Adjust Powder Charge With Different Brand Primers?

Discussion in 'Ammo' started by Confederate Tyrant, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. I'm looking to start reloading due to lack of available .38 and .357 ammo, and when picking a primer, does the brand matter? I've read that some people recommend backing down to a lower powder charge, but how necessary is that?

    I will not be using magnum primers, just standard small pistol primers.
  2. RevolverDan

    RevolverDan Active Member

    I just got into this a few months ago, but none that I have seen. Obviously if the powder calls for a magnum primer vs. a standard primer then that can cause an issue, but if you intend to use powders that require only standard primers then their shouldn't be much if any difference between brands.

    Hard to be H110/W296 + mag primer for .357 though. :D

  3. That's a good point, but so far the data I've looked at for standard loads use non-magnum primers, but they specifically state CCI, which is why I wondered if the brand mattered.
  4. SongDogSniper

    SongDogSniper New Member

    It depends on where you are operating in terms of internal pressures.

    If you are loading at textbook low or mid range anticipated pressures, you can get away with switching a primer brand, or a case brand or even seating bullets a bit deeper without issue, to a limit. Should not be an issue. As you said, we are not talking about going from standard to magnum primers.

    However, if you are pushing the envelope and already loading at maximum recommended pressures (or even higher), then there is an excellent chance you have already eroded all of your available safety margin. In such cases, you need to be careful when modifying ANY of your components. A small change that would normally be inconsequential can result in a drastic increase in chamber pressures, especially if combined with other little convenient "changes" from the original recipe.

    I have seen differences in how "hot" primers are, same size and type but different brands, in the past. Not a huge factor, but it can be if you are already pushing things. Same goes for variations in brass thickness, variations in bullet style and jacket material, and of course seating depth. It can all come together in a "perfect storm" of sorts if you are not careful.

    There is no shame in backing down and working your load back up. I do it all the time, and have never had a reloading-related issue in over 30 years for pistol, rifle and shotgun.

    BTW, if you are looking to get into reloading simply because you are having problems finding .38 / .357 ammo, have you tried looking online? From what I can tell supplies are plentiful. I shoot .38 all the time, and have had no problem whatsoever buying .38 special ammo for the range online or at the store.
  5. The only ones I would put towards max would be hunting and self defense rounds and I would indeed follow the load data closely. The rest would be target loads, probably kept to .38 Special loads or very mild .357 loads, with probably several thousand PSIs of available safety.

    It's all about costs and convenience for me, and with the cost of shipping ammo that is already about $20-25 per 50, I'd be better off with reloading.

    I would also like to target practice a lot more, and with the shortage and costs around my area, reloading is a better option in the long run. It's a lot easier paying $10 per range visit than $40-50 per range visit.

    Making quality hunting and self defense rounds for a fraction of the cost is a benefit.

    This reason isn't currently relevant, but future expansion in calibers, including .44 Magnum, 500 S&W, and .45 Long Colt, which are pretty expensive to shoot when buying factory ammo.
  6. Match10

    Match10 Active Member


    I only reload with one brand... CCI... And I try to buy thousands of the same lot number when reloading for accuracy and velocity. Pushing the envelope on high pressure loads, a primer very well DOES affect pressures. (Another thing is some primers are harder to set off than others, and I loathe "no bang" surprises while hunting or at the range!
  7. boomboom

    boomboom New Member

    My advice is to follow a reliable reloading manual (or better yet two or three) and begin at the start charge for your caliber with the specified primers in the manual. When adjusting your load, make sure to take into account things like full metal jacket bullets versus lead bullets which affect pressure, etc. As mentioned above, what generally gets people into trouble is starting their loading at the maximum pressure and then changing components from what your manuals specify such as bullets, seating depth, primers, or god forbid powder to fit what they have on hand. If the load is hi pressure (for a pistol) like 9mm, .357, or .40 to begin with, your margin for error is smaller, and one small change has the potential for doing bad things to your gun, yourself, and others.

    FWIW, I once received some .38 handloads from my father-in-law based on some old Skeeter Skelton powder loads. Fortunately, I fired them a gun built like a tank, a Ruger GP-100, and the roar and the massive orange blast from the muzzle was quite impressive in a indoor range, but not so pleasant was the massive leading of my barrel nor the unexpected recoil from just a cylinder worth of bullets. Later, I found out why this was so. I read later that Skeeter found it easier to get .38 special brass for free rather than buy .357 brass but the powder loads that he was specifying were .357 in terms of pressure and velocity. Obviously, .38 Special brass is designed from the get go for a much lower pressure than .357 brass and Skeeter's loads could have resulted in case separation or worse. Fortunately, no one got hurt nor was the GP-100 damaged but it sure could have been.

    As far as brands go, I usually use Winchester or CCI because they are a bit less sensitive than Federal. I have also during the great primer shortage used Wolf large pistol primers and they did ok as well.
  8. Going Postal

    Going Postal New Member

    I do not vary powder weights just because of changing to a different brand of primers. I prefer CCI, but at this particular time will use just about any brand. I do use magnum primers when I am loading .357, but only because I have a few hundred to use up! When they are gone I will no longer buy magnum primers.
  9. Thanks for the info y'all. I'm looking to use CCI, Winchester, or Federal primers, depending on which ones I can get.

    I've read of people using small rifle primers in handgun rounds as well, but I think I'll follow the common sense idea of using pistol primers for handgun rounds.