This is the fourth part of a series on reloading ammunition: Reload your own | Getting started | Polishing the brass | Depriming | Dropping gunpowder | Pressing the bullet

Primers are small inserts in the base of center-fire cartridges that spark the ignition of the gunpowder. Thus, when working with primers, safety is a primary concern. There is always the possibility of a small bang, and safety glasses should be worn when working with these.

I will admit in spite of the dire warnings and stories I received when learning to reload, I have not yet had a primer explode. However, I'm the type that will always put safety first. Another safety consideration is to avoid handling primers with bare hands because they contain a large amount of lead.

Primers are sized differently, and a case comes with 1,000 primers. They are designated small pistol, large pistol, small rifle, large rifle and magnum. They come in several different brands, and people who reload often typically develop their own brand preference. However, when ammunition gets in short supply, you are usually happy to get what you can find.

Depriming — or removing the expended primer — is accomplished with a die in your set that punches the spent primer out of the cartridge and at the same time resizes the cartridge to bring it back into spec. When using carbide dies, you do not have to lube the pistol cases, however, rifle cases will need to be lubed.

I place a large tub below the reloading bench to try and catch primers as they fall. This is not 100 percent accurate, so there is usually a little sweeping to do. Primers on the floor tend to hurt your feet if stepped on, and you don't want your wife to complain.

Once the old primer has been removed, the next step is to replace this with a new primer. There are several hand-priming tools available, and I have tried several of these when I started reloading. Then I got smart and began using the auto primer on my turret press. This changed priming from a two-step to a one-step process and saved a lot of time.

Once the new primer is installed, I place the cartridges head-first in the reloading tray so all 50 of my production run can be reviewed. The things to carefully check here are that no primers were installed backward (upside down) and they are flush or slightly deeper than the base of the bullet.

Some problems are to be expected when doing a batch — e.g., crushed cases and badly set primers. Therefore, to get 50 finished rounds, I usually start with 53 or 54 cases as some will be rejected along the way.

Next article will look at measuring and dropping powder.