Berdan Decapping
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Berdan Primer Suppliers and Dimensions

Berdan Primers differ from the Boxer version, by virtue of having the anvil as part of the case, this simplifies the Berdan primer to an uncomplicated drawn cup containing a detonating compound. The comparison at right has been taken from a photo by Fred Schwaner and shows the Boxer case head and primer with three legged anvil on the left (note central hole). The central anvil post in the right hand head has two small flash holes flanking it that allow the ignition flames to be projected into the charge, the green primer compound is dimpled in this instance, but some soft compounds are not.   Comparison of Boxer and Berdan primer styles and the case heads they are intended for

You will not find many Berdan primers in US apart from military ammunition, mostly the US ammunition reloading trade does not promote the Berdan system, because the primers are cheaper to produce and they can't make such a large profit. In addition many US shooting enthusiasts consider Berdan primed cases as un-reloadable anyway. However, those that take the trouble to find out about Berdan priming and reloading will be rewarded by better ignition and high shot to shot consistency.

If you are in pursuit of particular rare Berdan sizes, your best sources are South Africa and Australia, unless your quantity is high enough for you to be able to approach one of the arms contractors direct. There are also sources in Europe, but expect to place a large order in order to overcome carriage charges.

Lid details from a pack of 250 type 126 primers Most of the rest of this page is jottings and notes condensed down from many hundreds of messages taken from my Email inbox that have been collated and compared, so that others may benefit from what scrappy information there is on the dimensions and suppliers of Berdan primers. Names and addresses have been deleted for security reasons and to save space, but I gratefully acknowledge that many of you have contributed. If you have any further information, I will gladly add it to this page and eventually create a question and answer format so that it becomes a FAQ type of page. Much of the information about Berdan primers in old Email or Bulletin Board messages is old and out of date, which makes it difficult to rely on.

Looking for Berdan Primers, specifically size 31A.

I am trying to find Berdan primers for my 43 Spanish.

open pack of 250 type 126 primers I need Berdan primers for a .360 2 1/4 nitro round. I've been told that the primer required is size 6000.

Do you have Berdan primer suppliers for 5.47 mm or .215 Swiss K-31 or Berdan primers for GP-11 Swiss (7.5 x 55) brass are .217.

Small pistol For 5.56 x 23 cartridges 4.6mm/.1800"
Small pistol For 9 x 17,9 x 18.9 x 19 cartridges 5.6mm/.1982"
Small rifle For 5.56 x 45 cartridges 5.6mm/.1982"
Large rifle For 7.62 x 39 cartridges 5.55mm/.2175"
Large rifle For 7.62 x 51; 7.62 x 54 cartridges 6.55mm/.2563"

Magtech primer packaging Magtech Berdan Primer #56
The cup on the CBC/Magtech is very frail, it is for Shotshells, but not suitable for rifle pressures, even though it fits and ignites fine. With Rifle type loads it will pierce on 9 out of 10 firings.

Berdan primer No 1 10A is used in brass cased shotshells.

The PMC 5.5 mm Berdan primers are .104" tall.

PMC primer tray I found some Berdan, large rifle primers .216, I bought one of the last remaining boxes (5000 pieces). Contact point is Diane Felsefeld PMC, Nevada phone no: 1-800-456-9182.

.303 British usually have .250" primers.

Eley Kynoch have manufactured percussion caps in types... 1A, 41, 70, 81, and No. 91 as well as numerous other numbered types, however the usage of these different numbers may not all be Berdan priming caps. Details will be added as they come to light.

Russian/Chinese/Eastern Block 7,62x54R uses a .254" primer (RWS # 6504, which is relatively shallow. The RWS 6507 is also .254", but is deeper and heavier.

European-made .303 British, and South African, is often made with .217" primers (5,5 mm) and the PMC and RWS numbers of this size are suitable.

China has made 7,62 x 54R with a .217" primer for some forty years now.

Fiocchi primer tin Fiocchi made .250" primers as these had been the standard Italian primer for the .303 ammunition used in their 1920s-1940s Aircraft machine guns.

Some Italian military cases use a Berdan primer of 0.204" (5.18 mm) diameter.

Old Black Powder and British Express Rifle cartridges mostly used the .254" primer, in either Copper, bronze or Brass, the Copper or bronze cup usually signifying Mercuric composition (some of these corrosive primers appear dark brown and polished).

The Kynoch and Eley .577 and .450 Martini Henry cases use the .254" primer. Modern copies of these cartridges use the .210 Large Rifle Boxer, with much detriment to firing regularity, especially in older guns with angled firing Pins, which may not strike the smaller Boxer Primer correctly, and give a misfire. The larger Berdan original primer was sure to ignite, wherever it was struck (central, side on, at the edge of the primer, etc.)

In Sniders, Trapdoors, Rolling Blocks, etc, which have angled firing Pins, the large Berdan Primer is essential for regular ignition.

Anyone have information on the Fiocchi brand Berdan primers?
I have two different batches of the 6,45 Berdan primer. One series is labeled just 6,45 and the other is labeled 645B. Does anyone have a cross reference for these to the RWS numbers? Do either of these cross reference to the RWS 6504? The documentation I have also states that the old RWS #1775 is the 6,45 and has dimensions identical to that given for RWS 6504.

The image at right was sent to me many years ago, I have lost the details of who sent it.

I need "common" No.81's not the "true British" Berdans, due to their "standard-non-standard" dimensions. (illustrated right)

  Can of 5,000 type 81 caps, the photo was sent to me, but details are lost

Berdan Primer Dimensions by brass type

 Manufacturer  Calibre  Headstamp Outside
 Kynoch .303 British MK-7  K 60, K61, K68 0.2500.2050.109Copper Note 1 


Note 1
10 of each headstamp were measured and the average taken. There was about 0.001" variance between them all.

Berdan Primer Dimensions by primer type number

 Primer Outside CupThicknessCup Manufacturer 
 Number Diameter Height  Of Base  Material UsageOr
mm 0.000" mm 0.000" mm 0.000" Supplier
1266.340.2502.830.1110.450.0180brass Note G  Kynock
1726.450.2543.380.1330.3300.013brass Note J Eley
4500 4.500 0.1772.200.090.400.0157 Note A RWS
45204.5000.177 2.10 0.08 0.55 0.0217 Note B RWS
45214.5000.1772.200.090.400.0157 Note C RWS
50055.000.1972.200.090.400.0157 Note D RWS
56085.500.2172.800.110.700.0276 Note E RWS
56205.500.2172.650.100.600.0236 Note F RWS
60006.340.2502.850.110.790.031 Note H RWS
65046.450.2542.350.900.450.0177 Note I RWS
65076.450.2543.400.1330.330.0130 Note J RWS

Notes for number based table

Note A
Intended for use in small pistol rounds like .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP and some 9mm calibres.

Note B
Used in small rifle rounds like .22 Hornet, .222 Remington, 5.6 and some obsolete small calibres.

Note C
Sometimes noted as 'Parabellum primer' used in 9 mm Luger (9 x 19), Steyr and majority of pistol rounds that use 4.5 mm primers.

Note D
Used in large calibre pistol rounds. Also known as 'Medium Berdan'.

Note E
Commonly used in Europe for 7.62 NATO rounds, often known as 'standard NATO'.

Note F
The most common 5.5 mm Berdan primer for rifle calibres (90% of 5.5 mm types).

Note G
Produced around 1965 and used in Kynoch production ammunition and primed cases.

Note H
Used in .303 British and related calibres, sometimes known as 'quarter inch' or Large Berdan Rifle.

Note I
For the .577 Snider, .577-.450 Martini Henry, 43 Egyptian and others. Also known as Extra Large Berdan.

Note J
Cup material 29 BWG (Birmingham Wire Gauge) RWS 6507 interchangeable with Eley 172 and used on many of the large Nitro calibres. Sometimes known as Oversize Berdan or Nitro Berdan.

Possible Suppliers at time of page compilation

The word 'possible' is used as things change over time, there is no such thing as 'certainty' in supplies of Berdan primers. Berdan primers have been manufactured by... Hirtenberger, Kynoch (IMI) (no sales of Berdan at the moment), RCBS apparently make Berdan primers in their factories and sell them to 'foreign' markets, but they do not retail them in the U.S., RWS, Sako, Sellier & Bellot (No Berdan Sales as at 2007).     Forbes Australia     NIOA Trading    

Past suppliers Not current or no longer handle Berdan

eBay no longer deal with primers, powder or loaded ammunition, but will deal in anything that is inert.

Old western Scrounger     Graf & Sons    

Suppliers that I am uncertain about

Eldorado Cartridge Corporation
12801 US HWY 95 South
Boulder City, NV 89005
As of Feb 2008, not handling Berdan.
PMC primer box


Auction Websites

While a web page like this could not keep pace with individual auction lots, the Auction sites listed below do carry Berdan primers from time to time and should be regularly visited and searched, prices and quantities will be variable.    

Printed from Dave Cushman's website Live CD version

 Written... 1st week of May 2007, Corrected... 07 May 2007, Upgraded... 16 February 2008,
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