Boxer vs Berdan primers - Reloadable or not

Hello guys.

What is of interest to me is why cartridges with Berdan primers are not reloadable while the Boxer ones are. I know that those with Berdan primers don’t have an internal anvil compared to the other ones with Boxer primers which have the internal anvil. Is this the main reason?
Besides that, cartridges loaded with Berdan primers usually had steel or bimetal cases as they were produced in former USSR and the Eastern Block and are of course still produced nowadays. Boxer primers are contained, from what I know, in most of the cases in brass cases cartridges. So, how much does the case material influence if you can reload a cartridge or not?

Thanks to anyone who tried to clear things up for me.
Bogdan

The vast majority of European/Western military small arms ammunition used and use Berdan primed brass cases. Mostly due to the idea that the two flash holes ensure the ignition and deflagration of the powder.
As an example, Norwegian 7,62x51 ammunition has been mfgd. with Berdan primers since it started production in 1967, until the end of production in the mid 2000s.
Our new 5,56 was initially Boxer primers in Berdan cases (without the fixed anvil), today it is exclusively Boxer primed Boxer flashhole cases.

The main issues with reloading Berdan are 1. the two non-centric flash holes, making it much more difficult to deprime (ie. remove the struck primer), and 2. the availability of Berdan primers for civilians.
Some mfgs. like RWS still make Berdan primers, but in low numbers for the civilian market, and the primers themselves plus the priming tools are much more expensive than the so much more common Boxers.

Many home loaders use tools based on hydraulic pressure (ie a piston pushing into a water filled case, shooting out the primer when the pressure gets high enough), or “claw” type extractors, with which once pivots the tool around the case bottom, the claw bites into the primer, and then pulls it out.

These are much slower manual ways to remove primers compared to the “ejection pin” method one uses with Boxer cases, where a single stroke of a pin is enough to eject the used primers. in this method there is just a little pin that fits inside the flash channel and hits the inside of the primer, pushing it out.

As for the case material -
As you know, the type of dies (carbide or not) often dictates if one needs lube or not on the cases one work on.
As far as I am told (EOD or someone else might tell me I’m very wrong here!), steel cases will work harden under firing due to the pressure. This makes them harder and more brittle, and they will in addition to wearing out loading equipment much faster, also not last very long.

I’ve heard of people reloading steel cases but I cannot think of one single cartridge I would use time and energy on doing it for, unless there was no available source for brass cases, whatsoever.

Hopefully this was helpful.
Ole

Yep, very helpful indeed. Thanks Ole!

Bogdan,
the entire German military and civilian ammunition production until a relatively short time ago was Berdan primed. Your view that Berdan was primarily used in the Eastern Bloc therefore does not hold.

Only with more and more shooters in Germany starting reloading and seeing how much simpler foreign Boxer primed cases were to re-prime, our domestic civilian production started very, very slowly to switch to Boxer (in the seventies).
German military production made the switch still much later, but not with reloaders in mind but due to the necessities of heavy metal free priming mixes. The 7.62 NATO DM111 introduced in the early nineties still had Berdan primers. The 7.62 x 67 (.300 Win Mag) seems to have introduced Boxer primers on a general basis. Several 9 mm use Boxer primers but have two flasholes.

Interesting facts regarding Germany, Peelen, thanks. What I’ve said about the Berdan usage was more focused on the old USSR cartridges, like the ones from the sixties. Also applied on our Romanian cartridges from the same period.

It was the greater space the Berdan provided for bulky priming mixes over the Boxer (all things being equal) that led Frankford Arsenal in the late 1920s and early '30s to experiment with Berdan primers that better accomodated the noncorrosive mixes of the time. Jack

It all started when Hiram Berdan (US) exported his rifles using his primers to the USSR in 1868.
Then Edvard Mounier Boxer who at the time worked for the UK Royal Arsenal “invented” the primer named after him. It was first finalised when he moved to the US and started working for Winchester, here a local foreman did the finishing touches and got it to work.

In the military there is a lot of “monkey see monkey do” so the Mauser brothers looked long and hard at the Russian Berdan rifles when they got comissioned to change the Dreyse needle fire rifles to metallic centerfire cartridges. And every one in Europe copied the Germans over time. Many countries bought US Remington Rolling Block rifles (1867) but they were all rimfire so switching to centerfire came decades later.

Thats why we use your system and why you use an European system.

From a pure techincal point of view Berdan Primers are relodable with some restrictions and / or excessive more work:

  • cases have to be brass
  • there are mechanical and hydraulical depriming systems available for reloaders
  • RWS offers Berdan Primers
  • even crimped primers can be removed but reworking on the primer pocket is sometimes necessary
    In the end if somone wants to do this job out of reasons like if no other brass is available ok.
    I tried this once for 6.5x55 swedish military ammunition and it was very difficult (I used a mechaical depriming tool from RCBS) not to damage the anvil. Result for me: Makes no sense for standard calibers but could get interesting for more rare calibers.

Whilst This is a “no-no” reloading question, I will add some technical
and Cartridge design notes which do not infringe the spirit of the rule:
Berdan primers were used by most militaries from the 1880s and earlier, with some exceptions: USA, and the Vetterli cartridge in Italy…originally Boxer, then changed to Berdan in early 1900s.

Most Nations reloaded cartridges in the Barracks armoury and Area Depots…cases were expensive, and once-fired cases were used for training reloads and blanks.
In BP days, Germany had a hydraulic decapper, forthe M71 Mauser case, and by the time of the 1888 cartridge ( smokeless) had a geared mechanical chisel decapper to rapidly decap Patrone 88 ( and S-patrone) cases fed from a hopper ( photos of both types on GB archives).

Georg Roth instead, patented the central flash-hole Berdan Primer
( used in nearly all Steyr using countries…Holland, Portugal, Greece, Romania, Austria-Hungary, and also Poland and Czechoslakia)
All these countries did military reloading till 1918, and some till
1941…Dutch Indonesia under Japanese continued till 1945 or so.
The central flashhole allowed both hydraulic and central pin decapping.
By the time stab crimping was adopted for MG( esp. Air use), reloading had disappeared in Germany and France etc.
Britain never reloaded its .303, due to the Cordite Assembly system, and only Blanks were factory made, usually from broken down Ball ammo, or once fired cases with Nitro powder.
The main reason for European use of the Berdan anvil system, was that the Primers were much easier and safer to make… and the case was formed with the anvil in place, and flash holes drilled rather than punched. ( spade drills were cheaper than flash-hole punches)

i have also found that reliability of primer ignition is better with Berdan Primers, for both Mechanical and Architectual ( design) reasons.

Doc AV…Berdanner where possible since 1967…
Down Under.
[/quote]

whilst This is a “no-no” reloading question, I will add some technical
And Cartridges design notes which do not infringe the spirit of the rule:
Berdan primers were used by most militaries from the 1880s and earlier, with some exceptions: USA, and the Vetterli cartridge in Italy…originally Boxer, then changed to Berdan in early 1900s.

Most Nations reloaded cartridges in the Barracks armoury and Area Depots…cases were expensive, and once-fired cases were used for training reloads and blanks.
In BP days, Germany had a hydraulic decapper, and by the time of the 1888 cartridge ( smokeless) had a geared mechanical chisel decapper to rapidly decap Patrone 88 cases fed from a hopper ( photos of both types on GB archives)

Georg Roth instead, patented the central flash-hole Berdan Primer
( used in nearly all Steyr using countries…Holland, Portugal, Greece, Romania, Austria-Hungary, and also Poland and Czechoslakia)
All these countries did military reloading till 1918, and some till
1941…Dutch Indonesia under Japanese continued till 1945 or so.
The central flashhole allowed both hydraulic and central pin decapping.
By the time stab crimping was adopted for MG( esp. Air use), reloading had disappeared in Germany and France etc.
Britain never reloaded its .303, due to the Cordite system, and only Blanks were factory made, usually from broken down Ball ammo.
The main reason for European use of the Berdan anvil system, was that the Primers were much easier and safer to make… and the case was formed with the anvil in place, and flash holes drilled rather than punched. ( spade drills were cheaper than flash hole punches)

I have also found that reliability of primer ignition is better with Berdan Primers, for both Mechanical and Architectual ( design) reasons.

Doc AV…Berdanner where possible since 1967…
Down Under.