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Drafting A Source Letter For ATF (Reloadable Chemicals)

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by MagnumDweeb, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. MagnumDweeb

    MagnumDweeb Well-Known Member

    [Not Legal Advice, Not Chemistry Advice, Do Not Reproduce or Attempt to Reproduce]

    I started making my own black powder and have had some great success. I used to be a chemistry major before I became a legal studies major back in college (wanted to be a Pharmacist, became a lawyer). I've gone through the ATF's website and haven't been able to find a lot of "Do Not" when it comes to explosives that is actually helpful. On one hand it's okay if it is for only your personal consumption for target shooting and it is properly stored in the appropriate magazine type (essentially small amounts [less than ten grams] are safe to be stored in ammo cans because they can potentially prevent injury).

    My main interest is in Red Phosphorus, Potassium Chlorate, Nitric Acid, Sulfuric Acid, Ammonium Nitrate, Nitrocellulose, Nitroglycerin, DDNP, and collidons for purposes of ammo propellants. I haven't experimented and won't even buy the materials to experiment with (constructive possession). For black powder, as long as it is for propellants it's okay. Essentially no storing in cardboard containers or otherwise obvious explosive use containers (yet exploding targets are okay [Tannerite]). Absolutely no mention or interest in anything else.

    I've got the ability to buy some fugly Ruger .357 blackhawks (ugly exteriors, good bores) and want those to be the test guns with .38 Special.

    So I'm going to send out a source letter on what chemicals are legal to own on a federal level (states will differ, I imagine no homemade ammo in states like NJ, MA, Ca.), and in what amounts.

    I make my black powder in really small amounts. I tested the danger of the black powder in the mortar I bought for it and found I can safely make up to one hundred grams at a time, that should it ignite, I won't be facing anything other than some nasty burns I might have to go to the hospital for (no lost fingers or eyes).

    For potential smokeless powder purposes the amounts will be even less. I don't plan to make more, or store more, than fifty grams at a time for safety purposes.

    I'm doing this to prove to myself it can be done than for any other reason. If it can be done legally then I work on experimenting with urea and nitrocellulose (to reduce the incidiary effect) and adding graphite.

    I'm curious to see what happens when, at a .38 Special load for a 158 grain SWC, when the powder weight is made up of Nitrocellulose, petroleum jelly, graphite, and urea. The real trick will be creating insoluable nitrocellulose.

    My aim is to prove in even a powder absent marketplace (too many competing purchasers, and price crazen sellers) that some semblance of smokeless powder and primer can be produced. I've successfully tested thirty six black powder catridges with cast .356 125 grain SWC. I might also tinker with .22lr, for some reason I tons of spent .22lr brass.

    Does anyone have anything to contribute?
  2. kingmt

    kingmt Well-Known Member

    Sorry nothing I can add but thanks for the interesting read.
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    The Red Phosphorus is going to raise a red flag (no pun intended), since it's one of the main ingredients of making meth. And as you know, it's also very dangerous to handle.

    Hope this helps.

  4. MagnumDweeb

    MagnumDweeb Well-Known Member

    I realize the red phosphorus may be an issue. It can be bought from chemical suppliers and other means but what I want is a legal means of owning it and using for target shooting purposes.

    The reason for it is that when mixed with potassium chlorate, it can make sensitive primers. Yes potassium chlorate by itself can be used as a primer but I want to experiment with the levels of shock and sensitivity. If I can legally own and use it for perosonal target shooting purposes then I have a myriad of tests I would like to try with .38 Special cases and then work up .22lr and 9mm. I plan to use Norinco 213 9mm semi-automatic for the homemade ammo. It has successfully used modern commercial primers and black powder to cycle cast SWC 124 grain .356 projectiles. I really need a chronograph. The .356 SWC will also go down my S&W Model 15-3 with black powder and produce some target shooting results at seven yards. I've also done successful testing with my 1911 STI Spartan in .45 ACP using modern black powder and primers.

    The red phosphorus will help ensure ignition of the primer and enough of a heat source to start the conflagoration of the Poudre B wannabe powder. I have some other combinations I want to explore as well such as a small black powder charge in tandem with Poudre B-Like charge wadded with nitrated paper (rolling paper) with the smokeless powder moving freely. The petroleum jelly will help lessen its shock senitivity as far as the nitrocellulose but not remove it completely. All the bubble wrap I've been hording will start to serve its purpose for transporting the ammunition from my house to the range.

    The next big step will be actually home formed primers. The anvils are pretty easy to make using staples and super glue. You just have to have good eyes and free standing magnifying glass. The anvil essentially just serves as the hard surface which the primer cap has friction against when striking the primer. I'll put a small piece of nitrated paper over the anvil to keep the powder from slipping out.

    The cap drum itself of the primer can be formed with a punch and a hammer using a sacrificial deprimmed cartridge. You first hammer it in to form the cap drum and free it, put in the primer material, put the anvil in and then use a small piece of nitrated paper to cover the anvil exposed side before pushing the primer in to the hole. The primer itself will not be form fitting as primers are actually slightly oversized for the priming part of reloading. But upon ignition the primer should expand inside the primer pocket and not pop out. Sometimes it will pop out or fall out anyways which can be dangerous in semi automatics as you may have a small amount of white phosphorus (almost microscopic after ignition) freely moving around your cartridges.

    The red phosphorus to potassium chlorate ration is one part to five parts and is incredibly small when given how much primer compound is actually used. In cap and ball pistols. The nipple acts as the anvil equivalent with the nipple caps.

    Mind you all of this is incredibly monotanous and mind numbing. I've fun the processes with salt and cornstarch as the dummy materials just to get an idea of how much time this would actually take.

    Also, I want to test dextrin made from corn starch as a substitute for petrolleum jelly when mixing with nitrocellose that's been treated with urea (treatment being urea and nitrocellulose homogenized with acetone or methanol).

    I'll have the source letter finished by Friday. It's already three pages. I don't imagine getting an answer for six months which is a shame but I'm sure the ATF is busier with bigger things.
  5. Sun Tzu warrior

    Sun Tzu warrior Well-Known Member

    Hello Mag! to quote you "My aim is to prove in even a powder absent marketplace (too many competing purchasers, and price crazen sellers) that some semblance of smokeless powder and primer can be produced." Yes it can. See department of the army technical manual TM31-210, improvised munitions handbook. (you can get at most military surplus stores and gun show) rimfire can be re-primed using the tip of strike anywhere matches made into a thick paste by adding a little water. Now you know it is possible. Ma Tzu always told me, as a child, that kids who play with matches get burned, taken to it's logical conclusion, guess what happens to kids who play with explosives.......
    If not physically, then by the ATF. Just sayin'!
  6. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    Other than to wait for the letter from the fed- I have little to add other than the fact that nitrocellulose is exceptionally finicky to formulate properly, and is exceptionally hygroscopic when left in an untreated state.

    None of the components you listed are particularly difficult to obtain, but will be incredibly hard to justify possession of outside of an academic environment ( not your basement ), or in the absence of an ammunition manufacturers license.

    If you could get a class 6 FFL, I could see no barrier to doing exactly what you are doing- as this license expressly implies your ability to handle, transport, and sell finished materials of this nature.

    If you have the zoning for it, its not hard to get. If you don't, good luck convincing your municipality to sign off on this one.

    Good luck, I'll be following this'n.
  7. david_r

    david_r Well-Known Member

    Can you clarify why you are wanting to put yourself on the ATFE radar? It seems to me that you are within your legal rights to be doing what you are doing (at least at the federal level). It seems like a bad idea to ask for permission from the government to do something that isn't illegal.
  8. crabwearer

    crabwearer Active Member

    As pointed out above, it could be hard to explain why you have a lot of the ingredients to make meth. It will be harder to explain why you have all the necessary ingredients to make Homemade Explosives (HME). In the current atmosphere of everyone's a terrorist, it would take nothing for the ATF to declare that you were making HME for terrorist devices. We all know that's not what's going on but the ATF could make that case and cause a huge headache. It's good that you have a chemistry background because when you start mixing those components you need to understand what is happening with those materials in order to prevent a runaway reaction (keep it on ice, mix in slowly, etc). Before proceeding with making anything more than you already have, I would wait for a response from the ATF to determine the legality of what you want to do. TM31-210 is good but you definitely want to know what you're doing before you start doing anything you read in that manual. There are a lot of people who make mistakes and burn down houses/barns/garages or lose fingers/eyes by following what they read in some of the other non TM books.

    You also may want to research the storage compatability of the individual chemicals you listed to make sure there are no potential storage issues.
  9. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

    Ammo manufacturing FFL is a whopping $25. Fill out that, do the fingerprint cards, get the background check, and when the FFL is issued do all of the EPA forms... and you're a LONG way towards "proving intent".

    In fact, what you're doing could be considered the starting point of a commercial enterprise.

    Just do your homework on OSHA. Those people do NOT mess around.
  10. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    FWIW , OSHA does not apply to sole proprietor enterprises, just sayin.
  11. Trent

    Trent Resident Wiseguy

    True, OSHA has no jurisdiction if you're a sole proprietor with no employees. If you have ANY employer-employee relationships in the organization, however, you are indeed fair game. :)

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