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Old September 14, 2009, 11:06 PM   #1
mc55
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Newb Question Re: Primer substitutions

Just getting into reloading and am having a hard time finding the mats I need to work up the loads I would like. Primers seem to be the biggest problem thai I run into. I came across a whole passle of small rifle primers but need to load 38 spcl and 9mm. Where might I find a table that will tell me if I can use what I'v got to do that? I checked the Lyman book that came with my Crusher II set up and didn't find anything about this type of substitution. I'll also be reloading 223 so I certainly can use 'em but can I use 'em in my pistol loads?
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Old September 15, 2009, 06:27 AM   #2
Bigtony
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No! They are not the same size, they do not provide the same powder ignition! That's why you can not find any reloading data for use with primers that are not sized for that particular load. Pistol primers are for pistols, rifle primers are for rifles and shot shell primers are for shot shell.
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Old September 15, 2009, 06:51 AM   #3
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Small rifle primers WILL fit the pistol cases. (But the LARGE rifle primers cannot be substituted for pistol primers because, in the large size, the rifle pimers are higher than the pistol primers and will not seat below flush).

Substituting primers can get complicated, because there are a lot of factors to consider. Normally, I would tell a beginning reloader not to do it until (s)he has gained enough experinece to know what to look for in the way of problems with the resulting loads. But, I understand the problem with the shortage, so here are some tips:

Primers have several characteristics that matter. One is how hard the cup material is. Primers made for high-pressure cartridges have thicker, harder cups. So, typically, rifle primers have harder cups than pistol primers, and magnum primers may have harder cups than standard primers. But, pistols have weaker firing pin strikes than rifles do, so the first issue is whether your pistols will reliably ignite rifle primers.

Not all rifle primers have hard cups. The Remington 6½ small rifle primers have relatively soft cups and Remington says NOT to use them for high-pressure rounds like the .233. Remington says to use 7½ primers for those cartridges and the 6½s for cartridges like the .22 Hornet. SO, maybe the 6½s would work in pistols? Don't really know, because I haven't used those.

When the primer ignites, it produces both pressure and heat, and the heat can be in the form of hot particles as well as hot gases. The different brands of primers have different mixes of these factors. Some powders ignite best with higher initial pressure, and others don't need it. Some powders that are hard to ignite benefit from the hot particles. Too much pressure from the primer may unseat bullets in cartridges with small cases and that can cause erratic ignition, too. If the bullet does not unseat too early, extra heat and pressure from the primer can make the powder burn faster than the data indicates and cause higher peak pressure as the powder burns.

So, loading data is usually provided with a primer that has been selected to give good performance in the cartridge being considered, and substituting may give less satisfactory results. If you can only get rifle primers, then those results are probably better than NO results in pistol cartridges, PROVIDED YOU DON'T PRODUCE EXCESSIVE PRESSURES.

Rifle primes will typically increase peak pressure compared to pistol primers. So, don't attempt to reach maximum loads with them. They may or may not fire reliably in your particular guns.

Since you are a beginner, I will suggest that you focus on learning signs of high pressure. But, the rounds you are choosing to reload vary greatly in allowable pressure. The .38 Special has a pressure limit of 17,000 psi (18,500psi for +P ammo), the 9mm has a pressure limit of 35,000 psi (38,500 psi for +P ammo) and the .233 Remington has a pressure limit of 54,000 psi. SO, the usual advice about looking for flattened primers to detect excessive pressure obviously isn't going to be very helpful if you are using primers intended to for the .233 Remington in your .38 Special cases. By the time the pressure is excessive for the .233, you will have destroyed your .38 Special and perhaps your 9mm as well. Fired rifle primers in .38 Special cases will probably LOOK like lower pressure than the primers in low pressure factory loads even when the actual pressures are above proof load values (30% overload). So, by using rifle primers for your pistol loads, you are removing one of the most observable signs of increasing pressure.

Unfortunately, we do not have tools for calculating the effects of primer switches on peak pressures. And, even chronographed velocity readings cannot tell you how the peak pressures have changed when you substituted a hotter primer. Your best defense is to stay closer to the starting loads in your data when using the rifle primers.

SL1

Last edited by SL1; September 15, 2009 at 11:37 AM.
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Old September 15, 2009, 09:33 AM   #4
Sevens
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Everything that SL1 has said should be read multiple times until it's committed to memory.

I'll add this: Part of the "fun" of reloading is trying something new, making sure it's safe, then working that load until it performs as best as it can or as good as you need it to. When you change a component such as a primer, you are starting from scratch and you can forget what you know about how well it worked, because changing one component means you get to start back at square 1.

My point: using small rifles primers may work (may not!) but if it does work, it was a long exercise in seeing if it will work unless you intend to stick with small rifle primers for the rest of your reloading in that caliber/load.

IMO, it's better to keep looking for the components you intend to use in the long run and start with those rather than sticking whatever the heck you can find in place just to get started.

FWIW, most of the reloading public has a harder time finding small rifle primers than they do finding small pistol primers. The AR craze has made small rifle the most sought after primer at the moment. The good news is that all reports are of more primers showing up at every turn.

I think you'd be better off holding on until you can find some small pistol primers. When you do, buy many thousands of them.

There are some folks I know of who have completely replaced small pistol on their bench with small rifle. It works for them. I started back in '89 with CCI Small Pistol, so that's what I continue to use if I have my choice.

You will not find any table or load data that tells you how to adjust the load if you are using the wrong primers. That's work that can only be done by starting low and slowly working higher, while paying particular attention to pressure signs.
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Old September 18, 2009, 12:47 AM   #5
mc55
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Thanks

I appreciate the comments folks. Think I will post a copy of SL1's reply in a conspicous place on the reloading bench. Perhaps I will continue to wait until I can find the right primer for the job. It would be nice to know however that if TSHTF a substitution could be made in a pinch. In looking over the loading formulas in my Lyman, Nosler and Speer books it is easy to understand how changing one variable will change the outcome of the load. This is easy for me because I brew beer as well and the principal is the same. My earlier beer experiments years ago sometimes provided an explosive outcome as well. Finding the proper componants for handloading seems almost as problematical as finding the factory ammo I am trying to replicate or substitute for in the first place but that makes it more like a treasure hunt. I shoot .32, .38, 9MM, .45, .223, .30 carbine, .30-06, .303 Britt, 7.62X39 and 54R so I got me a lot of treasure huntin' to do. Today I load for bang. Tommorrow I load for accuracy.

Bigtony wrote:
Quote:
...and shot shell primers are for shot shell.
BTW, Shotshell primers are also for inline blackpowder rifles. In that respect I've been handloading for quite some time. I'd just like to make more than one round at a time

Last edited by mc55; September 18, 2009 at 01:01 AM.
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Old October 4, 2009, 11:15 AM   #6
oldnslo
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Do I understand this to mean then, that I could use a magnum large pistol primer in a 45acp round, as well as a 38spcl and not just my 357mag? I happened upon 1000 Wolf Large Pistol Magnum primers but would prefer to just load 45acp for now. Would I be safe with these?
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Old October 4, 2009, 12:10 PM   #7
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A magnum large pistol primer won't fit in the .38 Special and .357 cases. They take small pistol primers. Magnum pistol primers can be substituted for standard pistol primers of the correct physical size, but two things need to be watched out for. One is pressure increase, so I always knock a full load down 5% when I change primers. There are funny circumstances wherein standard primers can actually create higher peak pressures than magnum primers, though the reverse is usually true. It is therefore a good idea to drop your charge regardless of what direction your primer change is in?

Second, with small capacity cases in particular, the larger gas volume made by a magnum primer can unseat a bullet before the powder gets burning. This can lead to erratic ignition. So, if you have a chronograph, watch for wide velocity deviation.
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Old October 4, 2009, 12:15 PM   #8
Longdayjake
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Quote:
FWIW, most of the reloading public has a harder time finding small rifle primers than they do finding small pistol primers. The AR craze has made small rifle the most sought after primer at the moment. The good news is that all reports are of more primers showing up at every turn.
I am personally experiencing the same issue with not finding small pistol primers. Also, if you go online you will see that the only primers available are small rifle primers.
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Old October 4, 2009, 01:25 PM   #9
oldnslo
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But these large pistol primers will work with 45acp, yes?
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Old October 4, 2009, 02:39 PM   #10
oldnslo
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In the ABC's of Reloading 8th ed., pg 44 Modern Primers 4th para states use a large pistol primer for 45.
I've since spoken with a friend who has much experience in reloading and tells me we use a small pistol primer for cartridges such as 38spcl, 357mag and 45acp.
Can I get a confirmation on this?
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Old October 4, 2009, 02:44 PM   #11
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The vast, vast majority of .45 ACP brass is made for large pistol primers. There are some that have been made for small pistol. I can't remember the manufacturer, but it exists although fairly rare.
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Old October 4, 2009, 04:10 PM   #12
wncchester
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"Where might I find a table that will tell me if I can use what I'v got to do that? "

It easy! Put rifle primers in rifles, pistol in pistol. If they don't fit, you have the wrong size. And that's about it, every thing else can be absorbed by "start low and only work up...." etc.
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