Primer Misinformation and Powder Shortages

shot shells

Shotshell reloading has always held a strong interest among US shotgunners, including Shooting Sportsman readers. When I conducted a survey a little more than 10 years ago, more than 50 percent of the SSM respondents indicated that they reloaded. 

Although in the US reloading for target shooting has been traditionally the strongest sector of shotshell reloading, more and more shotgunners are turning to reloading for assembling hunting loads. This is not being driven by the desire to save money (the traditional driver of target-load reloading), but mostly out of frustration with the current ultra-high-velocity trend of most US factory hunting loads, both lead and nontoxic. They’re tired of the recoil, tired of the shifting availability of certain loads and, for those shooting non-traditional loads, such as 2½" 12, 20 and 16 gauges, tired of the nearly total unavailability.

If you’re going to be a reloader these days, however, you have to watch out for the rampant misinformation about reloading that is bandied about in the chat rooms of the many shotgunning websites. It used to be that misinformation about shotgunning and reloading topics was pretty much only spread orally. But the Internet has added massively to the hearsay, rumor and unsupported, untested misinformation about shotgunning, especially reloading. 

Cheddite Primers

Some of that misinformation concerns shotshell primers, specifically Cheddite primers. French-made Cheddite 209 shotshell primers get a lot of play in US reloading today because, by default, they have become the most commonly available 209-size primers for shotshell reloading. Yes, there are at least six other 209-size primers (mostly US made) that have long been sold for reloading, but their availability for the past two or three years can best be described as slim to none. In contrast the French makers of Cheddite primers and hulls have managed to effectively penetrate the vacuum in the US shotshell-reloading market. Cheddite new, primed hulls in almost all of the gauges and shell lengths plus the company’s 209 reloading primers are now the most available of all shotshell-reloading components in the US. 

But here’s the misinformation. The Internet-posting, self-styled experts keep telling made-up stories about Cheddite 209 primers. They sometimes correctly note that Cheddite has three 209-size primers, but they don’t really know how to tell the differences between them and keep making up fantasy information. Here are the facts direct from Cheddite. 

Despite what you may have read or heard, the hottest Cheddite 209 primer is designated the CX2000. And as a reloading primer, it doesn’t matter if it comes in the longstanding yellow or the new blue and pink Cheddite packaging. What counts is the designation CX2000. A less-powerful Cheddite 209 primer is also available designated the CX1000. Again, packaging color doesn’t matter, just the CX1000 designation. Cheddite makes a third, even-less-powerful primer, but it hasn’t been for sale in the US. 

By way of explanation, the various 209-size primers sold for shotshell reloading vary in primer strength (brisance). For reloading purposes, they are generally categorized as hot, medium and cool. There never has been a definitive chart on the relative brisance among shotshell reloading primers. But generally speaking, the hotter category of primers is used to ignite the large magnum powder charges in the larger gauges. These also tend to be slower-burning propellants, which take more primer force to ignite properly. The medium-strength primers tend to be loaded in lighter 12- through 20-gauge loads, which tend to have smaller charges of faster-burning propellants. The coolest primers tend to be loaded in the 28 gauge and .410 bore, which contain the smallest powder charges and, if hotter primers were loaded, would make it problematic to stay within maximum allowable pressure levels.

Regardless of the packaging color, if you want the hottest Cheddite 209 primers for reloading shotshells, look for the designation CX2000 on the box.

Now when it comes to US reloading data, Cheddite primers are always referred to in published reloading recipes as just the Cheddite 209. This omits the CX2000 or CX1000 designation. But be advised that all such data, including that published by me, was worked up with the CX2000. As for primer strength, from my testing the Cheddite CX2000 is very similar to the Winchester 209. 

This brings us to Cheddite factory primers loaded in new, Cheddite-primed hulls. Sharp-eyed reloaders will note that the primers inside these hulls can carry two different lacquer paint-jobs over the primer flash holes: blue or black. In the case of the Cheddite 209 CX2000 reloading primers, they have always had red flash-hole lacquer. But here’s the deal, again direct from Cheddite: the lacquer colors mean nothing as to primer strength. The only thing that counts if you’re going to tell a CX2000 from a CX1000 is the color of the battery cup (see illustration, p. 50). All CX2000 primers in new, primed Cheddite hulls as well as Cheddite primers sold for reloading in the US possess copper-plated battery cups with nickel primer cups (see illustration). If you run into a Cheddite primer that has a nickel primer cup but a brass-plated battery cup, it’s the CX1000. 

Be aware that there are certain Cheddite new, primed hulls in various sub-gauges that have entered the US with CX1000 primers. So check your hulls, and don’t count on the reloading-component suppliers to detect this and know what it means. I’ve run into some pretty faulty information on this subject from one of them in particular. It messed up big time one of my 28-gauge loading projects before I knew the difference direct from the Cheddite people.

Powder Shortages to Continue

I hate to depress you, but be prepared that the several-years-running shortage of shotshell reloading powders is going to continue in 2024 and beyond. The main reason: the ongoing war in Ukraine. Why? Because in that war the most effective and common military tactic has been and continues to be artillery. And artillery shells use smokeless powders as the principal propellant agent. Not just a little either. A single, typical 100-pound, 155mm artillery round takes a little more than 20 pounds of smokeless powder to propel its warhead up to 24 miles!

Now, the US used to produce about 20,000 artillery rounds per month. But the Pentagon intends to up that to 100,000 per month by FY2026. At press time we are currently at about 36,000 rounds per month. This will strain the ability of all US smokeless-powder-manufacturing facilities, such as Alliant and St. Marks, and powder importers, such as Hodgdon, to meet the demand. And since smokeless powders for reloading shotshells have become the lowest man on the totem pole beneath rifle and pistol smokeless powders, you can bet that shotshell powders are going to become even scarcer. It is predicted that their cost in 2024 will be at least 10 to 15 percent per pound higher than in 2023.

So get ready. If you find a supply of smokeless shotshell powder you’re going to be loading, don’t mess around. Stock up, or you’ll likely be doing without. 

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To consult with Tom Roster or to order his new Advanced Lead & Bismuth Shot Handloading Manual, his current HEVI-Shot and HW-13 reloading manual, or custom loading data, contact Tom Roster, 1190 Lynnewood Blvd., Klamath Falls, OR 97601; 541-884-2974

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