Brass Cleaning

Ok, Ok, it’s a boring subject, I know. But it’s gotta be done so let’s get this out’a the way.

First, equipment and supplies.

  • Cleaning machine. I’ve got the small Dillon vibratory cleanerthat does up to 500 pieces of brass in about an hour or so. It’s well made and does the job and, after several years, I’m still using the original.And, yes, it’s a bit on the pricey side compared to others. But you’re not into this hobby because it’s affordable … because it isn’t. And you don’t reload because it’s more economical — come on, I know better than that. You reload so you can shoot, and you shoot everything you make. If it was “economical”, you’d be selling what you’ve made instead of shooting it up. So stop complaining and go ahead and get a machine you won’t have to think about. It will last and do what you need without problems.
  • Abrasive for the cleaning machine. Some use ground up corn cobs. Some us ground up walnut shells. Choose whichever is available and least expensive. My pick comes from Harbor Freightand, at roughly $25.00 for 25 pounds, the price will be hard to beat — I know that contradicts the attitude I espoused in the previous item. Ok, so I’m arbitrary. Or maybe after buying that expensive Dillon cleaner, I feel guilty and compensate by saving money on the abrasive. Ok, I feel guilty. Can we move on now?Regardless, beware the shipping charge from Harbor Freight for that 25 pounds. It’s an additional $9.00 for me. Instead, if you have one of these stores in town, pay the local sales tax (about $2.00 in Phoenix) and save on the shipping. I replace the media when the brass starts looking “very dusty” after cleaning. I’d guess that’s about every 5-10 batches, more or less. At that rate, the 25 pounds of walnut media will last for a long time.
  • Manual Timer

    Timer. While you may find a “Turn off the plugged in appliance in two hours” electrical timer somewhere, why bother? Just write yourself a note and leave it where you’ll find it. Coffee pot, refrigerator, front door and computer screen are all good places to stick it. I’ve left brass churning in there for hours and hours with no apparent harm so it’s no big deal to run over. (For “noise abatement”, put the machine outside and well away from any windows. It does make a racket.)

  • Separator. Use this outside — the “stuff” that floats up is gonna be bad for your lungs. Don’t breath it! Again, I have the little Dillon modeland it works fine.But there are two caveats. First, watch out for the stray 22 shell amongst the 45s. During cleaning, they will “separate” very nicely but when you dump the batch into the separator, they’ll sneak back inside a 45 shell and stay there until reloading when it’ll make a nasty noise in the deprimer. Inspect the batch carefully and remove any non-45 brass as early as possible.

    And second, tumble and separate thoroughly. Bits of the walnut media may hide in the flash hole and make an odd “scrunch” when you deprime. It’s distracting and causes me to pause and look to see what’s wrong. Interruptions in reloading lead to errors in reloading, and that can be bad. Avoid it by taking the time to purge any wrong size brass before you start pulling the crank.

  • Brass polish (optional). This is dumped into the walnut media (and run empty for about 10 minutes before adding brass) and shines up the brass more than just the walnut shells would’ve done. In my opinion, this is purely cosmetic — but there’s nothing wrong with “clean and pretty.” I use it and, again, it’s the Dillon product. (What can I say? Their store is “in town” for me and it’s a fun place to lust and drool.)
  • Something to store the cleaned brass in — and it’s not from Dillon! I use the quart-size ZipLock baggies and, because I keep my brass separated by head stamp, I also stick in a hand-written 3×5 note so I can see what flavor of brass is in a given bag from a couple of feet away. This week I’m reloading Winchester brass so those are the bags I’m after.
  • A place to store things when not in use; one of those annoyingly essential things to figure out. Mine are under the work table and come out from there when in use and then back when done.

 

That’s about it — and I can see by the note taped to my computer screen that the current batch of brass has been in the cleaner for 75 minutes. It should be done.

I’m headed outside to tumble and separate.

See ya!

Made 300 to Test


Jim Henderson and the author

(Click for larger image)

I made 300 rounds of wad ammo to test at Nighthawks tomorrow evening. Previously I was seeing a couple of high primers per hundred so if all 300 shoot OK, I’ll pronounce the “cure” complete.

Here are the load details. (This is my normal “wad” load.)

Parameter Setting Tolerance
Bullet 200 gr LSWC n.a.
Primer WLP n.a.
Brass Mixed n.a.
Hodgdons Clays 3.8 gr ±0.1 gr
OAL 1.240″ ±0.003″
Crimp 0.469″ ±0.002″

Addendum

Late Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nope, dirty primer pockets were not the cause of the high primers I’ve been having.

In fact, testing today revealed a huge number of high primer failures. Previously I was seeing one, two, maybe three per hundred but earlier this evening I fired fifteen rounds but more than half of them took multiple strikes to fire!

Fortunately, two other very capable Bullseye shooters were there and, in the finest of traditions, they turned their complete attentions to my problems.

First, we disassembled my 1911 and inspected this, that and the other.

“Nope, the firing pin isn’t bent.”

“And the firing pin hole looks round and its tunnel isn’t jammed up with dirt.”

“Here, Ed, shoot some of my wad ammo in your ball gun.”

Ten rounds later we pronounced my gun as working normally. We turned our attention to the ammo.

“Hey, these primers look high — that’s a lot if you can see it!”

“And yeah, there’s a whole bunch like that in this box alone.”

We concluded that the ammo was, indeed, at fault. I said I’d call Dillon tomorrow and talk it over with them to see what they suggest.


Next Day

An hour after talking with Dillon I had checked and tweaked everything they suggested but had not found anything out of whack. The reloading machine was completely in tolerance and working fine.

So I pulled out the ammo and set aside all the visible and feel-able high primers. Out of the 300 rounds I had made, I pulled more than 50 that were instantly suspect.

And that’s when I saw it: all the suspect rounds had the same headstamp, Aguila!

Thinking back, for several months now I’ve been buying that brand of ball ammunition since I hadn’t yet worked up my own load. And after firing, I had been adding that brass into the general supply.

Since I travel a lot, shoot a little and reload only once every couple of months, the Aguila brass was originally a very low proportion of my overall mix, maybe 1-2%.

Months later, after shooting a lot of ball a lot of Aguila brass had accumulated at the top of the brass bin — and that’s mostly what I reloaded for this test batch.

I think that explains the sudden increase in high primers.

So with this recognition in mind, I seperated all the Aguila reloads from the rest — they constituted 50% of the test batch.

Now things were starting to make sense.

The last check was to look at the now empty brass from what I had fired last night. Sure enough, 11 of those 15 were in Aguila brass. I felt sure that explained the “more than 50% failure rate” I experienced.


Test Reloads Before Firing

Above are two of the reloads.

If you look carefully at the picture on the left — in Aguila brass — you can see white-space between the steel straight edge and the brass in the “high” primer round. But for the “normal” primer round on the right, there is no gap. (Sorry, I did not record if it was Aguila or not when making this picture.)

I’m satisfied with this explanation.

All the evidence fits.

What remains now is to do some final tests to confirm that it really is the Aguila brass that’s causing the problem.

So I’ve set all of the Aguila reloads aside. More than half have abnormal looking or feeling primers. If fired, I should experience the classic high primer failure of needing multiple strikes to make them go “Bang!”

And of the remainder in non-Aguila brass, they all appear to have normal primer heights. They should fire on the first strike.

My next trip to the range will be Thursday.

If testing confirms that the Aguila brass is the culprit, then I’ll go through my entire supply of brass and purge all of it.

Are we having fun yet?

Oh yeah, you bet’cha. I love debugging!

Stay tuned.

High Primers


Four High Masters (not high primers)

John Zurek, Steve Reiter, Jim Henderson, Daryl Szarenski

Desert Midwinter, Phoenix AZ, February 2009

(Click for larger image)

Note

The cause of the high primers is apparently not dirty primer pockets which is what this article is about. Although they may be a contributing factor, after cleaning the primer pockets and testing the resulting ammunition, things got worse, not better.

Ultimately, the cause proved to be the Aguila brass I’ve been adding to my brass supply after shooting their ball ammunition. The final installment is in The Great Aguila Purge of 2009.

But having forewarned the reader, there is still some value in the following article so I leave it otherwise “as is.”


Around the time of this year’s Desert Midwinter competition, I started getting some high primers, perhaps two or three per hundred rounds.

When the hammer falls on a high primer, instead of going “bang,” it just pushes the primer further into the shell.

“Click.”

If you then manually cock the hammer and pull the trigger again, now that the primer is fully seated, it usually fires.

“Bang!”

There’s no problem with this in Slow Fire other than the distraction from your shot plan.

(Well, to be honest, there is the distraction of the smile on the face of the shooter next to you who saw that little tell-tale “jerk” that sometimes sneaks in on a mis-fire.)

In Timed Fire, if you’re paying attention and keep your mind focused, the mis-fire can be corrected by quickly cocking the hammer and firing without too much degradation of the shot.

But in Rapid Fire it’s an alibi, and only if you haven’t already used the alibi for that match. If you have, then it’s a missed shot.

Zero points.

That hurts.

At two or three high primers per hundred rounds, there’s a good chance that one will come up during Rapid Fire.

So with the air conditioner now installed and running in the reloading room, it’s time to find, and fix, this problem.

There are two likely reasons for a high primer, both happen when reloading. First not pressing home on the handle when seating the primer will do it. Or secondly, dirt in the primer pocket will prevent a primer from seating to the bottom of the primer cup.

In either case, the first hammer fall pushes the cup the rest of the way in and the second hammer fall makes it go bang.

An occasional “short stroke” of my Dillon 650’s handle can sneak through but the operator has to be daydreaming for this to happen.

I try to have an environment where this is unlikely. First, no radio or TV are allowed while reloading. Second, there’s no clock in the room to distract my thoughts. Third, I have several safety gadgets on the 650 that keep my attention focused on the machine and what I’m doing.

In a nutshell, I do pay attention to what’s going on and if I short-stroke the machine, I know it. Short strokes don’t get past me. Instead, I immediately stop, survey the consequences and then take the appropriate steps to either complete the cycle, or to remove the partially assembled rounds and set them aside for later disassembly.

A short-stroke is probably not the culprit.

My brass, on the other hand, is of mixed age, mixed brand and mixed history. And I’ve been reloading it for a couple of years.

It is, therefore, suspect.

The largest category is from commercially manufactured 45 ACP including a lot of Winchester, purchased at WalMart when I was first starting, and more recently a fair amount of Aguila because I don’t (yet) make my own ball ammo. The Winchester, in particular, has been cycling through my brass supply for several years and although I don’t count reloads, a dozen round trips isn’t an unreasonable guess. (When I find a piece of split brass, odds are it will have a Winchester head stamp.)


TZZ Brass

But those are just two of the brands. I also have quite a bit of TZZ that has been scavenged over the years when shooting next to military teams who don’t want their used brass — thank you! And a lot of Federal from when I practiced at the Scottsdale Gun Club (ah, air conditioning!) that was, again, scavenged from other shooters who didn’t want it.

Then, there’s the new brass I’ve purchased, much of it Starline — great stuff — and which gets extra attention in the process to make my highest quality of reloads with this highest quality brass.

Finally, my supply of ready-to-shoot ammunition is almost zero right now. Between my business travels and the unusually warm April and May, I’ve fallen behind on making ammunition. As a result, most of my supply of brass is empty shells.

So, it’s a good time to clean the primer cups in all my 45 ACP brass.

The needed tool was all of about three bucks and looked simple to use. I planned to put it in the electric drill, fasten that down, set it to a low speed and do each piece one at a time.

“How hard could this be?” I asked, smug in the view that I’d be done in an hour or two.

My first discovery was that I have a fair amount of brass.

No doubt others have several times my 2500 piece count but, nonetheless, when you start processing them one at a time, that’s a pretty big number.

My second discovery was that they all had old primers still in them and that, before I could clean the primer cup, I needed to de-prime all of them.

No, problem, I thought. I’ll just run them through the 650 and let it do the work.

I put about 200 pieces in the brass hopper and started pulling the handle. The first station removed the primer and I then just let the shells make their way around through the other stations to the final bin. Cranking much faster than when reloading, I could do about one shell per second.

Okay, that’s 2500 shells at one per second. Let’s see, 60 pieces per minute that should be about 45 minutes, right?

Three hours and about 1900 pieces of deprimed brass later and even with the breaks that were getting longer and longer, my arm was tired. Very tired.

That’s a lot of brass.



Broken 650 Ring Indexer

And that’s when the ring indexer broke.

This part is beneath the platform and, as the platform comes down on the handle’s upstroke, it advances the brass to the next position.

No ring indexer, no advance.

Fortunately, Dillon is just across town and, from time to time, I’ve walked in their front door, handed them a broken piece from my 650 and walked back out in less than five minutes with a new one, no charge, and been back home in an hour.

Except that it’s now after 5:00PM on Saturday. Without checking, I’m sure they’re closed.

Well, I can still clean the pockets on those 1900 de-primed pieces.

I put the cleaning tool into the drill’s chuck and tightened it down, and then secured the drill in the padded jaws of the vice.

But the drill’s lock sould only run the drill at full speed. (Damn. I bought the cheap drill!)

Hmmm, I mumbled, looking around the tool room.

Maybe a C clamp or … …

I settled for some stiff wire — hmmm, this isn’t real safe — wrapped around the handle and holding the drill’s trigger at the desired (slow) speed.

I’m starting to have second thoughts about continuing.

But how should I position the work? Dirty pockets to the left or right?

A quick experiment showed dirty to the left was best so I could pick up a dirty piece with my left hand while cleaning one with my right. Once cleaned, I’d pitch the clean piece with my right hand into the clean bucket, transfer the next dirty one, left hand to right hand, and continue the process.

Inspecting the result, I see that some primer cups still have carbon around the outer edge which is where the new primer needs to seat. That buildup is specifically what I’m after so, a few experiments later, I see I need to maneuver the brass around so the primer pocket cleaning tool scours the outer edge. Only then does the cleaning work like I think it should.

And 400 shells later, I see this is taking 4-5 seconds per shell. For the available 1900, that’s … uhm … maybe two and a half hours with breaks?

Gotta fit in some dinner this evening, too.



Careful!

At last, my better judgement catches up.

I remind myself that I’m now standing very close to a rotating piece of machinery with something hard and sharp on the end.

And I’m tired.

And a little frustrated as well.

“Stop!”

I tell myself, “I can finish cleaning the rest of the deprimed brass tomorrow morning.”

I remove the wire holding down the drill’s trigger and throw it in the trash.

“I’ll find something better — and safer — for this tomororow.”

“And the rest of the brass will wait until I get the part at Dillon on Monday. Or maybe Tuesday. Or maybe I’ll just call and have them mail it across town.”

“And then after all that, I can start reloading again and see if cleaning the primer pockets really solves this high primer problem or not.”

Phew! Buying finished ammunition at Walmart sure was simpler.


Addendum



Dillon 650 Partially Disassembled

Broken Ring Indexer Removed

Many months ago, the two bolts holding the platform to the main piston had worked themselves loose. Dillon gave me the alignment tool and instructions to use before tightening them up again.

When I put in a new ring indexer, I’ll need to repeat that process. So this morning I went searching in the “spare reloader parts” junk box for that tool.

And right next to the alignment tool was a “Spare 650 Parts” baggie, original and unopened from Dillon, and therein was a new ring indexer.

Hooray!

So today after lunch, I will put in the new part, align and then bolt down everything according to Dillon’s excellent instructions. That will put the 650 back into operation and, with that, I should be able to deprime the last of the 45 ACP brass and finish cleaning the primer pockets.

I like finishing a job and that “Spare 650 Parts” baggie from Dillon is going to make that happen today.

Thanks, Dillon. You guys think of everything!


A Couple of Hours Later



The Results

(Click to enlarge)

Done.

  • The 650 has been re-assembled with the new part and everything has been adjusted to specification;
  • All remaining brass has been de-primed; and
  • The primer pockets in all my empty brass have been cleaned.

I have 12 quart-size yogurt tubs each with approximately 200 pieces of deprimed and primer pocket-cleaned brass ready to go.

The next step will be to reload that brass and see if the cleaning has solved the high primers problem.

But that’s enough for today.

Right now I’m thinkin’ Stella Artois.

Probably two.


Note

The cause of the high primers is apparently not dirty primer pockets which is what this article is about. Although they may be a contributing factor, after cleaning the primer pockets and testing the resulting ammunition, things got worse, not better.

At the moment, the chase for the source of this problem is still in progress.

Having warned the reader, there is still some value in the following article so I leave it “as is” but with this note attached.

Ed Skinner, 3 June 2009

Reloading Room


Reloading Table

(Click to enlarge)

The newest addition is that air conditioner in the upper-left corner. With daily temperatures already over 100 in late May, it’s what you may acknowledge as a necessity here in Phoenix Arizona.

Some other features you may notice will include the “L” brackets holding the brass feeder on the top of the Dillon 650 and clamping it to the wall, two walls to be precise. For whatever reason, when I would get cranking at a regular pace, the “tower” would start to wobble and eventually feed a piece of brass upside down. Depriming an upside down shell doesn’t work. Indeed, it jams up the works pretty good. But with the head now glued to the wall as you see it, that no longer happens.

Even so, the table is bolted to the rear and side walls. The table top consists of a sheet of 1″ particle board with a sheet of 3/4″ plywood glued and screwed to its top. Just exactly how that 650 gets to rockin’ with all that is beyond me but, well, there it is.

Looking at the 650, you’ll see all the bells and whistles from Dillon. I particularly like the powder checker but, in my paranoia, you can also see the side of the red battery tube that is hose clamped to the frame and the black “snake” coming from its end that carries the wires to the white LED that is aimed down so I can look inside each shell before setting the bullet on top. Yeah, I look at how much powder is in every shell, and Dillon “feels” for it too. And so far, no squibs. (Knock on wood.)

The mechanical balance on the table is the backup and double-check for the RCBS digital scale on the shelf. RCBS equipment is green, in case you didn’t know, so that should help you spot it. Two tiny boxes just to the right of the digital scale are the check weights. Paranoia again. I turn the scale on 30 minutes before loading to let it reach a stable temperature. I then press its “Zero” button and then drop in the two tiny 2.0 grain weights. The scale should read 4.0 grains. (My wad load is 3.8 grains of Hodgdon’s Clays; I check the scale as close to that as the check weights allow.) If the scale disagrees with the check weights, then I would have to stop and figure out what’s wrong. That’s where the mechanical balance would come into play. But so far, it hasn’t been needed.

But with the new air conditioner, the timing of all this will have to change.

The reloading room is part of the garage and it’s on the west side of the house where the concrete block construction soaks up the infrared all afternoon. When the sun goes down, all that infrared re-radiating into the garage and reloading room will push the interior temperature 10 degrees above the high at the airport.

The record high in Phoenix is 118. Add 10 and you’ll understand why I haven’t done much reloading over the past several summers.

And when I did reload, I’ve noticed that I had to adjust the powder drop with the season to get those same 3.8 grains of Clays. Without doing so, summer loads would have been about 0.2 grains lighter. I presume this is because the size of that cavity in the Dillon powder drop was changing size with the temperature. Whether it is the cavity adjustment screw (of UniqueTek.com’s Micrometer Powder Bar Kit) getting longer in the heat or the cavity itself getting smaller as the metal sides adjust to the temperature, I couldn’t say. I just know it changed about 0.2 grains with a temperature change of 50 degrees or so.

But now, my new plan is to start the air conditioner an hour ahead and go back inside, possibly for dinner with a recorded NCIS episode. Half way through the show, I’ll pause it to run back out and turn on the RCBS digital scale.

With the air conditioner, I’m looking for that to be less of an issue. If it’s not, I’ll have to do some more sleuthing.

The black box on the tabletop to the left of the mechanical scale is the digital caliper. I keep two spare batteries in the box so I’m never denied its truth-telling. I’ve thought of getting a purely mechanical caliper as a double-check but, well, I’ve had no reason to suspect the caliper of any funny business. Not yet, anyway.

The rest of the stuff is typical for home shops and reloading rooms.

Oh yeah, you can see the spare license plate for the car hanging on the wall to the upper left. It’s one of those geeky obscure codes and if you know what it means, then you’re a significant as well as an “old time” geek yourself.


Under Table Storage

Beneath the table are my three buckets of brass, all 45 ACP. The left-most reads, “Clean 45 ACP (Needs Martindale)”, which refers to the Martindale gauge through which I hand-pass each and every piece of brass before I reload it.

Well, there’s one exception to that rule. I’ve been shooting some Aguila in my ball gun and that always comes to the reloader a bit fat. It won’t go through the Martindale gauge in that once-fired condition. But after resizing, reloading with the lighter wad loads and firing, it passes. It seems to be reasonably good brass so I make an exception for it. But only for that one brand, and only after the first firing. Anything that fails the Martindale gauge after that is tossed.

The use of the middle bucket should now be obvious from its label, “Once Fired.”

The right-most bucket is for dirty brass but I try to keep it empty. That is, the day after a match, I clean brass. It then goes into the “Clean 45 ACP” bucket to await the Martindale gauge. And after passing the gauge, the cleaned and gauged brass is stored in empty 1 qt yogurt containers — they hold about 200 pieces each and are the right quantity to dump into the shell feeder on the top of the Dillon without jamming it up. Those containers full of ready-to-load brass are stored out in the garage in a cabinet with other supplies.

More recently, I’ve suffered a spate of high primers, perhaps as many as 1 per 100. I shoot and reload the same brass a lot and someone suggested that after a half dozen firings, the primer pockets may accumulate enough crud to prevent the primers from seating correctly. So today I bought a primer pocket reamer and will spend a couple of hours going through everything. [Boring!]

On top of the middle bucket you can see a plastic jar labelled, “Bucket O’ Primers.” There’s about an inch of water in the jar and damaged primers go in there. In a different posting here on this blog, you can read of my researches into deactivating primers but, in a nut shell and depending on who you ask, water will do it, but only until the material dries out again, or oil will do it, or won’t, or it just can’t be done. These reports are from the companies that make them! My “final answer” came from a Phoenix Police officer who said he soaks them in water until trash day, puts them in the trash wet and hopes they make it to the city dump before reactivating.

Interesting.

The baggie you see to the right contains 38 Special brass. Only my snubbie shoots that caliber and I don’t (yet) reload for it. Someday I’ll have a nice K-38 for Bullseye and will need that brass but, for now, I’m just collecting.


Work Table

Here’s the final part of the area. This is where I clean guns, fix lamps, break small irreplaceable plastic parts and so forth.

On the extreme left you can just barely see the Lyman single-stage press I occasionally use, mostly to shrink that once-fired Aguilla brass. The press is attached to the board you see and the near end is held to the table with that large, rusty “C” clamp. The far end is held down by a screw through the board and into the work table below.

You can see a couple of bottles of Dillon’s purplish brass polish on the shelf but most of the other items are standard fare for anyone’s home workshop that’s been accumulating tools, bolts and odd parts for a couple of decades.

Off to the left is storage with most of the items being put there years ago and forgotten. Worse, of course, is the storage shed in the backyard. We haven’t seen the boxes in its deepest parts for more than a decade. And then there are the items stored in the attic above the garage we put in there when the roof was off but can’t get to now. We don’t have even the faintest of clues about what’s up there.

But that’s another story.

Keep ’em in the black, ya’ll!

Deactivating Primers?

After loading several hundred rounds of ammunition not too long ago, I then discovered that two primers had been seated sideways and one upside down. I removed the bullets and recovered the powder but decided to discard the shells with their damaged primers.

But since the primers were still live, I wondered what should I do to deactivate them?

I was a bit surprised when several individuals I consulted basically said it can’t be
done: you can’t deactivate primers.

“Surely this cannot be,” I thought. “What do Winchester, CCI and Federal do if they mess up a batch? Surely they have a way to render the material harmless?”

Doubting Thomas that I am, I decided to do some research.

Web searches turned up authoritative and lay answers in three categories: oil, water and “it can’t be done.”

Both RCBS and Dillon who manufacture ammunition reloading equipment state, in their instruction and/or on-line help files, that damaged primers should be soaked in oil or, similarly, that contact with oil will deactivate primers.

For example, Dillon says (at http://www.dillonhelp.com/rl550benglish/safety.htm), “If a primer should become lodged in a primer magazine or pick-up tube, deactivate the primers that are in the tube. Do this by filling the tube with oil, WD-40 or CRC lubricating solution.”

And RCBS, in describing how to lubricate one of their presses warns (at http://www.rcbs.com/downloads/instructions/ TurretPressInstructions.pdf), “Care should be taken not to apply oil where it could come in contact with primer pockets or primers. Oil will deactivate primers.”

But in spite of those, one lay shooter reported (at http://www.handloads.com/forum/showthread.asp?topic=2&thread=2491) that, after a short soak in various oil-based substances (incl. Hoppes #9 and WD-40), his primers would all still go “Bang!”

Confirming this, a different web site (http://www.predatormastersforum.com/ killprimers.shtml) reports on methodical experiments that were conducted. The experimenter found that, even when soaked in water or oil, some brands of primers will re-activate once they’ve dried out.

“Ok,” I said to myself, “let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth. Let’s ask Winchester, CCI and Federal, all of whom make primers.”

I visited their websites, found the place to submit a question and asked each one the same question, “How can I safely deactivate primers?”

Federal responded:

> RE: Ammo Inquiry from Federal Web Site
> Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2006 16:20:39 -0500
> From: "Prodserv" 
> To: "Ed Skinner" 
>
> Soak them in penetrating oil.

Winchester, after a couple of phone calls, responded by telephone:

"Soak them in oil for a couple of days."

And Linda at CCI responded by email:

> I suggest taking them to your local HAZMAT folks for
> disposal. The regulations for 'proper' disposal may
> vary, depending on where you live.

Good idea!

I Googled-up the state of Arizona web pages and, therein, found the government department in charge of hazardous material regulations.
In two minutes I had them on the phone.

“Uhm, that’s not on our list. Try the Police Department.”

The Police connected me to the bomb squad — am I now on their “Watch” list? — who, after considerable discussion amongst themselves (several of whom were reloaders) said if the quantity was small, I should soak them in water and then put them in the trash. I could swear there were heads nodding in the background as they added, by the time the primers dry-out and re-activate, they should be safely buried at the city dump.

I relayed this somewhat surprising answer back to Linda at CCI. She responded, “They are correct that the primers will be active again once they dry out and I am a bit surprised they will eventually be buried at the dump but I am sure they know what is best.”

After all this, I conclude that the only effective way to make a primer inert is to fire it.

In all cases, of course, you should wear suitable eye and ear protection.

Then, if the primer is intact and already in an otherwise empty shell, fire it (in a safe direction).

If it is loose, one person said they hit them with a hammer (one at a time). But note that one primer is comparable to an M-80 firecracker which can do considerable damage: one primer is decidedly more powerful than hitting toy gun caps one at a time, or even a whole role of caps all at once. Fun maybe but safe?

I also found a report that primers can also be “cooked off” on a hot plate with a cover or as another person reported, in a pressure cooker with a loose lid on the kitchen stove. [Oh yeah, my wife would like that, all right.]

Burning them in a fire where they go “Bang” and scatter live sparks is another questionable but occasionally reported approach to “deactivating” primers.

Regardless, the bottom line is that primers can’t be deactivated.
One way or another, you gotta make them go “Bang!”

Anything short of that and they are still dangerous, now and in the future.