Both Berdan and Boxer priming systems are forms of centerfire cartridges. Centerfire primers have the priming compound at the very center of the base of the cartridge.
Berdan cartridge primers were invented by Civil War veteran, marksman and innovator, Brevet Major General Hiram Berdan. These primers feature the anvil (with two or three tiny flash holes) as part of the primer pocket of the cartridge. Unlike Boxer primers, which have an anvil (with only one flash hole) built directly into the primer cup, Berdan primers do not use the “anvil.” It is formed into the case head. Therefore, there are two flash holes on either side of the anvil.
While Berdan-primed ammo is slightly cheaper to manufacture, it also renders the spent cases impractical to reload. Berdan-primed ammunition is often military surplus ammunition or ammunition available from countries located outside of the U.S.
Colonel Edward Mounier Boxer of the Woolwich Royal Arsenal invented and filed a patent for his Boxer-primed ammunition in England in 1866 (1869 in the U.S.). The primer mixture is crushed against the anvil when a weapon’s firing pin strikes the base of the primer cup. This process creates a flash that goes through the flash hole, igniting the powder in the cartridge. It is the most popular primer style in the U.S., largely due to its ease of reloading.
Boxer primers are similar to Berdan primers with one significant difference: the location of the anvil. It sits inverted in the primer cup and provides resistance to the impact of the firing pin as it indents the cup and crushes the ignition compound. The primer pocket in the case head has a single flash-hole in its center.
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