Why can't the Russian use Boxer primers/brass cases: cost?


Ignition Override
February 23, 2013, 02:26 AM
Any types of new Russian ammo I check at multiple distributors has only 'BE'.

The only reason my reloadable .303 is Prvi is because of the Boxer primers and durable brass.

Do the Russians never produce Boxers primers in bulk, even though the Serbians at Prvi either manufacture them or import them at an acceptable cost?
I've forgotten whether the Russians use steel cases because of cost or too little access to affordable brass.

Maybe the Serbians' better access to the Med/Adriatic or brass resources are a major advantage, but are primers so expensive to ship to Russia?

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February 23, 2013, 02:43 AM
It's just probably what they've been tooled up to produce since forever. They probably don't see any need in changing it...

Deus Machina
February 23, 2013, 03:01 AM
A little bit of everything, really?
I believe the US military has reloaded their brass to some extent, so it could be that versus Russia's use of steel cases that can't be. Thus no need to change.
Aside from that, it's what they've tooled up for. Reloading isn't as common, most of the eastern country's ammo sales are for cheap stuff, so they don't want to produce anything different.

February 23, 2013, 06:29 AM
A boxer case is made differently from a berdan case. They make berdans because it is what they use and we buy them. The customer dictates what they sell to a large extent, which is why they offer non-corrosive primers now. But, folks still buy berdan-primed cases. As long as folks buy them, why change? Others can make reloadable ammo, they are interested in selling their own loaded ammo.

February 23, 2013, 07:45 AM
Sorta like the "revolution" in production spearheaded by the Japanese, or at least attributed to them in the 70's, they make products which were too complicated or specifically built to not be repairable, but which last a long time. When the product finally fails, you will go to Japan Inc for another, rather than the local fixit shop to have the product repaired. It is a different philosophy but it works for them. And it changes the common concept of "quality."

I remember babbited engine bearings. The thing was designed to be repaired and adjusted periodically. I remember tube radios, tube televisions with the readily removeable chassis so that the thing could be brought up to snuff by replacing a tube. I remember going with my father to the grocery store of all places where they had this vending machine type thing where you could test your tubes and purchase replacements for those which had failed. You don't see that sort of thing anymore.

As I see it, if you buy the steel berdan primed ammo, you are getting a one use product. At the price point, you will return to Russia, Inc., for replacements once expended. They sell you more, they make money. If the brass is reloadable you *might* be tempted to buy your rebuilding components from someone else, and they would lose that income.

The one thing I appreciate most about the inexpensive Russian ammunition is that I don't have to bend over to pick up the empties cast afar buy my shell shuckers, and since the owner/operator of the range is adamant that any brass which hits the ground is his, so too do I feel he can enjoy the annoyance of dealing with expended steel cases.

February 23, 2013, 01:44 PM
Because Bearden primers are more reliable then boxer primers under a wider range of conditions. Its also the reason that many ammunition plants used and still use so called corrosive primers - because they are more chemically stable (see: store better) and the spark hotter. Remember, for a lot of this ammo, you are the second line user after the Military. Reliability is King.

Its not that the Russian ammunition makers can't use boxer primers, they simply choose not to, since that does not meet their end customer's requirements.

February 23, 2013, 01:58 PM
I suspect it is simpler overall to make Berdan primed cartridge cases, which is a big plus for military ammunition that is not expected to "close the loop" in it's life cycle. Ditto for steel versus brass cases.

February 23, 2013, 03:18 PM
Berdan primers are simpler than Boxer as the anvil is part of the case and is formed with the case.

Saving $.001 per price by not having to have a anvil saves money when you're making billions and billions of cartridges.

And the Europeons have never been into reloading like we are.


February 23, 2013, 04:04 PM
The irony of the whole Boxer / Berdan thing is who developed them. Taken from the Wiki:

Berdan primers are named after their American inventor, Hiram Berdan of New York who invented his first variation of the Berdan primer and patented it on March 20, 1866, in U.S. Patent 53,388.

So the Berdan primer was born where? Why in New York of course, right here in the USA.

Meanwhile, Edward M. Boxer, of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, England was working on a primer cap design for cartridges, patenting it in England on October 13, 1866, and subsequently received a U.S. patent for his design on June 29, 1869, in U.S. Patent 91,818.

So the Boxer primer was born where? In England, The UK. Go figure.

Boxer-primed ammunition is slightly more complex to manufacture, since the primer is in two parts with a drop of pressure sensitive compound, but automated machinery producing primers by the hundreds of millions has eliminated that as a practical problem and while the primer is one step more complex to make, the cartridge case is simpler to make, use and maintain. For users who buy brass cases for reloading, the initial cost is more than equalised by the decreased cost of firing reloaded rounds compared to buying factory loaded ammunition, which is often an excellent source of reusable brass (reloading ammunition can save significant cost benefits compared with new factory rounds).

So all in all the cost of manufacture is just about a wash. But the irony is that a primer developed in Europe pretty much only sees widespread use in the US while a primer developed in the US sees widespread use in Europe.

As to steel cases? They are less costly to make and for the better part military ammunition is designed as a one time deal left on a battlefield to rust into nothings. During 1943 (WW II) the US did manufacture some steel cased ammunition in .45 Auto. Steel case with a zinc wash to prevent rust, the same was done in 1943 in the manufacture of US minted pennies to save on copper.

That concludes my useless trivia for the day. :)


February 23, 2013, 05:16 PM
It's possible to reload Berdan-primed cases, but the components just aren't available over here. It's my understanding that new-production Russian military ammunition is non-corrosive, though. They simply moved away from that now that non-corrosive primers keep about as well as corrosive ones, and they're making civilian ammo (Tula, etc.) on the same production lines as the military ones, even putting it in the same spam cans. It lets them unify their production lines for a win-win situation both ways.

February 23, 2013, 08:09 PM
Because Russians are Russians and like to be ornery.

February 23, 2013, 10:11 PM
Russia started with Berdan priming in thier ammunition with thier Berdan Rifles in the 1870's, and kept up production as most all European countrys did.
Cheaper, easier and faster to make. Also, private gunownership was heavily regulated and reloading was not encouraged in the Soviet Union. I think any reloading ammo is for target shooters in general, but even they were simply issued ammo made in a factory.
I have met and talked with ChukChi Hunters who said they were given rifles and ammo bythe collective and had to have them available on demand and an ammo alowance was allotted and counted. The catch went to the collective or Brigade.

Steel cased ammo came around as a way to save materials and still work...........with iron more plentyfull than brass in wartime , as well, the Germans also issued steel cases as did other countrys. The US, however stayed with brass and reloadable cases, as in the 20's and 30's, reloading range brass was standard....... but in War, you almost never pick up brass for reloading.
Now days, the US sells its spent brass as scrap metals by the pound and by the ton.

Id love to get in on a few bucket fulls of this stuff ~~LOL!!~~


February 24, 2013, 06:56 AM
Some Russian steel-case ammo does use Boxer priming -- it just depends on the factory and the caliber.

Ignition Override
February 24, 2013, 01:37 PM
My reloading started about two years ago, and so far just for .303 and some .308 for the FR8 (strong, Large ring Mauser action).

It makes plenty of sense that the Russians have no reason to change, as long as they make plenty of money.

Maybe wthin a few weeks, any 7.62x39 ammo from possibly increased production (?:scrutiny:) will finally make it through the Bosporus, Med., and Atlantic to our shores?
Hopefully the Serbians have increased Prvi production.

February 24, 2013, 01:52 PM
As others have noted it really comes down to two things which both stem from Russian commercial ammo really coming out of Russian military ammo production (sometimes on the same machines). Essentially, Russian commercial ammo is a sideline to Russian military production.

1) Berdan primers are more stable and more reliable than boxer primers. Russians love something that will go bang even if you bury it in the backyard for a few years. They decided after WW2 to never be caught unprepared again and thus stockpile ammo like there's no tomorrow. So with the military using Berdan primers, the factories just stick to what they know and what their machines are set up to produce.

2) Steel cases are common because it's cheaper than brass and works nearly/just as well as brass for the one time it's used. Once again, Russian ammo production is geared towards military applications and no one really bothers to reload brass in war, so steel makes a lot of sense. As others have noted, we here in the US have a particular fascination with and tradition of reloading our ammo...this tradition doesn't exist in many other countries.

February 24, 2013, 10:06 PM
The necessary lacquer coating of the steel has to add to production cost.

February 25, 2013, 04:55 AM
The necessary lacquer coating of the steel has to add to production cost.
I believe every operation in the manufacturing process increases the overall cost of manufacturing the product. The idea being when all is said and done the end product has a lower cost per unit.

With a focus on 7.62 x 39 ammunition this is an interesting read (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_Ammunition). I haven't a clue how accurate it actually is so please keep that in mind if you read it. According to the article Wolf stopped using the lacquer coating and also quit using the red colored sealant around the primer and bullet.

I was also not aware that Wolf is actually a US headquartered company or that their match grade .22 ammunition is of German manufacture. Since I don't really use Wolf I never gave the stuff much thought. Guess I should read the labels on some of that Wolf .22 Match I ended up with. :)

Overall if you plan to manufacture a few bazillion rounds of ammunition, for the battlefield, berdan priming and steel cases (toss in steel jacketed bullets) is the way to go. :) Inexpensive and the stuff works for its intended use.


Carl N. Brown
February 25, 2013, 05:32 AM
Well, without a polymer or lacquer coating the steel case would rust. So even though cheaper than brass, uncoated steel cases would be unusable. Even though the coating step makes coated steel cases more expensive than uncoated steel cases, they are still cheaper than brass, especially considering the one shot use of most military ammo.

Russian acceptance of Berdan primers and steel cases may be part of the different gun cultures or gun politics. If Russia had had a big culture of civilian gun users handloading for either savings or experimentation, Boxer primers and brass cases would be as big in Russia as they are in the US. The gun culture and gun politics in Russia was predominately military, with the government keeping strict track of centerfire ammo allowed to the civilian users (mostly hunters or farmers in remote areas).

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