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  #1  
Old 03-04-2009, 07:41 PM
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Primers, How long do they last


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Overheard a conversation at a recent gun show where a customer was asking how long they would last.

The seller told the customer "until they pry my cold dead fingers from my gun".

Comments.

Opinions.

Any anecdotal data to back it up?
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  #2  
Old 03-04-2009, 08:05 PM
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If you do the research you'll find that mecury fulminate type primers (corrosive) will last vertially indefinately thus the reason militaries used them extensively throughout the world. Lead styfinate and lead azide primers were not as long lived but have replaced the mercury type by most militaries today. When you're talking decades before primers go bad and maybe a decade or two between the lead and mecury primers going bad it becomes a mott point. Properly stored ammo made for WWI is still good as is WWII ammo. None of use will be around when todays primers go bad. I just used up some magnum primers I bought while in college back in the late sixties which makes them forty years old. They still go bang and the ammo loaded is as accurate as I am and probably more so if the truth be known.
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  #3  
Old 03-04-2009, 09:20 PM
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Kept in a cool, dry place they will last indefinitely! Period!!
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2009, 02:38 AM
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Just keep them away from contaminants, and DON"T HAVE WD40 ANYWHERE NEAR YOUR RELOADING BENCH OR TOOLS. IT WILL KILL A PRIMER.
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  #5  
Old 03-05-2009, 07:11 AM
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Like Hailstone, the oldest primers that I have used were over 40 years old. They were CCI large pistol that came from an estate sale. All functioned properly. Primers stored properly (cool and dry) will outlast your shooting career.
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Old 03-05-2009, 09:53 AM
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I bought a bunch of old CCI primers at a yard sale.Some were made in the 1960's.
I contacted CCI,and the answer was to not use them when hunting African Buffalo,but they will be fine for most shooting.
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:34 PM
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They will last until a firing pin smacks them. They pretty much go bad right after that.
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  #8  
Old 03-05-2009, 02:20 PM
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At present there is no statistacal data on primer shelf life. Ask again in 50 or so years there may be some by then. However there may still be no data.
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  #9  
Old 03-05-2009, 04:04 PM
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I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Front Sight about primers. They are actually okay even if they get wet, as long as you let them dry thoroughly before trying to use them. This is an article written by a former engineer at CCI.
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:53 PM
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I can vouch for that mattsbox99. In 1997 I had five feet of water in my basement when the James River flooded. I found several trays of Herter's primers near the basement concrete floor that had been under water for around two months. Never throw them out and when I bought my in-line muzzleloader years later found I had used all my shotgun primers up. Gave them a try and every one functioned but only once as Dean of Id stated.
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Old 03-05-2009, 07:01 PM
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I remember that flood...
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  #12  
Old 03-05-2009, 07:12 PM
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Primers actually went through several stages of corrosive formulation. Mercury fulminate was discovered in 1800 and by about 1830 became the primary priming compound sensitive component for caps and then, later, for cartridge primers. That didn't stop until about 1930, IIRC? Around that time Remington came out with the Kleanbore brand with a non-corrosive mix. I don't know what the sensitizing agent in the early non-corrosive ammo was? You have to be careful not to reload cases once fired with mercuric priming because the presence of the mercury traces will weaken the brass.

In the meantime, the other corrosive primers using potassium chlorate for the sensitive component were also developed in the 1800's. The U.S. military kept using them until the early 1950's. Their ruggedness and the fact they did not easily deteriorate over time the way mercury fulminate can was a primary reason for it displacing mercuric primers for military ammo. I don't think they figured out about mercury toxicity until after WWII.

The modern lead styphnate-based primer is less rugged, but it can be kept for very long periods or modern military stockpiles would not include primers made with it. Father Frog's site has information that it will deteriorate at elevated temperature. It says that as little as one summer in the trunk of a car can kill styphnate primers. But if you are looking at a western summer with the car parked outdoors, that means temperatures of up to 170 degrees or so. Not a condition you would expect to store them in at home.

I've got some non-corrosive Kleanbore .22 ammunition made between the world wars. It still shot fine in the sixties. I haven't tried any lately, but don't know why it would not still be fine? It's been in my nice cool basement all that time.
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  #13  
Old 03-06-2009, 02:39 AM
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I have some old Federal LP primers. I never saw a container like they are packaged in so I scanned the top and bottom of a pack and e-mailed it to Federal. Their reply to me was that they were in the neighborhood of 45 years old. The still work just fine. I also have a bunch of old CCI SP primers that came from the same place that are most probably the same age.....
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  #14  
Old 03-06-2009, 10:00 AM
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It sounds like most of your experience is that same as mine.

I've got 22lr ammo from the 50s that still has low standard deviation and velocity right up with current ammo.

I'm using Frankfort Arsinal 1943(?) primers for my BP loads, as my father got them through the CCP back in the 50s as surplus and passed them on to me.

I also have primers in the old cardboard "matchbox" with wooden trays that seem to be fine and are probably from the 50s.

On the other hand I have 1917 7mm Mauser ammo that is unreliable. Some fire, some don't. Storage conditions are unknown.

I've got over a hundred rounds of 1888 Frankfort Arsinal 45-70-500 that I have tried firing 20 rounds of, with no luck on any of them. Storage conditions also unknown, with all of the boxes deteriorating badly.

Steven
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Old 03-06-2009, 08:06 PM
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-I've got some CCI SP primers from the 60's that were given to me. They were stored in a damp garage. Mostly they still fire, but the rusty ones mostly don't.

Keep 'em cool & dry & you'll be OK.

.
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  #16  
Old 03-06-2009, 08:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattsbox99 View Post
I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Front Sight about primers. They are actually okay even if they get wet, as long as you let them dry thoroughly before trying to use them. This is an article written by a former engineer at CCI.
Ha! What the heck do a buncha injuneers know! Me and the boys at the local gun store know for a fact that primers don't last but a couple of years. And wet primers sprout explosive toadstools! HA!

( Just joining the current trend of know-it-alls out there that discount reloading data gathered with scientific instruments, spurn the findings of people who have degrees in chemical engineering or physics, or claim that "loadbook lawyers" rule like kings over munitions factories ... )
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  #17  
Old 03-08-2009, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmd3006 View Post
. . .Mostly they still fire, but the rusty ones mostly don't. . .
Rusty? Could you elaborate on that?
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  #18  
Old 03-10-2009, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by unclenick View Post
Rusty? Could you elaborate on that?
I guess they wouldn't actually rust, would they, since they're not made of iron. But, primers can corrode if stored in a damp place. If you took only a B&W photo of them, you'd say they were rusty. The crust of oxide was dark brown - probably some Cu and Cd or Ni sulfides depending on what the plating was, mixed with oxides. The corrosion was on the outside mostly, but also on the anvils a bit.

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Old 05-05-2009, 12:24 PM
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Interesting. Sounds like blooming of some kind? Possible moisture swells? Don't know.

I just re-read Hatcher on primers. It turns out most of the non-corrosive primers between the wars went back to fulminate of mercury to get rid of the potassium chlorate that caused the barrel corrosion. This had the drawback that the fulminate is unstable and would often have a shelf life of only a year or so, while the chlorate lasted pretty indefinitely. Hatcher gives some priming mix formulae. I don't know what's in the old .22 Kleanbore I have, then? Maybe it's not as old as I thought?

The chlorate primers were developed in the 19th century because everyone was used to reloading from having muzzle loaders and objected to the brass embrittlement caused by the mercury ruining their cases. Apparently the solid content of black powder was high enough that it mixed with the potassium chloride byproduct of the primers and suspended it in fouling in the bore well enough that most of it came out with the powder residue on cleaning. It wasn't until smokeless powder came into use that the corrosion problem from the chloride residue began. Then the rule became clean your gun right after use, then again the next day.

The U.S. didn't figure that out until after WWI when a Bureau of Mines engineer was hired to determine why barrels corroded? Turns out the Swiss and Germans had already published the information and gone back to fulminate of mercury before WWI. We could have just looked it up. But I guess when you don't have the Internet, foreign stuff isn't always so easy to find.
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  #20  
Old 05-05-2009, 09:22 PM
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Translating the journals would have been simple...

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclenick View Post
Turns out the Swiss and Germans had already published the information and gone back to fulminate of mercury before WWI. We could have just looked it up. But I guess when you don't have the Internet, foreign stuff isn't always so easy to find.
No, I don't buy German or Swiss publications not being translated. At that period in time, a large percentage of the scientific advances were being made by the Swiss and the Germans.
The use of the German language in scientific journals would have been as prolific as English is today.

Happy Shootin'! -Tom
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