What happens to priming compound when it's exposed to water?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by gamestalker, Nov 14, 2014.

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  1. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    If someone were to fill a primer cup with water, does the compound dissolve, or does it become a putty or clay like substance?

    I'm just curious how the compound is handled during manufacturing, how do they get it into the cups, is it a water soluble substance that's sprayed into the cups, or what?

    And I'm assuming in it's wet or liquid state, that it's quite stable, other wise I would imagine there would be a high risk of accidents.

    Feed me.

    GS
     
  2. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    Since they are designed to be moisture resistant, probably nothing. Keep in mind primers were meant to be active after decades of storage in harsh environments around the world in damp/hot/freezing conditions while being tossed around in military trucks going offroad and jarring cross country delivery truck rides. They are pretty tough and difficult to deactivate.

    WARNING: Please wear eye/face protection whenever handling primers.

    The primers I have taken apart all have sealants and/or sealing barriers (bursting paper?) that protect the priming compound. When you look inside the primer cup, the color you see is not the color of the priming compound but rather the color of sealant/sealing barrier.

    Many post they deactivate primers by soaking them in different solvents/solutions. Well, to deactivate the priming compound, you must soak past the sealant/sealing barriers and even then the solvents/solutions need to react with the priming compound to neutralize them. Looks like we have another THR myth busting in the works (Can primers be deactivated by soaking in solvents? :D).

    As to how they are manufactured, someone more familiar with that process can comment.

    Primer anvils with their respective sealing barriers felt like heavy waxed/treated paper cups and they were quite durable/not readily damaged. They were solidly pressed/glued in and difficult to remove from the priming compound.
    [​IMG]

    Winchester and Magtech primers still have their paper cups inside the primer caps but Tula and PMC sealant/cups were removed (Tula anvil shows pink paper cup still attached to the anvil tip). Looking inside Tula/PMC primer caps, you can see the hard priming compound under the yellowish powdery substance.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  3. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    There's a video by Federal somewhere on YouTube that shows the Lake City plant workers making up the primer putty. It looks like a cohesive lump of bread dough. In the video they say that they work the putty while it's moist and add water to keep it safe and pliable.

    This does not mean that adding water after it dries will necessarily return the finished primer back into a soft and inert mixture, but it does answer your second question concerning manufacture.
     
  4. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    Cool guys, thanks that answers my questions quite well. I often wondered what preserves them so well, ya nailed it for me BDS.

    GS
     
  5. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    The primer compound when wet is like paste but of course if you add or remove water the consistency will change. When wet the compound is safe and will not ignite. Only when it drys does it become volatile. Even if you soak primers in water and then discard them when they dry out they are again active.

    Here is a video on how 22LR ammo is made. I couldn't find a primer video but the compound in the 22's is the same as in primers.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5qMsmucXhI
    If you want to skip right to the compound jump to 4:30 to see that.
    (One Quarter Million Rounds to a Pallet!)
     
  6. Uniquedot

    Uniquedot Member

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    I just read an article on this last week and darned if I can fully remember the process, but I do remember it said the tech put the paste on a tray of primer cups and used a squeege to rake the compound across the cups to get the compound into them and the the tray moved on to the next step where the anvil was inserterted by another tech. The article stated the process was for highly skilled technicians in order too receive uniformly charged cups. I wish I could remember where I read that! I do think it was an article on CCI primers.
     
  7. TexasDon

    TexasDon Member

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    This subject comes up every now and then in different forms on other reloading forums.
    I did a very simple test myself. NOTHING scientific about my procedure.
    The issue was someone was wanting to get rid of a smashed primer that was sideways in the brass.
    Others said to put it in various liquids for some time and they "should" be inert?

    I took 6 Win-SPP's and put them into plastic cups filled with various liquids.
    Don't remember all of them, but water,oil,solvent,WD-40 etc????

    Let them sit over night, took them the next day and dried them off with a towel.

    Nothing made the compound "wet" or loose.

    Seated them in some 38 spl brass and put them into a Ruger GP100.
    ( No powder or bullet. )

    All primers ignited when fired, No real definite "OFF" sound was heard by me.
    Only thing is, I have no idea if the primers brisance was effected any???
    Would not load these up and fire them, that wasn't the point anyway.

    It was to prove or disprove oil or water makes primers inert if they sit in liquid for a time.

    My 2¢

    TxDon
     
  8. medalguy

    medalguy Member

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    I have a book titled "Bullets by the Billion" published by Chrysler shortly after WW II as a give-away highlighting Chrysler's role in the production of ammunition during WW II.

    In this book, the mixing and handling of primer compound is discussed. They state that most explosives can be safely handled if wet enough. Chrysler worked .45 ACP primer compound at no less than 10% moisture content, and found that 8% moisture was dry enough to cause the compound to spark and burn very easily.

    From this we can deduce that primer compound when wet is relatively safe, but as soon as it dries out, it again becomes explosive. We have all heard the story of the store of Unique powder that is kept under water and has been there for about 50 years. Every few years they draw out a small amount, dry it out, and test fire it. It always works.

    The question of oil or solvent is another question that, so far as I can discover, is unknown, and I can't find any good experiments that have been done to tell whether solvents can neutralize priming compound. My guess is that priming compound is very difficult to degrade, and will likely work despite all attempts to destroy it.
     
  9. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    Thanks Arch, but rather than try to deactivate them, I was actually more focused on how well they hold up if they were to get wet, would it be possible to use them again once dry, not that I would want to, but in an emergency situation in other words.

    TexasDon actually hit the nail on the head for me.

    Thanks

    GS
     
  10. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    It's already been done.

    Two years ago a reloading buddy has water in his basement and 2000 primers got wet, very wet. He let them dry out and left them in the room where a dehumidifier was running and a month or so later gave them a try and they actually went bang. ALL of them went bang over the next few months!

    I always heard it was possible but to actually see it, I was very surprised... (and happy to know they fired too)
     
  11. TexasDon

    TexasDon Member

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    I was actually surprised, I had always heard of water or WD-40 would make them inert??
    Primers made many years ago maybe? Black and water don't mix.(keep your powder dry )

    I just don't know if the primers brisance was effected any. It went bang, but??

    I'll leave the powder and bullet and high pressure out for the lab that has a test barrel....I can't see the pressure going up after being dipped in water or oil etc. BUT...then I'm not a Ballistics tech. either. :D
    I just load'em & shoot'em and learn as much as I can along the way as with most of us.

    TxD
     
  12. homatok

    homatok Member

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    When I started reloading in the nineteen sixties, the “common” knowledge was; don’t touch the primers with your bare hand---you will “kill” the primer! During that time (and for some time thereafter) if I had to remove a primer from a damaged case etc. I dropped it into a small (airline liquor) bottle along with some really light weight oil. Later I learned I could have reused most of those primers and the little bottle got shoved to the back corner of a shelf. About 4 to 6 months ago this subject came up on one of the sites I visit and I remembered that little bottle. SO----I went and found it. I dumped out the 20+ oil soaked primers and washed them in white gas (Coleman fuel). I let them dry for a day and then set them into some old 303 brass. The freshest primer in that bottle was at least 20 years old. Every one of those primers fired (to some degree)! Some only lightly “popped” but others gave quite an authoritative “bang”. I don’t know if they had enough power to set off a powder charge BUT I do know I will never believe you can “kill a primer by soaking it in anything.
     
  13. Toprudder
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    Toprudder Contributing Member

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    The compound in most primers is lead styphnate. I did a search a while back on safe storage/disposal/transport, etc (I don't remember the search words I used) and came across a document on the safe transport of the raw material. Basically, it was: Soak it in water. Keep it wet. At the destination, dry it out.

    So, while powder can be adversely affected by moisture, it seems that primers are much more tolerant, maybe even impervious.
     
  14. TexasDon

    TexasDon Member

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    This made me think of the story thats suppose to be true about black powder being stored under water ( not mixed in the powder ) since around the 1800's and it's still good.
    I guess it is removed from the oxygen and heat.?

    You'd have to do a Google search to find it.


    TxD
     
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