Hornady Handheld Priming Tool

As I mentioned in an earlier essay about the Lee Priming tool, this Hornady product was coming.  I am not on a quest to obtain every priming tool from every manufacturer, but I have a cartridge for which Lee does not make a shell head holder.  So their priming tool will not serve.  The cartridge in question is a ” 450/400 Nitro Express, 3 inch “.  It is a large dangerous game round and not commonly encountered in everyday reloading.  I have a Ruger No. 1 rifle in such chambering.  No real reason, I just liked it.

The Hornady tool will prime the case.  In fact, the Hornady tool uses the conventional shell holder used in conventional reloading presses.  Therefore, if one has a regular shell head holder, the Hornady version requires no special holder, like the Lee.  To be fair, the Hornady tool employs a primer magazine (tray) much like the older (and better, for my money) Lee hand primer.  Oh, the visitudes of modern manufacturing!  In fact, in my not so humble opinion, the Hornady device is quite similar to the last version of the Lee priming device.  To be honest, a hand operated, hand held device for priming small arms cartridges of both large and small diameter primer size must be rather similar.  Sort of like semi-automatic pistols; they all have similar characteristics defining and dictating shape and size.

The Hornady tool comes with clear instructions.  As the device is intended to serve virtually all common – and a few less than common – cartridges and either large or small diameter primers, it comes mostly assembled.  The remaining assembly is done by the user and is temporary; choice of large or small size primer, cartridge head size and brand of shell holder.  A small surprise, not all brands of presses and shell holders are the same size in terms of mounting the holder to the ram.  (Of course, a holder designed to fit a .30-06 Springfield case is the same on the ‘holding’ end in all brands; but the ‘bottom’ end seems to have some design differences in height and width of the holder.)  Hornady has allowed for that and includes two primer magazines (trays) with different size bosses for different shell  holders.

Doing the final assembly for a specific cartridge is fairly straightforward.  The instructions are well written and the device itself is fairly obvious.  There are several ‘choices’ to be made, which require a slight degree of observation.  One must select the correct tray (circular shaped primer magazine).  The black tray uses Hornady shell holders; the green tray uses RCBS (and Lee) shell holders.  I haven’t tried any other brands,  but I expect one of those two will fit.  Secondly, one must use the correct side or end of the tray.  One side is for small primers, the other for large primers.  I expect most readers already know this, but at this point, the difference between rifle and handgun primers is moot; large rifle or pistol and small rifle or pistol are the same diameter.  Lastly the top or ‘lid’ of the tray, which keeps the primers from falling out on the floor can be installed or closed 180 degrees opposite.  (In reality, it can be installed in several positions because of how the locking lugs are placed)  Installing – closing – the top ‘backwards’ puts the block (part of the lid) in the position to bar movement of the primers to the feed mechanism.

Don’t worry about memorizing this last.  If one cannot make it work, it will be patently obvious.

Mine being new out of the box was easy to put together, other than it was ‘new’ and everything was tight.  Cylindrical shaped parts fit into a cylindrical tube just so.  Similar (but a bit easier) to threading a needle.  One knows what has to happen, but one must line things up perfectly.

When priming I was surprised by the minor amount of movement of the control lever needed to fully seat a primer.  The Lee brand primer seaters required a full stroke to seat most primer, about 45 to 50 degrees of angle.  The Hornady device requires about 10 to 15 degrees.  The first primer fooled me and I thought something had jammed.  I must add, even with all the dire warnings and veiled threats of primers exploding accidentally, I’ve never had a primer fire using any hand held device.  I’ve set off two primers using a hammer to drive the case onto the primer (my “universal priming device”) but not with a gentle push type.  In my own defense, the latter detonation (not long before now) was partially due to the primer having two cups, and over sensitive to pressure.  The first time (in 1971) was my fault for being upset and hitting the priming device (from the old style, hammer operated “Lee Loader”).  My speculation is the gentle push type doesn’t compress the primer ‘fast’ enough.

So, the big question:  Do I like it?  Yes.  I do.  It works well with very little effort.  The shell holder idea is great.  One does not have to buy another chicken-pluckin’ part.  Priming action is positive and fast.  It holds up to 100 primers at a time and one can sit the device down without spilling primers all over the reloading room floor.  It works just fine.

Now, which is better?  Ouch.  Hard to say.  Had I not been unable to prime the Nitro Express cartridge with the Lee mechanism, I probably would not have bought the Hornady device.  However, I am rather impressed with the Hornady product.  The Lee product requires buying the ‘extra’ shell holder.  But the Hornady device is decidedly more expensive.  One can juggle this back and forth all day.  It is the reader who must ultimately decide how to spend one’s own money.

I do not plan on getting rid of either.




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The Lee Bench Mounted Priming device

For some reason – perhaps a sense of ‘control’ – I do not like to prime cases on the press.  It works, even well at times but for rifle work or small lots of handgun cartridges, I prefer a more “personal” approach.  

I like Lee products.  They are well thought out, well engineered and typically work as advertised.  I find they seem to have the right idea of what is to be done.  The only criticism of their products is some items wear faster than I’d like and some tolerances are increased.  Sometimes when they ‘upgrade’ a device, it isn’t compatible with the older version.

For instance, their first model hand primer had shell head holders which screwed into the main body.  In a few years the company made an improved hand held primer which allowed one to load a whole packet of 100 primers – large or small, rifle or pistol – into the device and load a number of cases without painstakingly inserting a separate primer for each case.  But the improved shell head holders were different from the initial offering and one had to start over.  I must admit here the improved version is improved and the cost of buying shell head holders was justified over all.

Now – at least to my somewhat isolated view – Lee has upgraded again and now there is a bench mounted (more about this following) primer device.  The second version – hand held – shell head holders still fit; but the primer ‘magazine’ has been changed.  I liked the round ones of the second version, but this incarnation has the large and small size primers built into the main mechanism rather than the primer holder.  I’ll probably get used to it.  

The other change of which I do not approve is the new ‘magazine’ for primers is somewhat flimsy looking when compared to the second version.  Then again, it isn’t a structural device and should not be subjected to hard use.  Again, one adapts.  As typical, many of the parts of the device are light duty castings and stampings.  Obviously, such a device milled out of high use steel would undoubtedly cost more.  And, as the ‘magazine’, there is nothing of high pressure or force required.  

I mentioned this model is bench mounted.  That is essentially correct but may be misleading.  It does have to be mounted.  Whereas one could probably make it work in one’s hands, it is intended to be mounted on a flat, horizontal surface.  Like a bench top.  I mounted my new doo dad on a bit of wood about five or six inches wide and somewhat longer.  (I’ll have to check.)  It was a left over bit from a prior project.  That piece of wood can now be clamped onto a part of my bench and the device will work like planned.  I can move it at will.  

I have primed somewhere in the nature of one hundred cartridge cases now (as of March 2019) and it seems to work fairly well.  All rifle cases, pretty much all the pistol stuff I do is on the Dillon XL 650, which does it’s own priming.  The primer magazine strikes me as flimsy still, but hasn’t collapsed.  The primer magazine does ‘clog up’ at times, mostly as a light ‘flow’ problem with the primers trickling down to the insertion point.  Usually a tap or two is sufficient to clear the jam.  So far, I haven’t had to disassemble the device and remove all the primers to fix things.  I also predict Lee will recognize the problem and re-think how this happens.

It does seem to work as advertised.  I am NOT of a mood to throw it back at them (Lee) and do bodily harm to the designer.  (Which I have not done with manufacturers or designers of other devices and doo-dads either, although it has occurred to me.)

My major gripe is this device (and Lee) does not supply a shell head holder which will prime 450/400 Nitro Express 3″ cases.  I do admit this is most likely not a high demand item.  It will prime all the [standard] belted magnum cases and most everything else I have, including some odd balls like .30 Government (.30-40 Krag), 8x56mmR Austro Hungarian Empire (Mannlicher), 8x51mmR Lebel and .30 Carbine.  I guess I shouldn’t gripe.  I would recommend it to a friend or anyone else who needs a non-press mounted primer inserter.  But if what I had already did the job I wanted done, I probably would not replace it just to be in fashion.


I do have another hand held primer device coming.  I will report on it here.

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A Moment of Remembrance

For those who have read any of my strange firearm reports, you already know I name some of my firearms. The CZ Carbine I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts is named “Jay”.

Jay was a friend of mine since 1968 or so. He was as I recall some six years older than I. Over several decades he was my friend and I had to watch as personal and physical demons slowly killed him. He is gone now. For me and others (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) this was a devastating blow.

I do remember a number of years ago we talked about this very rifle and cartridge combination. It did not exist at that time. Not commercially and not in the United States. Perhaps no where. Jay was one who was fond of (obsessed with) firearms as I am. We agreed the 7.62x39mm round in a small, light carbine would be just dandy for walking through the Oregon woods to collect some venison.

Jay will be held in my rather tattered old soul for the rest of my days. There are others, this rifle brought him to mind.

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“Bearing Arms” website will not allow me to post comments

“Bearing Arms” is a fairly well established website. It is supportive of the Second Amendment.

However, I cannot sign in nor can I even register to make comments UNLESS I agree to allow Facebook – notoriously anti-gun, anti-Declaration of Independence and anti-Constitution – ‘… to use cookies and website data while browsing “bearingarms.com” ‘ My answer is no. I deleted all my Facebook connections when they decided the Declaration of Independence was ‘hate speech’. Now “Bearing Arms” rejects me for opposing the Facebook stand.

I’m sure they have a reason. I don’t get it, but that’s life.

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.350 Legend (Winchester)

I just heard about this new (sort of) cartridge yesterday. One is not sure how ‘new’ it really might be; it looks and sounds much like a rimless version of the somewhat ignored .357 Maximum. What I would like now is some real information instead of hype.

For instance, a schematic drawing. Maximum pressure levels. Actual bore diameter (.350, .357, .359, what?) length and so on. What loads are available from factory sources, what bullet weight do they load, what are the velocities from those loads with varying weights, and with what barrel length? How long is the new rifle’s magazine (it is available in the Winchester XPR Rifle). How long is the chamber and leade; thereby limiting the bullets and bullet styles that can be used?

It is announced as being a .223 Remington case with strait walls. It is announced offered in a bolt action rifle. From that, one would presume it has the same pressure limitations as the .223 Remington. However, no such information seems to be available from the manufacturer. Lots of advertisements, no information.

Winchester is advertising rifles. The specifics have to be known.

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Finally! I shot the CZ!

I mentioned – a post or two ago – about getting a new rifle. A Czech Zbrojovka (CZ) 527 carbine in caliber 7.62x39mm. Along with a one-hundred round box of Tula ammunition with 154 grain soft point hunting bullets.

Today the weather was warm enough – nearly fifty degrees Fahrenheit (ten C) and little wind. I shot a whole ten rounds. Here is the empirical information:

  • Average velocity:  2152 fps.   
  • Extreme Spread:  61 fps 
  • Group was about nine minutes of angle to the left and even with the point of aim.  Some correction is needed.   

Now for the subjective information.  I know this cartridge and loading doesn’t sound earth shattering, but considering the ammunition is advertised at 2104 fps from an SKS or AK, it isn’t bad.  It is a bit slower than the advertised commercially available .30-30 Winchester but does top the 2100 fps mark.  It is a small cartridge and is not intended for long distance work.  The extreme spread in velocity is less than 3% of the average velocity.  Altogether, not bad for store bought ammunition.   My thought is to not reload for this rifle but to use commercial ammunition, which is so very cheap.  

As I expected, the sights are not exactly correct for this load.  As shown, at fifty yards they impact some four and one-half (nine minutes of angle) to the left, and quite on line (vertically) with my aiming point.  I expected the heavier bullet to strike higher, and didn’t anticipate the vertical drift.  

Now, I want to move the rear sight to the right about thirty eight-thousands of an inch to the right and shoot it again on a larger target.  I have a sinking feeling those shots off the paper to the left may be more important than I thought.  

And I’m sure I need a larger front bead on the rifle.  


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I bought a new rifle. I do not mean a rifle I did not previously have. I do not mean an old rifle of recent acquisition. I mean a rifle from a retail outlet that has not been sold before and has the factory bolx and papers and instructions and packing! Unthinkable!

Even more unthinkable. It is chambered for caliber 7.62x39mm. .30 Russian. The Kalashnikov round! Not only that, but it has a .311″ bore diameter and is intended to fire the cheap surplus steel cased ammunition.

Now, before anyone thinks I’ve fallen off the far edge, it is not an AK-47 or variant. Nor is it an SKS or variant. It is a bolt action short barreled rifle (dare a say ‘carbine’) made by the rather competent people of CZ.

According to the owner’s manual, it is a CZ 527. To sound official, it is a shoulder fired, air cooled, manually operated, rifled bore, bolt action (of the Mauser type) individual arm. It is a ‘mini’ action, shorter than the ‘short’ size which handles .308 Winchester and cartridges of that size.

Pardon the three-quarter angle, I couldn’t get enough wide view to profile the rifle.

The rifle has a wood stock and is checkered.

Checkering is clean and well placed.

The rifle is just under six pounds, so it’s made to be carried in the outdoors. A lot. One doesn’t need a gun bearer to lug this around. It has iron sights – a scope is possible, but adds weight. The receiver is milled for something on the order of Weaver mounts, but CZ makes it’s own mounts, so I’m not sure. Right now, I’m going to see how the iron sights work and pass on the scope.

Profile of rear sight.

The rear sight is fixed, therefore, one uses only one primary load and adjusts the sight to match. As my intended hunting loads will feature bullets weighing either 150 or 180 grains, the point of impact will differ from the standard issue round of 123 grains. So I plan on sighting the rifle in with the heavier bullets then just adjusting my point of aim – holding off or ‘Kentucky windage’ for plinking or such.

Rear sight from aft. Note this is dovetailed into the barrel boss or mount. It can be drifted for windage.

The rear sight is drifted to adjust windage. I find the rear sight notch – a “U” cut – to be less than correct, but workable. I intend to insure a proper load with the hopes the ammunition offered (see below) is suitable; then I will replace the factory rear sight with a similar sight, but in a shallow “V” as in an express sight.

Front sight with protective hood, from right side.

Front sight mount with post with bead and protective hood.

My plan is to replace the front sight post and bead with one exactly like the factory version, except a bead larger. My old eyes need a larger object to fix on at this distance. The other option is some form of low power scope or a holographic device which does not require ‘focus’. Time will tell.

Factory ammunition? Round on left is .308 Winchester for comparison. Box is for information.

I also bought a one-hundred round box of Tula ammunition for it. The owner’s manual says the rifle handles steel cased ‘surplus’ type ammunition. So the Tula stuff seems to be okay. It isn’t the regular 123 grain (8 gram) FMJ military stuff. It is instead a 154 grain (10 gram) soft point, hunting ammunition. It this stuff shoots well enough to satisfy me, I may not reload for this rifle. Unthinkable!

According to the Midway and Ammunition Depot websites, the ammunition clocks 2104 fps. As the SKS has a barrel of typically twenty inches and the AK has a sixteen inch barrel, the CZ with a eighteen and one-half inch barrel should be reasonably close. At least in terms of barrel length. The Hornady #10 Manual indicates such velocities are possible in reloads.

Speaking of ammunition, the CZ USA website says this rifle has a 1 in 9 twist. The barrel stamping implies the twist rate in 1 in 9.5 inches. Since .30 caliber rifles will stabilize a 220 grain bullet with a 1 in 10 twist, I think this will stabilize the 154 grain bullets in .311. I will find out, obviously.

One needs a place to keep ammunition to be shot immediately. A magazine, normally.

Follower and top of magazine.

One notices the follower has the caliber prominently stamped and visible. Although I would NEVER mistake which magazine goes with which arm – like I never brought a Super .38 pistol and .45 ACP magazines and ammunition for a shoot. Never. (Never!) It is comforting to see such a label. Presuming one has more than one CZ rifle, the possibility exists.

Detachable magazine of stamped metal. Note rectangular hole for ‘catch’ in arm. The projection in front seems to be a limiter when inserting the magazine.

Magazine, front view. Obviously a single stack magazine with a capacity of five rounds.

This rifle is not for combat use. The magazine is detachable, but is not intended to serve as a quick replacement-reload system. Nor are there stripper clip guides cut into the receiver. Looking at the top of the magazine, the lips are not designed to be fed from a stripper clip. The magazine must be removed from the arm and loaded singly. I suppose one could force rounds in with the magazine in the rifle, but I’m sure doing so would damage the feed lips of the magazine. There is not bolt hold open mechanism. No point in any of these, this is a hunting rifle.

As I said, I just bought this rifle. The weather in the Great Central Plateau of the North American Continent being what it is – winter – I will not make it to the range for a bit. Frustration for a rifleman.

I confess the weather to my East is colder and bleaker. However, sub freezing temperatures and winds do not encourage setting up a chronograph and carefully shooting for groups. I am not an Alaskan, Canadian or Finn, who can do such. I’m old and a sissy. Go figure.

More news as I get it. Looks like fun.

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