What's the best primer?

These are my favorite rifle primers.

      Quite often I find shooters looking for a quick answer to determine which primer is the best for their handloads.   Most primers look pretty much the same, and there are many different brands to choose from.   Obviously, with rifles your first decision is either a Small Rifle (SR) or a Large Rifle (LR) primer.

      After that, you can spend a great deal of time experimenting with different brands, and you'll almost always find the "best" primer for your handloads - eventually.   However, why work so hard trying to reinvent the wheel?   I finally discovered that there's usually a better way to get started.   Just see what most of the top competition shooters are using with similar handloads.   (This is only valid if they're using a very similar type of ammo.)   Even though most competition shooters seem to use the same brand of primers, they are devoted to extensive experimentation to discover the best components for their particular handloads.   Believe me, you'll be hard pressed to find better reloading components than they use.

        Magnum primers - They're for magnum calibers, right?   Well . . . . mostly, but they're not just for magnum calibers.   Sometimes a non-magnum primer can deliver better accuracy with a magnum caliber.   Magnum primers are a big advantage when trying to ignite a large volume of powder, or when you're using a slow burning powder that's difficult to ignite.   There are a number of situations that benefit from a hotter ignition than regular primers.   One day while shooting in a snow covered field, it was easy to see a considerable amount of unburned powder granules that were blown out the barrel.   I was using standard primers to ignite a slow burning powder in a 300 Weatherby Magnum (not a good idea, but it was all I had).   Reloading manuals will usually direct you to use a magnum primer when it's needed.

        Benchrest primers - They're for benchrest shooting, right?   Well . . . . mostly, but they're not just for benchrest shooting.   In most cases, benchrest primers are quite a bit more expensive than standard primers, because they're individually inspected for even the slightest defects.   Regular primers are not individually eyeballed for quality.   Varmint hunters and extreme long range shooters usually prefer benchrest primers, because they know there will be no accuracy problems related to primers.   On the other hand, most hunting rifles would not notice the slightest advantage, and the extra cost could make benchrest primers a waste of money.

        You can select the best primer for your needs, if you know the unique characteristics of each different brand.   However, your search for the best primer can also be affected by the particular "type of firearm" you're using.   The first time I entered Practical Pistol Competition (PPC), I fired 150 rounds and had three rounds that failed to fire.   I was using a fine tuned double action revolver (with a lightened hammer spring) for the first time.   It was a great advantage - but only if all of your rounds fire!   The more experienced shooters knew the cause of my misfires, because they've seen it happen many times when shooters first enter PPC competition.   That's when I discovered that some brands of primers are made with cups that are quite different in hardness.   I had been using CCI primers (known to have the hardest cup of any brand).   Since then, I use Federal primers (the softest cup) for most of my handgun loads, and I use CCI primers for 30-30 loads whenever using a tubular magazine.

      Keep in mind that finding the best primer for your handloads is a very small part of your search for improved accuracy.   So . . . . what's the best brand of primer?   As far as I can find, nothing useful has ever been documented to describe the unique charactoristics of each different brand of primers.   The very best primer for your rifle needs to be determined by individual experimentation and taking meaningful notes.   My advice is to take advantage of what competition shooters have learned, and start with the brands that they use.   Try their primer as your benchmark for testing, then experiment with different brands.   Try to improve the accuracy level that competition shooters get . . . . if you can.




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Larry A. Willis,   Innovative Technologies
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