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 By Mike Coviello (Tanner)

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Small Pistol Primer Testing

  
  

I crushed some Winchester Small Pistol Primers in a vise to see if they would fire (detonate) because I reload ammunition and want to have a better understanding of primers and how they work. All safety precautions were taken.

Crushed Small Pistol Primer
Crushed Small Pistol Primer

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Testing Small Pistol Primers To See What Will Make Them Go Off

WARNING! Do not handle, detonate or play with primers at home. All of my "crush tests" were performed with all due safety considerations including appropriate eye protection, hearing protection, gloves and use of an improvised blast shield (which turned out to be a small heavy throw rung draped over the top of the vise). The test were conducted in a room with no explosive fumes or flammable materials nearby.

This is a Winchester Small Pistol Primer This is a Winchester Small Pistol Primer

I placed this and others in a vise and crushed them in an attempt to make them fire or "go off".

My Primer "Crushing Machine" My "Crushing Machine"

This is my crushing apparatus (an old rusty vise).

I chose to test Winchester because that is what I am currently reloading with.

This is how I plan to crush them.

Primer Crush Test #1 Crush Test #1

I placed one in the vise and positioned it so that I could squeeze it by the sides.

Primer Crush Test #2 #2

I squeezed it easily into a pancake. No bang.

It took very little effort to squeeze it in this configuration.

Primer Crush Test #3 #3

Here is the result. Zoom into the picture for details.

Primer Crush Test #4 #4

This is the orientation of the next one that I crushed.

Primer Crush Test #5 #5

This one was crushed from top to bottom.

In this configuration the primer was very strong and it took a lot of effort on the vise handle to squash it.

It did not fire.

Primer Crush Test #6 #6

This is what it looked like after being crushed.

Primer Crush Test #7 #7

I wasn't satisfied with the crush of the second test (not enough crunching going on) so I stacked two of them back to back and did it again.
Primer Crush Test #8 #8

This is the result. Still no bang.
Gun powder spillage Powder Spillage

During the "crushing", I collected the powder that fell from the primers as they were crushed. This is what I collected. I am not sure how much of the residue is explosive powder and how much is rust from my vise.

I did a burn test on the primer powder.

Primer Crush Results Primer Crush Results

This is what all the primers looked like after they were crushed in a vise. None of them fired as a result of being crushed.

Primer Crush Results #1 Results #1

Squeezed from the sides the primer had no structural strength and was easily flattened.

Primer Crush Results #2 Results #2

Crushed to about half it's size.

Primer Crush Results #3 Results #3

The two shown on top were placed to show the "squeeze" orientation of the test.

Both were significantly crushed.

Description

After my dog chewed on a live primer I became curious as to just what would set off a primer and what would render it inoperative.

The first phase of my testing involved crushing them in a vise in various configurations. For the first test I took a Winchester Small Pistol Primer and positioned it vertically in the jaws of the vise. The face pointed up and the bottom pointed down. This configuration would squeeze it from the sides which is not at all how it is designed to be detonated.

In the second test the primer was positioned side-ward's in the jaws of the vise. This would in effect squeeze it from the top and bottom. This more closely resembles the function in a gun (except there is no sudden impact of a firing pin).

For the third test I took two primers and placed them back to back in the jaws of the vise. I considered this the "worst case scenario" of the vise tests and had twice the chance of detonation. More combined length meant more crunching room.

Tests Results

Primer Squeezed From The Sides
For this test I place one Winchester Small Pistol Primer in a vise and crushed it from the sides. Nothing happened. No bang. It squeezed as flat as a pancake. All that happened was a little bit of power material was collected after the test.

Primer Squeezed From The Top And Bottom
For this test I place one in a vise and crushed it from the top and bottom. Nothing happened. No bang. All that happened was a little bit of power material was collected after the test.

Two Back To Back Primers Squeezed From The Top And Bottom
For this test I place two of them back to back in a vise and crushed them from the top and bottom. Nothing happened. No bang. All that happened was a little bit of power material was collected after the test.

Winchester Primer Explosive Burn Test

I combined all the powder and remnants (which I assumed was the explosives from the primers) from all three crush tests (total of 4) and tried to light it with a match. It would not burn. The most I heard was an occasional "crackle" noise. It did not burn as smokeless powder does. I was somewhat disappointed. Thinking back, I should have tried whacking the little bits of powder with a hammer. Maybe next time.

Conclusion

Crushing small pistol primers in a vise with a slow and steady force either from the sides or top to bottom of the primer will not detonate it. To detonate, they must be struck forcefully on the back as with a firing pin.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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


 

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RELOADING AMMUNITION

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