Frankford Arsenal Hand Primer


By: Mary and Dr. Jim Clary


Priming new or resized cartridges for reloading has always been of our least-favorite tasks.  It is tedious and time consuming.  That being said, it is essential that it be done properly and consistently if one is to produce reliable and accurate reloads.


When we first started reloading we used the primer arm feeder found on most standard reloading presses.  It was always a “pain” to place a single primer into the cup and then Using the arm and the handle on the press, you could never be sure that you seated the primer to the same depth.  Although, in all fairness, over time we did develop a “feel” for the proper depth.


The tubes/feeders on multiple-stage turret presses were only slightly better in that you did not have to load each primer separately onto the primer pin sleeve.  However, you still had to develop a feel for seating the primer at the proper depth.


With the introduction of the hand priming tools on the market, all of that changed.  The early ones (as well as some current ones) still required one to load a single primer into the cup, but it was easier than using the press' primer arm feeder and one was unlikely to put too much pressure on the primer when you squeezed the handle.


These early (and most present) hand priming tools had/have a major disadvantage.... you needed to purchase shell holders for the various cartridges that you reloaded.  With each holder priced at between $6 - $8, the expense of using a hand primer increased dramatically as our inventory of firearms increased.  Oh, there is one company that produces a hand primer with a “universal” shell holder, but that has some caliber limitations that it will handle.


Enter the Frankford Arsenal hand primer.... a device that took care of all of our complaints at a reasonable price.  First of all, it comes with a set of twelve (12) shell holders which accommodate 235 rifle and 31 pistol calibers.  About the only ones missing are for some of the larger African calibers, and most people do not reload them.


It has a thumb wheel that permits adjustment of seating depths of 1/1000 of an inch.  No more guessing as to whether you got the depth right or whether it “feels right”... with this tool, you are able to seat the primers to the proper depth, every time.  And, with the built-in hard stop, you can never crush a primer.

Illustration courtesy of Frankford Arsenal


Changing the priming pin sleeve from large primers to small primers is a relatively easy matter.  Simply push the thumb lever down to remove the shell holder (it is what keeps the primer assembly in place), and insert the required shell holder and primer pin.  The same spring is used in both cases.  Note:  The spring is pretty stout, and it takes a bit of effort to push the thumb lever down.  Jim would like to see Frankford add a wider lip to the lever to make it easier to depress.  None of us want “thumb fatigue”, and it could aggravate carpal tunnel.


Lastly, the primer feeder tray is just about fool-proof.  It is easy to load with 100 fresh primers.  By gently shaking the tray in a circular motion, it will correctly position the primers, anvil-side up, for feeding.  Then, replace the cover, insert into the tool and start priming.  


We have used this tool for the past three months, priming over 2,000 cases from 9mm Luger to .300 Win Mag with no problems.  


With the convenient storage case and twelve shell holders, this tool is a bargain at the MSRP of $79.99.

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