Berdan Cases: An Enigma

Discussion in 'Vintage Topic Archive (Sept - 2009)' started by Jag, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. Yes

  2. No

    0 vote(s)
  3. Are you crazy?!? That's too dangerous!!!

    0 vote(s)
  4. Dang--who thinks I am crazy for even asking such a question?

    0 vote(s)
  1. Jag

    Jag Member

    There are a few ways to deprime Berdan-primed military surplus brass. Here's an overview of the methods that I am aware of:

    * RCBS, a major reloading company (for those guys here who may not be familiar with them), actually sells a Berdan decapping tool that works similiar to a bottle opener to pop out the used Berdan primers. Check out for an article that covers the use of this tool (as well as a FABULOUS site for those folks who own and collect military surplus weapons). Considering the fact that this tool costs in excess of $60, it really may not be the most cost-effective option to deprime Berdan cases...

    * Hydraulic-pressure decapping: this involves making a base to hold the cartridge (there are many ways to do this, although a length of 2X4 with the appropriately sized holes drilled in it to firmly hold the cartridge), a dowel or rod (made of wood or metal) that will create a decent seal at the mouth of the cartridge, a cup of water, work gloves, towels, a clear work area, and a hammer. After placing the cartridge in the holder, one would fill the cartridge almost to the mouth with water. Then, one would place the rod (making sure it as a nearly air-tight seal at the mouth of the cartridge so as to build up enough pressure to pop out the old primer) into the cartridge mouth and hit it with the hammer with a sharp blow. In theory, the hydraulic pressure that would thus result from the concussive shockwave sent throught the water would push hard enough on the back of the primer to push it out of its pocket. Here's where I must offer a word of wisdom: while this method most certainly works, IT IS MOST TIME-CONSUMING AND MESSY! It will also cause your brass cases to corrode should you not clean out all of the water...all in all, this is not the best way to deprime Berdan cartridges...

    * Method number three: speaking as one who balks at the thought of throwing out excellent condition Berdan cases from mil-surp ammo, I will have to say that I have researched/tried the aforementioned methods and found them to be either too costly or time-consuming to be of much worth (unless you have the money or time). However, since we are talking about going through the trouble of depriming Berdan cases anyway, maybe you do... :lol:

    Anywho, I have a secret (one of many... :twisted: :lol: :lol: ) that I will share with you. I have found a way to deprime Berdan cases that DOESN'T involve spending $60 on a specific tool or messing with water and a hammer. Here's what you would need to use this method: medium-thickness work gloves, a few samples of assorted sizes of nails/screws/stiff wire, etc. (SMALL SIZES, like brad nails and finishing nails), small drill bits (try around a 1/16" bit; if you have it available, use a bit made out of a harder metal, like a carbide alloy, so that you can effectively drill through some of the harder military primers that are often found in some of the old brass that people have or are sure to encounter), needlenose pliers, newspaper/drop cloth to collect metal filings/shavings, and a power drill (cordless or corded, doesn't really matter, although the cordless drill will give you more maneuverability).

    After setting up the drill, dropcloth, and your gloves (be sure to wear long sleeves as well so you don't end up slipping and cutting or lacerating yourself with the drill, pliers, etc.), grab a case in your hand or put one in a wood base like the one that was previously described (only be sure to drill a hole for the cartridge mouth instead of the cartridge BASE since this method requires direct access to the primer). After reviewing the design of a Berdan-primed case and a Berdan primer (due to the location of the anvil--I won't divulge into a description of that here since there are really good articles on and in Wikipedia that include diagrams of the design), drill a hole into the primer that is slightly offset from the primer's center (so you miss the anvil). Use a steadily increasing pressure and go slow so you don't drill all the way through the cartridge and thereby ruin your efforts and a good brass case. When you feel the drill bit bottom out through the primer into the interior of the primer pocket, immediately STOP the drill to prevent over-drilling. Now that you have the hole in the primer, put the drill down and set out your finishing nails, wood screws, and needlenose pliers. Find the right diameter of nail or tip on the needlenose that will either match or be just a bit smaller than the diameter of the hole that you drilled in the primer. Proceed to slowly but surely widen the hole with the improvised mini-pry tools that you have selected. Work the pry tools around the primer until the primer begins to back out of the primer pocket. At this point, use the needlenose pliers to grab onto a bit of metal from the now-curled edges of the hole that you drilled in the primer. Begin pulling on the primer until it finally pops out. Discard the spent primer in the appropriate waste bin (or, if you have a mind, save it if you do metalsmithing or similiar work, since the spent primers can actually have a few uses for crafts or other projects as spacers, props, etc.). Once you have removed the primer from the first case, proceed to repeat the above process on as many cases as you have a mind to do (with a little practice, I've found that I can do around 50-60 cases in about an hour's time). Observe the unique design of the Berdan-primed cases if you like the interesting engineering differences between a Boxer-primed case and a Berdan-primed case. Once you have a sufficient quantity of deprimed Berdan cases, you can proceed to the next step in reloading a Berdan case...

    Considering the fact that the third method mentioned above will probably be within the reach of most people's budgets (many folks would already have a power drill, pliers, drill bits, and screws/nails laying around for other uses anyway), I find that, although it takes a bit of effort, it actually makes up for itself by avoiding the mess of the hydraulic method and the direct cash price of a dedicated RCBS Berdan decapping tool. However, once you have deprimed the Berdan cases, here's where the real dilemma begins. Depriming a Berdan case is actually the easy part of the reloading process for these cartridges (at least here in the United States). You will now be faced with the fact that new Berdan primers are nearly nonexistent in the United States. It seems that, while companies like PMC and Magtech and distributors like Old Western Scrounger USED to carry new Berdan primers, there are no current stocks of Berdan primers on the market in the United States (unless you could find a private individual as opposed to a company that has a few boxes from the old stocks that used to be available; if you could find such a person, see if you could purchase a box or two of primers from him/her for your own use). Otherwise, you will be stuck with two options after you find out that Berdan primers are of different sizes than Boxer primers: either you try to adapt a Boxer primer to fit in a Berdan case (which, while theoretically possible [and I've heard a few stories of people actually doing it] is NOT A SAFE PRACTICE DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE PRIMER SEAL MAY NOT BE AS STRONG; THIS COULD ALLOW GAS BYPASS PAST THE PRIMER DURING FIRING IN A WEAPON, WHICH WOULD NOT BE THE MOST PLEASANT EXPERIENCE FOR EITHER THE USER OR THE WEAPON SINCE IT COULD DAMAGE INTERNAL PARTS OF THE GUN OR THE USER... :roll: :shock: ; sufficient to say, the steps involved [adapting the Boxer primer, filing down the anvil of the Berdan case, drilling a center flash hole/touchhole, etc.] makes this a very difficult option), or simply abandoning the whole process and buying newly manufactured Boxer-primed cases for your particular caliber. While I won't completely rule out the possibility of modifying Berdan cases to use Boxer primers, I would say that it is at best very difficult to do. I have come across an article on the web here ( ) that actually details the steps involved in machining Berdan cases to accept Boxer primers. I might experiment myself on some 7.62X54mm Russian Rimmed Berdan cases that I saved from some mil-surp ammo I shot through my M44 Nagant carbines. If I figure out that they are safe to use and shoot, I will report back with my findings. In the end, I should think that, if you have a large quantity of mil-surp spent brass, it might behoove you to hold on to it to figure out if, over time, you might just be able to reuse it...

    Well, now that this post has turned into a monstrosity, I will now stop the discussion and allow all you readers to rest... :lol:

    I'll post again soon. Look out for more articles about reloading!

    P.S. I am making this a seperate thread due to the length and the interesting subject content--I kinda started replying to the other thread with the question about lve rounds in the reloading board and the reply snowballed into this article. I hope it provides some useful info. Enjoy!
  2. Silicon Wolverine

    Silicon Wolverine Well-Known Member

    The fact that 95% of berdan primed cases are steel and thus only reloadable a couple times at best makes this a no-go. Now in a TEOTWAKI situsation, you never know....

  3. Sniper 995

    Sniper 995 Guest

    Only two types of people in this country would ever want to reload berdan primed cases.

    person type 1: someone who owns a rifle chambered in a caliber that boxer primed cases are not available or makeable. This type of person would just buy the rcbs tool and BERDAN primers and be done with it.

    person type 2: someone who has way too much time on his/her hands and is grasping at staws to fill that time. This type person needs serious family/friend intervention. maybe get a dog or cat.
  4. I have thought about saving brass berdan however the only brass berdan that I end up shooting is crap brass. I'm talking about the majority of the 7.62x54 brass berdan primed stuff.

    Whenver I shoot it, it gets badly dented and splits quite frequently.
  5. from my understanding, steel cases also wears out dies very quickly.
  6. I've got a fair bit of .308 brass so I have no real need to do this. I do know a couple of people who are working on reloading berdan primed .223 cases. If you want them I will have a bunch of berdan primed .308's coming my way soon.
  7. I have a bunch and will have more when I shoot the last 1500 of the 308 I have.
  8. Most of the berdan primed ammo I go through is crap brass that I wouldn't want to reload in the first place, so I answered no for me. But with that said, I must admit I have been very curious about it as I have read in other countries, they reload the stuff all the time and scoff at us for considering in unreloadable.
  9. That's a great post Jag. It sounds like something I might do to wile away the time in the depths of the cold New England winter. But, like some others posted, most if not all of my Berdan primed ammo is steel cased and not worth reloading. However, I will save your post just in case the unthinkable happens.
  10. I just save up berdan primed brass steel or otherwise and trade it to the scrap yard for lead to cast bullets
  11. I agree with dukenukum.... I save all that brass to sell as scrap so I can buy more reloading components.