Lee Ergo Prime Fail


I used to use a Lee Auto Primer with the round primer tray.  It was a fairly good hand primer, but it had its issues. 

1. The round holder was too small for some primer trays and I would drop a few primers when you did the flip and load.     This was fixed with a larger tray which I never got around to buying.

2. The connecting rod between the actuating lever and seating rod was not exactly made of stong metal.  I broke two of them by the time I had about 3500 rounds loaded.  Lee was awesome in that regard.  When I broke the first one, they sent me two replacements FREE of charge.

3.  At about 6000 round the actuating lever bit ground as well.  And this is where my issue begins.

The son and I wanted to reload some 5.56 and about 10 round in I busted the actuating lever.  No significant pressure beyond that used on the last 5999 rounds.  There was an air bubble from casting and the other metal fatigued enough to snap.  Frustrating, but no big deal.  I’ll call Lee, they’ll have a replacement part to me in a week.  In the mean time, we can use the priming tool on the Forster Co-ax.  Its a bit slower and more work, but we can still load.

I set the son up for priming on the Forster and stepped out to give Lee a call.  Three phone calls and two emails (over a week) with photos of the broken piece later.  Long story short, there are no parts to fix my trusty Auto Prime.  They had been phased out two years back with no continuation of parts.  Lee offered to send me a coupon for $16 off the new priming tool if I send them back the dead one.  Some quick math on postage says I will spend $8 to get a coupon that won’t arrive for two weeks.  Not worth it as we will already have a new priming tool by then.

After I finish reading the last email from Lee, I start researching a replacement and call the son.  The son (unknown to me) has already gone to the local reloading emporium and bought the new Lee primer.  He really wanted to get loading on the rest of the 5.56. I should be specific, he bought the Lee Ergo Prime for about $40.

It is ergonomic.  The stroke pressure is lighter.  The tray is plenty big enough.  Sweet, if expensive compared to the old one.

And then.

Lets just say, I almost shot this Piece OF Crap tonight.

This comes after relearning how to use a primer, getting used to the idiosyncrasies, spending twice as long to get the primers all faced properly, pushing air instead of a primer 10% of the time and popping the top off the tray at least three times per 100 primers and risking a total spill or inserting a flipped primer. 

But understand, none of that really angered me.  A bit frustrating, but I can get used to a lot of things and as long as they are predictable they can be worked around.  Tonight, I got THIS.


lee primer fail.2

Look close.  This is a top down view.  Notice the shell plate holder with the priming rod up through the center and the extra bit of metal to the right of the rod.  Any guesses as to what that is?

Those of you who reload, can probably tell.  Its a PRIMER.  Yes, a primer wedged between the shell plate holder and the rod.  Who in the hell made a machine with a tolerance to even allow that to happen. 

After much fiddling, I figured out I needed to disassemble the entire tool.  It is JAMMED in there.  After disassembling, I had to lever the shell plate holder off with a screwdriver.  Using a lot of force, I gradually worked my way around the shell plate holder.  When it finally gave, it and the primer went flying across the room.  The primer is in the same place that lost socks go.  I did find the shell plate holder.

Thirty minutes of frustration over.  Not to mention I also managed to CRUSH another primer before this little foray into danger.  So priming 200 pieces of 9mm brass took 75 minutes.  Realize, I started with clean brass – deprimed and clean pockets. 


It took less time to reset my powder measure, re-check the throw weight every 20 rounds, visually inspect, re-weigh two that looked short, seat, box and clean up.  All that took just over 45 minutes.

I should be able to load 10 primers per minute for each tray of 100 and routinely did with the old Lee.  I also NEVER pinned a primer between two bits of metal, creating the possibility of IGNITION.

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