I picked up two boxes of Winchester 9mm bulk at my local Wally World and found five of these red primers.
I’ve got one possible explanation, and it’s all about how bringing our troops home is keeping ammo prices down…
What you’re seeing on the back of that round is (most likely) primer sealant.
When primers are press fit into cases during the ammunition manufacturing process they usually form a tight enough seal for civilian use, keeping out most of the moisture and protecting the powder and primer components from corroding. But if you’re out in the elements (say, crossing rivers or in a monsoon) some moisture can leak into the cartridge and ruin the powder (and subsequently your day).
That’s where primer sealant comes in. Primer sealant is typically a laquer-like compound that is applied over the primer to form a watertight seal and make the cartridge almost completely impervious to the elements. It’s an extra step in the process though, so for normal civilian sales they typically don’t bother. Military contracts, on the other hand, quite like primer sealant on their ammunition. And considering the environments in which the ammunition is going to be used it makes sense.
So how did that sealed primer get into your ammo supply? Well, it probably has to do with our decreasing involvement in the middle east.
When the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were heating up, the military started placing orders for massive quantities of ammunition. In response the major manufacturers ramped up production to meet the demand of the military, and made those components according to the military specification (sealed primers, etc).
With the draw-down of U.S. forces, what we’re seeing is that ammo manufacturers produced more components in anticipation of more military contracts, but those contracts never came. So the components that they were expecting to sell to our boys in green were just sitting around the warehouse collecting dust.
Instead of waiting for the next conflict to heat up, what these manufacturers are doing is using the components they already created in anticipation of military contracts and using them to make civilian ammunition, a market that has been expanding recently and is always hungry for more ammo. And the fact that the components were already on hand means that they can keep the prices down on the civilian stuff.
My guess is that what you have here is a couple of primed cases that were destined for military contracts and re-purposed for civilian ammunition, loaded with the rest of the lot and sent out to Wally World.
Or there’s a guy at WalMart with a red marker who likes messing with people.