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Remington 1½ pistol primers are somewhat unique in the world of small pistol primers. They are the only small pistol primer I’m aware of that comes with a warning regarding their use in specific pistol calibers. Most small pistol primers come in two flavors, standard and magnum, their use generally being tailored around what powder one uses. Likewise, most pistol powders are sufficiently ignited with standard primers, while some pistol powders, ball powders like Hodgdon H110 and Winchester 296 for example, benefit from the extra spark of magnum primers to help them burn efficiently.
But Remington’s 1½ and 5½ small pistol primers don’t necessarily fall into the standard versus magnum category that distinguishes between gunpowders. There is a special warning on the 1½ primer box indicating that they are not suitable for certain high pressure cartridges. The warning reads, “Do not use 1½ small pistol primers in high intensity pistol cartridges such as the .357 Magnum, .357 SIG and the .40 S&W. Damage to your firearm and/or personal injury may result.
Indeed, Remington’s ballistics tables list the recommended primers for each caliber that Remington loads, handgun and rifle. The 1½ primers are listed for the 25 Auto, .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 S&W, .38 Short Colt and .38 Special. None of these cartridges exceed 25,000 psi peak chamber pressure limits. Surprisingly, the 1½ primer is also listed for the 9mm Luger, the 9mm +P and .38 Super. These latter calibers are not low pressure.
The 9mm Luger has a SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) pressure limit of 35,000 psi, and the +P version’s limit is 38,500 psi. The .38 Super has a SAAMI pressure limit of 36,500 psi. These compare with the .357 Magnum and .40 S&W pressure limit of 35,000 psi, and the .357 SIG’s limit of 40,000 psi. If the 1½ primer is not appropriate for the .357 Magnum and .40 S&W, how can it be appropriate for the 9mm, 9mm +P and .38 Super, which have the same—or even higher pressure limits?
This has caused confusion among some reloaders, myself included. In fact, I was unaware of this warning when I first bought 1½ primers and used them in 9mm Luger loads. I thought the 1½ primers were “standard” primers, and the 5½ primers were “magnum” primers, since that is how they are listed in many primer charts.
I was surprised when some of my 9mm loads with 1½s had pierced primers. My first inclination was to think that I loaded them too hot, perhaps by error. However, the same loads with other brands of primers showed no sign of excess pressure. Why were the Remington primers reacting differently?
At some point, I learned about Remington’s warning. Then it made sense—they aren’t designed to handle high pressure. Since then, I’ve used the 1½ primer in 9mm Luger with mixed results. With some 9mm loads, the primers had no evidence of primer flow. In other loads, the 1½ primers had primer flow when other primer brands did not. In extreme cases, the 1½ primers were pierced.
Remington’s recommended use of the 1½ primer implies a difference in cup thickness or cup strength such that the 1½ won’t handle the same amount of pressure as the 5½, or other brands of small pistol primers that don’t have warnings about using them in particular cartridges.
What happens if you use 1½ primers in loads that you shouldn’t? Excessive flow of primer metal can result in some of it being sheared off and ending up in your firing pin hole. This can block the firing pin, resulting in misfires.
Pierced primers can instantly plug the firing pin hole and can also result in firing pin and breech face erosion from hot, high pressure gas. Gas erosion is bad news for your gun. An eroded firing pin tip will itself cause pierced primers, because of its uneven shape.
There is also the potential that you, the shooter, are at risk of getting a blast of hot gas and primer metal in the face. Obviously this could have serious consequences, including eye damage. Always wear safety glasses when shooting anything!
Being a leader in both the firearms and ammunition industry Remington knows how important it is to have the highest quality ammunition available to make your firearm perform to its fullest potential. This starts with using the best components possible to manufacture ammunition.
These are the same primers Remington uses in the production of their own ammunition and performs to their highest standards. If you want the best possible out of your firearm you have to start with the best that’s why reloaders choose Remington components for their loads.
Within every Remington primer is a group of subcomponents assembled to exceptionally tight tolerances. Primer cup dimensions are controlled to .0001″, and the priming mix is specially formulated for consistent ignition with a wide variety of powder types. Primers are tested for reliability from -20 degrees F to +150 degrees F. The unique tripod anvil design creates a larger strike area with maximum sensitivity, even with off center firing pin strikes.