Primer Pocket Cleaning


September 23, 2011, 03:07 PM
How important is it too clean the gunk out of the primer pockets and how often? How can you do this if you have turret press, progressive press or something else besides a single stage press.

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September 23, 2011, 03:14 PM
I do it every time, because I am OCD when it comes to case prep & inspection.
It gives me another chance to inspect cases for defects for the 2nd. or 3rd. time!

On the other hand, I changed to Lizard Litter tumbler media a while back, and it cleans the primer pockets quite well all by itself.

Is it necessary?
Probably not.

If I had a progressive press?
I would still probably size & deprime on a single stage press, and clean & inspect cases before I finished loading them on the progressive.

But I don't have a progressive and never will.


September 23, 2011, 03:17 PM
I never do it on handgun brass. Some of my brass has been loaded at least a dozen times with no issues....For rifle brass, I only do if it I am chasing the utmost accuracy. Even then, I doubt if it makes much of a difference.

September 23, 2011, 03:46 PM
I use an RCBS Universal Deprimer on my Hornady LNL, single stage operation, but fast.
Then I wet tumble with stainless pins in a Thumbler, then into vibrator w/NuFinish for an hour. I now have brand new (not a speck of carbon) shiny cases in & out including primer pockets.
Next, I resize, prime and expand on my LNL and store these cases already to reload on LNL. I still use all the stations on final operation, #1 Powder Drop, #2 RCBS LockOut, #3 Bullet feed, #4 seat (& crimp for 357), #5 Finish with LEE FCD. Doesn't get any more anal huh?
In the final loading I easily do 100 in less than 5 minutes and no worry about primers, or squibs, the primers get one extra little set on their way through and the operation is very smooth because the Resize and Priming functions (take the most pressure) are already complete. Works for me, I know it's not the "Thing" for everyone!

September 23, 2011, 03:56 PM
I pretty much do as ColtPythonElite recommends and agree with him.

September 23, 2011, 04:04 PM
I always clean primer pockets. My thinking is that I'd rather take the extra step than risk a popular misfire or potential high primer that could have been easily avoided.

But I know a lot of folks don't clean them, and haven't had problems. Just the way I was raised, I guess. And I have no intention to change.

September 23, 2011, 04:08 PM
I clean each and every primer pocket by first sizing and decapping on my RCBS Rockchucker press. I then clean the primer pockets on a motorized tool that I made from a drill motor, which takes about 40 minutes per thousand cases. I then prime all my brass and run it through the LNL progressive press, already sized and primed. I can't remember the last time I had a primer problem.

Hope this helps.


September 23, 2011, 04:14 PM
I never clean them, and I shoot my .45ACP brass until it splits.

September 23, 2011, 04:22 PM
I do as "357Shooter" does except for Nu-Finish Op.

I highly recommend the SS Pin process of cleaning -

When loading by the hundreds or thousands, you never know when you may need one of those loads for self-defense against a critter. I prefer to load every round with upmost care.

You do as you decide.

September 23, 2011, 04:28 PM
I never clean them, and I shoot my .45ACP brass until it splits.
Many often post this and I hope new reloaders realize that this usually applies to range/plinking practice loads and not for SD/HD loads (Please, no comments on not using reloaded SD/HD loads ... if such situation arises and I was reloading at the bench, I will gladly use whatever reloads I had on the bench to defend myself if those were the closest rounds I had available instead of the commercial JHP). If you qualify the question and ask, "Would you clean the primer pockets of defensive loads?", I would guess that answers would be somewhat different.

If I had a progressive press?
I would still probably size & deprime on a single stage press, and clean & inspect cases before I finished loading them on the progressive.
I am with rcmodel. Although I do not clean primer pockets of range practice and plinking loads for pistol cases on the progressive, I do inspect and clean the primer pockets of match grade and SD/HD loads as they must go bang, no matter what. If you have a misfire due to a high/improperly seated primer at a match, you can kiss that stage score goodbye due to time penalties you will suffer. How about if you have a justified defensive shooting situation at home and you hear "click" instead of "bang" ... not good.:eek:

For match/SD/HD cases, I first tumble in walnut/NuFinish polish then I resize/deprime on the single stage press. I inspect the primer pockets as I hand prime and clean the pockets as needed. After the cases are loaded on the progressive press, I load them bullet side down on trays to do a final quality control check and look/feel for any high primers by running my finger tips over the case bases. Any high primers, I reseat the primers deeper (.004" below flush) using the hand primer.

For rifle cases, I am diligent about cleaning .308 primer pockets but not so with .223 rounds I plink with at 100-300 yards. For rifle cases, I use a universal decapping die before I tumble the cases. Then I resize (with the decapping pin in the die to push out any media in the flash hole) and trim the cases. I am a bit OCD and if I catch a particularly dirty .223 primer pocket, you'll see me cleaning it before I hand prime the case. :D

September 23, 2011, 04:29 PM
I got the way I am from OLDMAN! (Thanks for your help, by the way...)

September 23, 2011, 04:46 PM
Handgun never, rifle always.

I do like rc, and batch size, prime, all my tumbled handgun brass on a single stage, and store in coffee cans. When I get low, I fire up the turret press for pretty fast production of handgun ammo, with the prepped brass(100rds in 15mins)

Rifle brass gets tumbled, sized, pockets cleaned, trimmed, retumbled, primed, loaded on my turret with the auto index rod pulled, every charge weighed on my Dillon Eliminator beam scale. Slow process, but accuracy is worth it.:)

September 23, 2011, 04:47 PM
I tell you, wet tumbling with SS media sure cleans those cases inside and out, especially the primer pockets!

September 23, 2011, 06:29 PM
I always clean the primer pockets. I also get OCD with my hand loading, but not to the extent it's a pointless task.

In this respect, I always keep my brass trimmed to the same length. My approach and opion is simply this, if I eliminate as many of the possible variations associated with reloading, I'll have fewer issues. So far over the last 3 or so decades of loading, I have yet to have a mis-fire or had any cartridge perform in an unexpected or other wise negative manner. I'm either lucky, or I'm doing most of it right.

Of all the books and other instructional material I've ever read no where have I ever seen anything about not cleaning primer pockets, or anything that says don't keep brass trimmed.

September 23, 2011, 07:17 PM
WOW! Could pass for new! No adverse effects on the brass being that stainless steel is harder than brass? Gotta be a sloppy mess associated with wet tumbling!?

September 23, 2011, 07:37 PM
JDGray, I have to admit that those are not my cases but belong to THR member 1858 -

I am happy with the results I get from walnut/NuFinish for pistol cases but planning on wet tumbling with SS for rifle cases in the future to look like these (really clean primer pockets) -

September 23, 2011, 07:53 PM
I'm relatively new to reloading, so I'm being meticulous while I sort out whether I can skip some steps. I clean the primer pockets every time, for several reasons:

1. I use a single stage press and a hand primer, so extra case prep steps can be slipped in anywhere in the process between initial tumbling and priming.

2. The RCBS case prep station I use makes it easy and fast.

3. It can't hurt and probably helps the primers seat cleanly.

4. The amount of crud that comes out is plenty to convince me that it needs to come out.

September 23, 2011, 08:05 PM
The amount of crud that comes out is plenty to convince me that it needs to come out.I agree.
No sense blowing any additional hard carbon grit through your barrel each shot if you can avoid it.


September 23, 2011, 11:30 PM
I started reloading in the late 60's. I clean my primer pockets because that's what I've always done. Like rc said it gives me another chance to inspect the brass. If I clean them I don't have to wonder if it makes a difference. My way isn't the only way but it is MY way.

Hondo 60
September 24, 2011, 12:06 AM
Another vote for ColtPythonElite's post (Post #3)

I haven't cleaned a primer pocket in a coupla years.

When I first started reloading I cleaned 'em all, cuz that's what the book said to do.
After spending several months here, I found that many don't clean 'em on straight-walled pistol cases.
So I stopped & it hasn't seemed to make any difference.

The only rifle I reload is an AR-15 .223 Remington.
I don't clean those either and it hasn't hurt my accuracy on that either.
(as far as I can tell)

Just my 2

September 24, 2011, 12:49 PM
SS wet media gets them clean, as note above.

If I am only going to fire a few shots, I will clean the primer pockets with a Lyman Uniformer, just because.

But if I am loading 10,000 round of .223 for rodents while watching TV, I am not doing anything that is optional.

September 24, 2011, 11:31 PM
I am kind of with rcmodel and bds on this.

For the last 10-15 years, I have not specifically clean my primer pockets but I do prefer to tumble cases between resizing and reloading even when using a progressive. Since the primer has been removed, the primer pocket gets some cleaning. I recently started using lizard litter walnut media and the smaller size does clean the primer pocket better. One of these days i may look into the stainless media.

Do i think cleaning primer pockets is necessary--probably not. Does it make me feel better about my reloads--yes. Does it cost me time--no, I clean primer pockets while watching the idiot box.

September 25, 2011, 09:55 AM
I used to let the handgun brass stay dirty and clean the rifle brass as needed. Now I have the wet tumbler and SS media. I can tumble for 10 minutes in walnut to save dies and then deprime/size. Then into the wet media for a couple of hours or so and into the gas oven with standby pilot over night to dry and WOW.:cool: Only drawback is the Thumblers will not do as large a brass load as the vibratory tumblers will at a time. It is faster however so it equals out especially if you factor in the extra steps I used to do. I left the primers in until the brass was sized and polished then used a universal decapper to remove them so an extra step.:(

September 25, 2011, 11:01 AM
I have a XL650 set up for .223 Since I have lots of military brass, I need to de-prime and swage the pockets. I can do it on the Dillon, but set up a small Lee single press just for that purpose. It was worth the few extra bucks for a second press for that purpose. Stage 1 of the Dillon still sizes it, just doesn't need to punch out the primer.

Red Cent
September 25, 2011, 11:24 AM
Hang on RC.

I never clean primer pockets.

I firmly believe in a very clean exterior. Shine or no shine does not bother me.

After a few matches, I will get a bucket of 38SPLs and dump them into the vibratory "tumbler". Thats it.

SASS and PCCA are my hobbies and use the same round. If I were to do all of that, it would severely cut into my Dickel drinkin' time.

September 25, 2011, 01:05 PM
I'm pretty picky about brass prepping. Sometimes I decap by hand, clean the primer pockets and wipe off the cases. This gives me a chance to inspect every case pretty closely. I've had case separation on firing before and I don't really care for it. I don't tumble my cases.
I was taught that primer pocket cleaning is part of handloading so I've always done it.
My handloading is part and parcel with my hunting and I'd just as soon know that I've done everything in my power to make sure my ammo is as reliable as I can make it. I don't shoot hundreds of rounds a year anymore, so it really isn't that much of a chore.
I enjoy the work.


September 25, 2011, 07:32 PM
The big draw back for SS wet tumblers is that it makes the brass look like new, complete with needing the mouth chamfered.

September 25, 2011, 07:38 PM
I do it every time as well, just like rcmodel in post #2.

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