technical info for non shooter/reloader


March 17, 2005, 09:08 AM
Hi I am in the middle of writing a book and have hit a wall and need some technical information on reloading. The situation faced in my story is similar to that of 1632 by Eric Flint, in fact I am writing a companion book. A modern town through a cosmic event has been transported into the distant past. to be exact the early 1400's right in the middle of the 100 years war. The people of my town have access to modern weapons but are faced with the prospect of being out of modern amunition and any reloading supplies that came with them. I have figured out most things but I need to know about making primer for modern ammo. What are my options that a basic community college chem lab could produce given the raw materials. Secondly how much could be made per batch and how quick could you make it? Thanks in advanc and any technical info anyone want to pass that might be useful to my setting/time period might also prove useful.


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March 17, 2005, 09:42 AM
Cool, I read 1632. Good book. Lots of guns! I didn't believe some of the social situations, but it had enough guns and "American attitude" to make up for it. :)

I don't know how modern priming compound (lead styphnate) is made.

However I did run into a short description of how
mercury fulminate (, another primary explosive, is made.

If it turns out that the town can't make lead styphnate, and they have a source of mercury, perhaps they can make mercury fulminate. Probably lose a few townspeople in the process of learning how, though.

March 17, 2005, 09:55 AM
Thanks. I had already to have a pain in the ass character killed in the process.

March 17, 2005, 10:24 AM
1) My characters would have no problem making the cap for the primer, there are a number of metal shops in the town who could easily mass produce them. But my question would be what kind of low temp material would make the best seal for it? With materials on hand I was thinking some sort of waxed paper or cloth?

2) My quick research tells me that a person could easily and safely make 1 or 2 cc's of mercury fulminate every 2 hours in a basic lab. My question is by volume how many 30/06 or 9mm rounds could you prime with 2cc or primer? Obviously for the point of the story I don't want to get into too many details, but I don't want to get too far from the truth either.


March 17, 2005, 10:42 AM
A modern Boxer primer (the most commonly reloaded ammunition style) has two parts. I don't know the technical terms, but for the sake of this discussion, we'll call them the cap and the anvil. The anvil is a tiny piece of metal - often in a bent trifoil shape - that fits into the cap. When the firing pin strikes and bends the cap, the priming compound is crushed between the cap and the anvil, and ignites. Boxer primers generally have a single flash-hole in the casing.

Berdan primers incorporate the anvil into the casing and often have multiple flash-holes, but are more difficult to reload because the depriming process is slowed considerably by the flash-holes not being centered in the case.

Not sure how much that kind of technical detail matters to you, but there you go.

I'd imagine that a very small amount of wax would work well to seal the primer, and that 2 cubic centimeters would probably be enough for maybe 50 primers as a WAG.

March 17, 2005, 10:53 AM
What intrigues me are what the knock-on effects would be.

Maybe they don't have a stock of metal with the right ductility for primer cups, and they end up being too hard. So now weapons sometimes don't fire, and that has tactical implications. People start putting stronger firing pin springs in their guns, if they have 'em, and firing pins start breaking. Which has tactical implications.

Oh, I read a message... here?... from one fellow who admitted that he used to make his own primers using the white phosphorous from the tips of strike-anywhere matches and recycled primer cups and anvils. He would use a punch to remove the dent from the primer, clean out the expended compound, and... if I recall... put in a paste made from water and ground up willy pete (not sure how he made the paste without igniting it), and let it dry. Then put the anvil in.

Maybe the home-made primer doesn't store as well. We're use to having very safe ammo that takes abuse, stores well, and travels well. Maybe the home-grown primers are more sensitive and rounds sometimes cook off from jostling or become unstable from heat. An unintentional discharge at an inopportune time could sure move the story in interesting ways.

Oh, and a whole generation used to non-corrosive primers suddenly has to become reaquainted with the gun cleaning practices of our grandfathers, since, as I understand it, guns fired with mercuric primers need prompt and careful cleaning after firing to avoid corrosion. I've heard that our grandpas firing corrosive ammo used to clean their guns that day, and again the next day.

March 17, 2005, 10:54 AM
thanks for the help so far, but I think I am getting side tracked from the story. Does it sound reasonable to experienced reloaders that 50 cc would be enough for 2000 to 2500 rounds?

March 17, 2005, 12:21 PM
A small primer (9mm size) is .175" in diameter. I did the math and got 48 square inches for 2000 primers. 50 cc's converts to 2.9 cubic inches, so assuming no waste it would be enough to fill each primer cup to a depth of .06 inches, about a 1/16". I'm not about to cut up a primer to measure the thickness of the compound, but it sounds like plenty to me.

30-06 uses a large primer (.210") so would take more, and I think there would be some waste somewhere in the process. Y(fictional)MMV

March 17, 2005, 02:28 PM
BTD, this book will be very helpful to you.


Jim Watson
March 17, 2005, 03:14 PM
Best I recall, there is right around 50 mg of compound in a typical primer. So a gram of mix would load about 200 rounds. But the mercuric priming compound was not pure fulminate, it contained potassium chlorate and ground glass (to shear the chemicals for increased sensitivity) so your mercury would go farther. I was not able to find the proportions, however.

You have a worse problem. Burning fulminate of mercury releases metallic mercury. This will attack cartridge brass and render it unsafe for reloading. If you plan to make black powder, its residue will adsorb, dilute, and blow out the quicksilver, and leave the brass safe for reuse. But if you tool up for smokeless, case life is short to once.

Can you instead reasonably make WW I era FH42 priming compound?
Sulphur 21.97%
Potassium chlorate 47.20%
Antimony sulphide 30.83%

It depends on the primers being very thoroughly dried after loading, they had a lot of misfires in accelerated production in 1917 and changed to a different, more complex mix from then til 1949 but when treated right it was fine. It was a "corrosive" primer and guns have to be cleaned with water or an aqueous solvent to get the potassium chloride out, but that was routine for many years.

Most older primers had a simple disc of lacquered paper between the compound and the anvil.

March 17, 2005, 03:17 PM
thanks. I was able to request the book from my library.

Jim, that compound might work too, thanks.

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