Primer Differences

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by Cowboy6373, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. Cowboy6373

    Cowboy6373 New Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    Does anyone know if you can mix and match primers in recipes listed in reloading manuals. For example, I mostly use CCI, but I see some recipes in the Hornady manual that reference Federal primers. Is there really a difference between CCI, Federal, Winchester, etc?
  2. Oneida Steve

    Oneida Steve Well-Known Member

    Sep 28, 2006
    Upstate NY
    Others may disagree, so I can only speak from personal experience. I have been handloading ammo for 30+ years and I don't care what brand of (US-made) primers I use. I have never found any difference in performance or accuracy.

  3. herohog

    herohog New Member

    Sep 4, 2011
    Shreveport, LA
    See this please!
  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    I have found differences in primers, but not, in my opinion, enough to matter.

    CCI primers are harder than most, while Federal has the softest. I used CCI exclusively, until I bought a Smith 642, which is a hammerless 38 Special, and found that, because of the shorter stroke, it would not reliably (as in "every single time") pop CCI. I went to Winchester for my Small Pistol. This solved the problem. But I still had bunches of CCI primed 38s around. I found that, if I had both CCI and Winchester primed 38s in a gun, even though the rest of the load was the same, the Winchester primed ones kicked harder.

    I assume that means they have a hotter and/or longer spark, which would make the powder burn quicker. Maybe. I don't know. But I do know that they kick more.

    So, at least with the CCI and Winchester SP, there is a difference. But, as I say, not enough to matter. I have not changed my load. The guns shoot to the same point of aim (or close enough for government work - I'm not doing bullseye shooting with these).

    As I said, I used CCI exclusively. If the load in the book called for Federal,I used CCI. Book called for Remington? I used CCI. It's worked fine for some thirty years.
  5. 312shooter

    312shooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2008
    Las Vegas NV
    I Was under the same impression for most shooting - any primer will do. Until one day I took a pet load and a 308 Rem 700 tactical rig to the range with a chronograph. 10 rounds of the same exact load with different primers, CCI, Winchester, and Remington where fired. Remington primers proved a horrible 200 fps velocity spread. They all go bang, some are manufactured to a higher quality.
  6. howlnmad

    howlnmad Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2008
    Harriman, Tn
    I've never worried about it. I just buy what is available and cheapest.
  7. Dirtypacman

    Dirtypacman New Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Merrimac Valley, MA
    I buy what they got and load em up. Never had a problem using the same recipe with different primer manufacturers.
  8. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA

    My source of reloading components (super pricing available to me) sells Winchester primers so I use them exclusively. But a few years ago one of the magazines did a test where they viewed the result of a primer going off inside an empty case with photographs. The Winchester primers were the most energetic.

    But the primers can make a difference especially if you are searching for the absolute best accuracy. Regardless, I use Winchester primers for everything except for the one bench rest rifle I have, for which I use match primers that are not Winchester.

    No matter whose primer you use, your load development should start at the starting load. If you change primers for a favorite load then you should start all over with the load development at the starting load and work up the load again. Follow this advice and you can pretty much use anybody's primer you want, as long as it is the right primer for the caliber (rifle primers in rifle cases and pistol primers in pistol cases unless the reloading manual recipe says differently).

  9. Cowboy6373

    Cowboy6373 New Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    LD, I do remember the Article from the 90s but unfortunately not the conclusions. I agree that all handloads should start with the lowest powder charge listed and work up from there.
    I appreciate everyone's advice.
  10. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    In a recent Handloader magazine primers were discussed. The conclusion was that the different brands and even the different power primers (magnum verses standard) seemed to make little difference. Its just like any other component in reloading..... you have to test all combination to find the one your load and gun like.

    Having said that, I would follow the recommendation in the recipe for magnum or standard primers as some powders are notoriously hard to ignite and hangfires are a safety issue if they occur due to poor ignition of the powder.

    Today it is even worse with the green primers which come with smaller primers than historically used and huge primer holes in the primer pockets. The article claimed the size of the hole made little difference as did the use of a small primer in stead of the large primer in 45ACP cases being discussed.

  11. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    Cowboy - the answer is really more depending on what sort of shooting you do. I think that if you are a shooter who just goes out to the range to do informal practice, mixing primers in different batches of ammo isn't going to make a whole bunch of difference. Maybe more so for pistol shooting than rifle shooting.

    That being said, if you are shooting hot or maximum loads, you could be asking for trouble by mixing your components. If one load is a max load, and you switch any of the components, the switch you make could put your safe load over to an un-safe combination.

    If you shoot off a bench for accuracy, you should develope your loads using the same components and practices. Consistencey here is critical. Consistencey is a major part of reloading the more accurate ammunition. You want the most consistant pressures with every shot possible. That means the same powder, primer, bullet and case lots. There is more to that. The same case lengths, the same bullet seating. Everything you can think of the same for every case that rolls off your bench.
  12. mikld

    mikld Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    I usually use what primers I have on hand (mostly CCI). But, if I develope a load and change primer manufacturers, I expect some differences. Mebbe the differences are minor and I can't recognise them, but I'm sure they are there. If I have a load near maximum, I'll drop down on powder and work back up watching for pressure signs. Changing any component in a load will have an effect on the performance of the ammo. Whether that change is noticeable or not is dependent on how much change occurs...
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  13. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    I don't shoot competition, so it does not matter to me. What does matter is cost, so I buy what ever is cheapest! Brand does not matter.
  14. myfriendis410

    myfriendis410 Member

    Mar 30, 2011
    Lompoc California
    When I load for volume (like 45 acp) I am not overly concerned with which primer I'm loading as I don't shoot paper. It's all action pistol and bowling pins. I don't own a semi auto rifle so again I'm not shooting any great volume of rifle ammunition. I DO load for accuracy in my bolt guns and the Sharps. In those instances; every care in the development and maintenance of the load/rifle is done to eke out the last little bit in performance and accuracy. My Sharps, my Browning A-Bolt, my Ruger #1 and my Remington 700 have all told me by their targets that they have specific preferences in primers. All of these rifles prefer the Federal Match primer. With that said; my hunting partner has a .270 (which I developed a load for) that distinctly prefers a WW primer. Some of the old timers at our club that still shoot 1,000 yard usually shoot the Remington primer. Gotta go with what the gun likes. If you are happy with 2" groups out of your rifle, then the primer may not be overly significant. Personally I want my rounds touching (it just adds a little bit of confidence in the field). Consistency in the overall loading process and good components matched to your rifle.
  15. Cowboy6373

    Cowboy6373 New Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    Thanks everyone for all the comments, really great. I do stay with one primer brand when I reload. Normally CCI. I don't mix and match with batches although I may do a test with different brands keeping everything the same other than the primer. My main concern was pressure. I read somewhere that primers could cause pressure spikes. I do not load hot loads. Never have. I start at min and work up and see what my guns like best. I haven't had any that like close to max. I shoot for accuracy and handload as opposed to reload. So while I may load 1000 9mm or 45 for pistol, I do it for accuracy and go slow, double checking everything twice. May sound crazy, but I haven't had a squib or misfire in 10s of thousands of rounds. (I may have just jinxed myself!!)
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