I bought this 1916 37mm shell with the casing telescoped. Iwas told that the shell is live and was wondering how this might have happened?

I hate to tell you this but if you think your item is live then it needs to be turned into the proper authorities NOW for disposal! As per Federal law and for your own safety.

It may have a live primer, leading some to think that the whole thing is “live”, but the powder and any charge in the shell is almost always gone. One can usually twist the projectile out and see into the empty casing. When in doubt, consult a collector familiar with these first. If an experienced collector of these is in doubt, then it is time to call in the E.O.D.

Here is a pic of the primer. I think that the bulging ring on the case was caused by reinserting the projectile.

Is there a federal law prohibiting ownership of live ammunition of this size?

This sort of “telescoping” damage can be caused by dropping the round onto a hard surface, base first. The shell tries to ram itself deeper into the case as the base of the case stops abruptly. The dents on the base of the case show that it has been bounced a few times.


A question due to the lack of experience/knowledge: do artillery rounds (or large calibre aircraft rounds) produce shifting gun powder sound, like some small arms rounds, when shaken? I never handled a live large calibre anything, so would like to know.

I think the law reads that any caliber projectile which contains over 1/4oz. of explosive or incendiary substance is considered a destructive device and requires a license to own.

But, we need an expert to tell us for sure.



If the propellant is loose in the case then, yes it will shake. Most large caliber artillery cases have cardboard fillers and spacers that keep the powder from shifting, so they would not shake, assuming you could pick them to shake them. :-)



If the propellant is loose in the case then, yes it will shake. Most large caliber artillery cases have cardboard fillers and spacers that keep the powder from shifting, so they would not shake, assuming you could pick them to shake them. :-)


Also, as this case is fore-shortened, there is less space inside for anything to rattle. However, twisting the shell out is the simple answer.


The 1/4 oz rule is the way to determine destructive device legality, and whether one needs to have the proper level of FFL license, or a $200 tax stamp in some cases. You can own all sorts of 40mm grenades and 37mm - 155mm shells (and larger) with original projectiles, as long as no explosive, or in some cases, propellant is present. The only live cartridges that I sometimes see which might be in violation of this are some 14.5 Russian loads, and some WWII vet bring-backs on things like 20mm shells that they picked up. These are just barely over the limit in some cases, and are usually ignored since the majority of them in the U.S. are all inert, and nobody is really checking or able to tell in most cases if one is live or not unless the projectile pops out easily.

In terms of rockets & missiles, you can own anything as long as the explosive & guidance system is removed. If the rocket motor remains, then you are presumably subject to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 1127 regulating the size of rocket motors for usage & storage (even though you obviously would not be intending to launch collector specimens). Those rules are meant to regulate model rockets essentially, and refer to certain ranges of average thrust in Newtons, and overall weight & frame construction. The BATFE also has a permit called a “Low Explosives User Permit”, which applies to any live rocket with intact propellant weighing more than 62.5 grams. This permit regulates storage and usage. I don’t think any collectors ever really get into rockets with intact motor propellant of this size, so this is probably all moot.

The gray area is non-lethal things like 37mm and 40mm grenades with wooden or rubber projectiles that are live, which are legal, but not if you own a weapon capable of chambering them that is otherwise not a Destructive Device (meant as a signal device).

The line where you cross into the “destructive device” category is usually in the 20mm range. Some 20mm projectiles can hold more than 1/4 oz of explosive, while others cannot. It’s best to know exactly what you have.


The 14.5 Russian is above the HE limit, (according to B.W.) but I realize that is probably not your cup of tea not being a match round, so 20mm works too.

This 37mm round in question does not seem to be the HE type as far as I can see unless it is base fused? So not a problem, loaded or not?

The cartridge shown is a 1 Pdr Common. It is base fuzed. It can hold nearly 1/2 oz. of bursting charge, which would be black powder. The question is - does BATF&E consider black powder an “explosive”? In a grenade or artillery projectile I’m betting they would.

Didn’t the Russians use the 14.5mm in this year’s Biathlon? That would make it a match cartridge. ;-)


I was finely able to get the projectile out of the case, it was rusted in, and there was no powder. Anyone know how to get the wrinkle out of the case or should I keep it as is for a curiosity?

You will never be able to straighten the case and have it look respectable. Keep an eye on the auction sites. You can often find an empty case at very low prices.


I agree with Ray. It will be a lot easier to find another case than straighten the one you have.

thanks guys


I agree with the other guys, that you won’t be able to straighten out that bulged case. Now having said that…If Ray had told ME that straightening MY 37mm case was IMPOSSIBLE, I would suffer a serious attack of contrarianism and be driven to search my metal scrap box for a piece of round stock about five or six inches long (12 to 15cm) and slightly wider than the base of the projectile. I would chuck the round stock into my little Chinese toy metal lathe and turn down about two and a half inches (6.5cm) to the same diameter as the projectile base, so that the casing is a snug fit on it. Then I would part off a disc about a quarter of an inch thick. Back to the stock in the lathe-center drill it about an inch and a half (38mm) deep and tap the resulting hole to a convenient size, then part off a threaded disc about an inch (25mm) long. I have a 3/4 inch x16 tap at hand so That is what I would use, even though I will probably have to make a trip to the ranch and feed store to get an appropriate bolt. For anyone reading this from a metric speaking country, use whatever you have handy, but I think that bigger is better in this case.

Now look down in the bottom of the case. Does the wall of the primer pocket protrude into the powder cavity? I thought so. We are going to put a lot of pressure on the bottom of the case and it will deform the base if it is all concentrated on the primer protrusion. We need a piece of hardwood dowel turned down to fit through the case mouth and with a divot drilled out for the primer protrusion. Length isn’t critical, but it should sit below the bulge when inserted into the case.

We need to anneal the bulged brass. That means heating it with a propane torch until it just barely glows red in a darkened room. Now remember that piece of turned round stock that is still chucked in the lathe? Force the shell onto this mandrel and turn the lathe on really slow. Now apply the propane torch to the bulged area until it barely starts to glow. Don’t overcook the brass, it will be ruined if you burn it. When the bulge just barely glows red, turn off the torch and probably the lathe too. You can quench the case in water or just let it cool slowly. It might be a good idea to practice annealing on some of the more common cartridge cases that you have stashed under your work bench.

It would be nice to know the original length of the cartridge case so that we don’t stretch it to the point where we wildcat a new 37mm cartridge or, even worse, rip the case neck from the shoulder. Somebody help us out here. OK, we are ready to do this. Place the wooden dowel in the cartridge case with the divot over the primer pocket protrusion. Place the thin steel disc over the wood dowel to keep the bolt from driving itself into the dowel. Apply SUPERGLUE to the periphery of threaded disc and insert it squarely into the case mouth so that the top of the disk is flush with the case mouth. You might want to practice this without the superglue a couple of times. The bolt can be used to force the threaded disc back out. Allow the superglue to set up for however long the instructions indicate. Once the glue has set, screw the bolt into the threaded hole until it bottoms out. Now give the bolt two or three turns with a wrench. Did the bulge go away a little? I sure hope so. Now here is where I tell you that you are on your own. Continue stretching the case until it is close to the original length. How much more you stretch it is up to you, but I don’t think that this method will remove the bulge completely.When you are satisfied, turn out the bolt so that it makes a good handle and apply the propane torch to the threaded disc and the case neck where they are glued together. The superglue will release at 400 to 450 degrees F. Wiggle the bolt until the threaded disc starts to move and then pull it out. It will be hot so gloves would be good. If the superglue fails to hold, I would use soft solder, but the glue is easier to clean off the of the brass.

I doubt that the case neck will be perfectly smooth. There are a couple methods that might be used to further smooth things out. Have you ever heard of metal spinning? Neither have I, but U-Tube has some interesting metal spinning videos. I would probably try to make a ring die that approximates the original shoulder. I wouldn’t try to force this die under pressure, but I would twist it down over the case neck to try and burnish away any remaining ripples.

Good Luck
Don’t forget to wear your eye protection.

I think I will look for another case or leave it as is. Thanks for the info though.