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Rifle Primers in Pistol Loads --- Reliability


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Rifle Primers in Pistol Loads --- Reliability

 

The summer 2020 primer shortage came on fast. Small pistol primers seemed to disappear from store shelves at a time when I had only a few months’ supply sitting on my shelf. While small pistol primers were unavailable, several local stores still had plenty of small rifle primers and sometimes pretty cheap. A survey of the web indicated that small rifle primers could be a viable substitute for small pistol primers, so I gave them a try. All of the articles I found indicated no appreciable difference between small rifle and small pistol primers regards their ballistic performance and thus no known safety issue. The question remained --- how reliably will a pistol ignite a small rifle primer?  

 

You would expect that this reliability will depend very much upon the specific kind of rifle primer, and just as much upon the pistol, especially the striker or hammer spring.  I had access to six kinds of small rifle primers and tested them in four different 9 mm pistols.  In all cases I used a mild load, 147 gr coated bullet over 3.2 gr of TiteGroup, that is nowhere near maximum (assuming a small pistol primer).  I tested from 10 to 30 rounds per primer/pistol permutation.  The main goal was to identify the obvious no-go primers, and not necessarily to test exhaustively the more  reliable primers.

 

The pistols tested were:

VP9, stock striker spring

Walther PPS M2, stock striker spring

Glock 34, stock spring (G34 OEM)

Glock 34, reduced power, 4.5 lbs striker spring (G34 tuned)

 

Here are the results, showing the percentage of successful ignition.

 

CCI small rifle MAGNUM 450

VP9                75%

PPS                 60%

G34 OEM       80%

G34 tuned       35%

 

Remington small rifle match  7 ½   

VP9                  85%

PPS                  75%

G34 OEM        85%

G34 tuned        30%

 

Sellier and Bellot  4.4 SR

Fired less than 35% of the time in all pistols tested and only about 50% in a Ruger PC9. That is awful, obviously, and not useful even for training purposes.  On top of that, these primers were a huge pain the butt to seat, frequently jamming the primer feed mechanism.  (What can you do with nearly 1000 unreliable  primers?)

 

Now for some good news:

 

Federal small rifle GM205M.

100% in all four pistols

            

 CCI small rifle standard 400.

VP9                  100%

PPS                  100%

G34 OEM        100%

G34 tuned          95%

 

Winchester small rifle WSR.

100% in all four pistols.

 

SUMMARY. The major US brands of standard small rifle primers tested here  (Federal, CCI and Winchester, the last three listed above) appear to be a viable alternative to the usual, preferred small pistol primers in circumstances where the latter are unavailable (like right now, for example).  There were no special issues seating these primers in random brands of 9 mm brass, and there was no evidence of excessive pressure or any other odd ballistic property.

 

CAUTION.  The small number of test rounds expended here (10 – 30 rounds) is enough to identify the unsuitable primer types, the first three listed above.  However, this limited testing can not make an airtight case for any serious use of the three good primers. If the intent was to load ammo for a match, say, then it would be advisable to test fire a much larger sample, 200 rounds, in order to insure that they will ignite at an acceptable rate, I’d say about 99%.  One light strike in a match would not be a catastrophe, but three or four might be. Here’s the caution: a true failure rate of 5% could have slipped through the limited testing reported here and shown instead as 100%.  But statistics aside, the success of a given primer and pistol will vary significantly from one pistol to the next depending upon the striker spring, how deeply the primer is seated, and probably more.  If you find that your stash of small pistol primers is looking a little sparse, then you might take these results as a starting point toward a small rifle alternative.

 

 

 

Edited by jfp
cleaned up the format (extra and missing blank lines)
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I use Tula small rifle Magnum primers in 9mm, .45ACP and .223/5.56 and have never had a single misfire.  I seat all the primers with a hand held priming device which always seats them firmly.  Many of the problems come with whatever seating device the user has not being adjusted correctly - or - just not having the firing pin strike the primer with enough force.

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6 hours ago, Steve RA said:

I use Tula small rifle Magnum primers in 9mm, .45ACP and .223/5.56 and have never had a single misfire.  I seat all the primers with a hand held priming device which always seats them firmly.  Many of the problems come with whatever seating device the user has not being adjusted correctly - or - just not having the firing pin strike the primer with enough force.

what kind of gun are you using?  

 

 

Don't 1911's/2011 firing pins hit harder than striker fired guns?

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I was told Breech face erosion can also be an issue with small rifle primers in 9mm cases since they are hotter than regular small pistol primers.  Thoughts on this and have you inspected all the guns you tested for any indication of this?

 

Thanks for taking the time to do this and post the results.

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I was told Breech face erosion can also be an issue with small rifle primers in 9mm cases since they are hotter than regular small pistol primers.  Thoughts on this and have you inspected all the guns you tested for any indication of this?
 
Thanks for taking the time to do this and post the results.
I haven't heard that. Breach face erosion should only be an issue if you are piercing primers (and blowing the pressurized gas back onto the breach face)
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12 minutes ago, DesertTortoise said:
6 hours ago, ML123 said:
I was told Breech face erosion can also be an issue with small rifle primers in 9mm cases since they are hotter than regular small pistol primers.  Thoughts on this and have you inspected all the guns you tested for any indication of this?
 
Thanks for taking the time to do this and post the results.

I haven't heard that. Breach face erosion should only be an issue if you are piercing primers (and blowing the pressurized gas back onto the breach face)

Not true. Breech face erosion with rifle primers happens because the primer cup is harder and doesn't swell to fit the primer pocket completely when fired. 

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Breechface erosion can be caused by a combination of small rifle primers and light loads.  The light load does not provide enough pressure to expand the primer and seal the gas in. It escapes around the primer and burns the breechface. Does not happen all the time but it is something to check for if you are loading light.

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Breech face erosion?

 

None evident on my pistols so far.  However, I have fired less than a thousand rounds using small rifle primers, so will need to keep an eye open for this. 

 

Thanks for the comment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After reading this thread I wanted to try it for myself - I should have brought my chrono to the range to be more scientific but I didn't.  I loaded up some 9mm using CCI 450's (small rifle magnum) and remington 7 1/2 primers.  I only tried them in 2 guns, a gen 4 Glock 34 with a 4.5 pound striker spring and an Atlas Titan 2011 (no modifications).  The CCI 450's didn't work in the glock, but the remington 7 1/2's did.  Both primers worked with the atlas 2011 - I shot them back to back with my normal load and couldn't tell the difference recoil wise and the POI was the same.   

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If you get a chance, try CCI 400 standard rifle primers.  I have used a lot of these since my original post and even in a tuned Glock (reduced striker spring rate), I'm finding close to 99% reliability. 

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I've had similar results...but not on the Remington.

 

Federal SR (not match, not magnum) and CCI 400 SR were 100% in my p320 (stock internals) and 9mm 1911 (with 17# mainspring, lightened hammer).

 

Remington 7 1/2 was a not reliable enough for me for 9mm pistol use, even though it's my favorite 5.56 SRP.  I'll be the 6 1/2 would've been fine.

Edited by johnmyster
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I loaded up 200 9mm with CCI small rifle primers for last Sundays match to try. I used them on the first 2 stages. I had 4 failures in less than 60 rounds through my JP GMR15. The rest are going to the practice ammo bag. I'll stick with small pistol.  

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A friend was stopping at dealers on his travels.  He described one place that had all primers except small pistol. I asked if they had small rifle.  He said they did, but he didn't need any of those and didn't think I did.  

Augh!

Federal, Winchester, and CCI small rifle, also CCI small pistol magnum work quite well in my hammer fired pistol.  I don't know about his Glock.

 

The previous panic, I bought some Remington small pistol that were not reliable The panic before that, I tried Wolf brand small pistol; not reliable in my guns.

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I have been using fed spp and smp in my 38 sc.  The magnum primers are Chrono 15-20 FPS faster the the spp with the same vit 3n38 and same oal. Also single digit SD and ES.  No breech face problems. Friend shoots 9 mm major and was wondering if anyone has any problems using magnum primers in 9 or 40 major? Thanks 

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3 hours ago, jstagn said:

I have been using fed spp and smp in my 38 sc.  The magnum primers are Chrono 15-20 FPS faster the the spp with the same vit 3n38 and same oal. Also single digit SD and ES.  No breech face problems. Friend shoots 9 mm major and was wondering if anyone has any problems using magnum primers in 9 or 40 major? Thanks 

 

Yes.  I had serious breech face pitting in my .40 2011 with MPP.  I'd urge you to think twice about doing this.

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