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.