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Old November 12, 2012, 10:16 AM   #1
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Is there REALLY a difference between primer brands?

Is there really a difference in performance between brands of the same size primer? If I'm loading a batch and run out of CCI 250 large rifle magnum primers, will finishing the batch using Federal Gold Medal Match GM215M Large Magnum Rifle primers affect how the rounds shoot?

I'm not sure why one is "250" and the other is "215"...
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Old November 12, 2012, 10:23 AM   #2
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I just asked a similar question in here about a week ago. The gist I got from the answers to my question...

How they shoot? Probably. Enough for you to notice.. maybe not. But don't just drop them in... start over working up a new load. Changing the primer can change how everything else interacts creating a possibly dangerous stuation, so start back at the beginning with a new workup.
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Old November 12, 2012, 10:32 AM   #3
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Thanks. Do you know why one uses 250 and the other uses 215?

I just asked a similar question in here about a week ago.
I did a search for this before starting this tread and didn't find yours... Oh well..

I've made a note of which rounds have CCI and which have Federal primers. Other than the difference in numbers (for which I still don't know the meaning), I can't imagine how the primers from two different and equally good manufacturers would give different results.

I do know that changing manufacturers of the same numbered powder CAN have big differences. But how much powder is in a primer??
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Old November 12, 2012, 10:34 AM   #4
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it is easy enough to find out, and a good excuse for some range time
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Old November 12, 2012, 10:51 AM   #5
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I just did a Google search and found the following:

Ranked in order of power
Large Rifle = LR, Large Rifle Magnum = LRM, Large pistol =LP,*
Brand/type*************** Power Average*********** Range*********** Std. Dev
1 Fed Match GM215M******* 6.12************** 5.23-6.8************** .351
2 Federal 215 LRM************ 5.69*************** 5.2-6.5*************** .4437
3 CCI 250 LRM***************** 5.66************** 4.5-7.4**************** .4832

More primers were tested but these were the ones I was asking about. Everyone will have to check this out individually as the tester acknowledges his methods are unscientific... but the results seem to make sense.

Maybe we need to start a survey in this forum for favorite primers (pistol, rifle and magnum rifle)
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Old November 12, 2012, 10:54 AM   #6
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The difference is the same as in powder, but on a smaller scale. But since the primer spark is the first step, the difference there snowballs. Joe mixes 3 parts of compound A and 2 of compound B, along with some other proprietary crap to make his primer... Sally does the same thing, but her compound A, B, or proprietary crap will probably be different for a number of reasons, including but not limited to secret family recipes, trade secrets, and so on. So Team Joe's primer will spark in X time frame, while Team Sally will spark in Y. Seems like a small thing, but given that we measure this stuff in GRAINS, and I still have 10 fingers and want to keep all 10, I'll play it super safe.

Primer isn't necessarily powder. Even way back when, it wasn't necessarily the SAME powder. Current primers, and I may be a little off on this, but it's how I imagine it anyway being layman who buys little metal bang buttons someone else made to go in bigger metal bang buttons.... but basically my limited understanding is that a primer is more volatile than powder. A primer is a metal cup filled with a glop of stuff designed to spark when struck. This glop dries inside the cup so it doesn't ooze out of the cup when it's bottoms up or otherwise oriented.

There's a metal plus sign type of apparatus that goes on top of the crud... your firing pin strikes the back of the primer cup which flexes the glop against that metal plus sign which can't go anywhere because of the primer pocket it's up against, not that that's important because those things will go off even if there's nothing on the other side of the anvil... it just helps. Anyway, because that glop gets shoved against the anvil so hard and quick, it ignites from the contact... which shoots a spart through the hole in the primer pocket which ignites your powder.

As for why it's called a 250 or a 215, or a large rifle magnum, or a small pistol primer, or what have you.. they have to call it something... I'm sure if these companies made cars, some of us woud drive "Car" and some would drive "Truck" and some would drive 280Z's.

Edit: Bad me, muscle memory had me type black powder instead of powder.
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Old November 12, 2012, 11:13 AM   #7
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I don't know. I have used standard Remington, Winchester and CCI primers interchangeably with no problems. I have never used Magnum primers. For the most part I use CCI because that is the brand I have been able to get the best availability and price on.

It is a good idea to approach a primer change with caution and test a few before loading up a bunch. If there is anything I Hate, it's pulling bullets.

I doubt a primer change will result in a dangerous situation unless you are crowding the line in the first place. The hotter you load the more careful you should be, is what I am suggesting.
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Old November 12, 2012, 05:06 PM   #8
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OF COURSE there is a difference !! Sometimes BIG surprising ones no less. Do what your loading manuals tell you to do. There is only one dangerous thing about handloading, and it is the primers.
And so it goes...
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Old November 12, 2012, 06:22 PM   #9
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There often will be a difference, in fact I'm more surprised when I find two brands which are really close in results. Until you spend the time doing the testing, you are just guessing. Be aware, there are folks who would tell you this primer is the same as that primer, yet they can't lay out the targets and information to back up their claim.

Plus, always remember, things will work differently in your firearm.
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Old November 12, 2012, 06:56 PM   #10
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Yes Virginia, there is a difference, and BTW, this started as a short post and developed into a rant of sorts, so be warned-- I have lots of time these days since it's raining and my new unfinished stock has not arrived yet.

Do a google search for German Salazar: primer tests
or go here: or here or here for details..

The short answer is that the differences are mainly between the general applications for which the primer is designed--i.e. rifle or pistol and magnum or standard (large and small would not need to be mentioned except that this is, after all, the internet) within these categories you may choose from standard grade or match grade (more closely inspected and held to tighter tolerances, allegedly) primers. There are also primers with an extra hard candy shell to protect the nut--whoops! sorry! channeled an old commercial there. Some rifles are prone to unwanted ignition upon the bolt closing if the primer is incorrectly seated; some folks apparently prefer to buy an extra hard primer rather than learn how to seat their primers consistently at .oo3" under flush.......or ensure that the bolt is in good repair on the bargain basement M1they bought at the gun show.

Sometimes there are shortages of certain primers and unless you are so injudicious as to typically load at the maximum powder charge, you might buy brand A rather than brand B standard primer for your weapon and not think anything of it. You might find a really good deal on match primers at Sinclair or Bruno or someplace, but a good rule of thumb when deciding whether to spend extra $$ on these primers is to only buy match primers for use in ammo built for custom match guns to be used by Tony Boyer or David Tubb or someone who wants to compete at that level now or someday with that quality of equipment and skill.

I almost forgot--some years ago, a gun rag writer, in a display of the level of erudition common to his ilk, referred to a MILDER ignition produced by a certain primer as SOFTER!!!!! an incorrect usage of the word that has led to a lot of misunderstanding about primers ever since. Even today when we have the means to disseminate correct information at the literal touch of a button there are people who will attempt to tell you--with a straight face--that primer F (nickle plated brass cup) is SOFTER than primer R or W- both plain brass cups--when in fact the relative hardness of the cups is about the same with the brass being slightly more giving. They will also tell you the primer F is prone to blanking (being pierced) because it's so soft. (more silliness)

You will find that those folks in the obsessive compulsive ammo building for accuracy game--mainly point blank BR shooters and varminters actually prefer primer F due to the MILDER ignition and go so far as to use brass with extra small flash holes to further reduce vibrations due to ignition inside the cartridge case. This may seem silly to folks who have not learned the advantages of shooting between not only breaths but heartbeats, but it really does make a difference at the higher levels of competition or for folks who just like to shoot the tiniest groups they can with their custom built firearms.
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Last edited by amamnn; November 12, 2012 at 07:52 PM.
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Old November 12, 2012, 07:11 PM   #11
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If you change primers or any component you need to work up loads again. If a max load of 47gr of powder with Federal match primer is safe in your rifle the same load with CCI primer might not be etc,

Also some primers are better suited for military rifles with free floating firing pins like M14-M1- SKS etc. Certain brands have been known to slam fire on occasion.

For plinking with starting loads you could mix primers, but if you have that perfect .5 MOA 200yd load worked up and change primers it won't likely shoot as well.
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Old November 12, 2012, 09:18 PM   #12
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Some rifles are prone to unwanted ignition upon the bolt closing if the primer is incorrectly seated; some folks apparently prefer to buy an extra hard primer rather than learn how to seat their primers consistently at .oo3" under flush.......or ensure that the bolt is in good repair on the bargain basement M1they bought at the gun show.
I disagree with the overall impression that primer sensitivity is not an issue or that slamfires in mechanisms with free floating firing pins can be alleviated by simply seating the primer .003”

I found in an old American Rifleman that Frankfort Arsenal seated their Garand ammunition primers from 0.0” to -0.005”.

Primer sensitivity can be varied by crystal technology and of course the mix of ingredients in the primer.

For a mechanism with a free floating firing pin the sensitivity of the primer is matched to the impact energy of the firing pin on the primer and to the total energy of the firing mechanism. If the primer is too sensitive then a certain percentage of free floating firing pin impacts will cause ignition. If the primer is too insensitive then some firing mechanisms won’t provide enough energy for 100% ignition.
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Old November 12, 2012, 09:35 PM   #13
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I bought a pack of Federal's once when the shop was out of CCI's and my accuracy dropped. I went back to CCI and my accuracy came back.
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Old November 12, 2012, 11:28 PM   #14
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I was screwing around 3 or 4 years ago with this same thing.

I used the exact same powder load, bullet, and OAL.
I'd load 4 with one kind of primer, shoot them over a chrono, then reload the same 4 cases with a different primer and do it again. I used Rem, Fed, Win and CCI's. I did trim everytime too to make sure the cases stayed exactly the same.

Its wrote down somewhere, but if I remember right, I got 200fps difference and 2" difference in group size at 100yds between the 4 brands.
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Old November 13, 2012, 08:06 AM   #15
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A 200 fps spread across those four primer makes seem quite a bit to me. Especially if the firing pin spring in the rifle used is up to specs and drives the firing pin hard enough into the primer to detonate it up to its specs.

However, if that spring is weak, then that much spread is possible. It's a known fact to long range competitors that weak firing pin springs cause lower muzzle velocities as well as increasing their spread
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Old November 13, 2012, 02:04 PM   #16
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Primers can really change the pressure

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Old November 13, 2012, 06:50 PM   #17
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There was a very good article in one of the recent shooting mags (and no, I can't remember which one, though I might look for it later) on primers. It covered most of the primers we'd have available to us, but didn't cover Wolf or Tula. Accuracy was measured, SD, and such as that. The CCI BR primer tested out as overall best, though the test results were very close and not totally conclusive. I think it was Handloader magazine. Very interesting. You should find it and read it.
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Old November 14, 2012, 12:06 AM   #18
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The latest Winchester LR primers are not plated. They seem to fit loose in primer pockets now.
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Old November 14, 2012, 02:59 AM   #19
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Don't arbitrarily substitute primers.

I can't remember which book it's in, but I recently re-read a chapter in one of my ballistics books detailing a fairly in-depth primer test with several 30 caliber cartridges.

By taking a known-safe load, and simply changing the primer, the author found that pressures could increase as much as 11,000 psi.

Most primer substitutions are fairly tame, but without good data, how are you supposed to know which primers will give you a significant pressure jump?
That is not something I want to take a chance with.

(I want to say the book is Firearms Pressure Factors, but that might only be on my mind because there was a piece on it in the current issue of Handloader.)
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Old November 14, 2012, 10:35 AM   #20
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Been awhile since I did my experiement of loading 4 or 5 sets of 3 rounds each and only difference in my reloads for my most accurate rifle, a Ruger that I'd rebarreled to 7x57, was the primer used. I used: CCI magnum, CCI BR, Wolf standard LR, Magtech standard LR, ....may have used either Winchester or Remington standard LR too in my experiement

When I'd finished shooting all my sets of reloads at a 100 yard target, had about a 5/8"" wide hole that was about 2 1/2" long. In other words a vertical string of hits on my target.

As I recall, the CCI magnum primer hit highest on the target, rest of sets each grouped at points lower on target. Just a guess on my part, but point of impact on target about 1/2" or so between each group.
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Old November 14, 2012, 12:19 PM   #21
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Changing primers can effect ignition, ignition consistancy can effect both accuracy and ignition will effect pressure.
A change in pressure could be very bad.
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