• Lee Auto Bench Prime Review

    Ask ten hand loaders what they use to prime their cases and you will likely get and equal number of different answers. Some folks like hand priming tools, others like bench priming tools, and then of course there are those who prefer to use the priming tool built into their reloading press. Each will have their justifications and reasoning as to why they prefer that style and method, but sometimes circumstances force you to change your process and adopt new methods. That's the situation I found myself in earlier this year and is the reason behind my recent purchase of the new Lee Auto Bench Prime priming tool.

    First, lets briefly talk about how I came to be looking for a new priming tool. For the past 4 years now I've been dealing with advanced carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands and in the last 6-8 months it's really had an affect on my ability to use a hand priming tool. Where I used to be able to sit and prime hundreds of cases in a row without issue, now I'm lucky if I can do twenty or thirty before my hand strength deteriorates to the point I have to start using two hands to squeeze the lever. Being the stubborn Neanderthal-type that I am I naturally refuse to go see a doctor about it until I'm completely miserable and don't have any other choice, so my only option was to start looking at other types of priming tools.

    Already having a press with a built-in priming tool (Lee Classic Turret) I first tried that but I really didn't care for it. It worked, but it just seemed awkward and slow to me. That got me to looking at bench mounted priming tools, but everything available at the time required you to use primer tubes or little plastic strips to hold the primers. Those didn't appeal to me at all as they add another step to the process that's totally unnecessary. Then in January of this year Lee Precision announced that they were coming out with a new bench mounted priming tool that used a primer tray and I've been waiting impatiently to get my hands on one ever since.

    Like most reloading equipment from Lee Precision, the new Lee Auto Bench Prime is low cost and does exactly what it's supposed to do. The main housing is cast aluminum and painted red like most Lee hardware, and the lever is a stamped metal piece about 8-9 inches in length. Included are two clear plastic assemblies, one each for large and small primers, a single folding primer tray, two mounting bolts and instructions. The plastic assemblies just slide into the cast housing, then you depress them slightly to insert your shell holder. Fill the tray with primers and insert it into the slot on the assembly and you're ready to go.

    The clear plastic assemblies are the heart of this unit and have a lot going on so lets take a closer look at one. Each assembly naturally has a button that presses the primer into the case and a return spring. Immediately behind that is another spring and a thin piece of metal that goes up and down with the button, I suppose to maybe catch any shrapnel that might try to escape should a primer detonate while not fully seated. Behind that is the lift gate which keeps the primers in the tray separated from the one being seated to ensure there is no chance of a chain reaction should a primer detonate while seating. From there back you have the port to accept the primer tray and an agitator spring that rubs against the tray when working the tool to vibrate primers down to the shoot. As I said, it's quite a complicated little unit with a lot going on.

    The folding primer tray is another simple yet interesting bit of engineering. The tray features a locking tab with three positions: Open, Locked and Feed. The open position allows you to unfold the tray to load it up with primers. The locked position locks the tray in the folded position but still won't allow any primers to feed (basically the storage position). Naturally the Feed position lets the primers slide down the shoot to the button to be seated in a case. Rather than trying to explain how the tab works in the tray I'll just point you to the video below that shows exactly how it works.

    Setup is quick and easy and takes all of 10 seconds once you have the tool mounted to your bench. Simply slide the appropriate plastic assembly into place, depress it slightly to slip your shell holder into place and release, attach the tray full of primers and you're ready to go. In my case I mounted it to a board that I can clamp down to my bench via T-slot rails.

    Working the priming tool you'll notice it's a little noisy and almost sounds like plastic cracking, but don't worry - it's supposed to sound like that. The noise you're hearing is the sound of the agitator spring sliding back and forth across the ridges n the back side of the primer tray to ensure they slide down rather than hanging up.

    The lever provides great feel and requires minimal effort to fully seat a primer. In the video below you can watch me go through and prime 50 virgin Lapua cases pretty effortlessly, and I was able to prime 100 cases in roughly 6-7 minutes with the primers only hanging up on me twice. Like all tray-fed priming tool hang-ups are quickly resolved with a tap or two or a shake.

    The only real nit-pics I have with the Auto Bench Prime are that the pocket for the shell holder is pretty loose and the folding tray is going to take a little getting used to. The tray naturally wants to return to a partially folded position which makes it a little harder to use when shaking to get the primers all facing the right way, but I'm sure I'll acclimate myself to it after a few more uses.

    Overall I think Lee Precision really hit it out of the park with the new Auto Bench Prime, and for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, at $25-30 from most online retailers it's one-third the price of the other bench priming tools on the market which makes it an exceptional value. Secondly, it doesn't require you to use tubes or strips to hold the primers which saves you even more money as well as the time to load them up.

    Additional Photos:

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. acemisser's Avatar
      acemisser -
      awesome tool..Gonna get me on e of them babies
    1. fgw_in_fla's Avatar
      fgw_in_fla -
      Good write up, Mr. F.
      I just bought one from FS Reloading. Although I had to order the shell holders from Lee (FS had 'em on backorder) it was worth the wait.
      Once you get used to it and figure out where to tap so the primers fall, it makes short work of brass priming.

      I mounted mine to a piece of 3/4" MDF so I can clamp it to the bench - much like I do with the powder dispenser.

      Can't beat it for the price.
    1. Dhahn's Avatar
      Dhahn -
      MrFurious... great write-up. Read this article 2 weeks ago and ordered one from “Cheaper Than Dirt”... their online price was the lowest I could find. I totally agree with you that Lee Precision has hit the ball out of the park with this new primer tool. Primed 40 .243 cases without a hick-up. I did not time the process, but, it was faster and more comfortable than my handheld Lee primer. I contacted Lee in regard to shell holders. You can use shell holders that come in their “Priming tool shell holder it”, or purchase shell holder(s) separately, thank you Lee for not requiring a stand alone shell holder for this great priming tool!
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      I already had the Lee Shell Holders for my other Lee priming tools so it didn't even register with me that some might have to buy them if they typically use another brand that differs in design.
    1. thebeardeddude's Avatar
      thebeardeddude -
      Call it vanity, but I mounted my Auto Bench Prime to a piece of scrap maple I had laying around. Like others, I clamp the board to my bench.

      I had problems with primers getting hung up in both the small and large primer adapters (http://www.savageshooters.com/attach...9&d=1461959885). This usually occurred if I accidentally pressed too hard on the handle and "sprung" the stamped piece of sheet metal inside the adapter.

      In order to prevent pressing the handle too far, I mounted an adjustable depth stop to the board I mounted the Auto Bench Prime on. The rubber-topped stop is mounted under the Auto Bench Prime's handle, and it prevents the handle from being depressed too far. With the stop, the Auto Bench Prime lets me prime consistently, for long duration, and without worry. It is the easiest priming tool I have ever used.
    1. bsekf's Avatar
      bsekf -
      I like mine and am going to drill a hole in the primer tray so I can add primers one at a time without removing the tray. Little selector on tray is hard on arthritic hands, hope it loosens up with use.
    1. Deadshot2's Avatar
      Deadshot2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by bsekf View Post
      I like mine and am going to drill a hole in the primer tray so I can add primers one at a time without removing the tray. Little selector on tray is hard on arthritic hands, hope it loosens up with use.
      The old Lee hand priming tool used to have a hole in the cover so you could put primers in, one at a time.

      The one thing Lee hasn't seemed to have figured out after all these years is how to make primers "flow" through their tools. I have scars on the back of my left hand as a result of that problem on the primer feed on their original Progressive press. Primers were always sticking in the plastic and after you dropped powder in a few unprimed cases the entire press would jam. "Unjamming" caused a full tray of primers to detonate and the flying plastic opened enough cuts in the back of my hand to require 6 stitches.

      I still use the hand priming tools but I make sure to let the handle snap back so it shakes the primers loose. Seems to be getting better after 30 years of use.