anyone tried making fulminate of mercury for caps?


July 13, 2008, 03:07 AM
I have this urge to be able to make everything involved in shooting a cap and ball revolver - sort of a self-reliant thing. The percussion caps seem to be the hard part. The caps themselves can be made with a Tap-o-Cap, and some folks load them with roll caps. But, I was wondering if anyone had made true fulminate of mercury.

I found a youtube video of a guy doing it and it seems simple, if toxic as hell. Lots of unpleasant fumes, plus you obviously have to be careful not to lose your fingers, presumably by making just a little at a time. Still, I have the urge, and I was wondering if anyone else had the urge to try it, at least once.

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July 13, 2008, 03:09 AM
That would fall under manufacture of high explosives without a license, which is quite illegal. :)

July 13, 2008, 06:39 AM
Yes, it is. If you're going to do something that foolish at least have the intelligence to not broadcast it on the internet.

Shotgun Willy
July 13, 2008, 08:25 AM
Fulminate of Mercury is supposed to be pretty touchy stuff, as well as being illegal to make.
That being said, when you blow yourself up, I've got dibbs on your stuff.:evil:

July 13, 2008, 09:56 AM
You can get a lic. through the ATF to manufacture explosives and then you would be legal, However the $300 fee is too expensive , IMO. The paperwork and application w/fingerprints could be filled out and mailed in one afternoon. Just questioning whether or not you can do ANYTHING, is not illegal. It's called free speech as long as you do not damage anyone.........Mike P.S. Just how many of the folks over here make their own black powder? AND post it...........

July 13, 2008, 12:10 PM
Well, here is the video of a guy making it on youtube:

And here is a lab that walks you through it:

People are pretty jumpy around here! Seems like some folks might have had the urge to make their own caps.

July 13, 2008, 01:11 PM
Fulminate of Mercury is a nasty material. Back in the 19th century when it was used in ammo, Winchester lost a lot of good men in their mixing room. It was made wet, and would be mixed that way. As it dried, it became unstable. Then it might blow up. A lot of men were burned badly and maimed, and even killed IIRC. Winchester finally revamped the room with blast walls to deflect the force of the explosion, and used mirrors to allow the workers to see what they were doing, so they wouldn't be directly in the line of the blast.
I suggest you leave this alone ... but that's just my two cents ......

July 13, 2008, 01:28 PM
There are a lot of better priming materials. Look into it, and avoid fulminate of mercury.
It's not what is used in modern caps, anyway. I believe they use potassium perchlorate. Older primers still have lead azide, though.

July 13, 2008, 01:29 PM
You can probably find a guy on YouTube going about building a homemade atomic bomb.

That doesn't mean you should try to do it to!


July 13, 2008, 01:46 PM
Both the video and the fulminate of mercury seemed like high quality productions and were enjoyable to watch.
If it wasn't an emergency though, who would want to actually use that material as a primer? It's not worth breathing in any of that residual FOM primer smoke otherwise, is it? :rolleyes:

July 13, 2008, 02:07 PM
Trivia: In the movie "Mr. Roberts", Jack Lemmon's character uses fulminate of mecury to blow up the laundry.

July 13, 2008, 02:55 PM
I can understand the reasoning for the OP to want to manufacture his/her own percussion caps & what not & Fulminate of Mercury was the most stable product in the 19th century to manufacture the caps from but I think I'll stick with the store bought stuff for now.

I don't even make my own powder here because I'm affraid of the consequences of my kids getting hurt from my own possible mistakes "no good place at my home for that activity."

I guess what I'm saying is, if you do go along and start making your own just be careful.

July 13, 2008, 06:49 PM
and its morre corrosive to your gun than any thing else you are using.

July 13, 2008, 07:28 PM
Well, I appreciate all the replies. I dodn't chose fulminate of mercury because of any reason other than the chemistry seems like the simplest. If anybody has a better home-brew, I am open to it.

I also appreciate the safety concerns. I think that it is probably possible to to it in small enough quantities to minimize the danger, with safety equipment employed. Obviously, it will be done outdoors to avoid fumes.

I just like the idea of being able to make all the components for a cap-and-ball revolver.

By the way, I think that explosives made in very small quantities for hobby use are legal.

July 13, 2008, 07:33 PM
Can it be done , yess , should you NO However i say the same thing to folk who want to make and grind their own black powder. Point is you can do it , and do it safely if you have a good set of instructions . What you found of wicipida is not good instructions even if they happen to have the recipee right today . Any explosive that can become energetic on its own is best left to the " buy it " stage . Now note i am not telling you not to research it and do it , i am however predicting that in your home workshop something will introduce a variable ( read this as a change of humidity and a spark if nothing else ) and you will have the fastest fire you ever seen lol . By all means get the info , by all means set up to produce . By no means try it . Either you have set a safe zone , and follow a recipe or not . As of today in America dont make any kind of " priming compound " in bulk unless and until you are licensed for same .

4v50 Gary
July 13, 2008, 10:41 PM
I thought the You-knighted Steaks Army Improvised Munitions Manual advised using match heads. I suppose that stuff could be scraped off or even wetted and then scraped off, made into a paste and applied.

July 13, 2008, 11:14 PM
If you break the white tip of a strike anywhere match off with a pair of pliers, then bang the pliers on a hard surface, you'll get a bang with sparks and some smoke. So I assume matchheads would work.

It always freaks unsuspecting people out when I show them that....

Gun Slinger
July 13, 2008, 11:17 PM
Legal ramifications aside, the neurological (brain) damage that you would most likely suffer should you be exposed to the (quite toxic) mercuric compounds would make it kind of hard to appreciate the sense of accomplishment and your new found sense of "self-sufficiency".

Nice to know how to do it but, isn't your health worth more to you than the significant, inherent risk of irrevocable neurological damage?

July 14, 2008, 12:27 AM
I thought the You-knighted Steaks Army Improvised Munitions Manual advised using match heads. I suppose that stuff could be scraped off or even wetted and then scraped off, made into a paste and applied.

I have read about people doing that (on a blackpowder forum). The problem is that those strike-anywhere matches are getting rarer.

I have actually scraped the matchhead tips off dry and put them in a reused primer in an otherwise empty .45 LC case and it definitely works.

July 14, 2008, 12:43 AM
By the way, I think that explosives made in very small quantities for hobby use are legal.

Unfortunately, the BATFE doesn't care what you think. They're concerned only with what is and isn't legal.

4v50 Gary
July 14, 2008, 01:38 AM
Gunslinger said: Nice to know how to do it but, isn't your health worth more to you than the significant, inherent risk of irrevocable neurological damage?

Never mind the legalities, who needs brain damage? Either stock up on percussion caps or get a flintlock. Maybe we can convert a Ruger Old Army to be a flinter? :p

July 14, 2008, 05:33 AM
Hey roscoe, everyone told me I'd get lead poisoning and die if I melted down a battery to make bullets. I did it carefully and safely and the doc says there is NO LEAD in my body.

Does that mean you should try making the primers? No...but just 'cause everyone chimes in and says you shouldn't do something...doesn't make them right, either.

There is definately a danger in making caps. You can decide for yourself whether you want to take that risk. My suggestion - given the danger, time needed, and probably cost - maybe you should just buy a case or two of your favorite caps and probably have a lifetime supply? Maybe work on a good storage system for factory made caps instead of playing with mercury.

July 14, 2008, 06:21 AM
convert a Ruger Old Army to be a flinter?

NOW we're talkin'!:D

July 14, 2008, 09:45 PM
Every one seems to interpret BATFE Orange book differently...but, from what I read; an individual, making explosives on their own property, with no intent to sell, distribute or transport ( DOT regulates ) not defined as a manufacturer! It's pretty clear in the book. However, you must have proper storage, or make and use the explosives within the same day.
You do not need a license to make low order or high explosives. You might check it out online, BATFE website has a pdf of the orange book. You'll only need that license if you're in the business of dealing, producing for commercial use or distributing explosives. Also check proper magazine types required and table of distances if you plan to build a storage shed for any explosives.
We've discussed all this extensively over at Recreational Pyrotechnics and most seem to agree and interpret BATFE, that an individual on their own land can basically do what they want under some logical guidelines. If you want to make caps, it's certainly possible and can be done safely. I'd stay away from armstrongs mix though!!! Stick with fulminate or find a suitable alternative that isn't too sensitive. You can't even get a manufacturers license're a manufacturer, so that kind of clears that up. We looked into it once...unless you're a business, you can't get the license and don't need it either.

July 15, 2008, 01:38 AM
Stick with fulminate or find a suitable alternative that isn't too sensitive.
Thanks - you got one?

Thanks also for the legal lowdown; that was my understanding as well.

July 16, 2008, 06:19 PM
Not that bp isn't a lot of fun and full of historical connection, but to have an independant source of ammo, it's hard to beat the original, a bow and arrow. Lots safer than homemaking kaboom stuff.
At 25 to 35 yds, modern archery equipment is mighty good. Lots farther even with some practice.
And no noise or dirt to clean up and it works every time, too.
If I had to positively, fur sure, make that shot, like for survival food, the bow and arrow would be the choice over a smoke pole.
Very quiet, too. Kind of important in a situation requiring complete independance.
More 2 cents worth.

July 16, 2008, 07:47 PM
So I assume matchheads would work.

the tribes in Darra think so. They used to reload 303 with chopped up nitro cellulous movie film and reloaded their berdan primers with powdered match heads. Mercury fulminate wasn't the corrosive element in the black powder days. It worked alright but when copper and brass cartridges came along, it ate them up. Chlorate primers were corrosive to the gun metal but didnt' harm the cartridge caes.- or didn't harm them as much as fulminate residue.

A guy I knew in high school was approached by his chemistry teacher. " Decker. What is the experiment you have set up in your locker?"
" I'm trying to make some fulminate of mercury."
" Decker, you nucklehead. You're going to blow us all up."

July 17, 2008, 04:27 PM
The white tips from strike anywhere matches can be used to make home-made percussion caps. They work best in the "Musket cap" size. Put several matches in the fold of a slightly damp towel long enough for them to become slightly softened. Use a razor blade to cut off the white tip only. Allow these tips to dry overnight. Using a Que-tip apply a very small amount of Duco-cement to the inside of a .22 short or CB case, and insert the match-tip (flat-side first) They need a few hours to cure, and may not seat on standard musket nipples. An altered nipple, or tapered punch to expand the cases will solve the problem. These are pretty much sure fire with real black powder, but I don't know about modern substitutes. There was no such thing back when this was a common practice.

July 17, 2008, 07:21 PM
While the chlorate primners made a decent substitute for the mercury compound, they're corrosive, and haven't been made in the U.S. for around 50 or 60 years. Modern primers and BP caps use lead styphnate, which started comming into common useage around the 1940s. Virtually all non-corrosive primers use it today, but there are some new lead-free primers being tried for use in indoor ranges. I have no idea of their chemistry, but I will assume they're non-corrosive.

Personally, I wouldn't mess with trying to make the compound. Asside from the dangers, most states have restrictions on such things. Idaho is the only state I know where you can make your own explosives legally in small amounts for personal use, so long as you never transport it on public roads or store it without an approved magazine. You can't even sell black powder without a permit and a magazine, and it's not considered "impact sensitive". Match heads and toy caps might be interesting to try, as a lark, but they are corrosive.

July 17, 2008, 08:30 PM
Just stick some fuse into the nipple hole and shoot it off like a cannon.
Or a 2nd person could stand next to the shooter and simply touch off a nipple hole brimming with powder using a cigarette lighter.
So who needs percussion caps anyway? :neener:

July 17, 2008, 10:07 PM
"and its morre corrosive to your gun than any thing else you are using."

Actually, no. Where mercuric primers were a problem was from when people wanted to reload their brass shells. The mercury would amalgamate with the brass and make it brittle at the head and therefore unsafe to reload. The corrosive primers may have had F of M in them, but the corrosive ingredient was potassium chlorate - the same stuff that makes a lot of foreign surplus ammo, and REALLY old U.S. surplus ammo, corrosive. The salts are neutralized with ammonia, which is why old military bore cleaner reeks of it. However, you then had to carefully remove the ammonia residue and oil thoroughly, or the ammonia would rust your bore as badly as the chlorate primers.

My bad - looks like someone else already posted this info...:banghead:

July 17, 2008, 10:13 PM
"there are some new lead-free primers being tried for use in indoor ranges. I have no idea of their chemistry, but I will assume they're non-corrosive."

Yes, they are non-corrosive, but they have a limited shelf-life. This caused a big scare in the early 90's, with lots of people buying out gun stores' supplies of primers. There was a rumor going around that Slick Willie was going to ban them and only allow the lead-free primers, knowing that the ammo re-loaded with them wouldn't last long enough for people to be able to foment rebellion against his regime (this was when there was such a big hype about the "militia movement", right after Timmy McFlake bombed the Federal Building in OK. City).

July 17, 2008, 10:14 PM
The tap-o-cap works for me. I tried match heads (Ammonium Pentasulfide), but it didn't work. Roll caps are pretty decent in an inline or percussion revolver, but I couldn't get 'em to work in my Hawken. I finally converted THAT one to take small rifle primers, but I still have the number 11 nipple for it.

Jeff F
July 20, 2008, 12:12 AM
Be careful, you could blow your hands off.

July 21, 2008, 05:35 PM
I actually have thought about designing an electrical ignition system for some of my BP guns. When I was younger, I built a small cannon using an electrical ignition. We rigged up some wire to a battery and embedded them in some steel wool at the bottom of a small charge of blackpowder. Worked great.

Seems if someone really wanted to avoid the whole percussion cap thing, you could probably rig up something electrical or piezo.

I'd be curious if anyone else has experimented with this type of thing as opposed to using a flinter.

Oh, yeah, I also got one of the tap-o-caps too. It works fine, but they tell you to buy American made toy gun caps and the problem is, I seem to find regular percussion caps easier to find than American made toy gun caps. The darn things are almost exclusively made in China now. Argh!

July 21, 2008, 07:19 PM
Take a look at the CVA Electra.

It's certainly possible; the hard part is not setting off the powder - all you need to do is generate heat by passing a current through a resistor - it's NOT setting off the powder. That is, controlling the electricity so that you get ignition only when commanded.

July 24, 2008, 03:24 PM
This may not be true but I read it somewhere.

In the early days of scent bottle percussion ignition and maybe even caps, Forsythe didn't use straight mercury fulminate but mixed it with some of the components of gun powder to make it less explosive.

It is true that they tossed both him and his fulminates out of the tower of london armory because they wre afraid he would blow up Englands arsenal

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