From the Reloaders Bench: The Lee Auto Bench Priming Tool

The Lee Auto Bench Priming Tool from Lee Precision is a reliable way to seat primers without the soreness in your hands. A bench mounted priming tool is a great way to keep control of how your primers are being seated and pay attention when doing it. This tool from Lee allows a safe way to seat small and large primers on the bench with a simple two finger press of the lever.

Seating a primer. Seems simple and easy, but this task can still have some risk associated with it. Finding a good priming tool that doesn’t cost a fortune and is easy to use is very important to the reloading game as it saves time and won’t put you in a dangerous spot when seating primers. To do this many lean towards hand primers. However, hand primers can often tire out your hand. The Lee Auto Bench Priming tool fixes that issue with enabling primers to be seated with a simple press of one finger, and it’s under $50.

Before finding this tool I was using a Hornady Handheld Priming tool that I got out of the starter kit from Hornady. This priming tool works by loading your primers into the normal priming tray, and as you squeeze the tool with one hand, it seats the primer in your case. It works and is safe, no issue with that. However I found my hand getting very tired when seating primers. Especially because the lever to squeeze pushes out pretty far, needing larger hands to work it. Imagine squeezing those stress balls 200 times in a night and if you don’t give a good squeeze each time, the stress ball could explode. That’s this Hornady Priming Tool.

hornady hand primer and lee auto primer
On the left is the Hornady hand primer that needs to be squeezed to seat the primer. On the right is the Lee Auto Priming tool. Mounting the primer in general allows for safer priming.

After finally getting sick of the soreness in my hands I knew I wanted a bit of an upgrade but still a hand priming tool, not an automatic one as I still wanted control of the primers and wanted to keep the price down. I found the Auto Bench Priming Tool from Lee Precision, a very reputable loading company.

The Lee Auto Bench Priming Tool and Specs

pressing on the lee auto bench priming tool
Hand soreness is gone due to not having to squeeze the tool to seat but instead just press down with finger pressure. Ensure that you only use finger strength to press down on the lever, no more is needed.

Price: $44-$46
Available on: Amazon, Lee Precision, Midway USA, Midsouth Shooters Supply, Brownells, etc etc.

The Auto Bench Priming Tool from Lee Precision comes with the tool, primer tray, a small and large primer insert, and two bolts for mounting to the bench or a piece of wood.

The tool works by instead of having to squeeze the lever and tool with one hand, the lever to seat the primer can be easily pressed down with one or two fingers. The instructions actually state to specifically use fingers not hands so as to not over press on the lever.

The Priming Tool Shell holder Set

You will need to purchase the Lee Precision Priming Tool Shell holder Set. These specific shell holders don’t have the fat nub on the bottom. That fat nub that other shell holders have such as the RCBS shellholders won’t fit into the tool. (Trust me, I tried). Everything is on Amazon, MidwayUsa, Brownells, etc and goes for about $25 for an entire set. Thus it’s not too much of a hassle to purchase.

I do recommend buying a whole set as each shellholder is $5 already and a set comes with 11 shellholders for popular cartridges.

rcbs and lee shellholders.
In my hand is a RCBS shellholder. Notice the nub on the bottom. In the tool is the Lee Precision Priming Shellholders. The RCBS shell holder will not work in the Lee auto primer, the Lee primer shell holders will due to not having that nub on the bottom.

How to Install and Start Priming

First the tool needs to be mounted. Due to the small amount of effort it takes to actually press the lever down the tool doesn’t need to be mounted on anything really sturdy. Personally, I chose to mount it onto a small piece of wood so I could move it off the bench when I’m not using it. I haven’t had any issues with it moving when priming.

bolts, primer tray, tool
This is how the tool will come. Notice the two inserts for large or small primer loading. The bolts also come with the tool for bench or wood piece mounting.

Setting up the tool for priming is super easy. First, choose your insert based on if you are loading small or large primers. Then, take the tray, open it, ensure that the opening is on lock, and load your primers on one side of the tray to allow it to close. Shaking to ensure they are all upright. Install the tray onto the tool. Now insert the correct Lee Primer Shell Holder for your cartridge. There is a chart on the shell holder set. Turn the lever to On. You should now see primers flowing. You are ready to start priming.

Safety Tip: “Lee Precision has tested the tool by intentionally setting off a variety of brands and types of primers. Our testing has demonstrated that wearing safety glasses and hearing protection will prevent serious injury. However, all types of FEDERAL BRAND LARGE PRIMERS frequently caused the entire tray to explode with sufficient force to cause serious and painful injuries. These primers must be fed individually, see step 7 of product instructions, single priming option.” -Lee Precision

primer tray and positions of lock, open, and on
The positions on the primer tray are very important. It must be on lock when loading the primers into the tray to ensure that they don’t fall out. On is for normal feeding for priming. Open is for single feed priming such as for Large Federal Primers. Use both the bottom and top of the tray when moving the lever to ensure that it doesn’t break.

Pro Tip: When moving the lever on the primer tray from each position, grab both the top and bottom of the little latch. This will ensure it moves freely and that you don’t break it. It is just plastic after all.

Using this for the first time I was able to prime 200 rounds in less time than with the Hornady Hand Loader and had zero soreness in my hands after. I was loading CCI Small Rifle Primers into 6.5 Creedmoor Brass and didn’t have an issue. Just always ensure that you press all the way down when seating and ensure that the lever comes all the way back up after.

Anna Martinez
Anna is a Federal Weapons Gunsmith with 8 years of previous experience within the US Army Ordnance Corps (91F). She has taken multiple armorer and weapons proficiency classes to include FN, Knights Armament, and Small Arms Weapons Expert course. She also writes for American Gunsmith, AR Build Junkie, and is active in Precision Rifle sports around the nation.