Boxer Primer Removal
Hydraulic Decapper
  David A. Cushman logo  

Instructions for RCBS Decapping Tool
for Removing Spent Berdan Primers

This decapping tool is produced by RCBS. I have never seen one or used one myself.

RCBS Berdan primer removing tool

The white panel below is laid out differently than the original leaflet I have, but the words have not been changed. The illustrations have been redrawn as the photostat image was not of sufficient quality to reproduce.


This essential tool offers reloaders of Berdan cases the only practical dry method for the easy removal of Berdan primers. Decaps a wide range of Berdan cases, such as 8 mm Rimless, 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer, and 11.7 mm Rimmed. All functional parts are made from top grade alloyed steels, and heat-treated for lasting performance and efficiency. The Decapping Pin is made from high grade tool steel. Comes complete with case holder and Allen wrench.

Do not remove "live" primers. To do so could cause primer ignition, causing serious personal injury. Always examine primers to make certain they have been fired before attempting to remove them.


Grasp Case Holder Rod [4] in left hand and place the fired case over it as shown.

RCBS Berdan primer removing tool, preparation for use
RCBS Berdan primer removing tool, digging out old primer
  • With your right hand grasp Decapper, and hook Decapper jaw [2] under the rim, or extractor groove, of the case.

  • Now place the point of Decapping Pin [3] into the firing pin dent in the primer. Press the handle gently but firmly down, and the primer will be ejected. Should the primer fail to eject easily, adjust the Decapping Pin upward or downward with the Allen Setscrew [7].

NOTE: If Decapping Pin is too long, it will damage the anvil in the case.

IMPORTANT: Do not use this tool to remove crimped-in primers found in most military cases.


RCBS Berdan primer removing tool, parts identification

309528Decapping Pin
409532Case Holder Assembly
509533Head Cross Pin
609534Allen Wrench 5/64"
709509Setscrew 5/32" x 1/4" (2)

The sender of the leaflet "Bob Greenleaf" also wrote that he uses his tool differently to the instructions given in the leaflet...

"Instead of using the holder shown, I screw an empty bullet seating die in my RCBS Rockchucker press (upside down and from the top) I drop the case to be decapped into it. That way the neck does not get deformed."

My personal comments... Both the leaflet and Bob seem to place stress on the 'dryness' of this operation, but to be fair to the hydraulic method that I recommend, I must say that it is not a messy operation and although spurts of water do occur they are not as frequent as other so called 'hydraulic' methods that place pistons in the case mouth.

I share Bob's concern about possible case neck damage and I think his adapted method should be applauded.

In the November 2003 version of this page. I stated...

"I am concerned that RCBS consider their tool unable to cope with hard crimped primers and see no reason why they should warn against doing so."

After an exchange of Emails with Jeff Freeman   (Who you may Email if you have any additional questions or need more pics)  I now understand why the proviso about crimped primers was made by RCBS. The holding rod issued with current manufactured tools is around .25" in diameter and if the case mouth is significantly larger than this it can be damaged as the force required for crimped primer removal is high. In addition the extra force required causes gouges or nicks in the rim of the case. Jeff says... "The nicks in the rim look bad, but I have not had any that were deep enough gouges to stop the case from going into the shellholder or not chamber in a firearm"

I gather (from other correspondence) that this type of tool was originally supplied with a case holder handle and several rods of different diameters. Finding or making a rod that fits the case mouth closely is the way many have overcome case mouth damage, but I find the method outlined by Bob Greenleaf the most elegant solution to the problem.

Crimped primers are slightly harder to remove and after removal, there may still be deformed brass around the rim of the primer pocket, but this can be put right by re-swaging the primer pocket after the initial decapping of such cases.

My concerns about possible primer pocket damage remain, even after seeing the details, but after the discussions I have had on the subject, In particular, due to the photo of the pulled primer (see below), my concerns are less strong than they were. Even so 'as far as I am concerned' the hydraulic bottle method or the Pickavant screw driven hydraulic oil method are the only ones that I can strongly recommend for removing Berdan primers, but the RCBS tool must come a close second. Many of my original concerns about digging a primer out in this fashion stemmed from the forces on the walls of the primer pocket being uneven. It is these concerns that remain and these out of balance forces occur even in Boxer primer removal that is done using a pin. The nicks caused by the tool may not be significant, but I never like introducing an extra variable factor into ammunition manufacture or reloading... If there is a way of excluding it.

Since I first produced this page an RCBS illustration has come to light, I believe that it might have been used to make the leaflet that I have reconstructed above. It is subtly different from my drawing and so I include it here for completeness sake.

Illustration from page 67 of 'Speer Reloading Manual No. Ten', it shows a slotted screw being used to control spur penetration depth and shows the primer bulging as it is withdrawn.

The background of the photograph has been removed for clarity.

original picture that might have been used to create the illustration above, RCBS Berdan primer removing tool, digging out old primer

Jeff Freeman provided this image of a Berdan primer removed from a Russian, steel cased 7.62 x 39mm cartridge. He comments... "You can see the mark left by the flat point of the de priming spur, it doesn't actually pierce the primer, but it pushes on and digs into the side of the crater left by the firing pin in the primer. The primer was not pierced, however it did split at the bottom of the crater giving the illusion, if you just looked casually at the primer, that the de priming spur pierced it. Notice that the metal is bulged upwards between the spur mark and the edge of the primer."

  Berdan primer, pulled with RCBS tool, Photo... Jeff Freeman

 Originated... 19 to 22 November 2003, Additions... 20 & 21 February 2004, Upgraded... 27 January 2007, Code Altered... 18 May 2008,
This page has actually been validated by W3C Javascript Navigational elements removed as per W3C Link Checker version 4.1 (c) 1999-2004 Requirements
Shooting favicon