Regarding your CCI primers with the box marked “Inert,” they are just that. I cannot speak for now, but when I was still active in the firearms business, CCI would provide inert primers for dealer use in demonstrating loading machines. Somewhere around my house I still have a partial box of either pistol or rifle primers, I forget. It really didn’t matter with the inert primers if they were pistol or rifle, only whether they were amll or large size, or shotgun.
I just remembered where mine were, and found them. They are CCI 500 Small pistol primers. The box is market INERT on the top and the bottom. The bottom of the box also has the advisory “Not for sale” below the word “INERT.” We honored that advisory, and never sold any of our inert prrimers. It is my recollection that CCI would only provide them to dealers; never to a private individual. Other markings on the box are for live primers, so are of no use in the identification of inert cups.
In the case of the metallic cartridge primers, they have an anvil in them, but it is easy to see that they have no priming compound. Further, at the time, primers from CCI were in nickeled cups, whereas these inert pistol primers of mine are in a cup that could best be described as “tarnished brass” in color (and were that way new - they are NOT corroded or tarnished in the true sense).
When we closed the store, we had a box of these missing a few primers from demonstrations, so I brought them home for my own use. I have never had occasion to use them yet, 8 years later. Unfortunately for collecting, I have let the box get somewhat dirty moving it around, and since the “INERT” marking on the top was illegible, I wrote “Inert” at the top. I did that while they were still at the store. At the time, safety was much more a concern to me than collectability, since I knew no one who collected primer boxes, and we were using these for demonstrations of loading tools. Of course now, I wish I had bought a full carton for myself so that I could have given them out to collectors. I now recall that we didn’t bother with large pistol, as our demonstrations were always with .38 Special (plentiful cases from our exchange brass, and cheapest lead bullets), but we did have shotgun also. If we wanted to demonstrate rifle, it was .223, again cheap brass and we had some cheap G.I. bullets. Of course, it mattered not at all that the inert primers were marked “small pistol.” We simply used them in demonstrating rifle cartridge loading.
Because to demonstrate the quality of a reload with a shotgun shell, unlike a metallic, they had to have powder in them and the correct wad and shot load for that powder (otherwise, the crimp can either collapse, or the shot charge can over-fill the case), we also had, from Hercules company, phoney Red Dot Powder. It looked like red dot, and had the same volume and consistency for loading completely inert shells correctly and flowing through a measuring device correctly, but it was completely inert. I don’t recall how it was packaged, other than that there was no mistaking the labeling for real, volatile powder. I did not look on these things as collector items then, simply as tools of the trade, even though I was a cartridge collector even before I went to work in the gun trade. I should have made notes on them, and kept samples of the packaging of the powder, as well as the primers. Well, life is full of “I should have’s.”
I hope this is of some general interest. I haven’t thought of this stuff for years, until the question asked here, and perhaps this is boring. I think, though, that I shall take better care of this primer box I have from now on. I had actually forgotten that I had it.