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Primer experiment with surprising results (Are you surprised or is it just me?)

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by dolphins84te, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. dolphins84te

    dolphins84te Redmond, OR Member

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    So, I have heard people debate over using "old" primers to reload ammunition. It seemeded to me that as long as the primers were kept dry, there really shouldn't be much of a problem, but I still wasn't completely sure. I recently had an opportunity to conduct a little experiment and was pretty suprised at the resiliency of the "old" primers....

    I had picked up some OLD Winchester primed cases (caliber 44-40) in the old yellow box that says "Winchester - Western". I am 36 years old and I am fairly certain that these are older than I am. The box was in good shape and appeared to be factory mint (not reloaded or messed with), especially the way that the cartridges are stacked in the box (similar to shotgun shells, alternating base/mouth/base/mouth....

    So, I thought to myself, "what are the chances that these will all still fire?" Now, I don't have a 44-40, but I did manage to put them into my 460 S&W. All of them fired. For good measure, I kept back 10 of them to experiement further.

    Five of the extras were soaked in warm water with a generous amount of dish soap for 48 hours. Then, I dried them out on the counter for a couple of days and THEY ALL FIRED TOO! (mind you these are unloaded cases, so the water was all over the unsealed side of the primer)

    The last five were also immeresed in soapy water for 48 hours, but the water was in my HF ultrasonic cleaner. I figured the ultrasonic action would help to accelerate the aging process and mimic having them in wet conditions for considerably longer time. Again, ALL OF THEM FIRED.

    Surprised? I certainly was.

    Your .02?
     
  2. eganx

    eganx Kingston WA Active Member

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    quite interesting......thanks for the info
     
  3. sheepdip

    sheepdip Redland Well-Known Member

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    not surprised that the dry ones fired, somewhere between mildly surprised and astonished that the wet ones fired.
     
  4. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    You would think that the ultrasonic action would hammer that stuff right off the inside of the primer casing. I am truly surprised - but I have no reason not to believe you.
     
  5. dolphins84te

    dolphins84te Redmond, OR Member

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    I would certainly encourage others to try it and let me know if they get different results. Then, we might start to consider types/brands of primers. Maybe the older ones are better than newer ones, who knows?

    Note that I do not know that they primers had the same strength or efficacy (or even for sure that they would have ignited powder still), but they did produce a large "bang" and I did not notice any difference in perceived sound from any of them.
     
  6. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Let's hear it for the sealers that were used back when "craftsmanship" meant something more than just the boat that imports Sears tools ;)
     
  7. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner You'll Never Know Well-Known Member

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    Funny right there! I had no Idea primers were so resilient, although I've been told they will last nearly forever!
     
  8. no excuses

    no excuses Rainier OR Member

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    I have been using some that are probably 20 yrs old, WSP and they go bang every time. Although I have no desire for a water test lol
     
  9. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I have used primers bought in the 60's with like new performance
     
  10. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Me too. I just wish they sold for the same price today as they did then. I've got a tray that I saved from 1985 that has the label still on it saying $0.97. That price was also from a non-discount store.
     
  11. dennisf

    dennisf Battleground, Wa Member

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    Me too, I am using primers from the mid 80's when the brick cost around $8-9. I haven't had one fail. I have actually soaked primers in water that got goofy in the press thinking they would die. They didn't. I save primers for recycle because when you put the magnet on them, they don't pick up and I assume they are brass. I was making them flat on the anvil one day, thinking the recycler would be more at ease with flat ones, and I whacked one of the soaked primers. It popped off just like a new one. Does anyone know what the actual metals are in the primers?
    During the reloading supply shortage I was told that one problem was that the anvils are made in Britain and there was an issue of the anvils keeping up with demand. Is that good dope or just a convenient rumor?
     
  12. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much the same as what cases are made from, ordnance brass. Only difference is that many mfr's are nickel plating their primers.

    I just pour my old primers into my brass bucket and the recycle yard takes them with the brass. Just like those little steel "punchings" from fabricating shops that get mixed in with the bigger scraps. With primers, size doesn't matter, they all add to the weight.
     
  13. BillM

    BillM Amity OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Primers are a lot tougher than people think. What amazes me is that you can handle them
    with greasy fingers, and evidently soak them in soapy water and they will go bang, but
    get one sideways in the press and crush the &^%$# out of it---no bang.

    A lot more engineering and just plain luck in the design of the little buggers than one
    would think.
     
  14. Velzey

    Velzey Estacada, Oregon Gunsmith Gunsmith Bronze Vendor Bronze Supporter

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    Good info!

    Now try soaking them in oil.
     
  15. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    My $2.00 (inflation) is that I have 1909 vintage .303 Brit ammo that is still surefire. Store your primers in ammo cans with a little dessicant and they should outlast you
     
  16. dolphins84te

    dolphins84te Redmond, OR Member

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    I have always been told they are all brass.
     
  17. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    They are just an example of the inverse reliability relationship between complex and simple items. Simple things work. The more complex they become the less likelihood they are totally reliable.

    Remind your wife or significant other of that the next time she says "Men are Simple";)
     
    Blitzkrieg and (deleted member) like this.
  18. Pepe-lepew

    Pepe-lepew Mid Valley Active Member

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    This doesn't surprise me at all. The primer chemicals must be wet to safely make the primer assembly. When dried, they become impact and friction sensitive again. So wetting a primer, then drying it, is no different than how they were first manufactured.

    On a side note, an article was published in a reloading book about the use of old primers. They tested old and new primers and found if there was any difference at all the old primers seemed to increase velocity slightly.
     
  19. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    A few years ago I was out in the woods and found a pile of .45 ACP brass that actually looked copper colored and had a date stamp of 1918. I have no idea why it was there but I picked it up and took it home. I noticed the cases were primed and after wiping a few off I put them into a 1911 and pullet the trigger. The primers went bang - not with the authority of new but they would have probably ignited powder.