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Thread: Deactivating live primers for removal

  1. #1
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    Deactivating live primers for removal

    This article was written by a guy called Andrew Poe, he is an american with considerable firearms experience

    Article of the Week
    How to kill a primer?

    The issue of deactivating a live primer has come up a few times with me recently. Most people will tell you one of three things when it comes to removing live primers, and nobody I know has actually tested which is the best method.

    The three things that most reloaders say to do are:

    1. Place the primed but unloaded cartridge in your gun and pop the primer.

    2. Squirt something in the case (usually WD-40 or water) and wait a few minutes. The primer will then be deactivated and can be safely removed.

    3. Don't worry about deactivating the primer, just push it out slowly with a decapping die.

    Obviously the first method is a guarantee. If the firing pin impacts the primer it will pop the primer and it is a done deal. Unfortunately many people live in neighborhoods where pulling the trigger on a firearm is generally frowned upon (and rightly so). Also, you don't want to pop primers indoors because the gasses they expel include lead vapors. So, although this method is definitely the safest it is also one of the least convenient.

    Squirting some water or penetrating oil in the case seems like the next best thing. Kill the primer then push it out, simple right? In theory yes it is, but does it really work?

    For the test I took 10 primers each of three different brands (Federal small pistol, CCI small pistol, and Winchester large rifle). I divided each of the groups in half, and placed 5 of each type of the primers in water and penetrating oil respectively (making sure that all primers were saturated, i.e. no air pockets). After 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours I pulled on of each type of primer from the water and the oil and attempted to detonate it (hammer on concrete WHILE WEARING SAFETY GLASSES, will never fail to set off a live primer). I found two things out. First, some brands (CCI especially) are extremely difficult to kill. Every single one of the CCI primers popped at each time interval. Many of the other primers did not go off, except for the water soaked primers at 2hrs. By that time the water had evaporated and the primers went off again. Results were unpredictable at best, and aside from the CCI primers only about half of them fired. The oil did kill more primers than the water did, but only because the oil didn't evaporate. Both killed about the same amount of primers in the shorter time periods.

    Although it sounds nice in theory to say just squirt something in the case and push the primer out, it really doesn't work. It could cause some other issues though, especially if you use a penetrating oil. Make sure to clean the case thoroughly of all oil prior to loading the case again (rubbing alcohol wouldn't be out of the question).

    The least safe but probably most common method of removing live primers is to not worry about deactivating them and just push them out. I've done this myself more than a few times and never had a primer go off, but I can't stress enough to wear proper safety equipment. Those primers have a surprising amount of force to them. The anvil of the primer could very easily become a projectile with great velocity. The instructor at my NRA Pistol Instructor class had a good friend that chose to remove a live primer and it went off. The anvil went airborne and hit him in the chest. Somehow it got lodged behind a rib and had to be surgically removed! It isn't common for one to go off during removal, but that does not make it any less dangerous. At the very least wear safety glasses for this operation (even if you "deactivated" the primers with oil or water), and it may be beneficial to wear a face shield.

    To summarize, the only truly safe way to deactivate a primer is to detonate it, and if you choose to remove a primer before it's gone off please be extremely careful.

    Hope this was of interest

    Mark
    My karma ran over your dogma

  2. #2
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    Very good read Mark.

    That's made me think twice about my methods.
    Born To Be Mild.

  3. #3
    Pilch is offline Yes, I'd say I'm fairly attractive...
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    I've always done suggestion one. Seems the safest way

  4. #4
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    Penetrating oil has to be of low viscosity and therefore is generally volatile and will evaporate - at best - in a timescale similar to water. WD-40 takes longer, but I have known one case where a primer I'd 'deactivated' with it came to life again later - though I can't remember the exact circumstances.

    Slightly heavier oils like light machine oil (eg 3-in-1) have generally worked well on the few occasions I've needed to do this. I certainly haven't tried the hammer test afterwards though!

    I think that machine oil is used in inert collectors' cartridges, with the addition of some oily sand or tissue inside the case to maintain the vapour-pressure of the oil in the primer, to stop it evaporating over longer timescales.

    Presumably the oil works by reducing the friction between priming compound particles so that less heat is generated by a 'normal' impact, and acting as a heatsink to absorb such as there is. I doubt that it kills the reaction chemically.

    Regards,
    MikB
    Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see - Schopenhauer

  5. #5
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    Shoot from the gun with the muzzle resting on a slightly damp wad of cloth. Catches sparks and residues.
    Just a pop, doesn't even scare the dog or annoy anyone.

    Don't forget, clean barrel and muzzle after!

  6. #6
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    Interestingly that based on that (which sounds very plausible) much of the "inert" collectors ammunition out there would count as live ammunition under the definition of the firearms act.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardH View Post
    Interestingly that based on that (which sounds very plausible) much of the "inert" collectors ammunition out there would count as live ammunition under the definition of the firearms act.
    Well, I'm referring to the collectors' rounds I had as a teenager 40 years ago! Oily sand or tissue was practically always there then in place of the propellant charge.

    There might be other methods now, but I reckon if there was an easy chemical kill, there'd've been no need for the article quoted by Foxshooter!

    Regards,
    MikB
    Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see - Schopenhauer

  8. #8
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    I made up an "inert" 577/450 for a friend of mine. I soaked the primer ( CCI ) in an engine oil bath for several days, fully confident it was dead. My friend popped it into the chamber, squeezed the trigger and BANG, it went off. It certainly taught me a lesson.

  9. #9
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    I often need live looking rounds for display purposes so I've done a fair few tests myself on 'killing' live primers using various oils. (Never tried water though.)
    I also found that a large percentage of primers stay live after oiling/wd40ing. This shocked a lot of my shooting pals who swear oil works. Incidentally, none of them have tested the rounds they've made inert!

  10. #10
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    I just gently push the primer out with the decapping pin. Never had one go yet, but I keep my hands well out of the way as well as wearing safety glasses. Primers are designed to work with a sudden concentrated application of force. If it were otherwise then they would be going off when you tried to seat them.

    The idea of making a primer inert with WD40 is just a myth and has been disproved many times. The main thing you have to realize is that primers are sealed with a lacquer during manufacture. So first thing you have to do is break down this lacquer seal with a solvent like acetone or cellulose thinners. Even then WD 40, which is just a light oil with waxes in dissolved in it, failed to destroy the priming compound.

    To be absolutely certain a primer is dead the only way is to fire it off. Then clean the gun as it will leave a lot of highly abrasive residue in the barrel.

  11. #11
    Target Shooter is offline I'll give you three guesses...
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    Quote Originally Posted by foxshooter View Post
    1. Place the primed but unloaded cartridge in your gun and pop the primer.
    Would this be classed as discharging the firearm (Legally speaking)? Because some forces seem to believe a primed, but otherwise empty case, is still classed as a live round. Any standing on this?
    (Just asking out of curiosity)
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  12. #12
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    hi

    i use method three and deprime V E R Y slowly wearing safety glasses with my arse cheeks firmly gripped till it pops out (the primer that is...)
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sidesy View Post
    i use method three and deprime V E R Y slowly wearing safety glasses with my arse cheeks firmly gripped till it pops out (the primer that is...)
    Same as me then

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Target Shooter View Post
    Would this be classed as discharging the firearm (Legally speaking)? Because some forces seem to believe a primed, but otherwise empty case, is still classed as a live round. Any standing on this?
    (Just asking out of curiosity)
    Yes. There was a thread on that very subject on here a week or so ago. Basically a primed case is not considered as loaded ammunition, but the police mounted a malicious prosecution for a victimless offence whereby the guilty party had discharged primed cases in his revolver, but not whilst on "approved range".

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