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Old 03-12-2017, 10:44 PM
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Default Small Rifle Primers in Pistol Cartridges

One recurring thread theme is use of Small Rifle Primers in pistol and revolver cartridges. Invariably there are several who opine that this will not work because rifle primers are thicker, harder, etc. and will invariably give high rates of failures to fire because everyone knows that handguns don't have the hammer/striker energy to fire them reliably. BS!

For many years I have used SRP in some cartridges as a matter of course with no issues. I have chronographed hundreds of rounds of ammunition loaded identically except for use of SP, SPM and SRP, with the result being that there is no more variation in velocity that would be normally experienced with succeeding batches of ammunition. There is virtually no difference in performance!

Just out of curiosity tonight I loaded a few primed cases with CCI Small Rifle Primers in .380 brass just to confirm whether or not you could get reliable ignition in a striker fired .380 with SRP. In this case fired in a Belgian Browning Pocket. 5 rounds were fired and the primers are shown below. Do any of you honestly believe that the firing pin impression in any of these is marginal in the least way? I am looking for those who have real-life personal experience doing this, not stories of what you have heard, read, believe without evidence, etc.

Here are the pictures:
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Old 03-12-2017, 11:47 PM
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I think the pistol being used and the brand of primers has a lot to do with it. I tried some S&B small rifle primers and couldn't get them to light. I had cartridges with 3 dents on the primer cup and they wouldn't go off. I read the description on the box (in Czech, thanks to the Army, I could read it ) and it said primers for Kalashnikov, They worked great in my AR, I figured they were about equal to CCI #41 primers. I've not had problem with CCI #400 SRP or Winchester small rifle. I sold the 10K S&B small rifle primers to a friend who does 3 gun. Everyone was happy
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Old 03-13-2017, 01:36 AM
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It may work, but, from a curious perspective, what is the point of doing this?
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Old 03-13-2017, 01:47 AM
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Rifle primers are harder or thicker. Read my chart. The bottom of this page tells all since 2009. When I got to the top end of powder charges I started to blow holes in the pistol primer. The case looked good and the primer wasnt flat but the hot load and bullets were doing their thing. Rifle primers were the fix for this 357 rifle load.
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Old 03-13-2017, 03:27 AM
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Have a Marlin in 357 magnum and always used small pistol primers. Loaded 10 rounds with small rifle primers. Could not get any of them to fire. My old colt trooper III had no problem igniting them. Back to regular small pistol primers. Frank
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Old 03-13-2017, 03:44 AM
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Real life, on my one instance did I use SRP in place of SPP.

Back in the shortage before the 2008 shortage I ran short on SPP so I loaded a full box of SRP (1000) in .38 Special and 9mm cases and I got zero failures.
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Old 03-13-2017, 08:19 AM
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The reloading manuals recommend LRP's for the 460 S&W mag pistol cartridge. Some reloaders take it even further by choosing to use LRMP's.
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Old 03-13-2017, 08:45 AM
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I've fired a few thousand, but all in .38 Special so I can't speak to anything else. When I get around to it I have a couple of guns I can think of to try them in. One is also a striker fired .380 and then I have a Springfield 1911 in 9mm that has always been reliable but doesn't make much of a primer impression.

The question is not so much whether they are, or are not, harder but does it make ignition unreliable.

If an 18oz hammer swung at full force will punch a hole in 1/2" sheetrock, will it punch a hole is 5/8" sheetrock?

You might find a gun with marginal firing pin force where it would be a problem. Kind of like, in the scenario above, if I gave the hammer to my four year old grandson. You'd find somebody who punched a hole in the 1/2" who couldn't in the 5/8". But it is likely a small sample.
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Old 03-13-2017, 08:51 AM
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I've done it without issue, but if you try it with small capacity cartridges like the 380 and 9mm be sure to not be loading near max charges of powder. Not only are rifle primer cups thicker, the priming compound is also considerably hotter. Using rifle primers along with a max load can elevate pressures above SAMMI specs. Those two cartridges are very sensitive to pressure changes. Due to the small volume capacity of the case it doesn't take much at all to push them past rated specs pressure wise.
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Old 03-13-2017, 09:00 AM
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I have used Small Rifle primers in handgun calibers since the late 1960s and have never experienced a problem. Some years ago I did an experiment in making up identical .38 Special loads, differing only in the use of SRPs and SPPs, and firing them in my K-38 over a chronograph. No difference noted in either grouping or MV. The only caution would be that some handguns may not have enough firing pin energy for reliable ignition, so that needs to be determined. But I have not experienced that happening.

Now, to the question of why. Two reasons - first, it simplifies your component inventory if you are also reloading any cartridges using a SRP. Second, in times of panic and stress, as we went through several times during the last administration, SRPs are often more available in dealer stock than SPPs. At the very least, it provides another supply option in the event of future hoarding events.

BTW, a couple of weeks ago I got a real deal on a carton of Magnum SR primers. I loaded some up in .38 Super cases to see if there were any problems, and fired 20 rounds without any misfires. I could never see much need for MSR primers. but they must have some purpose or they wouldn't be made.

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Old 03-13-2017, 09:01 AM
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Currently using up a brick of some old stock CCI SRPs in 38/357 - no issues.
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Old 03-13-2017, 09:55 AM
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There is a difference but it depends on the manufacturer. I think primers made in the US are less likely to be a problem.

Primers made in other countries can be a problem. Recently I had a few hundred rounds of Egyptian Military 9mm ammo. It was manufactured for sub guns. It would not fire in a pistol but worked fine in a 9mm MAC.
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Old 03-13-2017, 10:00 AM
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I think we might need a test of pistol primers in long gun ammo. I can see two possible issues. Are they hot enough for reliable ignition and is the primer cap thick enough to prevent puncture.
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Old 03-13-2017, 10:18 AM
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Many years ago I used a pack of small rifle primers to load some .38 Special cartridges. As I was cleaning up and putting things away I discovered the mistake. Wanting to take no chances with my S&Ws, I asked a friend to test a few in his Ruger .357.

After firing a few in the Blackhawk, we tried them in my K38. No problems. Like the OP, since then I have tested small rifle primers in .38s in various guns, and over the chronograph, and never had the first failure to fire, or any other problems.

In my case, the primers were Federal 205s. I can't give advice on this to others but I will say that since that "discovery" I have never hesitated to keep a few thousand more small rifle primers around than I think I might need for rifle shooting.
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Old 03-13-2017, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FWP View Post
I think we might need a test of pistol primers in long gun ammo. I can see two possible issues. Are they hot enough for reliable ignition and is the primer cap thick enough to prevent puncture.
Not a good idea. Pistol primers, for the most part, have thinner cups and are not intended to handle the higher chamber pressures of full CF rifle loads with smokeless powder. So there is the danger of cup failure unless you are talking about very light CF rifle loadings. Conversely, LR primers are a bit longer than LP primers, and usually cannot be seated flush with the case head in pistol cases as the primer pocket is not deep enough. I think the .460 and .500 primer pockets are a bit deeper to accommodate LRPs.

I shoot 9x23mm Winchester, which is one of the higher pressure handgun loads. SRPs must be used in reloading it for safety.
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Old 03-13-2017, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockquarry View Post
It may work, but, from a curious perspective, what is the point of doing this?
During the Great Primer Drought of '09, as well a other times, SPP could be impossible to find. SRP are a suitable substitute.
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Old 03-13-2017, 11:57 AM
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My one use of a small rifle primer in handguns is with my M&P 32-20. After a frustrating time trying to come up with a accurate load using Rainier's 100gr bullet I found a load using the CCI 450 as the primer that would shoot acceptable groups. Goes boom every time so ignition is not a problem in this combo.
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Old 03-13-2017, 02:52 PM
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For a long time I've been using S&B SRP's in 32/38/357 since they are about $9.00 cheaper than WW or Rem.......They have worked flawlessly in J frames & K frames.........No big deal........
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Old 03-13-2017, 03:23 PM
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The rifle primers should work in any gun with a 100% fully functional hammer or striker. If your gun wonít light off the rifle primers I'd be concerned that some thing is possibly wrong because its probably on the verge of not striking the pistol primers not hard enough. I wonder if you could lighten the mainspring on a S&W revolver to the point where it would reliably ignite the pistol primers but not reliably ignite the rifle primers?
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Old 03-13-2017, 03:35 PM
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I'll not disparage anyone for their primer selection, though I'll continue to use those recommended for the particular application. I keep thinking there is a legitimate reason the manufacturer made such a recommendation, but perhaps it is a marketing ploy.
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Old 03-13-2017, 05:32 PM
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Regardless of the reason, SRPs are a practical substitute for SPPs. I am approaching 50 years of their use. For some calibers I don't load often, such as .32 ACP and .380 ACP, I do use SPPs. But for .32-20, .38 Special, .357, 9mm, .38 Super, and 9x23mm Win, it's always SRPs. The same SRPs I use for .223/5.56mm and .30 Carbine. I don't worry much about who makes them. In my case, usually Winchester or CCI.
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Old 03-13-2017, 10:49 PM
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The only real difference I've ever noticed was when people used hard cupped sr primers in their 9mm semi-autos with mid-level loads. They tended to get circular erosion rings in the face of their slides from the hard primers not sealing the primer pockets with the mild loads and flame cutting the circle in the face of the slides.

I tend to use the 9mm's as a dumping ground for any/all old or cheap primers when I make blammo/range ammo for them. Bit I do keep the loads on the higher/hotter side. Old sp mag primers, sr primers, sp primers, they all go bang in the 9mm's.
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Old 03-13-2017, 11:09 PM
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Rumor has it that most if not all factory 327 Federal Magnum ammunition is made with small rifle primers. And in reloading discussions, you'll see recommendations to use small rifle primers if you're working at the upper end of loads with the 327. The theory is that the supposedly thicker cup material of a small rifle primer will better resist primer flow as you start to approach the 45,000 psi pressure limit of this round.
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Old 03-13-2017, 11:24 PM
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I've only used SR instead of SP when loading 32WCF/32-20, which was originally a rifle cartridge.
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Old 03-14-2017, 12:11 PM
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I started using SR primers because a friend at the time was a top-level competitive bullseye shooter. He always used SR primers in his .38 Special handloads. So I started doing it also.
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Old 03-14-2017, 04:02 PM
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Alk, Real-life personal experience: My experience with small rifle primers in pistol cases, 9MM, 38 Super, 9X23 Winchester, mirrors yours. Never had a misfire or other issue in any semi-auto pistol, revolver or carbine using SRPs. I used SRPs to better resist flowing, cratering,etc. in high pressure loads. Sometimes chronographed velocities were a few FPS higher or lower, sometimes velocity spreads greater or less than small pistol primers,etc. But that's it.
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Old 03-15-2017, 12:17 AM
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Now there have been a few replies let's clarify some points. First, notice that everyone who has a reasonable degree of experience, not just tried it once, using SRP in place of SPP indicates their experience mirrors mine.

The CCI SRP was used as they have a "reputation" for being a harder primer. Whether they are or not is arguable when comparing lot-to-lot. Any gun that has a problem lighting any primer has a problem that should be addressed. Usually someone tinkered with it to lighten the trigger pull.

A striker fired pistol was used since they supposedly have lower firing pin energies than revolvers or hammer fired pistols. The photos were posted to demonstrate that striker/firing pin energy in at least this Browning is fully adequate. I am surprised no one even mentioned this!

The old saw that changing primers can radically change pressure of a specific load is easily disproved by the use of the chronograph. Overly cautious wording of loading manuals notwithstanding that give such dire warnings are fully disproved by the fact that with identical loads the different primers give statistically equal velocities! Same load, same velocity, same pressure, just that simple. Ask any engineer in any of the ballistics labs and if pressed for a straight answer they will tell you the same thing!

Finally some anecdotal evidence. Several years ago a member of this forum made a claim that he knew a woman who worked at CCI and had access to engineering data for their primers. He said he had asked her directly if there was any difference in cup hardness, thickness, pellet weight or composition among the various primers of the same size, (presumably small). He stated that the answer he had received was that there was no difference, they were identical except for packaging! I have no recollection who it was. Perhaps if he sees this he would be so good as to confirm his statements! Why are different primers sold? Because people expect there to be specialization and would shy away from any manufacturer who simply sold "Small Primers" for any use while others made "specialized primers" for specific applications. Look at how many question Winchester for making only one Large Pistol primer for both standard and magnum cartridges! They can't believe this can work. Perhaps the greatest difference in primers is found in the expectation of handloaders, and not in the actual manufactured product!
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Old 03-15-2017, 10:38 AM
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This is a book no longer in print (and usually priced accordingly if you find a copy), but George Frost's "Making Ammunition" provides an enormous amount of data and information about primer manufacture in Chapter VI. Frost spent his entire life in the ammunition industry (mainly at Western and CCI), and it is doubtful if anyone knew more than he.

The book was originally published by the NRA in 1990, and I have often wondered why it has not been re-printed as it contains so much useful information about all things ammunition-related.
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Old 03-15-2017, 11:19 AM
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Many years ago when IPSC shooters started using the .38 Super and were making major caliber with it, they thought that using SRP's in their super rounds gave hotter ignition of the powder and would help make major caliber ranking. That's more of a myth than fact, but it caught on and so lots of top competitive IPSC people did that. This was in the late 70's and very early 80's. Having the .38 Super make major caliber allowed the top competitive shooters to have a gun that gave less recoil than a .45 for faster shot to shot recovery during a stage.
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Old 03-16-2017, 07:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alk8944 View Post
Now there have been a few replies let's clarify some points. First, notice that everyone who has a reasonable degree of experience, not just tried it once, using SRP in place of SPP indicates their experience mirrors mine.

The CCI SRP was used as they have a "reputation" for being a harder primer. Whether they are or not is arguable when comparing lot-to-lot. Any gun that has a problem lighting any primer has a problem that should be addressed. Usually someone tinkered with it to lighten the trigger pull.

A striker fired pistol was used since they supposedly have lower firing pin energies than revolvers or hammer fired pistols. The photos were posted to demonstrate that striker/firing pin energy in at least this Browning is fully adequate. I am surprised no one even mentioned this!

The old saw that changing primers can radically change pressure of a specific load is easily disproved by the use of the chronograph. Overly cautious wording of loading manuals notwithstanding that give such dire warnings are fully disproved by the fact that with identical loads the different primers give statistically equal velocities! Same load, same velocity, same pressure, just that simple. Ask any engineer in any of the ballistics labs and if pressed for a straight answer they will tell you the same thing!

Finally some anecdotal evidence. Several years ago a member of this forum made a claim that he knew a woman who worked at CCI and had access to engineering data for their primers. He said he had asked her directly if there was any difference in cup hardness, thickness, pellet weight or composition among the various primers of the same size, (presumably small). He stated that the answer he had received was that there was no difference, they were identical except for packaging! I have no recollection who it was. Perhaps if he sees this he would be so good as to confirm his statements! Why are different primers sold? Because people expect there to be specialization and would shy away from any manufacturer who simply sold "Small Primers" for any use while others made "specialized primers" for specific applications. Look at how many question Winchester for making only one Large Pistol primer for both standard and magnum cartridges! They can't believe this can work. Perhaps the greatest difference in primers is found in the expectation of handloaders, and not in the actual manufactured product!
Sneaky!!! Setting people up for failure.

I'm glad you brought up cci primers. They are an excellent example for discussion. The parent company owns both cci and federal. Now we have 2 different primer mfg's made by the same parent company to discuss. It now becomes:
1. Should I put all my eggs in 1 basket and make the same primers for everything?
2. When raw material comes into the plant should I use as much of the same product as possible or order/buy lesser amounts for specific products?

The 2nd question is the easiest to answer. If a machine is setup to run a specific product then a company will use that product for everything they can.


I see no reason for either federal or cci to not use the same materials for their small pistol primers. As you can clearly see cci and federal choose to use different thickness of materials for their primers. Note that the federal standard primer is made with the thinnest material of the 2 companies. That's important!!!!

Question #1 goes to the heart of the question about primers. Why would anyone with the ability to be a major player in the reloading industry with 2 different brands put out the same product when they can corner the market with 2 different products???

Making the same product doesn't make since from a business standpoint.

federal vs cci primers:
Anyone with a revolver that has a strain screw can test primer hardness. Simply back the screw off and hit the loud button. Eventually 1 brand of primer will go bang and the other brand will not. For some odd reason the cci primers quit making noise long before the federal primers. It's been that way for decades in my ppc revolver. Every time I've tried to use cci primers and hit the loud button, nothing happens. Yup, federal gold/match primers for the ppc revolver.


Well enyone that can read can clearly see that the federal primers a 1/1000th's of an inch thinner than the cci primers. But does it stop there???

Absolutely not!!!
There's this thing called material hardness, don't know if you've ever ordered any rolls of sheet metal. But they ask dumb questions like do you want that roll dead soft, 1/4 hard, 1/2 hard or a specific hardness.

Well here we go again:
Why would a major player in the reloading/munitions industry that has 2 extremely large company's put all their eggs in 1 basket and produce the same products???
They wouldn't!!!
Things like federal 223rem brass is soft and I don't get as many reloads out of them as other brands.
I use federal primers in my tuned revolvers because they go bang and other brands don't.
Federal 22lr brass is a lot softer than cci 22lr brass.

These common themes keep popping up on the innerweb every day. Don't think that the federal 22lr brass is softer than cci/rem/ww/aguila/rws/eley? Try making these with 22lr brass, you'll find out real quick.


The federal cases take less force to turn into jackets and have less springback. They end up taking a push rod that's 1/1000th's less than the other brands to form them into jackets. Ya there's that 1/100th's thing again!!! If you don't use a smaller push rod the federal jackets will stick to the rod and their a pain to take off.

The question becomes:
Why would federal order rolls of sheet brass that are of 1 hardness to duplicate what cci is doing for primers. And order another/softer roll of softer brass to form their shell casings with???

Some say all sr/sp are the same and that it's the reloaders expectations.

I say when you use a firearm that can't tell the difference, it doesn't matter.
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Old 03-16-2017, 08:41 AM
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Thank you for that excellent post, Forrest. Many of us are aware of the same reality, but haven't done the testing, as you clearly have, to prove it.

Regards,
Andy
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Old 03-16-2017, 03:01 PM
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I did see something at some website that the primer manufacturers will not comment on differences among various brands regarding ignition efficiency and what some mistakenly call "Hardness" (when they really mean firing pin impact sensitivity). From personal knowledge of what Winchester, Federal, and Remington do in the way of determining primer impact sensitivity for QC purposes, they all do almost exactly the same tests using an identical laboratory drop test. This involves placing a primed case (or something similar) in a fixture with a firing pin, then dropping a steel ball on the firing pin from various heights (called a "run-down" test) to determine a "critical height" (H-bar) which is the drop height of a specific ball (usually two ounces or four ounces, depending upon the primer type) which on average will produce a 50% probability of firing or not firing. Mathematical (actually statistical) calculations are performed to determine the "all fire" and "no fire" heights.

In the case of handgun cartridges, those using small primers usually have no-fire heights of around 1" and all-fire heights around 11". Those using large primers are around 2" and 16" respectively using a two ounce steel ball. What this really means is that H-bar for small pistol primers is a little less than that for large pistol primers (normally around 4.5" for small primers and 6" for large primers).
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Old 03-16-2017, 05:23 PM
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Below is a excerpt of a e mail I wrote to CCI on rifle primers.

So it seems these are different but "apparently" all the others are the same


"below you will find the primer differences. "

Large rifle primers
CCI-200............................ standard mix, standard cup, and standard anvil.
CCI-250............................ Magnum primer, Mag primer mix, thick cup, standard anvil.
BR2.................................... thick cup, standard priming mix held to a tighter tolerance, standard anvil.


So they are really not harder primers, just a thicker c

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Old 03-18-2017, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forrest r View Post
I'm glad you brought up cci primers. They are an excellent example for discussion. The parent company owns both cci and federal. Now we have 2 different primer mfg's made by the same parent company to discuss.
While I don't disagree with the sentiments expressed in this post, I want to point out that just because a company "owns" two different brand that it means both brands are made in the same factory.

It's much more likely they are made in different factories, originally CCI and Federal, on the same equipment each used with the same materials and components. Just because one company bought another company does not mean they throw out all the tooling and machinery and buy new to match the parent company.
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Old 03-18-2017, 04:57 PM
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I have never used srp in a handgun before, that is until I got Model 53 (22 Remington Jet) I was surprised that several loads showed srp instead of spp. No issues with ignition so far.
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Old 03-19-2017, 12:59 AM
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ATK and the sub-division Vista Outdoors owns Federal, Speer, CCI, Blazer, Bushnell, Outters, Hoppes, Weaver, RCBS, Alliant Powders and dozens of others. ATK runs their acquisitions as wholly owned subsidiaries.

CCI and Federal primers are not made in the same factory that i know of. They do however support their businesses like using Speer bullets in their Aliiant load data and the like.
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArchAngelCD View Post
ATK and the sub-division Vista Outdoors owns Federal, Speer, CCI, Blazer, Bushnell, Outters, Hoppes, Weaver, RCBS, Alliant Powders and dozens of others. ATK runs their acquisitions as wholly owned subsidiaries.

CCI and Federal primers are not made in the same factory that i know of. They do however support their businesses like using Speer bullets in their Aliiant load data and the like.
When I was working with both CCI and Federal on ammunition development over 10 years ago, each had separate primer production. But I had understood that the manufacturing technology was much the same. I was more familiar with Federal's procedures as we were working on lead-free primer development, and I spent a lot of time on the Federal primer manufacturing line.

Back then, Federal was doing a lot of farm-out work for the Army's Lake City AAP (also operated by ATK) loading M80 Ball 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition in LC cases. So they keep everything in the family.
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