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Old 03-25-2013, 10:58 PM
Chitoryu12 Chitoryu12 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 57

Originally Posted by funkychinaman View Post
It'd be a lot easier if you had a black powder firearm that just required lead balls like a Colt Navy or something. Many rounds today require smokeless powder and jacketed bullets. I don't think primers should be that hard once you figure out the formula. Are modern primers that different than the ones found two hundred years ago?
Well, loading a semi-auto or full auto weapon with black powder will still let it fire. The problem is that even if the action can be cycled by something that low pressure, it'll dirty it up extremely quickly. I wouldn't trust a machine gun to last beyond the first magazine without jamming even if it could reliably cycle under that pressure. Manually operated guns are much more tolerant, however, and you can pretty much freely load your revolver and bolt-action rifle ammo with homemade black powder as long as you can accept the change in ballistics and need to keep it clean.

The difference between old percussion caps and modern primers is mostly one of exact design and chemical composition. Early centerfire primers were like percussion caps in that they used fulminate of mercury and were literally nothing but modified percussion caps pressed into the back of a brass or copper tube, and black powder will reliably fire with it. Smokeless powder requires something that doesn't degrade rapidly in storage, so they added potassium chloride to the fulminate. The problem is that these old primers still ruin the brass, so no reloading. Reloadable brass is meant to use primers with a much more complex mixture of chemicals with varying composition. Modern non-corrosive primers use lead styphnate, and various components include powdered aluminum and tetracene, antimony trisulfide, barium nitrate, lead azide, etc.

As for smokeless powder, they're primarily nitrocellulose. Some of them add nitroglycerin, and other rounds (large caliber ammo for artillery size guns, mostly) adds nitroguanidine on top of that.

Basically, someone in the past COULD manufacture his own ammunition. The first issue is that you need to have access to the materials; black powder isn't hard to make, since you need potassium nitrate (saltpeter, easy to find under piles of manure), charcoal (burn some wood), and sulfur (harvested as crystals, or get them from those foul-smelling sulfur pools) and just grind it all together with non-sparking tools. Smokeless powder is more difficult: you need to make nitrocellulose at a minimum (by taking nitric acid, made from reacting nitrogen dioxide with water, and soaking it into wood or fibers), which requires chemistry knowledge. Adding nitroglycerin makes it even harder. Primers take that chemistry knowledge as well, along with the ability to manufacture easily crushed caps.

If you can't recycle your brass, you need the machines to draw solid brass into a single piece cartridge case. Then you need a mold for bullets and lead to provide it (which is quite easy to find in the past, especially in urban areas where they used it for damn near any metal bits like drains and roofs), plus a campfire to melt the lead. And then a full set of tools for making sure everything is the right size, measuring out powder, and pressing the bullet and primer in tightly.

Congratulations. You have now made a single round for your Glock!
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