Flipping Out – How To Use a Primer Flip Tray

Seemingly a pretty simple device, in concept, the primer flip tray’s sometimes confounds people. They come with no directions, of course. Their role in the reloading process is humble, but important, as they make handling primers effortless if used correctly. Check out the video, then hit the jump for some more info…

I don’t think it can be said too much – PRIMERS ARE DANGEROUS!!! Take appropriate cautions in handling them. Treat them with respect when you handle them, and wear eye protection at all times. Modern primers contain a compound called lead styphnate – this is the stuff that makes things go BANG. Lead styphnate is considered a high explosive, though it’s burn rate is actually pretty low, relative to things that are used commercially and militarily to blow things up. In it’s raw form, though, it’s very susceptible to impact and static electricity. This makes it a good primary explosive, and hence makes it suitable for use in ammunition primers as a starter for the nitrocellulose based propellant we use to power our ammunition. Lead styphnate replaced mercury fulminate as the priming compound of choice, and the residue from it is less dangerous, but the residue obviously contains lead – you’ll want to wash your hands carefully after handling spent primers, and wear a mask if you’re in danger of breathing any dust or other particulate matter resulting from spent primers.

The video demonstrates procedures for using a flip tray. This tool allows you to manipulate primers without having to touch them. You can get the primers from their packaging into your pickup tubes without any danger of contaminating them with finger oil or any other lubricants you might have on your hands. In practice, modern primers are pretty resilient, and can take some handling without having a problem, but you don’t want to make a habit of it, especially with primers you’re using for match ammunition.

The demo at the end gives you some idea of the power of a single primer. I’m not kidding about how loud it is – your ears will ring, if unprotected. Again, I do not recommend performing that demo on your own, for obvious reasons. You can search around the Internet and find various stories about people who’ve lit off a whole 100 primers to sometimes disastrous results. Did I mention these things are dangerous? I’m definitely not trying to scare you – just be smart, and be respectful of what you’re playing with, and you’ll avoid issues. Don’t put body parts over the top of a pickup tube while you’re picking up primers with the tube! If something goes wrong, the blast is going to follow the path of least resistance, out both ends of the tube. You don’t want a hand or your face to be in that path!

These little suckers are also why you want to wear eye protection while reloading. If one gets jammed up just right in your loading press, or has difficulty being seated into a case, you can potentially light off a whole magazine of primers all at once. This will likely damage the press, and can spit stuff out at you – at best. At worst, if you’ve got powder sitting on your table near the press, and things happen just right, you could light off the powder, too (this has happened – it’s not at all far fetched). Also, make sure you don’t have a light fixture right above your primer magazine, or you’ll end up with pieces of glass all over you, too, as the bulbs in the fixture shatter from the impact of shrapnel coming out of the magazine.

Be safe around primers, and use your primer flip tray to help make handling them safer and smoother.

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/flipping-out-how-to-use-a-primer-flip-tray/

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