Making Reloads On A Press

Reloading Ammunition
 By Mike Coviello (Tanner)

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(A Winchester Small Pistol Primer)


The other day I found my dog chewing on something in my reloading room. I made him spit it out. I was a little horrified when it turned out to be an unfired Winchester small pistol primer that I use for reloading 9mm ammunition. Just think what would have happened if it would have gone off in his mouth. Images of him yelping and blood drooling from his mouth flashed in my mind. Fortunately that didn't happen and he was all right. I picked it up and threw it away in the trash.


The Dog Ate My Primer

Well He Chewed On It Anyway!

Cool Laser Bullet for Gun Training

Reloading Components

Reloading Equipment


I was very surprised that he got hold of a primer because I am quite careful about picking primers up when I drop one. I guess I missed that one. I reload 9mm ammunition in a spare bedroom that I redesigned solely for reloading. All supplies and loose parts are neatly organized on shelves in the closet. My reloading press in on a reloading bench. Nothing is ever left on the floor.

After thinking about it for several moments I began to wonder if after all that primer went though was is still good and will is still fire. You read about how primers can be finicky and you are not even suppose to touch them lest you get body oils on them causing them not to fire. I retrieved it from the trash and made a functional round with it.

Later that week I went to the shooting range and fired my "dog chewed" reloaded primer in my Glock 19. It fired fine. No problem. I guess primers are tougher than advertised.

What would happen if a primer went off in my dog's mouth?

I guess nobody knows for sure but the range master at the shooting range that I go to didn't think that it would have been as terrible as I imagined. I have fired a primer only reload in my gun and was not very impressed with the "pop" sound that it made. It was less than I had imagined.

When you think about it small pistol primers are pretty hard to make "go off". I have mangled quite a few in my reloading press and nothing happened. Some of the primers were crunched up pretty badly and yet no boom. I even did a "primer crunch test". Nothing happened.


Primer Crunch Test In Vise
Primer Crunch Test

What causes a small pistol primer to fire?

Design & Manufacture - The primer consists of two metal parts and a small amount of explosive compound. Primers come in different sizes depending on the firearm. Using a small pistol primer as an example, the cup is usually about 0.125 inch (0.32 cm) in diameter and 0.125 inch (0.32 cm) tall, and made of soft copper or brass. Inside is placed a small amount of the impact-sensitive explosive lead styphnate, and pressed into the opening is a triangle shaped piece called the anvil. When struck by the firing pin, the center of the cup collapses, squeezing the explosive between its inner surface and the anvil. The explosive ignites and shoots a flame through the flash hole, igniting the propellant to fire the cartridge.


Lead Styphnate MSDS


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Mike Coviello is a former aerospace engineer, now Web Designer/SEO Consultant. Hobbies include shooting zombies & reloading ammunition.






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