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Shelf life of primers

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by PNwolf, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. PNwolf

    PNwolf Beaverton New Member

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    Is there a shelf life on primers, or, after so many years do primers go bad.

    My father recently gave me his reloading equipment. Along with it came a bunch of expendables including primers(and .308 bullets; guess I am going to have to buy myself a .308). He bought this equipment when I was kid and I will say that all the expendables are over 30 years old. I believe they have always been stored in clean, dry places.

    I am figuring they are fine to use, but would like others opinions on the matter. If you believe that it is not fine to use older primers, what is would be the proper way to responsibly despose of them.

    I would like to shoot them. There are a bunch of large pistol magnum primers. Guess I will have to buy a .357 too.
     
  2. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    Last year I was given a couple bricks of CCI's from the 70's and they are going bang every time. Seems to me primers are pretty hard to kill, unless they have been immersed in water or contaminated, as several of the boxes I was given were with a spilled bottle of case lube!
     
  3. metrotps

    metrotps Mountlake Terrace Member

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    If stored, as you state in your post, they should be fine. I have used primers and powder from the 40's and 50's and never had a problem. I have shot ammo from before WWI in my pistols and rifles with only the rare misfire. I only shoot this and reloads for practice/plinking. Never for defensive carry. That requires factory loaded ammo. Both for reliabity and for liability.
     
  4. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    I have 1909 ammo that is still surefire/ Mercuric primers but even so..
     
  5. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    You'll die before your primers do. In fact several generations can die before the primers give up the ghost.

    Keep them dry and in a reasonable temperature environment, they'll be just fine.

    I was given some that were over 30 years old because the previous owner just knew they had gone bad. I smiled and told him I'd be happy to dispose of them for him. Not a single one failed. They worked just like new ones.
     
  6. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    FYI 357 Magnum takes small pistol primers. To use your large pistol magnum primers you need a 44 or 45 etc...:thumbup:
     
  7. Velzey

    Velzey Estacada, Oregon Gunsmith Gunsmith Bronze Vendor Bronze Supporter

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    Yep, I to have some primers from WW1 era and shot many that are from the 30's on up and I have never had a misfire that was the primers fault. Store them right and they last for generations.

    And as for defensive ammo, I trust my reloads more than factory ammo any day.
     
  8. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    A couple years ago I was driving to a favorite spot on the Deschutes River and something caught my eye on the side of the road. I pulled over and it was a small pile of primed .45 ACP brass. I gathered it up and when I got home I was looking it over and they all were the same with 1917 headstamps (the ones I could make out) Anyway I cleaned a few up and chambered them, pullet the trigger and they all had a weak, but discernible 'pop'. I have no idea how long they had been laying out there but several were heavily corroded.
     
  9. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    That would be mercuric primed, hope you cleaned and cleaned your gun
     
  10. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    Yep - it was due for a complete breakdown anyway.
     
  11. PNwolf

    PNwolf Beaverton New Member

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    Good point! Guess I will have to buy a 44 mag.
     
  12. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I caught that illness once. Found a full box of .357 "once fired brass". Looked so good I went out and bought a 686 S&W just so I could have something to load them for.
     
  13. raindog

    raindog Portland, OR Active Member

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    Related question - how about gunpowder? I realized I had a couple cans in the back of the cabinet I'd forgotten about. They're about 4 years old at this point.
     
  14. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    Same issue, saved in sealed, dry cans most powder is good for longer than you will live
     
  15. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    I recently opened a short, evenly square yellow can of Unique (late 50's early 60's?) and it is shooting just fine.
     
  16. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Because primer chemistry has changed so much of the years, determining exactly what kind of primers you have is important to determining life...

    In general, most primers produced since the 1950's are non-mercuric non-corrosive (NMNC) which are based on lead styphnate (picrate) chemistry, and have a very long shelf life if stored under cool dry conditions and as many said, I would not worry about.

    Earlier primers (used from about 1900-1950) are Non-mercuric, corrosive primers that are based on potassium chlorate sulfur chemistries. These primers, despite the corrosive aspects are very good and during the time, had a dud rate that was less than the NMNC primers of the day. However, they are much more sensitive to environment and MUST be stored in cool dry places as they will absorb moisture from the air, and should be stored in sealed containers to prevent air from breaking down the binding chemicals (usually gum arabic). Once loaded into lacquered ammunition, they have an essentially indefinite shelf life, provided they are kept cool.

    Primers of earlier vintage may be based on mercury fulminate, potassium chlorate, and or other chemistry, these primers are very similar to the later corrosive primers, but tend to decay over time due to the fulminate, or due to the chemistry of the gun powder, as it breaks down it will emit nitric and nitrous acids which may attack the priming compound.
     
  17. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Somehow I don't see many worrying about storing primers today made before 1950 :)

    I look at my primer supply and if they get too old I realize I'm not shooting enough. Easily solved, go to the range.

    I expect to be there a lot, soon. I'm waiting for the "big brown truck" to deliver another 65# of powder and primers. Don't want them to get too old, once they arrive:cool::cool:
     
  18. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    Indeed storage is important.. US GI ammo cans are cheap insurance along with a little dessicant, which is free if you save the little packs that come in commercial products, and reactivate them

    I like old powder and primers, the more the merrier :p
     
  19. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Western Washington Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I have a couple of thousand primers that have been on the shelf in their original boxes for quite some time. They're as good as new. Keep them in a dry place and you should be fine.
     
  20. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    If you have seen the things I've seen.... Ever seen refills for berdan primed cases? I've also seen people who had cases of old FA42 military primers. Not just collector stuff.