An experiment with burning cartridges in 1905


I have read somewhere that the U.S. Army carried out a similar experiment after WWII, by burning a barrack full of ammunition, and the results were more or less the same.

I disagree with the author when he says “Each cartridge in the fire explodes individually, and explodes when its particular primer is heated to the flashing point”. I have seen cartridges laying in the field since the spanish civil war that exploded because of a forest fire, and am quite sure that the case exploded first. If the author were right, the cook-off test cartridges would never work…


That would concur with my view of what would happen but in the films when the good guys blow up an ammo dump it goes up like a miniature atom bomb.


It should be distributed amongst Dutch firefighters as well. A few years ago they let a building burn down because there was ‘live ammunition’ inside.

The ‘live ammunition’ was a small safe with .22lr ammunition and some marine flares…


Sorry but …what a waste of ammo :(


As kids with little adult supervision we often set cartridge on fire. Once put a 30 carbine in a tin can and set the can on a campfire. When it did go off either the bullet or shell exited the can. Many years later I was a firefighter on a fire in which a large ammount of ammunition was consumed and detonated. We found 22 rimfire bullets and brass in the street @ 25’ from the fire. While picking up a few for souvieners I picked up a 7.62x39 case that had gone THROUGH the houses wall before it landed in the street. My evidence of its path through the wall is the case mouth is deformed and impacted with the fiberboard exterior siding the house was constructed of. This surprised me but cant explain it any other way. To add to my legend of not being young rocket scientist, a game we played for years was to have one kid straddle a large rock facing another young genius about 5’ away. At this point the one that wasnt straddling the rock, launched out of his slingshot a live 22lr round aimed at the rock below one of the three stooges. When the cartrige detonated the winner was the one of us that flinched the least. Never hurt anyone, proof positive someone watches over drunks,fools and foolish kids.


I was told of a local house fire years ago, where there was a loaded chambered M1 carbine hanging inside the house. It heated up and started shooting and self reloading. Firefighters counted shots to 16 before going inside the house.


The book Hatchers Notes discusses this topic, the US military tried every which way to destroy perfectly good ammunition & weapons. Cheers


While the results of ammunition exposed to fire are typically much less exciting than Hollywood portrays, certain conditions can produce results that might surprise. (Think containment of the cartridge, the extreme being in the chamber of a gun like Vlad mentioned).

There is a very interesting article by Mel Carpenter in the Journal issue #464 that folks may want to check out. Well worth the read.



I would have thought the rounds in the magazine would heat up quicker than the round chambered. Maybe a task for mythbusters?


Here is an old post from the lost “historian” forum (R.I.P). The video shows how safe modern ammo is.