Light Primer Strikes


I had a chance to buy some Federal Papers 3 Dram 7 & 1/2’s. The price was right and I love the smell of the powder too. The problem is that one out of every 40 rounds or so, I only get a slight ding in the primer and it does not go off. I put it through again, the same shell and it will fire. I wonder what the problem is. Is my firing pin starting to wear out? I hope not. Any advice?


Dear Frank,

Of course, it could be the shell. You can easily “eyeball” primer depth by laying a metal straight edge over the back primer to judge how far in it is sunk. It’s possible that the primers are occasionally a little deep, but my guess is that is firearm related.

I can’t tell what the problem is without looking, but the first thing I’d do is to remove the bolt from the Gold and disassemble it. Check to see that the firing pin is OK and that the firing pin return spring is also good. A broken or weakened firing pin return spring will give you inconsistent strikes that can drive you loony before you figure it out. Don’t ask me how I know. Make sure to very carefully clean out everything just in case there is a bit of grit clogging something inside the bolt. It wouldn’t hurt to replace the firing pin too. They are cheap enough so that you can just stick one in without worrying about it. I believe that Brownells carries a complete selection of current Browning parts.

It’s probably that the Federal primer cup is just a bit low and you are right on the edge of good ignition. Browning Golds have had some firing pin breakage problems in the past, but I think that those have pretty well been dealt with. That firing pin is awful thin though.

What’s confusing to many shooters is that when they get a light strike, the primer is barely dented. When the strike is heavy enough to set the shell off, the primer is very heavily impacted. There seems to be no middle ground. There’s a good reason for that. When the firing pin does ignite the primer, even if it’s just barely enough to do the job, the ignition forces set the primer face back into the protruding firing pin so that it always looks like you had a very heavy strike, even if you didn’t. It’s visually misleading and can make you believe that you are getting a harder primer strike than you really are.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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3 Responses to Light Primer Strikes

  1. jon bastable says:

    I did not use the gun after that experience and promptly had a gunsmith examine and repair the firing pin. Has not happened since, although I’m “gun shy” about letting the bolt go and pay very close attention to where the gun is pointed!!


  2. jon bastable says:

    I’ve had firing pin problems with my Gold…circa 2003 20 ga.. On one occasion the shell sorta fired; most of the pellets ended up inside, under the carrier. The second episode: the gun fired while the safety was on, after I let the bolt go – this due to firing pin issues!


    • Bruce Buck says:

      Dear Jon,

      Having the gun go off when closing the bolt while the safety is on is serious stuff. Get that gun back to Browning or to a Browning-authorized repair center. This is a real safety issue and you don’t want to take any chances. It’s just not worth it.

      Best regards,
      Bruce Buck
      Shotgun Report’s Technoid


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