Crimped primers come from the military side of things – it helps to hold the primer in when headspace is deliberately loose or just got that way. Military ammo can get a rough ride and anything to hold it together – from crimps to tar bullet seals – helps.

But you find it in civvy ammo too – “NT” ammo, and just ammo.

The old primers push out, maybe reluctantly, then the new ones don’t want to go in.  So you have to get the crimp out.  But how?  What’s the Best way?

(PS: does your workplace block this page? This may help you get past corporate firewalls.)

Crimped Primer, 5.56 NATO

Crimped, Primer Out

Crimped primer, staked instead of circled.

Crimped primer, staked instead of circled.

Primer Pocket Types - rolled / radiused, crimped, bevelled / flat.

Primer Pocket Types – rolled / radiused, crimped, bevelled / flat. Rolled / radiused is the Best.

Here are the ways I know of.  Where you see “ihui”, it means “I Have Used It” – all else is gleaned from the web and talking to / observing fellow reloaders.

Reaming

Reaming – cutting metal away – has the slight disadvantage that the primer pocket itself – particularly with a strong ring crimp – may be distorted.  Reaming out only the crimp ring will leave the pockets still distorted / undersized and somewhat difficult to put a primer in  – but they will go in.

Reaming is also messy due to shavings and relatively slow compared to other methods, and may leave an imperfect entry zone for the primer (tool chatter, maybe a flat cut instead of a radius, and so on) or be cut off-centre (some tools, not all).

I have found reaming to be unsatisfactory on a progressive, where the primer / case alignment can be less than perfect, making the entry zone important.

  • scraping with a pen knife – ihui
    • slow and clumsy, but it works if you have only a few to do.  If you rush, the cuts are rough.
  • cutting with a chucked deburring tool- ihui
    • faster and easy, and you already have a deburring tool.
    • looks like this
    • results like this
    • But clumsy use can create this:
  • cutting with a Hornady Primer Pocket Reamer- ihui
    • The “Best” of the common cutting methods – because it’s cheap, effective, fast, and has a depth-stop.  Having said that, it still cuts a flat instead of a rounded entry area, which is less than ideal for slipping the primer in.  Sloppy use of the cutter – working at an angle – will destroy the brass.  I’ve found it best to use by hand.hornadyPrimerPocketReamerCutterHead
  • Cutting with the Wilson Primer Pocket Reamer
    • The high-end of cutters, like everything else Wilson makes this is a precision tool, and you must use the Wilson trimming system to make this work.  This isn’t ihui, but I do use the Wilson trimming system (my pick for precision trimming).  This cuts the less-desired flat entry area, but will uniform severely distorted pocket sides.
    • Looks like this:
    • In the Wilson tool:

Swaging

Swaging re-forms the entire pocket and produces the easiest-to-insert primer experience – all of the listed swagers create the desired rounded entry area.  The downside is some setup time: each brand of brass is slightly different dimensionally, and the tooling should be setup for a given brand for best results.  Mixed brass can stop the process, bend something, or just result in a less-than-perfect removal.

  • CH4D Primer Pocket Crimp Swager Tool – ihui
    • The “Best” of the swaging tools – it is the least expensive swaging method that I know of, and the fastest – this tool works with any standard reloading press with a ram and 7/8×14 threads (it will also work in the Forster Co-Ax with its shell holder adaptor plate).  It holds the case by the rim in your own shell holder – some have reported tearing rims (certainly due to setup issues) but I find it works well, having swaged both commercial and military cases.  My example is a little rough in the non-critical areas (such as the body threads), but smooth enough where it counts – the swaging punch.  For the price, I’m not going to complain about imperfect finish when the fit is fine.
    • Here’s why it’s fast: slip the case in, move the press handle a few inches until the ram tops out, pull the handle back a bit, slip the case out and do it again.  Minimal handle movement, and everyone is well-practised at moving cases in and out of shell holders.

      CH4D swager punch

      CH4D Swager Die Body with Shell Holder

      CH4D Swager Punch Showing Through Shell Holder

      Swaged Military Brass – CH4D

  • RCBS Primer Pocket Swager Combo – ihui
    • This tool works with any standard reloading press with a 1″ or smaller ram and 7/8×14 threads.  It pushes the case over a rod, which stops the case while the swager nipple continues up to do its job. There’s a cup that sits over the ram, called the “case stripper”, pushing the finished case off of the swager on the ram downstroke.  Without using the cup you can still wiggle the case off of the swager, but even with a touch of lube on the swager every few cases this is fussy and slow.  With the cup, cases pop off easily with the right motion.  Setup is important on this swager: too tight and the rod bends (RCBS will replace it, but then you wait).  I find this system a bit awkward – getting the case over the rod with the rod being invisible inside of the die is fiddle work.  Might be easier if you swage before sizing, so that the neck dimension is more generous.
    • rcbs crimp swager 3rcbs crimp swager 2rcbs Swaging Rod Closeup
    • Swaged with RCBS
  • Dillon Super Swage 600 – ihui
    • The crème de la crème of off-press crimp removal, this standalone tool is fast (maybe twice as fast as the RCBS), works well, and takes up little space.  It is expensive, but bulk reloaders swear by it.  Setup is less critical as you have less leverage than the RCBS system.  Pop the brass over the rod, slip down, work the handle, flip and, remove brass, then rinse and repeat.  The rod is pointed, which has pros and cons: easier to slip the brass over, but pushes directly on the flash hole instead of bridging it as in the RCBS system (which has a concave end) – one could imagine burrs being pressed across the flash hole, and the concave RCBS rod supports the head on the thickest part of the case.
    • dillon super swage pic 1dillon super swage pic 4 closeup of rod / anvildillon super swage pic 2dillon super swage pic 3
    • Swaged with Dillon

      Make sure your brass is lined-up properly before cranking the handle:

    • dillonSwageOops
  • Dillon 1050 Super progressive press – ihui
    • On-press crimp removal – the fastest possible method. Since every pocket is uniformed as the brass travels around the press, you never again worry about a crimped pocket getting mixed in and causing a stoppage.  If your only problem is removing pocket crimps this is an overkill solution – but if you were considering this near-industrial press anyway, it’s a great benefit.  I have never owned one, but have used one – smooth and powerful.  Setup matters, because the brass is positioned against an inserted rod as with the RCBS system.
    • dillon1050SwagePicdillon1050SwagePicCutaway

There you have it – there are many ways to skin this cat, so pick the one that works for you.

25 Responses to “Get the Crimp Out! The Best Way(s) to Decrimp Primer Pockets”

  1. Keith Says:

    Excellent and informative – thanks for taking so much time and effort to do it

  2. squibloads Says:

    Thanks Keith. Always good to get some feedback – I find that taking the time, once, saves time in re-explaining repeatedly.

  3. Darrin Zimmerman Says:

    Awesome article! Great photos and explanations!

  4. Neal Says:

    First class reporting. Great job and very helpful. Thank you.

  5. mmkkpro Says:

    Thank you very much for the reviews,as a new reloader im putting together the best equipment i can afford,the dillion seems to me to be the best for fast ,reliable crimp removal,costs more but ithink in the long run it will be my choice.Thanks agian big help to newbie,mike

  6. Bart Says:

    Thanks, this is the best explanation I have found. Nice pics, easy to see what your looking for.

  7. Rich Senecal Says:

    What does ihui mean?

    1. squibloads Says:

      Hi Rich. As noted in the article, ‘Where you see “ihui”, it means “I Have Used It” ‘

      1. Rich Senecal Says:

        Thanks, I must learn to read more carefully.

  8. john Says:

    Great Job! Period!

  9. Mike Says:

    Beautiful job on this. Thanks….

  10. Jay Says:

    Well done comparison ! Very educational. Thank you!


  11. A buddy was trying to explain this process by email. I was asking how to reload .223 and just not getting it. A well thought-out and informative explanation! Bookmarking now. Thank you.

    1. squibloads Says:

      Always great to hear some positive feedback!

  12. Seth O. Says:

    1. How are primer pocket crimps formed? 2. What does the tool that forms them look like? 3. How does said crimping tool work? 4. How many different variations of crimping styles are there ( three stake, four stake, circle, epoxy; Is that all?) 5. What happens to all that brass that gets crimped after it’s been reloaded four times?

    1. squibloads Says:

      Hi Seth. Regarding 1-3, http://lmgtfy.com/?q=making+cartridge+cases . Regarding 4, I don’t know; regarding 5 – cases can be reloaded a few times or many – and are then recycled.

  13. Don Harmon Says:

    Yes, dumb question, but what doe “ihui” mean? “imho” means “in my humble opinion,” but “ihui” does not show up in google.

    1. squibloads Says:

      Don, thanks for writing. From the post (just under the picture of three types of pocket), ” Where you see “ihui”, it means “I Have Used It” – all else is gleaned from the web and talking to / observing fellow reloaders.”

  14. Ron Says:

    Great article. This is exactly the information I have been trying to find on reaming pockets. Since I am just starting to reload and buying used brass at my local gun shop, the comparison pictures of the different shell casings helps a lot. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  15. Don Harmon Says:

    Wonderful. But what is “ihui?”

  16. Scott Says:

    Great article. Echo your comments on the RCBS setup’s sensitivity to brass types/variations. I was swaging brass for a friend of mine and unbeknownst to me he had IMI brass mixed in with Lake City. Swager was set for Lake City, rod in swager bent at the first IMI case I hit. Grrrrr…… I’m buying the Dillon tool.

  17. Dez Says:

    Excellent research and presentation. I found it because I sized my crimped 5.56 before using my RCBS swaging combo. Big mistake. The neck is now too small for the swaging rod. Won’t do that again. Tried belling the case but that didn’ t work. Was trimming the brass with a Dillon case trimmer which also sizes as it trims. Thanks!

    1. Dez Says:

      PS the pic regarding “cutting with a chucked deburring tool” saves me from waiting to buy another decrimping tool. Now I know what that little rod sticking out the end is for…often wondered about it… Again, thank you!

  18. Lindsey Says:

    Can I do this with my case trimmer?

    1. squibloads Says:

      Hi Lindsey. Depends on your trimmer – some have attachments / options for removing crimps (like the Wilson).

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