Here is a brief pictorial explanation of what a
primer is and how it works.
Wolf Small Pistol Primer
This is a picture of a
Pistol Primer used for reloading small pistol caliber
ammunitions. Tweezers are used to handle the primers.
You are not suppose to touch them with your fingers or
hands as contamination with body oils may degrade the
primers and cause a malfunction.
A primer is made up of
3 major components, the anvil, the case and the impact
The anvil is the brass colored
triangular insert. The pink color is the explosive, and
the case is the silver colored outer shell.
(inverted view) holds the shock sensitive explosive
against the bottom of the primer and also provide a
"flash hole" for the flame to ignite the gun powder.
This picture shows a used empty
case (cup). Note the indentation in the bottom
caused by the striking of a firing pin.
Shock Sensitive Explosive
is commonly used in primers. It is classified as an
extremely sensitive initiating explosive.
Bottom view of a
primer. This is where the firing pin of the gun hits the
Factory Installed (Blazer
This picture shows unfired primers
installed in Blazer Brass factory 9mm Luger ammunition.
9mm Luger Ammo
This picture shows a variety of used
primers in 9mm Luger cases. Note the different shapes
and indents caused by the firing pins.
These pictures show an assortment of
used primers (face up and face down) after they have
been removed from 9mm Luger cases.
What Is A Primer?
With regard to firearms, it is a
device used for containing an explosive shock sensitive compound
that may be exploded by percussion or other means for the
purpose of igniting a charge of gun powder.
How Does A Modern Pistol Primer Work?
A modern pistol primer is a small metal
container (cup) that is open on one end and rounded on the
other. This cup is usually made from a soft metal such as brass
or copper. A small amount of an impact sensitive explosive
compound (commonly lead styphnate) is placed in the cup and is
held against the back of the cup by a three legged metal
"anvil". A sealant may be applied to the anvil and explosive
compound to guard against moisture and exposure from oils and
chemicals (contamination). The sudden impact of a firing pin on
the back of the primer dents the back of the cup inward and
squeezes the explosive between the anvil and the wall of the
cup. This impact causes the explosive to detonate shooting a
small flame forward through the flash hole igniting the gun
powder inside the bullet casing. The rapidly burning gun powder (smokeless powder)
increases the pressure in the casing and forces the bullet down
the barrel of the gun.
What is Lead Styphnate?
Lead Styphnate is classified as an extremely
sensitive initiating explosive. According the MSDS it is not
flammable or combustible. It will explode at high temperatures
(626 Deg. F) and becomes unstable with mechanical shock, impact
or electrical (static) discharge.
Can you safely "pop" a primer by shooting it (primer
In empty case) in a gun?
Yes, but use care and under supervision. I
shot one in a Glock 19 and it caused a jam because it did not
have enough force to cycle the slide.
Have you ever removed a live primer using the press? Any
Using a press is the proper way to remove it for reuse or discard. When doing so, wear eye/face
protection and try to keep your face and body as far away as
possible when operating the press.
Is it OK to stack primer boxes on one another?
It is not recommended. In theory if one box
somehow ignited it may ignite all below it.
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