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Primer flattening on 1st 9mm reloads

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Harriw, Jun 18, 2019.

  1. Harriw

    Harriw Member

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    Hi folks,

    I finally got out to try my first 9mm reloads today, and am a bit perplexed by the results. All the rounds I tested functioned properly, and though I don't have a chrono, all results seemed more-or-less as expected. Minimum powder charges had less recoil, case eject was a bit weaker than with the higher loads, etc. The first 5 rounds I tested at each step I fired by loading a single round in the magazine, and the slide locked back each and every time.

    However, even at the minimum powder charge, I started noticing a little bit of primer flattening. This became more prevalent as I worked my way up to higher powder charges. However, these should be very low-pressure loads, and I was hoping to get some input on what may be going on here.

    Just for background info, I've been reloading shotshells on a MEC 600 Jr. for several years (caught the skeet bug), but am new to brass reloading. For my first go, I wanted to stick to published data as much as possible. I used Hornady 115 Gr FMJ bullets (PN 35557), HS-6 powder, and loaded 10 rounds each using powder charges pulled straight from the Hornady manual. To stay on the safe side, I started at their minimum and loaded up test rounds of the next 2 steps they suggest as well, skipping the max load entirely. That'd be 10 rounds at 5.7gr, 5.9gr, and 6.2gr. These were all in wet-tumbled Federal cases, though I didn't trim them. I used Winchester primers, but as I had both magnum and regular pistol primers on hand, I loaded a 30-round set using both types of primers (I'd heard HS-6 often works better with magnum primers, and wanted to try to find a loading for both types anyway just for flexibility's sake). C.O.L. specified in the Hornady manual for this bullet is 1.100". Via plink test in my CZ-85 and Star BM, I found that i could go as long as 1.139" with this bullet without hitting the lands. So I settled on 1.130" as my target OAL to provide a bit of breathing room in terms of "plink," but still stay well above the minimum C.O.L. In the end, my rounds averaged about 1.132", varying by +/- .001 or so - i was quite pleased by the precision actually. For what it's worth, the Factory Federal rounds I like (seem to be much cleaner than the Winchester White Box in my guns) have an OAL of around 1.150." But the bullet has a different profile - seems to be a bit "pointier," so it makes sense that this would work fine with a longer OAL.

    I tested both the regular SPP and magnum SPP loads today, but only fired the rounds loaded using the minimum charge, and the next charge up (that'd be 5.7 gr and 5.9 gr). I'm seeing what I'd say is fairly significant primer flattening with the 5.9gr load, and one or two rounds showing it from the 5.7gr load. Just to be safe, I packed up and didn't test any of my 6.2gr loads.

    However... Both these loads are at or near the bottom of the powder charge range, and my OAL is quite a bit longer than the specified minimum - pressure shouldn't be an issue here. In addition, there don't seem to be any other signs of high pressure. Recoil, ejection, function, etc. all seem to be what I expected for a lower power load. When I got home I went over my fired cases, my un-fired 6.2gr loads, and some factory Federal rounds with my calipers. I really don't see a major discrepancy anywhere. Crimp diameter is within 0.001" on the un-fired rounds, and there's no case bulging on the fired cases. In addition, my gun was filthy... grains of unfired powder everywhere, which would also be somewhat expected from light, low-pressure loads? Everything I can measure looks good, and all signs seem to indicate this is a normal light load... except the flat primers.

    I did do quite a bit of digging, and was thinking this may be a head-space problem. To test that theory, I pulled the barrel from my CZ, inserted one of my reloads, and measured length from cartridge base to barrel tip. Then I did the same with a factory federal cartridge. I see more variation from round-to-round for factory ammo than I do from factory to my reloads. Which makes sense, as this is really just measuring case length in a convoluted way... As long as my crimp isn't so tight that the case mouth slips past where it should sit in the barrel? But the diameter of my taper crimps match the factory federal rounds as well, so I don't think that's the case...

    I know Winchester primers are on the "softer" side of the spectrum so maybe it wouldn't be too shocking to see flat primers from them... but I'm comparing them to the factory federal rounds I shot today, and the federal rounds don't really show any primer flattening at all... And aren't federal primers supposed to be even softer??? Or are the primers federal uses in their factory ammo different from what we buy from them for reloading?

    I'm just not sure what to make of this, or where to go from here. I'm fairly sure both these loads are "safe," but at least the 5.7gr load makes a mess of my gun so I'd like to try some heavier loads... but want to make sure that's safe first.

    One final note I should mention... These were loaded on a Hornady LNL AP. I was rather meticulous about setting up the powder drop, and did quite a bit of weight checking on an RCBS 505. I did notice quickly that the powder drop would vary between loading in "single stage" vs "progressive" mode (when loading one round at a time, you have 3 or 4 handle pulls to shake more powder into the measure before actually dumping it into the cartridge, where as in full progressive mode, there's only one handle pull before the powder charge gets dumped). So although I did load some of these in single-stage mode and some in progressive mode, I stuck with one mode through each set of 10 rounds, and spot-checked my powder throws as I went (I probably measured 4 out of the 10 rounds from each set). All that to say I'm fairly confident in my powder charges. But it's also possible I goofed in my measurements somehow.

    Sorry to ramble on so much - just wanted to get as much information in as I could think of. I'm sure there's more I'm missing, but I'll happily provide any additional info I can. I also uploaded pictures of my fired cases... Blue headstamps are the 5.7gr loads, and green are the 5.9gr loads. The un-fired cartridges to the left are my 6.2gr loads (2 left-most columns), and Factory Federal rounds for comparison (2 right-most columns). There's also a few Federal and Winchester fired cases in the center for comparison purposes. Please note that the 2 missing primers I removed after the fact to check the primer pockets and examine the primers themselves - they weren't blown out or anything.

    Regular Primers:
    20190618_001122.jpg

    Magnum Primers:
    20190618_001131.jpg

    Thanks very, very much for any insight any of you might have!

    Thanks.

    -Bill H
     
  2. joneb

    joneb Member

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    Something I have noticed is that 9x19 brass can vary greatly between different head stamps. So what may seem right in one case may not be right in another. This is good to know if you are loading at the upper end of your data.
    It is wise to reference multiple sources of data, I am sure better advise will come soon.
    I am sometimes annoyed by Alliant's data as it gives a max load and then in a foot note it says to reduce by 10% to start, this could be missed by some.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
  3. sparkyv

    sparkyv Member

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    I'm perplexed, Harriw. Sounds like you are doing everything right. I've only heard about loading light, like LRDGCO indicated, but never experienced it my self, and I nearly always seat COAL longer than published data like you are doing. HS6 is slower powder than I use for 9mm, but it should be just fine.

    Two things of note: 1. Why magnum primers? I've never had a need to do this for 9mm. 2. It's hard to make out the flattened primers from your images. They don't look too bad to me.

    I'll have to think about this some more...:scrutiny:
     
  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    HS-6 likes mag primers in general, maybe not in the small 9MM case though. Dunno, but I didn't use one when I tried HS-6 in 9MM with 115 Gr RN bullets.

    I would be inclined to follow the advice @LRDGCO gave.
     
  5. Hooda Thunkit

    Hooda Thunkit Member

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    Those primers don't look flat. The edges (corners?) are still rounded. Flattened primers will completely fill the pocket, with no rounded edge visible.

    I have never used mag primers when loading 9mm, over 30 years of reloading.

    HS-6 is a wonderful powder for full power 9mm loads. It's a fairly dense ball powder, of the correct speed. It doesn't do as well with reduced loads.
     
  6. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    Hornady load data tends to be more conservative than other data. You are loading the bullet a tad longer that their test. So as mentioned you have a pretty light load (1000 fps per their test)

    I am not a fan of HS6, yes some folks say it needs a mag primer but it doesn't do well at light loads.

    The Hodgdon Data is a different bullet (Gold Dot HP) so it is not the same as a Hornady RN (the OAL will be different plus it "technically" is a plated bullet for those that like to pick nits:))

    Do you have anu other powders? If so try them or if not just increase you HS6 load.
     
  7. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    None of those primers are flat, or showing any signs of excessive pressure. Carry on.
     
  8. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    I agree with two major points being made here.

    The first is looking at the pictures the OP isn't really flattening primers.

    Second, HS-6 is not the best powder for what the OP is trying to accomplish. Too slow.
     
  9. Harriw

    Harriw Member

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    Hi folks,

    Thanks very much for all the replies so far! I tried to get a few better pictures - let's see how these look:

    clockwise from top left: WIN casing I picked up at the range yesterday (presumably with a Winchester primer for reference); 5.7gr casing that does not show what I thought was a flattened primer; 5.7gr casing that I thought did show some flattening; 5.9gr casing (worst non-magnum-primered casing I had); 2 factory federal casings fired from my gun yesterday - this is what I'm used to seeing.
    20190618_083307.jpg

    Same arrangement, just a different view
    20190618_083225.jpg

    I did see the GDHP 115 Gr. data, as well as the 115 Gr. LRN data in the Hodgdon manual, and figured the Hornady data would be a better starting point since it's the exact bullet. I do notice though that Hornady's data for their hollow points seems to use smaller charges than Hodgdon's data for the GDHP. Hodgdon also uses a slightly longer COAL though so that could be why.

    As for the magnums... I had some Dick's coupons to use up, and it's all Field and Stream had (no regular SPP). I did pick up some IMR Target from them as well. I found regular SPP and the HS-6 as my LGS a week or so later, but had already bought the magnums as a fall-back. When researching the HS-6 (didn't know anything about it, but LGS didn't have any of the bullseye, W231, unique, universal, etc. that I had been hoping for) I came across the suggestions to use magnum primers, and thought why not since I have them. I stuck with the HS-6 since I had the Hodgdon data specifically for that powder and bullet combination (vs. extrapolating from another bullet using the Hodgdon data for IMR Target).

    Sounds like I'm good to proceed with my 6.2gr loads though, and maybe load a few at the 6.4gr max as well.

    Regarding LRDGCO's comments on primer movement... I've read about this being caused by excessive headspace (https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/9mm-flattened-primers.609817/), but hadn't heard of this being caused by low pressure. That could certainly explain this though.

    Thanks again for all the input!

    -Bill H
     
  10. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    One reason I like Win small primers is they show some flattening at normal pressures, plus they seat so easily.
    Yours look like my 9mm target loads, and I'm not at max load.

    My 357 loads with Win primers are flatter, with the corners of the primers tight to the top of the pocket. When I use CCI primers with the same load, they are not nearly as flat.

    IME HS-6 is too slow for light bullets in 9mm.
     
  11. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Agree, those are not what I would call "flattened" primers.
    HS 6 will get you a lot of velocity in 9mm but if loaded down, it is the only powder I have ever shot that would foul out the gun.
     
  12. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Lubricate your cases and fire them lubricated and see if the edges are now rounded.

    Primers are unreliable at indicating pressure. Your best indication of over pressures is blown, pierced, and leaking primers. And when you see those signs you are well over any safe pressure. We all attempt to read pressures by primer roundness but especially in semi automatic mechanisms. that can be fraught with failure and frustration.

    When I first started shooting lubricated cases in my M1a's, to extend case life, loads that produced flat primers now showed rounded primers. How could this be? Was adding lubricant on the outside of a brass case lowering combustion pressures on the inside? Well, no. Just as adding a lubricant on the outside of a case does not increase combustion pressures either.

    Rarely have I experienced the phenomena shown in the picture below, but it explains what I was seeing in my M1a. These cases were fired dry, in a dry chamber, and the case to chamber adhesion was enough to fix the case in place, pressures were low enough not to stretch the case sidewalls, and the primers backed out to the bolt face. That distance above the case head is the amount I push the case walls back on sizing.

    JRQ7Ijz.jpg

    What happens during combustion is that pressure inside the case push the primer back. Early in the combustion phase the case is locked to the chamber walls, but as pressures rise, the case stretches to the bolt face, stuffing the primer back in the case. If the primer expands in the slightest, and why wouldn't it?, the primers on the ejected case will appear flattened, giving a false indication of high pressure.

    Now if the case is lubricated, I believe the primer backs out on ignition, but before pressures rise enough to expand the primer cup, the case slides back over the primer, reseating it, and if pressures are low, cup edges appear rounded.

    The shooting community is absolutely fearful of lubricating cases, and thereby following these irrational fears, have discarded a useful technique for estimating load pressures. I regularly lubricate cases as I develop loads and regularly see the transition between round and flat primers. In fact, I consider it nonsense to attempt to estimate pressures,based on primer roundness, if the cases are not lubricated. I mean, what are you looking at if you fire dry cases in dry chamber? You are interpreting nonsense as you have created the least consistent test conditions.

    So, lubricate your cases and see if the primers are round in your lowest pressure loads.

    There are very real limitations even in this practice. You can have blown or leaking primers even with rounded primers. I don't know why that happens. I will say, for rifles, that whenever I see the transition from rounded to flat, I am at, or I have exceeded safe pressures. The transition is not an exact point of over pressure. I don't know why, but you know, pressures vary just as much as velocity, so once in a while, there is a 5 , 7, or even 10 thousand pound variation of pressure for the same charge, and that will breech the pressure container.

    There is flattened, and then there is really flattened

    HhVuFR6.jpg

    And a great example of an overpressure load:

    0I8tTDx.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  13. Jack B.

    Jack B. Member

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    Looks normal to me.
     
  14. kmw1954

    kmw1954 Member

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    All look like normally fired primers to me. Don't see any high ones either.
    I tend to stay away from full power Max loads with my reloads as I just don't feel the need to pound my guns. I usually quit at .2gr below Max... My opinion is if I really need more Power then it's time to move up a caliber or two.
     
  15. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    As many have stated, I don't see any flat primers there. The 9mm is a fairly high-pressure round, and a mid-range 9mm is going to do more pressure-based deformation of a primer than a max 45 ACP.

    I use HS-6 for my 9mm Major competition loads. Here is a picture of a fired primer (along with a loaded round and the projectile, an RMR 124 grain JHP). The blue color is just Dykem Blue for case ID purposes.

    Flat primer.jpg

    This is a fairly flat primer, as to be expected for a well-over-book load (intended for use solely out of a purpose-built competition gun with a compensator). This is with more powder than you report, and a heavier bullet, and CCI primers.

    Here are some other observations:
    • As others have noted, HS-6 isn't the best for plinking-level loads. It works, it's just not very efficient and will generate more soot and recoil than necessary. I'm using a lot of it right now, but if I were just loading some general target-shooting 9mm rounds with no absurd power factor requirement, I would look at somewhat faster powders.
    • The reloading manuals really stress the importance of not reducing COL, but beware that jamming the bullet into the lands will also raise pressures. If you're getting some kind of pressure problems (and I don't see any evidence that you are), assuming you are measuring the powder correctly, then a land-interference situation is the most likely culprit. If that's happening, then slightly reducing the length (so that the round will plunk and spin freely in the chamber when plunked) is the corrective measure.
    • I haven't found mag SP primers necessary for HS-6 in 9mm. I suspect the case is so full that full ignition is easily achieved. In a more spacious case, like 10mm, I have sometimes used magnum primers with that powder. But in 9mm, I haven't found it necessary.
    Good for you for stopping when you saw something that gave you doubt. Better to stop and consult the wisdom of the crowd than forge ahead... that said, I don't see any alarmingly flat primers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  16. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    BTW, are you experiencing any bullet setback?

    Just to be sure, measure OAL before and after chambering dummy rounds (No primer, No powder) from magazine without riding the slide.
     
  17. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    I loaded some warm 10mm auto that was a standard load for what I like. It is a few tenths of a grain below max. Recoil seemed a bit sharper than normal on this particular batch. I checked the primers on spent cases and they looked a lot flatter than the ones pictured. :eek: I stopped shooting that batch, took them home and checked them. Pulled a bullet and checked the charge. Fine. ??????? Then I checked the dimensions. Crimp seemed fine. However the OAL was a few thousandths short. WTH is this?????? I think they were coming in at like 1.25" OAL but varied.

    Turns out my die had somehow gotten worked lose and somehow gotten set a little lower than it should be.

    I learned a good lesson that day to check my dies, and sample my loaded ammo more frequently for specs. I ended up throwing the remaining 40 rounds into my kinetic puller, whacking them a few times to loosen them up, reseated and crimped, and then they shot fine.

    I am not saying that's your problem, just that I've experienced flat primers, and those do not look like a problem to me. None the less, if they aren't what you are used to I suppose working up a new load with different components isn't a bad idea.
     
  18. Jonesy814

    Jonesy814 Member

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    Dont look flat to me either, and I’ve seen some flat ones
     
  19. reddog81

    reddog81 Member

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    There are no flattened primers in those pictures. Google "flat 9mm primer" and take note of the primers that have extruded to fill up the edges of the primer pocket. Your primers still have rounded edges and look much closer to a normal primer versus a flattened primer.
     
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  20. higgite

    higgite Member

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    I don't have any pictures to post, but the primers that I've seen flattened by high pressure had mushroomed out to completely fill the primer pocket to the point of almost blending into the case head. Flat all the way across the case head. The ones in OP's pics are a long way from that.
     
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  21. 1MoreFord

    1MoreFord Member

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    OP, J M Plaxco once went down to S America and taught a class. There were some folks down there making, or trying to make, major with 9mm's in other than 1911's. He brought back a few examples of their fired brass and the primers were almost double their normal diameter flattened against the head of the brass.:eek: THAT'S flattened primers. Your's aren't.;)
     
  22. Harriw

    Harriw Member

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    Thanks for setting me straight everybody! I'll load up a few with heavier charges and see how it goes. (and will get myself some faster powder in parallel). Thanks again!
     
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  23. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Even though these have a good flat spot across most of the primer, the edges of the primers are still rounded.
    FC Test Brass Headstamp Pic 2 @ 75%.JPG

    Some more examples.
    Primers From Silhouette Load @ 56%.JPG
     
  24. Harriw

    Harriw Member

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    Forgot to answer this one, sorry. I was seeing some early on, but increased my crimp to get it under control. I realized afterwards my testing was probably a bit excessive, as I was loading up 3-4 dummy rounds in the magazine, chambering them each, reloading magazine, rinse and repeat 3-4 times. I wasn't gentle on them either - was chambering the first round each time by hitting the slide release from the locked position. Later on, I took multiple rounds and did the "press the round against the edge of the table HARD with your thumb and see if you can get the bullet to move" test, and couldn't get the COAL to move at all that way. I'll run a few more dummy rounds through the press while everything is still setup though, and measure COAL again before/after chambering them just to be sure.

    Thanks!

    -Bill H
     
  25. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    Since these are your first loads, the consensus is that increasing crimp is not the best way to prevent bullet set back in auto loads.
    Reducing the case mouth expansion and flare will increase bullet tension.
    On auto pistol loads the crimp die should just remove any flare, or crimp very slightly.
    Over crimping does not help bullet tension and definitely won't help accuracy.
    You need to let the bullet expand the case a little as it enters, that's where the case gets it's grip on the bullet.
     
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