Primer question



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  • Primer question

    I have been handloading for a while now and I always use the primers that are listed in the reload data.

    What I am wondering about is:

    What is the difference between the different primers? Is there a difference (other than manufacturer) in Large Magnum Rifle Primers and Large Rifle Magnum Primers? The same question goes for Large Magnum Pistol primers and Large Rifle primers.

    What is the main difference? Do some burn hotter, faster or more efficiently? What would the benfit be of using one over another?

    I reload for a S&W 500 and a 300RUM.

  • #2
    Good question, and yes there are several differences. First lets look at the differences between the large pistol and large rifle primers, then we'll look at std vs magnum.

    While the large pistol and rifle primers are of the same dia, the rifle primers are actually a wee bit longer. What this means is if you load rifle primers in a pistol case, they will protrude a bit, perhaps enough to tie up the gun. Also the pistol primers are made from a softer cup, as handgun firing pins generally have a weaker strike than rifles. What this means is the tougher rifle primer may not reliably fire in a pistol, and the softer pistol cup may be pierced by the more forceful rifle firing pin, esepcially from mil-surp actions.

    The issue of std vs magnum primer comes down to the term brissance (sp?) which is best described as how energetically the primer will start the powder burning. In general terms (I've reloaded enough to ever state a hard and fast rule, as they are rare) smaller charges of easily ignited powders will produce better accuracy with std primers, and powders with heavy deterrent coatings or large charges of powder are best lit off with magnum primers.

    In handguns I use std primers for Unique, 2400 and blue dot. For my H-110 W-296 loads I use magnum primers. I haven't used rifle ballpowders, but my general cutoff is rifle rounds burning 70 grs or less of powder use std primers, and when I'm setting off 80 grs or more of powder I use the magnum primers.

    I have seen studies that show there are notable differences in the various primers even between different brands of std and magnum primers. For handguns I generally use CCI 300 and 350 primers, and for rifles I've found the Federal 210 and 215 primers to work very well.
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    • #3


      Paul is correct, not much I could add. We might quibble over the amount of powder that requires magnum vs standard but that's about it. I generally go to magnums above 60 grains, but does vary a bit.

      Your 500 uses two different kinds of brass, as you know. I don't remember if we loaded your brass with large pistol primers or if it needed large rifle primers, but the depth of the pockets for the two, as Paul said, is different. The rifle pocket is deeper, the primer is longer. I think all the brass made now is LR primer pockets (marked with an "R") for the 500 S&W.

      This term "brissiance" (I don't know how to spell it either) has to do with the duration of the spark. The Magnums have a longer sizzle, (I like that word better) something like slower burning powder.

      Ball powders such as H110/W296, when loaded in large doses as for the 500 S&W, take a lot of fire to ignite. I think that is the reason for the LR primer in the 500. A standard rifle primer will have a higher brissiance level than a magnum pistol primer.

      The 454 Casull uses small rifle primers, standard or magnum. The thicker cup of the rifle primer is an issue for ignition for some handguns. Particularly the Ruger Super Redhawk in 454, but don't know of any problems asssociated with ignition for the 500 S&W. I don't think that a small rifle primer is hotter than a large pistol magnum (maybe) but in the case of the 454, it operates at rifle pressures (about 60,000psi) and needs the extra strength of the rifle primer cup. I think the 500 is close to that pressure level, also.

      This issue of primer cup thickness or toughness can make the difference between reliable ignition and very erratic ignition. The Federal primers, particularly the pistol primers, a somewhat softer cup than CCI, and likely some others. I've had several handguns set up with such a light hammer fall as to require Federal primers for ignition. Usually this is very light triggers on the S&W revolvers. When shooting quick double action such as for NRA action pistol or certain social occasions, this lighter trigger pull speeds things up a little. I would never do that on a carry gun. I don't mind missing a plate because the gun didn't go bang but I won't risk life and limb on a light trigger pull.

      Primers are an important component in a load but sometimes I think we put too much importance on them. There are a lot of very good primers out there. I honestly think that most of the fail to fire issues with a primer are due to the gun and not the primer. Other than when I was using a modified gun or the wrong primer or some experiment, I think I may have had only a handful of failures with primers. Maybe, in the last 400,000 loaded rounds, about five or six primers that failed. Even then they may have been damaged in the Dillon (operator) or contaminated with oil. It is rare to find a bad primer but then I only use a couple thousand a month now.

      Of all the brands that I have used in recent memory, I'll categorize them as I think they are in regard to this brissiance, or how hot or not.

      Large rifle. Fed 215 Hottest Rem. 91/2 Coolest
      Small rifle CCI 450 Hottest Win. SR Coolest

      Large pistol CCI 350 Hottest Fed. LP Coolest
      Small Pistol CCI 550 Hottest (I can't tell any difference in the rest.)

      There are several other minor differences and manufacturers change things from time to time.
      Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?


      • #4
        Primer brands


        I noticed you didn't include Winchester primers in your posting. I have used Winchester primers in pretty much all my rifle and pistol loading because I found, in my experience, that they were extremely consistent and had a somewhat softer cup so that pressure indicators in primer distortion came a little earlier, which I find advantageous, though I err on the side of conservatism in reloading. I was surprized when W-W did away with their magnum specific rifle primers and used only one primer for both standard and magnum rifle loadings. I have wondered if they found a happy medium in the "charging" of that primer or if they were actually their old magnum primer under a different title. I found that using them seemed to yield decent results, but when loading the few truly heavily loaded cartridges I have worked with since they made that switch, I went to CCI magnum primers. Just my 2 cents worth.


        • #5
          More Priming...


          I just listed what I thought was the hottest and the coldest of the current primers. I didn't exclude Win for any particular reason. Their primers, for standard rifle are very good and consistant but in the middle as far as brissiance(there's that word again), but are consistant. There dual purpose primers were neither fish not fowl, and seem to vary from lot to lot. I have just recently finished a lot of Winchester 5000 large pistol primers and they were very good. Mostly in a 45 Auto with Vihta 3N37 powder. No real test of a primer but, they were all ok.

          I never like the dual purpose primer for rifle or large pistol because there is so much variation in burning rates of powders for these.

          BTW, I have just finished with 15,000 primers (5,000 win and 10,000 CCI 300's) for my 45 ACP since I've been in Fairbanks (May '04). Without any misfire or fail to ignite at all. All fired in the same old Les Baer 1911. Well I have the last 500 loaded and ready, so 14,500 in my pistol. It will still group within 1 inch at 50 feet. Actually that's all I can do it is probably better.
          Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?


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