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Old June 6, 2019, 09:11 AM   #1
dahermit
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tight primer pockets

I have five sets of 72 .38 Special casings that I use in my shooting-reloading regimen. When I inspect each of the 72 casings before reloading, I look for minute cracks in the case necks (the normal failure mode is a progression in those neck cracks), and replace those cases from my supply of once-fired cases.

For several years now following that regimin, I find that many/most/almost all the once-fired (presumably range brass) will have very tight primer pockets...tight to the point where the primer will be flattened excessively or will not seat normally using my Dillon 550b press. The primers will be high that they resist being pulled out of the size/prime station. I do one of two things with those primed cases...I seat the primer deeper with a Lee Auto Prime, or punch the primer out and discard it. I then taper the primer pocket hole with a 3/16 drill bit in a cordless drill, ream the pocket with an old Lyman (I think it is Lyman) primer pocket reaming tool, and/or give the hole an additional taper using a Lee chamfer tool. In other words, I am doing more fiddling around trying to seat the primers on some of the cases than I wish to do.

At one point I deprimed my bag of once fired cases and used an RCBS primer pocket swaging tool, thinking that would uniform the pockets, remove any crimp, alleviate any tightness. But, it didn't.

I have ordered a Hornady small primer pocket reamer, sans handle (I will chuck it into a hand drill for speed purposes), with which I will attempt to alleviate the too-tight primer pocket hole all in one step.

In all, the too-tight primer pockets has caused me some confusion...has anyone else run into this problem?

I use Federal small pistol primers exclusively (DO NOT suggest switching primers...I do not want to get into that discussion, don't ask me why.), many, many different lots.

The head stamps are: CBC, Blazer, R-P, Federal, Winchester, PPU. Agila.

Is this a common problem with .38 Special cases?

Last edited by dahermit; June 6, 2019 at 05:15 PM.
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Old June 6, 2019, 08:16 PM   #2
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I do not recall any problems before the great ammo shortage a few years ago. However, I started experiencing various problems seating small and large pistol primers in .38s and .45s. A lot of primers were crushed, some wouldn't seat all the way down, and a lot of them turned sideways. It happened with old cases and brand new Starline cases. At first, I thought it was the primers (Federal and CCIs). Then I chucked a Franklin primer pocket uniformer, then a crimp remover (even though none were crimped), and I am getting perfectly seated primers which seat very easily.
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Old June 7, 2019, 07:51 AM   #3
billcarey
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Every now and then I get a tight pocket but cleaning takes care of it. I usually punch the primers and tumble the brass before reloading. Sometimes I have to pull out the pocket cleaner to scrape burnt powder away but not often. I load mostly 38 & 32 long and done many 1000s in the past 30 yrs with mixed brass. Most times I use Winchester and Federal small pistol primers.
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Old June 7, 2019, 08:58 AM   #4
Don Fischer
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Sound's like your tight pocket's are in mil brass you didn't get the crimp all they way out of.
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Old June 7, 2019, 10:38 AM   #5
F. Guffey
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Quote:
The head stamps are: CBC, Blazer, R-P, Federal, Winchester, PPU. Agila.
I have never found a 38 Special with a tight primer pocket. But if I did I would have trouble with 'how they got that way'. There is a remote chance someone rolled the case heads in an effort to get more mileages or they forced the cases through an open die.

When the case head increases in diameter to the point the primer pockets are too loose I have gotten all of the mileage out of the case I am going to. And then there is that thing about 'working the brass'.

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Old June 7, 2019, 11:03 AM   #6
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I have never had problems with Fed small pistol primers in .38 Special cases. I have loaded thousands of them. I load mostly Win, Fed and Rem hulls, but many other brands mixed in. Many years ago I had problems with another brand of primers, never Federal. I load on a Dillon 550B.
Something really odd here.
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Old June 7, 2019, 11:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
I use Federal small pistol primers exclusively (DO NOT suggest switching primers...
Ok, I won't...

What I will suggest is taking a look at your Dillion, and checking the adjustments & tolerances. It's not impossible for the "stop" screw limiting downward travel of the ram to move, which could result in high primers, or primers too deeply seated (crushed), and then there is the "fit" of your shell plate, and the case rims in it.

Take some of those "tight primer pocket" cases and load them on something else. Use a hand primer tool, or a single stage press with its "fixed" shell holder, and see if they act the same (too tight pockets).

If there is any difference in the way the primers seat when using a different tool, then the issue isn't the cases or the primers, its the fit of them in your Dillion.

the progressive press requires a certain amount of "slop" (clearance) for the parts to move. It is not impossible that with some cases, the tolerances needed are "stacked" in such a way you get poor results.
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Old June 7, 2019, 11:55 AM   #8
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Agree with F. Guffey and pete2. Haven't had any issues with .38 primer pockets.
Odd indeed. Cases I use are Fed, Win and R-P. My .45 Colt gets Starline only. No issues there either. Hmm.
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Old June 7, 2019, 12:36 PM   #9
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Norma's manual explains the cartridge brass business in incestuous. People make brass for each other all the time. Norma has made brass for Remington in the past, for example. There have been other more recent examples of Remington relying a lot on contract-made brass.

The issue I've seen with this is that European makers tend to make primer pocket diameters at the minimum end of the tolerance range while domestic brass usually goes for the middle of the range. What I've measured is all about 0.3 thousandths tighter in large primer pockets (I don't know the number for small primer pockets) and that made primers significantly harder to seat and required a snug-fitting primer guide that forced the sides of the primer cup to be held perfectly perpendicular to the case head to avoid crushing the primer. My guess is the European makers are trying to get more reloading life out of high power rifle cases before the primer pocket expanded. Normas QC process includes periodically sampling cases from each run and testing to be sure they tolerate being loaded and fired 10 times without failure.

So, then comes the question, why would it be happening in Starline brass, which is made here? I don't know. I can only suggest doing some measuring. SAAMI puts a small primer pocket (page 26/35 (Doc page num/Acrobat page num) of the 2015 CF Pistol and Revolver standard, says the pocket should be between 0.1730" and 0.1745" in diameter. I would expect domestic ones to be about 0.1737-0.1738". Indeed, I have some new Starline 38 Special brass I got about a month ago. I'll go check:

(Pause; imagine elevator music.)

OK. I'm back. The Starline all blocked the 0.1740-0.0002" pin and all accepted the 0.1730-0.0002" pin and allowed it to wiggle just enough that, based on experience, there was almost a thousandth clearance. So I got out a half-ball small hole gauge and fiddled the splaying knob until it was running in and out of a pocket with an inconsistent hint of rubbing. This is another thing you have to develop a feel for, but the accuracy is pretty good when you do. In this case, the trusty Mitutoyo showed it just kissed the anvils at 0.1738", so I would expect the intermittent rubbing to cease at 0.1737". It appears my expectation was on the nose.

(Sound of me patting myself on the back.)

These Starline primer pockets are not small and should not offer any special resistance to primer seating as long as your primer cups don't have burrs on their edges.

So, what's going on? I would (I see 44 AMP posted this while I was editing) unbolt the RL550B's shell plate and clean it. Also, clean the press body under it and the detent ball and its well. Vacuum any powder flakes out. Make sure the press is properly lubed. Put the plate back and check that the detent is positively locating it and that the plate is neither too tight for location nor so loose it can fail to hold the case perpendicular to primer. Check that nothing in the primer carrier or guide sleeve is loose and apply a little motor mica or other dry lube to those parts.

One other thing to try is placing the brass in a baggy and tossing it with some motor mica dust. This puts a little of that dry lube on everything, which won't hurt it the ammo and may get your primers to seat more smoothly.
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Old June 7, 2019, 12:44 PM   #10
dahermit
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Fischer View Post
Sound's like your tight pocket's are in mil brass you didn't get the crimp all they way out of.
Even when I chamfer the primer pocket hole with a 3/16 drill bit, the primers are still way to tight to fit in the hole correctly. So no, it is not a matter of crimped in primers.
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Old June 7, 2019, 12:53 PM   #11
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"...into a hand drill for speed..." Reaming doesn't require speed. And a 3/16" drill isn't going to chamfer anything.
Never heard of milspec .38 Special with or without crimped primers. Crimping primers is about MGs too. Not revolvers.
Have a look here and do some measuring.
http://ballistictools.com/articles/p...d-diameter.php
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Old June 7, 2019, 02:19 PM   #12
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The Starline brass I mentioned above all worked as it should. However, when Unclenick brought up Norma brass, I remembered having trouble with Norma 7mm Rem mag brass.
Tight primer pockets! I had forgotten those, as it's been years since I've loaded for that round. I believe I used a hand held Lyman primer pocket reamer to fix that. Again, hmm.
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Old June 7, 2019, 02:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Never heard of milspec .38 Special with or without crimped primers. Crimping primers is about MGs too. Not revolvers.
US military .38 Special absolutely exists. The primer crimp requirement isn't just for MGs (where it really matters) but also for all kinds of rough shipping conditions, which might possibly cause a primer to loosen.
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Old June 7, 2019, 03:36 PM   #14
F. Guffey
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Never heard of milspec .38 Special
I have 38 Special military ammo complete with the box they came in. I purchases a bunch of it and then one day I noticed an article with a warning saying "DO NOT SHOOT THIS AMMO WITH THIS LOT NUMBER". By that time I was left with half a box out of 50 rounds.

It just seems if there was something wrong with that ammo I would have noticed. Wild guess: The ammo was reloaded to something like +P and I was shooting it in a Ruger 357 3 screw.

And no crimp.

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Old June 7, 2019, 04:16 PM   #15
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The military has some unusual .38 Special. .38 Special Ball has a 125-grain LRN bullet loaded to 725 fps with 13,000 CUP (they say "psi" but it was measured in a copper crusher, so it is what SAAMI calls CUP). I believe it is the one the Airforce got for their early S&W aluminum frame revolvers. Then there is .38 Special M41 with a 130-grain LRN loaded to 16,000 CUP and 950 fps. The wadcutter is the usual 148 grain swaged lead hollow base bullet loaded to 16,000 psi and 800 fps.
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Old June 7, 2019, 05:46 PM   #16
dahermit
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"...into a hand drill for speed..." Reaming doesn't require speed. And a 3/16" drill isn't going to chamfer anything.
I use a hand drill for speeding up the process. I am not "reaming", just producing a bevel (and removing any possible crimp), on the primer pocket. ALL metal drilling (as opposed to wood bits), produce a 118 degree included angle/chamfer.
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Old June 7, 2019, 05:48 PM   #17
dahermit
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The military has some unusual .38 Special.
If memory serves, the Air Force used a 130 grain full-metal jacket .38 Special for their air crew survival 38s during the Vietnam war.
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Old June 7, 2019, 06:45 PM   #18
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First use a Primer Pocket Reamer and then use a Primer Pocket Uniformer and that will get them right .
It seems like after the great shortage these off shore case makers didn't get the sizes just right . Before that only crimped in military primers were all you had to look for.
Seems like it's always something !
Gary
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Old June 7, 2019, 07:27 PM   #19
dahermit
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Originally Posted by gwpercle View Post
First use a Primer Pocket Reamer and then use a Primer Pocket Uniformer and that will get them right .
It seems like after the great shortage these off shore case makers didn't get the sizes just right . Before that only crimped in military primers were all you had to look for.
Seems like it's always something !
Gary
I have been doing that but the primer pocket reamer (don't know the brand name) is not doing the job and the Lyman primer pocket uniformer is not doing it either as did not the RCBS primer pocket swage tool. I do have a Hornady primer pocket reamer on order and have hope.
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Old June 8, 2019, 11:36 AM   #20
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Just for future reference Ballistic Tools makes a Small and Large Primer Pocket Swage Gage ® Set. Rather than having a full set of pin gauges these sets are well worth the $20 cost. I checked my set and they were right on the SAAMI specifications Unclenick mentioned earlier for primer pocket dimensions. Depending on the brass I also sometimes use a Chamfer & Deburring Tool to clean up and put a slight chamfer on primer pockets. All it takes is a simple light twist. Once you know your primer pocket width dimension it pretty easy to measure a few primers from the lot you have and know if they will inteference fit and just how easily they will seat in the pockets. Anyway for the price the Ballistic Tools are a nice to have.

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Old June 8, 2019, 06:36 PM   #21
pete2
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I do have some GI military .38 brass. I've not seen any with crimped primers but I did note that the brass is thicker than commercial. I don't know why but it is.
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Old June 8, 2019, 08:01 PM   #22
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I'm not seeing anywhere that anyone here has taken out a caliper and measured the brass or the primers. You swage, chamfer, drill, etc your brains out but no-one has stopped to actually measure the brass or the primers to see if one or both are off....... Why?

Here's a reference - https://www.lee-loader.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2431
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Old June 8, 2019, 08:51 PM   #23
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Quote:
I'm not seeing anywhere that anyone here has taken out a caliper and measured the brass or the primers. You swage, chamfer, drill, etc your brains out but no-one has stopped to actually measure the brass or the primers to see if one or both are off....... Why?
OK, good point so using your calipers measure your primer OD (Outside Diameter):


Using the same caliper measure you pocket ID (Inside Diameter):


This should give you an idea as to how well you can expect an interference fit when you seat the primers. The tolerances for both primer width and cup width have already been posted.

Note: The images posted are mine, anyone can feel free to use them or lift them. The images are linked to a domain which belongs to me so there is no "hot-linking" going on or ripping off another's images.

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Old June 9, 2019, 09:42 AM   #24
Don Fischer
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Some years back I had some Lake City Match case's. They didn't have primer pocket crimps either. Never seen that again. In handgun's with military case's I suspect the majority have the crimp. Just the way the military does things, everything the same.
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Old June 9, 2019, 10:02 AM   #25
F. Guffey
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Quote:
Some years back I had some Lake City Match case's. They didn't have primer pocket crimps either. Never seen that again.
And I have never seen a match 30/06 case with a crimp.

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