two presses I have in service, one has been used for the last 20 years (Lee Three hole Turret). I just replaced my single stage (Lee "C" press) with a Lee "O" cast iron press. And will be upgrading the old turret with a Lee Classic Cast Turret here soon. I have no problem getting accurate ammunition from these Lee presses and highly recommend them. Not that the other manufacturers aren't as good or maybe better, but...Lee is still hard to beat.

November 17, 2008, 06:59 PM
OOPS!! Apparently I did not read the instructions well for my LEE handprimer. This is the 1st time I've heard that LEE doesnt want you to use Fed primers. I've put 10,000 through mine with no isssues.

Ol Joe, thanx for the info, I too always thought the only dif between brands was amount of priming compound and the hardness of the cup.

November 17, 2008, 07:31 PM
I use what ever I buy.I think part is they dont trust the loaders to take care and I would not either.when they talk abought how many rds they can load an hour.I dont rush,I am loading ammo I dont need to hurry.I have all the makes of press but I use lee.frankly I cant afford the other makes.but Ihave some as I got them many yrs ago.:rolleyes::uhoh:

November 17, 2008, 09:43 PM
I have a LEE auto prime (hand tool) and use it w/ Fed 210s when loading .308 Win. Never had a problem.

On the same note.....I have a LEE M1000 which uses the sort of same primer tray mounted to the progressive press. I've had a primer go off. Only a couple of primers actually went off not the entire tray.........lucky?

Oh well, I just replaced the damaged parts and promised myself, "to be careful." I won't fear it. Yes, I was using safety glasses.

Only thing I can figure is.........S^8% happens.

I guess someone might have gotten injured way back when and sued LEE. So, LEE slapped the warning label on. That's life. :banghead: Lawyers.

Aloha, Mark

November 18, 2008, 11:18 PM
Federal primers were not used during test because they did not donate the primers, Lee did not recommend Federal primers in his hand primer had nothing to do with going off, all primers will do that, in his book, Mr Lee made a point to make it clear he did not recommend Federal primers, later in his book he made it clear, he did not test Federal Primers because they did not donate the primers for testing.

Any tube that is used as part of a primer feed system must be cleaned like a rifle barre., the dust from the primers can accumulate, when one goes, they all go, an extra tube on the outside of the primer tube is recommended.

F. Guffey

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