Converting brass from Berdan to Boxer


September 14, 2003, 04:09 PM
I've been looking at some of the Berdan primed brass that gets pitched and keep wondering if there's a way to convert this to Boxer brass. I'm thinking with a drill press and a jig, I could do the pockets and flash holes pretty quick.

Has anyone done this? Are the Berdan flash holes going to throw a monkey-wrench in the process? Any other gotchas?


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Mal H
September 14, 2003, 04:49 PM
Somebody's gotta ask it, so I will - why? Not enough Boxer primed cases in the calibers you're interested in?

I don't think the conversion would work well. The double holes are not in the best position for a Boxer primer and you would have to machine out the built in anvil. It's not worth the effort.

September 14, 2003, 04:53 PM
It's not worth the effort.
Agreed. Unless you are talking about a caliber that has no readily available Boxer brass and you don't like the process of reloading Berdan.

Jim Watson
September 14, 2003, 05:49 PM
As said, if it is a caliber rare enough that there is NO other source, it can be done.

If the Berdan primer size is less than .210" (or less than .175") the usual method I have READ OF, not done, is to put the case over a steel rod to serve as an internal support, then use a strong punch and hammer to beat the Berdan anvil flat, which squashes the flashholes shut. A .210" end mill cutter will open the pocket up to size and flatten the remnant of the anvil. Then drill a 1/16" center flashhole. Phew.

Just reaming the pocket and cutting down the anvil will leave you with two flashholes somewhere under a Boxer primer. If it doesn't make the cutter walk and cut an oval pocket, ruining the case.

If the primer is larger than a Boxer standard - there are a lot of 5.5mm/.216" Berdans around - you are pretty much out of luck.

I have read of drilling out the primer pocket to take a shotgun battery cup primer. Also it has been done to drill out the primer pocket to take a bushing which holds a Boxer primer. Usually made by turning down some common casehead. These systems should only be done for low pressure black powder and nitro-for-black cases because the shotshell primer or bushing is not very strong.

September 14, 2003, 06:48 PM
Nuther reason for punchin the berdan anvil flat is that they are usually PUNCHED, from the inside, to shape. Just cuttin or millin the anvil flat will either give you a third hole or an extremely thin area.

Scary....I can remember when Berdan primers were not all that expensive.


September 14, 2003, 07:20 PM

Because I hate throwing once fired brass away.
Because some of the surplus stuff looks like high quality brass.
Because winter is coming and I'll have extra free time to spend at the workbench.
Because I didn't know the answer to the question.
Because it's there.

Pick at least one of the above. :D

Mal H
September 14, 2003, 08:16 PM
All good answers, especially #3 and #5. Lord knows I've done even less useful projects in my time. :D

September 14, 2003, 08:30 PM
Here is something I clipped from a old shooting mag. I hope it comes out as I seem to have trouble making attachments.

September 14, 2003, 10:17 PM
Bearman, thank you very much!

David Wile
September 19, 2003, 11:26 PM
Hey Larry,

I can understand your reasons for wanting to be able to use Berdan primed brass. I, too, hate to throw away good brass, and time is not a big constraint to me. Now, having said that, what follows is really negative feedback.

Consider replacement with new Berdan primers: Berdan primers can certainly be removed with a special tool that is easily available, and the brass can then be re-primed with new Berdan primers and once again loaded. To me, there are two problems with replacing Berdan primers. The first is the removal of the spent primer. I know it can be done with the special tool, but it is a bother to me. The second factor is the high cost of Berdan primers today and the fact they are hard to find. I simply cannot being myself to pay more for Berdan primers than I do for regular primers.

As far as converting Berdan primed brass to use Boxer primers, I have also tried doing this with no satisfactory results to my way of thinking. Besides removal of the Berdan anvil and making a centered flash hole, there is also the whole problem of Berdan and Boxer primers being different sizes. I am not saying that it cannot be accomplished, but it is far more effort than I am willing to expend, and I am one of those guys who spends a lot of time casting bullets and loading on single stage presses.

When it comes to reloading for hard to find brass, I considered this to be the case with 7.62X54 Russian and 8mm brass. Neither are easy to find locally, but I simply gave up the idea of converting Berdan brass and ordered a case of each in S&B Boxer primed brass.

I have given up on the idea of using Berdan primed brass for the above reasons, but that does not mean you should do the same. In any case, enjoy what you are doing.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

September 20, 2003, 05:30 PM
Called PMC last month and they have imported a butt load of Russian 5.5mm/.217" berdan rifle primers and they are $13 per 1000.

September 20, 2003, 05:45 PM
I kind of went through the same problem, although I didn't attempt to convert the brass to boxer priming. I bought a couple Schmit-Rubin K31 rifles in 7.5x55 Swiss. The only ammo I could find for it was the Swiss surplus stuff. It was very accurate ammo and used very nice brass cases, but it was Berdan primed. It was also very expensive. I decided that I was going to keep the brass and handload it. I bought the RCBS tool to deprime Berdan primed cases and it worked great. The problem came when trying to find the primers. I posted on all the boards I thought might be able to tell me where to get them and the only reply I got was to try The Old Western Scrounger. I called them and they told me that they stoped carrying them. The reason was that they couldn't get them reliably. I forget who they were getting them from, but it was a company in Europe. They would place an order and either never get them or get them months after they ordered. They spoke to the company at the SHOT show and told them they would place one more order and if it didn't come on time they would quit carrying them because they didn't feel it was right to advertise products they didn't have and didn't know when or if they would ever have it. They order didn't come through and they quit carrying Berdan primers. Since that time I have asked, when ordering other reloading supplies, a number of other companies that supply reloading supplies if they stock Berdan primers and have been told no by all of them. And, I asked if they knew who did carry them and never came up with anything.

Next is the issue of primer size. I don't know anything about Berdan primers but was told by OWS that there are different sizes and you have to have actual measurements of the primer pocket to determine what primer you need for that particular case. Since they didn't have any primers to begin with, I never found out what the correct primer was for the Swiss case.

Graffs (I believe) was supposed to be manufacturing a run of boxer primed cases in that caliber and I believe it was supposed to be done around this time. I placed an order and haven't heard back from them on it. I sent them an E-Mail not long ago about it and never got a reply. Possibly I deleted it thinking it was another SPAM. I guess I am going to have to call them and see what the deal is.

September 20, 2003, 06:37 PM
Checking their website none of the Graf brand boxer primed metric brass is in stock yet. I have been chomping at the bits for some of their 7.62x54R brass as it is priced cheap.
Here is a list of berdan primers from a brochure of the Russian primer mfg. that PMC imported the large rifle berdan primers from.

Primer type,Product usage,Diameter in metric and inches

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"

September 20, 2003, 06:46 PM
I assume that the unit of measure is metric ?

September 21, 2003, 12:47 AM
Doesn't work. Period. If you drill out the primer hole, you end up with a hole that's far too big. And Berdan primers are not the same diameter as Boxer. It ain't safe.
Now a nice safe winter project for you would be to buy a copy of Cartridge Conversions, a Rockchucker press and make the cases you want out of readily available Boxer primer cases. Amazon has it.

September 21, 2003, 01:17 AM
Post above edited for clairity.

September 22, 2003, 03:51 PM
Hi JA,
Welcome to THR. I assume that you are the JA from one of the other boards I post at.... :)
Any idea on what variations are seen with Berdan pocket diameters? Are they standardized by ammo manufacturers, or by caliber as your list implies?

September 22, 2003, 08:09 PM
Yes I am the same "JA".
I have been wondering the same thing as all the Russian cartridges I have measured use the same primer size reguardless of brand or which company mfg. them. But I have noticed that the Wolf 5.56x45mm and all brands of 5.45x39mm use a primer size not listed in the brochure.

April 11, 2009, 02:21 PM

He later found a tool that fixes worn out boxer primer pockets and that works better than the ball bearing method.

It's a PIA, it's only if you absolutely have to, the design of the swiss brass lends itself to this process. It may or may not work on other types of brass.

April 15, 2009, 08:37 AM
& more of the same with some useful discussion.

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