Primers Matter

Airborne lead levels are significantly reduced by the use of copper-jacketed, copper-plated, lead-free, and nylon- and polymer-coated bullets, but there’s still lead from the primers. Several companies offer ammunition that is totally lead-free, with lead-free bullets and lead-free primers — so-called “green” ammo.

Most of the primers available to handloaders use a lead-based component in the explosive mixture. Lead-free primers are rarely available to handloaders, but some have been. The only lead-free primers available as a loading component I’ve found are from Fiocchi, available for small pistol and small rifle. You won’t confuse Fiocchi’s lead-free pistol primers with anyone else’s, because the primer cups are black.

I asked Fiocchi if their lead-free primers required special cases with enlarged flash holes (as seen with some factory ammo with lead-free primers), or if they required adjustments in the load data. Fiocchi replied there was no special requirement for flash hole size. They suggested checking with the powder manufacturer’s ballistician when using data with lead-free primers. So, I did.

Alliant had no tested load data with lead-free primers in its recommendations, though they said factory ammo is different for lead-free primers due to differences in the flash and fire. Western Powders said no adjustments were needed. Hodgdon said as far as they knew, there would not be any difference in data using these primers. Vihtavuori said there might be a difference and to begin with the starting load and work up. None waved a red flag or screamed, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”