Primer Waterproofing Experiment


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John Wayne
December 2, 2010, 08:09 PM
Just finished loading up some rounds and decided to try a little experiment, on a whim. Here are the results of my rather brief and simple experiment.

4 rounds of .357 mag handloaded ammo, using nickel cases, Federal primers, and 158 gr. XTP bullets were selected at random from a batch I'd loaded. These had a crimp of approximately 1/4 turn. To two of them, I applied clear nail polish around the primer and around the case mouth. I applied one coat, let it dry, and then applied another.

I plunked all four rounds in a glass of water. I also dropped in one factory Winchester .38 SPL JHP round and one Winchester 9mm JHP round. I let them all sit for 48 hours.

Went to the range today and fired them:

-2 .357 Mag rounds with nail polish fired the first time
-2 .357 Mag rounds w/o polish would not fire, even 2nd or 3rd attempt
-both factory rounds fired the first time

So turns out it actually does make a difference! Last canoe trip I took I managed to keep my gun relatively dry but some of the ammo that was in my pocket did get wet. I'd waterproofed it using the method above, and fired it at a later date with no issues, but always wondered if the extra step made any difference.

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bomb dropper
December 2, 2010, 10:11 PM
Nice I was just thinking about doing this.

GaryL
December 2, 2010, 11:27 PM
I always figured it made more difference with the powder than the primer, but the factory does process the priming compound wet and after it dries it becomes sensitized. I was told that by an engineer at an ammo manufacturer where I was installing equipment.

68wj
December 2, 2010, 11:36 PM
Have you pulled the bullets and inspected the contents? Maybe re-weigh the powder to see any added water weight.

Hondo 60
December 2, 2010, 11:38 PM
Thanks for your testing.
But more so, thanks for taking the time to post your results.
This is exactly why I like reading stuff here.

PO2Hammer
December 3, 2010, 12:28 AM
I had some .40 cal 180 grain Blazer aluminum ammo get wet and roughly half failed to fire.
There's a reason military and premium commercial ammo is waterproofed.

howlnmad
December 3, 2010, 02:51 AM
I've been stealing the ol ladies nail polish for years. You don't need that much either, just enough to fill the little valley between the primer and case.

Hey_Allen
December 3, 2010, 10:39 AM
I'd picked up a bottle of lacquer paint from a hobby store for primer sealing, but I never thought to actually test it like this...

I think I'm going to have an extra test for the next range day now!

PO2Hammer
December 3, 2010, 06:33 PM
I wonder if lacquer paint would be too thin and penetrate where you don't want it to go.
Nail polish or the stuff from Midway is fairly thick.

rcmodel
December 3, 2010, 06:39 PM
All I know is, I've hunted in the rain off & on since 1962 with nothing but handloaded rifle, pistol, and shotgun ammo.

None have ever been primer or bullet sealed, and I have never had an ammo related misfire in those 48 years.

That includes fishing reload shotgun shells out of a flooded duck blind or duck boat floor, and setting in a deer stand in a monsoon rain because I was too dumb to quit and go home.

Course, I have never scuba dived with live ammo, but if I did, I would probably put it in a zip-lock bag first!

It's much simpler then dabbling paint on ammo and getting flakes of it inside your guns in all the wrong places.
That right there can cause misfires!

rc

GaryL
December 3, 2010, 07:59 PM
I wonder if lacquer paint would be too thin and penetrate where you don't want it to go.
Nail polish or the stuff from Midway is fairly thick. W/O saying too much, the stuff I saw being applied by automated equipment was quite thin and wicked around fairly quickly. The amount was ... not much.... not much at all...

Having said that, it wasn't necessarily nail polish, but nail polish is more than adequate for the average reloader.


Also, I would bother with doing that to anything that is for range duty or plinking.

Bovice
December 3, 2010, 08:51 PM
From rcmodelIt's much simpler then dabbling paint on ammo and getting flakes of it inside your guns in all the wrong places.
That right there can cause misfires!


Thats what I would worry about. But at least I know it's a possible solution if I need to have a small batch that's water resistant.

John Wayne
December 4, 2010, 12:54 PM
Have you pulled the bullets and inspected the contents? Maybe re-weigh the powder to see any added water weight.

No, unfortunately I don't have a bullet puller yet. I would like to do a more scientific experiment and test a lot more types of factory ammo (specifically wondering if factory FMJ is waterproof like factory defensive ammo is), but for now I just did a very basic experiment to see if it warranted testing any further.

Eventually, I'd like to test:

-Factory FMJ vs. factory defensive ammo

-crimped vs. uncrimped rounds

-primers only sealed vs. case mouth only sealed

-whether lacquer affects headspace in autoloaders, whether it can cause light strikes or other problems

I wonder if lacquer paint would be too thin and penetrate where you don't want it to go.
I used 99 cent nail polish from the drug store, and it is farily thick. I would think you could go thinner so long as whatever you were using wasn't runny.

RC,
I understand your point that most ammo will go off anyway, and I'm not worried about it becoming a dud if it gets rained on either. Like I said, the reason I did this in the first place was because of a canoe trip, where my gun stayed mostly dry but the speedloaders in my pockets were constantly getting wet when I had to get out of the boat. I don't intentionally go walking around in thigh-high water but there are some times when you step in holes or have to go after a runaway boat and don't have time to take the ammo out of your pockets :)

Now I can't say for sure that those rounds that got dunked wouldn't go off even without nail polish, but I can say that leaving them underwater for any significant period of time does make a difference. When that's all the ammo you have, I think it's worth the extra time waterproofing them just to be sure.

I will say that I certainly don't do this with all my ammo. I would also like to see how many layers of lacquer it would take to start getting light primer strikes, or if ammo sealed in this way affects chambering in autoloaders.

nicholst55
December 6, 2010, 06:58 AM
Be aware that too much, or (an application of) too thin of a 'seal' with lacquer can, and will, kill your primer, too.

I used to pull down all of the 'dud' ammo that was returned to the Arms Room back in the day, when I was with the Marksmanship Unit, and every single round had the primer killed by lacquer. This was all USGI ammo, 98% of the Match variety.

W.E.G.
December 6, 2010, 12:12 PM
If my understanding is correct, the sealant for the military ammo gets applied to the case or the primer before the primer is seated.

I question whether brittle fingernail polish that is just smeared on the primer will stand up over age, and temperature variations. I'm thinking it will become just so much more crud dumped into your firing pin channel and bolt lugs. Once it turns brittle, I would expect it to be a poor sealant when used as an after-the-fact, smear-on, accessory.

I'm not a fan of any sort of sealer that has to work its way in, from the outside, in order to form a seal.

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