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Thread: Converting Berdan primer pockets to Boxer

  1. #1
    Boolit Master


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    Converting Berdan primer pockets to Boxer

    I'm going to post this in several posts to get the pictures in the right place.

    Converting LR Berdan primer pockets in brass milsurp cartridges to SR Boxer primer pockets

    Over the years Iíve thrown away I donít know how many thousands of very good brass cases of 7.62x54R, 8x57, 7.65 Argentine and ,303 British simply because they had Berdan primers. On a recent long 7.62x54R thread Iíd mentioned doing this conversion of the Berdan primer pockets to take SR Boxer primers and several were interested. Thought Iíd just do a new thread here to explain the conversion process to keep it from getting lost in the other thread.

    While Berdan primed cases are reloadable with proper tools and IF you have and/or can get Berdan primers they were a pain to even try, at least the ones I tried over the years were. Some time back a poster (donít recall his name but I would like to give him credit) gave some rudimentary ideas on how it might be possible to convert the LR Berdan primer pockets to take/use SR boxer primers. I finally got around to giving it some more thought and attempted it. So far I have met with success having converted some 7.62x54R cases and having reloaded and fired them twice. I have also converted several test cases of 8x57 and 7.65 Argentine with equal success.

    The tools needed are rudimentary and most advanced loaders should already have them or have them available. What is needed are (illustrated);

    Bench mounted vise
    Sharp center punch and mallet
    Hand drill (I used a DeWalt cordless drill just to make sure it could be done. A vertical drill press with a milling table and machinist vise on it makes it a lot easier. It also reduced the ďoh-ohsĒ significantly.)
    A sharp #18 drill bit
    A #43, 44 or 45 drill bit
    A SR primer pocket swager. I used the Dillon but the RCBS should work as well.
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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-13-2012 at 11:29 AM.

  2. #2
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    What we are going to do is drill a new central flash hole which also removes the Berdan integral anvil. Then we are going to remove the base of the Berdan primer leaving the side of the Berdan primer in the primer pocket. Lastly we will swage the remains of the Berdan primer in the primer pocket to take a SR boxer size primer. Sounds simple enough and it is but weíve got to be careful because it is real easy to mess it up.

    Process; letís start with the cases, they should have been fired with the service level load. This swages the sides of the Berdan primer to fit the primer pocket tightly. I tried some cases with the bullet and powder pulled and the primer just fired. This did not work as the Berdan primer always came out of the primer pocket. It needs to be fire formed by the psi of the full service load. However, cases that have a crimped in primer might work without having been fired with service level loads if the bullet/powder are pulled and the primers are just fired in the rifle. Obviously, do not attempt to drill or center punch on a live primer. Also don't forget to clean the probably corrosive primer residue out of the barrel after firing the primed only cases.

    With the cases ready for alteration 1st we must drill out a new central flash hole. This also removes the Berdan anvil that is integral with the case primer pocket and not part of the primer itself. Drilling the central flash hole also gives a centering hole to guide the #18 drill in removing the base of the Berdan primer. If the firing pin indentation is centered in the primer then that can be used to center the #43 - #45 (I used a #45) drill for the central flash hole. If the primer indentation is not centered in the primer (as illustrated) then put the case in the vise (as illustrated in the 1st post) and use the center punch and mallet to ďcenter upĒ the indentation in the primer. Itís not hard to do. I insert the #45 drill as far as possible into the chuck to keep it as stiff as possible for drilling the central flash hole. With the case held in the vise center the drill with the drill tip in the centered primer indentation and hold the drill vertical. Drill the flash hole completely through the primer and anvil as illustrated.
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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-13-2012 at 11:31 AM.

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    The #18 drill bit is then used to drill the bottom of the Berdam primer off. With a drill press the stop can be adjusted so you donít go too far. It is easy to mess up here and drill completely through so go easy if using a hand drill as if drilled through it ruins the case. The "oh oh" illustration shows 2 cases; one is an attempt to drill the primer base off 1st without drilling the central flash hole for the #18 drill to follow.Ö.it didnít work as the drill will wander off the side of the anvil. The second case is where the drill got away from me and I drilled through the case ruining the case. Just be careful if using the hand drill. It is easiest to drill all the central flash holes first in one step and then drill off the bottom of the Berdan Primers of the cases in a second step. That way, doing one step at a time, you quickly develop a ďfeelĒ for each step and don't mess up so easy.
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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-13-2012 at 11:32 AM.

  4. #4
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    The last step is to swage the primer pocket for the SR Boxer primer to fit. I ran the cases over the Dillon small primer swager 2-3 times and Remington 7 1/2 primers were a good fit seating them with a Lee priming tool (bottom illustration shows the completed reformed primer pocket).

    The top illustration shows 5 cases of the various steps; fired case with uncentered firing pin indentation, case with indentation centered with punch, case with center flash hole drilled with #45 drill, case with the bottom of the Berdan primer drilled off with #18 drill and the finished case with the primer pocket swaged.
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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-13-2012 at 11:33 AM.

  5. #5
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    So the obvious question; does it work? To answer that I loaded the 19 cases I was successful in converting of the Albainian. These cases had been fired in my Finn M39. I used a .337 bushing in the converted .284 Win Redding bushing die to NS the cases. They were primed with Rem 7 Ĺ primers ans loaded with 30 gr 4895 (milsurp) and a ĺ gr dacron filler added. On top of that I seated 176 gr GB C316291s cast of WW + 2% tin with a BHN of 16. These had been sized at .314 and lubed with Javelina. The GCs were my own made from .014 aluminum. Made a quick trip to the range today and just shot the 19 rounds off sand bags at 100 yards. Well, I did hold the 1st shot out at arms length and just shot the berm….better safe than sorry. All was well, very well in fact so I settled down on the bench. Set the rear sight on 500m and you can see the 1st shot at 1130 just outside the black. Moved the sight down 3 notches (5 notches between 400m & 500m) and fired 3 shots, the low ones at 7:30 in the 9 ring. Moved the sight back up 2 notches and fired 3 shots which went in at 11:00 in the 9 and 10 ring. Moved back down 1 notche and moved the front sight left 1 “dot”. I then fired the remaining 11 shots getting 4 tens and 7 Xs……about the best my old eyes can do anymore with open service sights.

    I deprimed the cases at home and all the SR primers came out as expected. None of the Berdan rings in the primer pockets came out. I reloaded all the cases again and will continue firing to see how long they last……so far….so good

    Addendum; 5 March 2012

    Dug through my "stash" and found 120 rounds of Bulgarian 7.62x54R 55-10 with very nice brass cases, They had the larger Berdan size primer. I shot 20 rounds of it today and tonight I converted the Berdan Primer pockets to take Large Rifle Boxer primers. Procedure was identical except a #8 drill was used in lieu of the #18 and the LR primer pocket swage was used. It was quite easy this time and I didn't lose a single case. Bottom photo shows the prgression of conversion and then the loaded box of 20. I will hopefully test fire tomorrow to see if the bushings stay when the boxer LR is punched out.

    Addendum; 13 March 2012

    I have fired the 20 Bulgarian cases converted to LR primers 2 times now, they've worked perfectly. I converted the last I had of that lot (120 cases) a couple nights ago, took me right at 2 hours with the hand drill. I have them loaded already!

    Larry Gibson
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    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-13-2012 at 11:42 AM.

  6. #6
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    Will be dragging out all that 54R brass I have been working around for years and try it out. Thanks for the details/pics.

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    Good stuff here, thanks for sharing
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    OK, I am looking for a solution. You said that they needed to be first fired with a service level load. I have about 300 8mm brass that were pulled down with the primers still unfired. What would be a service level load that I could use to fire form them? The slowest powder I currently have is 2400. I traded into a 15lb keg of it.


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  9. #9
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    Good post Larry and thanks for sharing the information. Think I have some 7.62x54 brassed case Yugo to give this a try on.

  10. #10
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    Good post Larry. I gave up on berdan cases years ago. I used to be able to buy them from Old West Scrounger but supplies were iffy. Now I have nothing to lose by trying your procedure out.
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  11. #11
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    You guys do know that ,217 full power berdan primers are available, right? But still good info for when they dry up again.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SciFiJim View Post
    OK, I am looking for a solution. You said that they needed to be first fired with a service level load. I have about 300 8mm brass that were pulled down with the primers still unfired. What would be a service level load that I could use to fire form them? The slowest powder I currently have is 2400. I traded into a 15lb keg of it.
    46-48 gr 4895 under a 150 gr jacketed bullet would be a service level load. Or you could use any medium level jacketed bullet load for the correct weight jacketed bullet. The psi needs to be in the 45,000 psi range to really expand the primer well.

    Suggest you fire a couple cases in the rifle with just the primer (no powder or bullet) and try converting them especially if the primers are crimped in place. It may work that way, if not then you need to fire them. The primers are probably corrosive so don't forget to clean the primer residue out of the bore.

    Larry

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dschuttig View Post
    You guys do know that ,217 full power berdan primers are available, right? But still good info for when they dry up again.
    Yup, been there, done that and found it a pain. Decapping is slow and tedious and the sizing die decapping pin has to be removed for the Berdan primed cases. Once the cases are altered to Boxer primers they are like regular cases in reloading.....mostly just what we are used to doing.

    Larry Gibson

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    I have done this too .... Great Job.. this should be a sticky

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    Boolit Master Rangefinder's Avatar
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    I have done this too .... Great Job.. this should be a sticky
    Agreed--messaging a mod now.
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    Great Post topic.

    Over the last 6 months I have been puttering with Berdan primed cases in 7.62x51, 7.62x39, 7.62x54, .303, and 8mm using a variety of techniques I found posted on the Internet, experiencing poor performance/outcome in each of my attempts. I had arrived at the conclusion from these failings that perhaps leaving a "ring" in the primer pocket from the old primer was the next route to pursue. It was with great pleasure that I found this string this evening, validating that my thoughts were in the right direction. Particularly I am pleased to see Larry Gibson's success using a drill press (or electric hand drill) as I was thinking I might have to bite the bullet and buy a low end hobby milling machine to mill out the pocket in order to leave the ring I had wanted.

    Looking forward to trying this series of steps. I have saved about 7000 berdan primed brass cases over the years and they are just looking for a new life at the range. Too bad most of the range find cases now are "Copper Washed" steel.

  17. #17
    Boolit Bub
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    Smile Converting Berdan primer pockets to Boxer

    Thank you! Thank you! A little late by nine months for me. We sold a lot of brass plus all berdan rifle calibers. Down sizing my mess. Now i have to find some more.

  18. #18
    Boolit Mold
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    Excellent idea, thanks for posting this, I shoot milsurps and this will be a great help. Now for a thought, some cases (British) use a .250 primer, will the drill and swage technique work to allow .210 primers? I will have to see. (yes folks, I know some British loadings used mecuric primers)

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    Larry, Would it be possible to write this up and save it with pictures as a .pdf? I would like to print it out for my info binder.
    Thanks,
    Jim


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  20. #20
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by SciFiJim View Post
    Larry, Would it be possible to write this up and save it with pictures as a .pdf? I would like to print it out for my info binder.
    Thanks,
    Jim
    I have it as a word document with the pictures, it prints off just fine. PM me your email and I'll send it.

    Larry Gibson

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