Frankford Arsenal Primer Pocket Swager

By Mary and Dr. Jim Clary

Frankford Arsenal Primer Pocket Swager
Illustration courtesy of Frankford Arsenal.

As most reloaders know, primers in military ammunition are crimped in place to prevent them from backing out under combat conditions. If a primer backs out and falls into the action of a rifle, especially an AR-platform, the action will frequently jam and put the user at great risk on the battlefield.

Over the years, reloaders have come up with a variety of ways to remove the crimp from military cases, from drills to chamfering tools. However, these methods frequently result in unusable brass, because the primer pockets became oversized in the process and would not hold a primer securely. Enter a variety of primer pocket swaging tools that allowed the reloader to salvage military brass and render it reloadable.

A friend of ours recently asked why bother with military brass? Why not buy or pick up commercial brass and call it good? This is a valid question and the answer is money. Except for target shooters, most shooters who reload do so to save a bit of money, as well as having the satisfaction of loading their own ammunition.

To answer the first question, we will pick two common military and commercial cartridges as examples:

New Brass Costs averages the following, plus or minus a few bucks:

    .223 Remington (5.56x45mm) - $62.50 per 250
    .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm) - $116.50 per 250

Clean Range Brass Costs - mixed commercial and military head stamps averages:

    .223 Remington (5.56x45mm) - $53.50 per 1000 ($13.38 per 250)
    .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm) - $105.00 per 1000 ($26.25 per 250)

One can readily see that clean range brass, either picked up at your local gun range, or purchased, is substantially cheaper than new brass. If your favorite rifle is chambered for military rounds, it is definitely more economical to use range brass, which means you need a good primer pocket swaging tool.

The Frankford Arsenal swaging tool is robust, to say the least. No, that does not sufficiently describe it. The frame is a very solid, heavy and precision piece of die-cast aluminum with four 3/8 inch mounting holes. We seriously doubt that you could ever wear it out. In fact, it reminds us of the early Pacific presses, which never wore out, either.

This tool is accompanied by the usual advertising hyperbole: ergonomic upright design, adjustable handle, quick change swage pin for large and small primers, etc. Truth be known, we expect all of that for a tool of this type.

What impressed us was the adjustable brass positioning knob in the front to ensure that the swaging pin is centered on the primer pocket and the auto-eject case pin holder that works for both small and large cases. (Large and small case holders are included.)

This tool is solid and works very well. It is easy to change the swaging pin from small to large primers and it comes with both sizes. With a 2019 MSRP of $99.99, it will pay for itself very quickly if you are a serious reloader.

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Copyright 2018 by Mary and Jim Clary and/or All rights reserved.