Reloading, part 1. Primers


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Old 12-11-2008, 10:00 PM   #1
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Default Reloading, part 1. Primers

I have decided to embark on an exercise to pass along some of the knowledge I have gained over a 30+ years of reloading ammunition. I started loading shotgun ammunition in High School. I was introduced to metallic cartridge loading in College and have since gotten into casting bullets as well.

I have read extensively on the topic of internal and external ballistics and have made my share of mistakes over the years. Yes, I have badly damaged one rifle (Ruger Mini-14) with handloads and learned much from that experience. I have had one ER visit due to stupidity on my part. I was old and experienced enough to know better but I let the stupid gene take hold for a moment.

I will compose different chapters on different components but none can be expected to be comprehensive. Each is an overview of the particular component. Some of the readers will find portions simplistic and some may find the information overly complex.

This following is for information and educational purposes only. Before reloading ammunition one must read at least one loading manual from a recognized publisher. Reloading is an inherently dangerous past time. Caution must be exercised in each step of the process.

So, with out further ado, here is chapter one-

Part 1. Primers.

The primer is essentially a percussion cap that seats inside the head of the case. There are different type, size, grade, strength and color finishes of primers.

There are two types of center-fire primers Boxer and Berdan.

Boxer primers are what most US made ammunition is designed for. Boxer primers consist of three parts, the cup, the anvil and the priming compound. The cup is the part you can see on a loaded round of ammunition. Inside is a tripod shaped metal device called the anvil with the priming compound sandwiched in between. Boxer primed cases have one flash hole connecting the primer pocket with the body of the case where the powder is held.

Berdan primers lack the anvil as there is a bump in the base of the case that serves as the anvil. Many European/Asian made cartridges utilize Berdan primers. Berdan primed cases have two flash holes.

There are three sizes of primers. Large rifle, large pistol and small. Small rifle and small pistol primers are the same size but have some design and construction differences. All large primers are the same diameter. Large rifle primers are deeper than large pistol.

There are three basic grades of primers. Standard, match (or bench rest) and military. Standard primers are intended for everyday ammunition. They have some degree of variance in thickness and flame intensity. Match or bench rest primers (different makers call them by different names) have a higher degree of quality control so each primer creates the same degree of flame as the others. Military primers have thicker cups and generally hotter flame temperature/intensity.

There are two strength levels of primers, standard and magnum. Standard primers are for “normal” size and strength ammunition. Magnum primers are for very large capacity cases and or difficult to ignite powders.

Primers come in two finishes, brass and nickel. There is no correlation between finish and the other differences. Large or small, rifle or pistol, standard, magnum or match can be brass or nickel.

If you follow the recommendations of the loading manual you should be able to determine the primer best for your application. As different companies make primers to different specifications, any change of primer requires you reduce the powder charge and work up a new load.

Reading primers. Reading primers in not really a science. It is more of an art. It is inexact and potentially dangerous for the novice

When working up a load primers will normally display certain characteristics as the pressures near maximum pressures. The first sign is flattening. The rounded edges of the primer will begin to flatten and fill in. Next is cratering. The area around the firing pin/stiker indentation will be displaced upward. Finally is primer flow. Under extreme pressure metal will actually become fluid. The area around the firing pin/striker indentation will actually try to flow into the channel around the firing pin. The edges of the primer will fill in the primer pocket area so the base looks like one solid piece. When flow is observed, one can normally be assured the pressures are excessive and likely dangerous.



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Old 01-21-2009, 02:45 PM   #2
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Good data!

I might inject one problem I've encountered with current Winchester pistol primers. Currtently these primers are brass colored and apparently have some type of coating, the purpose of wehich I don't know. But my primer feed is based on gravity, and these primers do not flow into the die so raadily as do the normal nickeled primers, such as CCI and Remington. This results in a primer partially entering the feed way and being caught by the priming arm, jamming up my loading.

This when using the Lee Auto-Prime on top of my RCBS press.

Bob Wright



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Old 01-22-2009, 12:40 PM   #3
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I have had no problems with the current Win primers in my Dillon. I don't know what may be up with that.

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Old 01-23-2009, 02:53 PM   #4
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Incidentally, here is an experience I encountered using/failing to use magnum primers:

I was testing some grip frame arrangements on Ruger Single Action revolvers, using all in .45 Colt. I had loaded some stout loads using a 240gr. JHP with Winchester 296 powder. The day happened to be bitterly cold, maybe high twenties or so. My primers were CCI large pistol, not magnum.

I loaded up and squeezed off the first round, which went off with the expected blast and recoil commensurate with a heavy .45 Colt load. The next round with off with a mild "pop." The cylinder was tied up by the bullet being partially driven into the barrel. I drove the bullet out and removed the cylinder. The powder was a compressed pellet, compressed by the exploding primer. The use of a standard primer, not enough neck tension/crimp, and cold temperatures had contributed to the fact the primer had not ignited the powder. Not sure which was the real reason, but I am now more conscious of neck tension/crimp and use of magnum primers with H110 and Winchester 296. Since then, I have had no other failures to fire.

Bob Wright

P.S. Let me clarify one thing. I drove the bullet back into the cylinder throat, to remove the cylinder from the gun.

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Old 01-23-2009, 02:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robocop10mm View Post
I have had no problems with the current Win primers in my Dillon. I don't know what may be up with that.

Not sure if you're familiar with the Lee priming deal. Its a die that fits on top of my press with a priming pin activated by a punch in the press's ram. The primers are held in a disc flipper/container and feed by gravity down a plastic feedway. The Winchester primers don't slide so easily down this feedway.

If that makes any sense to you.

Bob Wright

Yeah, I know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just don't have a photo now.
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Old 01-24-2009, 04:42 PM   #6
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Default Dillon primer use.

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Originally Posted by robocop10mm View Post
I have had no problems with the current Win primers in my Dillon. I don't know what may be up with that.
I'm with you, Robo. I've had good luck-use with Win. primers. Federal have been good to me also. My Dillon 550 likes both. CCI + REM primers seem to have the most effort to seat IMO. Keep loading+ shooting Home Brew!!
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Old 01-27-2009, 12:43 PM   #7
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W-296 should always use a magnum primer in handgun applications. The only time I use non magnum primers is in .30 carbine loads w/W-296. The small rifle primers are decidedly hotter than pistol primers. Cold temps and any ball powder also call for magnum primers. Ball powders like 296, BLC-2 and W-748 can be a bit difficult to consistantly touch off. W/global warming, we should see a decline in the need to use magnum primers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
Incidentally, here is an experience I encountered using/failing to use magnum primers:

I was testing some grip frame arrangements on Ruger Single Action revolvers, using all in .45 Colt. I had loaded some stout loads using a 240gr. JHP with Winchester 296 powder. The day happened to be bitterly cold, maybe high twenties or so. My primers were CCI large pistol, not magnum.

I loaded up and squeezed off the first round, which went off with the expected blast and recoil commensurate with a heavy .45 Colt load. The next round with off with a mild "pop." The cylinder was tied up by the bullet being partially driven into the barrel. I drove the bullet out and removed the cylinder. The powder was a compressed pellet, compressed by the exploding primer. The use of a standard primer, not enough neck tension/crimp, and cold temperatures had contributed to the fact the primer had not ignited the powder. Not sure which was the real reason, but I am now more conscious of neck tension/crimp and use of magnum primers with H110 and Winchester 296. Since then, I have had no other failures to fire.

Bob Wright

P.S. Let me clarify one thing. I drove the bullet back into the cylinder throat, to remove the cylinder from the gun.
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Old 01-29-2009, 03:00 PM   #8
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Some of the press of the day advised using standard, not magnum, primers with certain powders, H110 being one of the ones specifically mentioned. Keith advised using standard primers with Hercules #2400.

So, I gave it a try. At the time, I put everything that appeared in the press to test myself. The stated objection at the time was that magnum primers gave erratic velocities.

Bob Wright



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