Cartridge activated fire supression systems?


What do we know about fire extinguishers (more like sprinkler systems) powered/turned on/activated by a “cartridge” (assumed a blank). (well actually “activated” by heat or fire…but you get the point)

We all know of aircraft CADS and they certainly had/have fire suppression systems activated by “ammunition” but…what i am curious about is for “sprinkler” systems in buildings

I spoke to a fire suppression expert who recalls a 12 ga type of cartridge to dispense Halon extinguishers for electronic fires (???)

(I am recalling a system older than Halon…that likely uses some generic .22-.38 blanks)

I love special purpose and this would be right up my alley…if I wasn’t just dreaming one night ?



A few years ago I toured the Nestle powedered coffee plant in Hayes, West London. This was as I had applied for an engineering apprenticehsip with the company.

During the tour, the guide pointed out a fire-suppression system attached to the outside of the spray-drier system. This is a machine that is a stainless steel chamber which is about four stories high. Liquefied coffee is sprayed in at the top in a fine mist, where it is dried out by extreme heat before reaching the bottom of the chamber as powder. Obviously this presents an explosion hazard.

Back to the cartridges, he said “inside there is like a little bullet, I don’t know if you know what one looks like (he didn’t know that he was talking to a cartridge collector). When a fire is detected, this detonates and opens a valve to flood the chamber with high-pressure water.”

So Pepper, you were not dreaming, and I can confirm that cartridges are used in this field. I did ask at the plant if I could see one of the cartridges, but unfortunately was not able to as the tour guide didn’t have access to them.


I have had considerable experience with building water sprinkler fire systems, and the ones I am aware of in the USA do not use cartridge activation. I don’t have any experience with deluge and Halon systems, so I can’t address cartridge use with those types. I do know some of these used photoelectric and/or thermal sensors to rapidly detect the presence of fire or explosion, but I don’t know what the sensors are connected to.

One problem I am aware of with deluge systems is that the photoelectric sensors could be activated by light associated with lightning flashes, assuming that the sensor is located in a position to be able to “see” a lightning flash. That problem may have been resolved.

I also would be interested in some discussions about non weapon-related ammunition, such as for powder-actuated tools, etc.

Did anyone see the “Pawn Stars” episode this week on the History Channel about the “Magnum P.I.” breechloading brass cannon? They fired it, and it had some sort of cartridge which was briefly shown, but not discussed. It looked to be about 2" in diameter. I think next week’s episode will feature a Hotchkiss revolving cannon. Should be interesting.



It’s OK to dream about cartridges…

Here is a .pdf of a TM showing a CAD for an aircraft fire extinguisher like you mentioned:

The use of CADs for commercial fire suppression would seem to make a lot of sense as the systems lay dormant for a long time and when needed, valving might require a significant force to open.

(ADDED:)This item is powered by smokeless powder and pierces a rupture disk rather than shifting a valve:

Please share with us any items of this nature you pick up in the future!



While searching out info on this I realized that it’s hard to sift through what is actually a “cartridge” activated extinguisher system sometimes. There are a lot of suppression systems that have documentation using the word “cartridge”, but I find that most of the time they are referring to electrically or heat-activated “squibs”. The squibs are sort of like cartridges, but they are not standard cases adapted from known calibers.

Like this one from Ordtech:

Which, aside from military equipment, would be roughly the sort of thing used in a suppression system like this one which is found on loading and transport trucks in the mining industry:

That schematic represents the heart of a heavy-truck mounted system and would set off multiple canisters to extinguish a fire all throughout the vehicle. The diagram is from the book
"Prevention and Combating Mine Fires" by S.C. Banerjee.

So if you include squibs, then there are loads of systems. I wonder who collects squibs for these things? Must be somebody out there. Ordtech lists several neat little squibs here:

Also interesting are Ordetech’s stores-ejection cartridges, and flares/chaff:


Pepper, Many aircraft have “firebottles” full of Halon type chemicals that can be fired to force the chemicals into the engines and engine nacell to put out fires. The C-5 is an example of one of these. The firebottles are actuated by a CAD which is lifed just like ejection seat CADs.




I have had a couple of e-mails besides this thread. 'not much about “land based” systems as yet…but the concept of scribs & “CADS” all make sense.

I may have a box label copy of a small cal cartridge that fits the bill from Pete deCoux (mentions a the Reno Fire Fighting Equipment Co., Canada., used a Dominion headstamped .32 S&W blank with a glazed, light tan colored topwad)

But…Dave…HOMERUN on the very nice link to TM-43-0001 that helps me ID bunchs of odd ball “gizmos” as it seems CADS are endless (and reasonably hard to shake from the trees)(need to be sure there’s plenty of ink in my printer !)



I guess not totally dreaming (thanks Pete deCoux for the image)…now on to the hunt, find & secure 1) a round 2) the box !!


On the Denel / PMP page they show that they manufacture some of these extinguisher activator cartridges (or squibs?):