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Old November 22, 2009, 02:59 AM   #1
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Decapping live primers? How?

A couple years ago, I bought four boxes of my favorite Hornady 7mm-08 ammo from LL Bean. Three of those boxes were 100% perfect. The last box had a little surprise for me.

Three rounds of that box had shallow/weak firing pin indentations in them. Thanks to LL Bean's satisfaction guarantee policy, the ignorant jerk returned the ammo. They checked that the ammo hadn't been fired and reshelved it. And then I bought it, took it to the range a few months ago, and discovered the dents. I didn't shoot them because I have no idea in what way the fool's rifle was messed up, and how that might have affected the dimensions of the ammo. (The rest of the box was okay.)

Now that I have reloading gear (and found primers!), I would like to have the brass from those cartridges. But it's live ammo I'm uncomfortable running through my rifle.

How do I do this? Pull the bullet, dump the powder, then what? Obviously, don't just use the decapping die. Chamber the cartridges and "fire" the primers in my rifle? Soak in WD-40 and decap?
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Old November 22, 2009, 03:31 AM   #2
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The safest way would be to fire them in your rifle but the primers will dirty your bore so clean the barrel after firing them. They are a little noisy so don't fire them indoors. I wouldn't recommend oils etc. to try to kill the primer and the oil killing the primer is iffy at best. Some including myself deprimes them with their sizing die by screwing the priming punch down further into the die so you won't be resizing while depriming. Very slowly and evenly raise the press ram and punch out the primer. WEAR safety glasses just in case, and you could place a rag around the depriming area of the press. I've deprimed several live primers without one going off. It's up to you the method you use.
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Old November 22, 2009, 03:41 AM   #3
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I've never had a problem depriming live primers, and I've done maybe 10 - 20. Part of what sets off a primer is shock, not just pressure. Use slow, steady pressure and you'll punch them out just fine. As rg1 notes, make sure you use safety glasses just in case something goes weird.

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Old November 22, 2009, 04:14 AM   #4
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+1 on just decap as normal but slowly, I have done this a few times and no problems.

Its always interesting how people suggest (rightly) to wear safety goggles but never mention ear muffs - primers going off inside the house are crazy loud Better safe than sorry
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Old November 22, 2009, 04:22 AM   #5
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Oh sweet. I'll just deprime it super slowly. That makes my life much easier. 'Course, then I wonder what to do with the loose, live, useless primers.

Thanks for the warnings, by the way. I've been wearing my shooting glasses once I get to the priming stage, anyway. I'm afeared of those little buggers.

And thanks Kiwi... I wouldn't have thought of ear protection. But you're absolutely right. My office (where I reload) is tiny; so that'd suck.
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Old November 22, 2009, 07:06 AM   #6
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then I wonder what to do with the loose, live, useless primers.
Douse them with "3 in one" oil or any oil. Let them sit for a minute and toss them.
BTW - primers with light hits will almost always fire when tried again.

and how that might have affected the dimensions of the ammo.
I can't imagine that getting light firing pin strikes would have altered the ammo in any way other than, perhaps, seating a high primer a bit deeper. High primers may have been the real issue with the ammo, as opposed to a problem with the rifle used.
It's, of course, a good thing that you were/are concerned about the safety of the ammo but you could have fired those rounds and they probably would have worked.

the ignorant jerk returned the ammo.
You are being hard on the guy. Bean has that policy. The guy wasn't satisfied. He brought it back. What's ignorant about that? The real problem was that the Bean employees put the stuff back on the shelf without checking. That's where the ignorance was.
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Old November 22, 2009, 07:20 AM   #7
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Why not?

OK, call me cavalier, but why not just shoot them? If the reason they didn't go off from previous strike was that it was just light, they are probably still good. A decent hit with an adequately strong firing pin should fire the rounds. I don't think safety is an issue here (unless you suspect the cartridges were reloaded improperly).

Or, you could return them yourself with the demand they replace these and destroy them properly. You might get more than an apology along with replacement ammunition. Even if your demand for replacement falls on deaf ears, you should tell the seller what happened on his watch.

Pulling the bullets, dumping the powder and firing the primed cartridges in your rifle is the next step I would take. By the way, the powder makes decent fertilizer. Just dump it on your plants, mix it with the soil and water them.

Good luck, good hunting,

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Old November 22, 2009, 08:12 AM   #8
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The only thing that might be a problem with just shooting them would be if they were chambered rapidly enough to change the headspace or case length too much? Take a caliper and measure the case length to verify that it doesn't exceed 2.046". If you have a headspace caliper adapter or an RCBS Precision Mic for this chambering, check that the headspace hasn't been shortened more than about 0.01" by excessively forcible chambering. Alternately, check the length of the neck does not exceed 0.295". That is the critical dimension here, since it is what determines whether or not you are at risk of the neck jamming into the end of the neck portion of the chamber and raising pressure?

Chances are these will be fine to fire. The guy who bought them originally either had a faulty gun or mistakenly bought them for a 7x57 and wound up with his firing pin just pushing them up against his extractor. That would have left the dimensions intact. You'd be surprised how many casual hunters just know their bore caliber, and that's all. "I want some 7mm shells." That's what they tell the clerk, so they wind up with the wrong cartridges.

I was at the range one day when a fellow came over to me with a neckless .308 case. The shoulder had been blown forward to consume the whole neck. He wanted to know if that was normal? Well, no. He had borrowed a ".308" rifle from his brother in law, bought some .308 cartridges, came to sight in, and this was the result. I picked up the rifle and showed him where the barrel was stamped ".30-06". Man was he mad. Now he couldn't return the partially fired box of "shells".

P.S., I like to use Lee's universal decapper die for live primers. It leaves a lot of extra space around the outside of the case to vent gas, should one fire. It's inexpensive and useful.
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Last edited by Unclenick; November 22, 2009 at 08:18 AM.
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Old November 22, 2009, 08:25 AM   #9
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I have decapped live primers and never had a problem. I go slowly and not with force. Push the handle down until the pin makes contact then slowly apply some pressure. Where safety glass just in case. By the way, I use the primers again with no problems and never had a problem or misfire. They are not useless live primers as stated above. They are fine to use for training or practice. great for testing new load or starting loads with new powders.

Last edited by cocojo; November 22, 2009 at 08:30 AM.
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Old November 22, 2009, 01:28 PM   #10
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I too have deprimed live primers intentionally and unintentionally. The advice to go slowly is good but you don't have to creep like a snail! Fwiw, I accidently picked up a primed case that had fallen out of the box where I put my primed rounds and put it through the sizer/deprimer. I gave it a healthy and not-so-slow crank on the arm. It deprimed nicely without incident. I still recommend slow but we aren't talking slo-mo here.
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Old November 22, 2009, 09:04 PM   #11
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I primed about 500 .45ACP with rifle primers-YUK I took it easy and had no problems. The safety glasses and even gloves would be a real good idea.
I would empty the primer catch tray often cause IF one were to go it might light off the whole tray. Federal are the most susceptible to this due to the priming material they use. Both Federal and Lee (Prime All) say to never use
any Federal primers in the Lee. Lee has that in there new reloading book.
Good book with lots of information.
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