What’s the difference between small and large pistol primers? The answer can be summarized as follows:
- Small pistol primers are a recent innovation that’s gaining favor among manufacturers. That’s because they’re more economical to produce, more affordable for consumers, and demonstrate greater environmental responsibility.
- Numerous tests show that the switch to smaller primers has had zero effect on ammunition’s reliability, power, and accuracy.
- Under no circumstances should you use a primer that wasn’t designed for the specific type of brass you’re reloading. Going outside the manual’s guidelines can damage your firearms, cause serious personal injuries, or even worse.
Let’s look at these topics in more detail.
Why Smaller Is Sometimes Better
Ammunition manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve the quality of their products. This motivation is what’s behind the move towards smaller primers. The advantages of the change include:
- Reduced environmental impact – smaller primers use a smaller amount of lead styphnate and other toxic materials in their manufacturer than do larger primers.
- Improved safety for shooters – handling large amounts of ammunition can cause unhealthy levels of lead to build up in the blood. One way to minimize this problem is to make primers smaller and more efficient.
- Reduced manufacturing costs – this helps to keep ammunition prices affordable.
Despite these advantages, some shooters are reluctant to use smaller primers due to fears about reduced power or accuracy. But are these concerns well-founded?
Numerous gun owners and shooting experts have compared both types of ammunition and found no discernible difference. On average, a round outfitted with a small primer has the same power, range, and accuracy as one designed for a large primer.
What About Using Non-Standard Primers?
Ammunition is in short supply these days, as anyone in the firearms community knows all too well. Some reloaders have tried to get around this problem by forcing small-primer brass to accept a large primer.
Is this safe? NO. Here’s what can happen if you go down this road:
- You can damage or destroy your firearms. In general, large primers generate more explosive force than small pistol primers. Some reloaders have tried to compensate for this fact by fiddling with powder amounts. But this is simply asking for trouble.
- You can experience undependable or erratic results when firing the weapon. What advantage do you gain from saving a few pennies if your firearm will no longer perform properly?
- You put yourself at risk of injury or even death. This is why the ammunition companies themselves must follow painstaking safety precautions at every step of the manufacturing process. There’s no room for error when it comes to working with primers.
Separating Your Brass
If there is a “disadvantage” to having both small and large primer sizes, it’s the need to separate your brass during the reloading process. But this is a small price to pay in exchange for greater safety, a cleaner environment, and reliable performance from your ammunition. The best advice is to always stick with what the manual says.
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