May 30th, 2017

Chain Detonation — What Happens When A Primer Stack Blows

RCBS Primer Progressive strip APS dillon detonation

What can happen when the bottom-most primer in a primer feed tube goes off? A big bang, that’s what. Some or all of the primers in the vertical feeding tube can go off in a chain detonation. That’s exactly what happened to Dustin Ellermann, Top Shot Season 3 Champion. Scary experience, but thankfully Dustin was not injured. He writes: “Super thankful that I was wearing my Wiley X eye protection this weekend when I was reloading some .223 rounds. My press detonated nearly 100 small rifle primers. Shown here is the magazine feed tube. Not fun but it could have been much worse. Stay safe!”

When working with progressive reloading presses, you should definitely wear eye protection. Dustin’s chain detonation experience proves that — without a doubt. Remember you only have one set of eyes!

RCBS APS Strips — Alternative to Primer Tubes
RCBS Primer Progressive strip APS dillon detonationWhen you stack a column of primers in a single metal tube, you’re asking for trouble. As Dustin Ellermann learned, when one primer fires, the entire column can follow suit in a chain detonation. Thankfully, you do have options when it comes to primer feeding on a progressive press. RCBS developed an innovative primer system for its Pro-2000 progressive press. Instead of being stored in a vertical tube, primers are placed in flat, plastic “APS” strips, with a ring of plastic separating each primer. Moving horizontally, primers are never stacked, so the chance of a chain detonation is reduced dramatically. The re-usable APS strips are color-coded for different primer types. You can buy CCI “pre-loaded” primer strips, or you can insert any brand of primers into strips using an RCBS strip-loader tool.

RCBS Pro-2000 with APS Strip Priming System Editor Uses Strip Primers
This Editor owns an RCBS Pro-2000 progressive press. The RCBS strip-priming system was one key reason I selected the RCBS Pro-2000 over similar-priced progressives from Dillon and Hornady. I believe the strip primer system is safer, more positive, and easier to use. Before I purchased my RCBS progressive, I “road-tested” the competition. I loaded hundreds of rounds on each of four different progressives: Dillon 550B, Dillon 650, Hornady Lock-N-Load, and RCBS 2000. I was concerned about the primer feed tubes on the Dillons, and I found the RCBS rotary powder measure was much more precise (and easier to adjust) than the sliding bar system on the Dillon machines. The RCBS priming system was definitely more fool-proof than the system on the Hornady press (a first-generation L-N-L that had issues with primer feeding). After “test-driving” blue, red, and green brand progressives extensively, I settled on the RCBS Pro-2000. A decade later, I still think I made the right choice. I like the APS strips for big jobs, and I can also use them in the RCBS hand-priming tool (shown below). With the strips, it’s easy to prime 20 or 40 cases at a time, and then switch to another type of primer for comparison testing.

RCBS Primer Progressive strip APS dillon detonation

APS Tool press mounted RCBSThe APS priming system also works with press-mounted priming tool, bench-mounted tool, and APS hand-tool. EdLongRange uses the press-mounted tool: “I also like the APS approach but use the press-mounted unit (saves your hands/wrists — and I haven’t had a need for a progressive press in over 20 years). Loading the primers in the strips is a bit of a PITA but very manageable. As with all tools there is a learning curve.” CLICK HERE for video showing strip-loading tool and press-mounted APS tool. The press-mounted tool is no longer in production, but you can still BUY IT HERE.

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September 16th, 2009

Priming Tools — RCBS APS Strip System Tools

Readers often ask: “What priming tool should I use?” There is no simple, clear-cut answer. Different tools have different advantages and disadvantages. Many short-range benchresters like the Sinclair one-at-a-time priming tool. They believe this unit has the best “feel” for seating primers.

Others prefer the K&M tool, another “single-loader”, because it can be fitted with a seating depth gauge, for the ultimate in precision. On the other hand, one top shooter with a couple National Championships under his belt favors the modest $19.00 Lee Autoprime tool: “It’s simple, efficient and has served me well for years–I’m not convinced the fancy, expensive tools do a better job.”

This editor has tried all of these tools, and personally I favor the RCBS APS hand priming tool. It has two important advantages. Number one, primers are held in color-coded plastic strips so you never have to touch the primers. If you buy the pre-loaded strips, there is no chance of getting an upside-down primer, and you never have to fool with flipping primers in a tray. Second, the APS tool has a “universal” shell-holder. This employs spring-loaded jaws so it can fit any size cartridge, from a 17 Fireball to large magnums. The unit has a comfortable grip and plenty of leverage. Each time you seat a primer, the strip automatically advances. (NOTE: If you like the universal shell holder but don’t like strips, RCBS offers a new m90201 Universal Hand Priming Tool with a universal shell-holder that uses a conventional primer tray.)

RCBS APS hand priming toolRCBS Universal Hand Priming Tool

Currently, only CCI primers can be purchased pre-loaded into strips. But there is an inexpensive tool that allows you to load Federal, Winchester, or Wolf primers into the strips. The strips come in a variety of colors (Red, White, Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Black), so you can sort your primers by color.

The RCBS APS hand primer is ideal when doing primer comparison testing. You can slide one strip of 25 primers in the tool, seat 5 or 10, then easily remove the strip with the remaining primers, and slide in a second strip with another primer type. You can slip the first strip back in a storage box and the primers remain ready to use.

As contained in the strips, primers can also be used in an RCBS 2000 progressive press, a bench-mounted priming unit, and a special device that fits into the top of a Rockchucker or similar press. I have loaded over 20,000 pistol rounds with an RCBS progressive press and I have had not a single flipped primer. Not one. The strip-priming system also makes it easy to switch from small to large primers on the progressive–this can literally be done in under 20 seconds.

The bench-mounted unit is ideal for priming large quantities of cases. The long handle provides plenty of leverage, and you can work fast, as the primers automatically feed through the system. When I load large quantities of varmint rounds, I use the bench-mounted APS system. The only gripe I have concerns the small plastic bushing that guides the primer seating rod. This bushing breaks easily and is easy to lose.

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