Does WD-40 help, hurt, or make no difference on lead bullets

Does WD-40 help, hurt, or make no difference in preventing or removing oxidation on lead bullets?


Brownell sells a ‘release agent’ for use with their Acra Glas products. It is very thin and dries to a waxy type consistency that peels off easily. It might be a good alternative if WD 40 is not good for cartridges/bullets. Good Luck!

No idea about the WD 40 good or bad for that use, never tried.


It is said to deaden primers via fumes in an enclosed space & over a period of time.

As to removing the oxidation, where do you stop? If you remove too much you could / can change the diameter of the bullet. (been there, done that)

WD-40 (Water Dispersant #40) may be of some use in preventing Oxidation of lead in exposed Bullets…as to it “deadening” primers…Hogwash.

The only sure (Chemical) method of deactivating Primers is to use an Acid to degrade the Priming compounds ( such as Vinegar.) The Acetic Acid in Vinegar ( 4-7%) will eat through the Lead Foil over the compound, and then convert the Lead Styphnate etc, into the inert Lead Acetate. ( and also dissolve it out in the remaining Water.). Hot Caustic Soda is used in Factories to degrade Priming compound in Dumps ( Basic Method)…but this leads to all sorts of Environmental concerns later on.

Of course the other “sure-Fire” method is to fire the Primer in a gun…or sit the (empty) case on a Hotplate till the Primer “fires”…LOL

Doc AV

Lee Jurras of Super Vel fame once relayed to me that WD-40 works wonderfully for killing primers – until it dries out.

I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but he needed to ship a quantity of brass to Norma, and all that he had on hand was already primed. He decided he would rather kill the primers than de-cap them, put the cases in loading blocks, and liberally applied WD-40. He tested several, none ignited, and declared the operation a success.

Shortly after shipping the whole lot to Norma, he received a phone call from an irate Swede demanding to know why he had shipped them brass with live primers.

Hello Aaron,

As jimpowell mentioned, I have also heard, that WD-40 is good for killing live primers…

I have never personally cleaned any of my cartridges (I just think the originality of them adds to the “old” effect).

As opposed to the old fashion water dispersant, there is a company called “G96”. They make an array of superior gun cleaning products… I have used G96 Complete Gun Treatment on old rusty tools, and the product works like a charm! It does what it says it is supposed to do!

Product information on the following link:

Again, I have never cleaned any of my cartridges before, but this product may be better than WD-40.

This is not such a good idea. Another British collector once told me that they tried this with a primed .50 BMG case. The primer went off, which cracked the top of the ceramic hot-plate cooker. It also launched the case at the ceiiling with enough force to leave a dent in the plaster.

Setting off primers in anything but a firearm is, in my view, hazardous and silly. A friend of mine, who should have known better and reads this forum (sorry about that, my dear friend and colleague) once had a need to deactivate a .50 case for some reason, and put it in a vice and struck the primer with a pin punch. The primer came out, blew the punch out of his fingers, by some miracle not injuring him, and evidently continued on to penetrate one of the uprights in his garage. In short, in came out of the case like a bullet! Primers are not a joke to handle - that is why when not seated in cartridge cases, where they are much safer than in primer trays or loose, they require special shipping, beyond that of live ammunition.

Never, never, never set off a primer just by heat unless it is in a completely controlled environment where regardless of what the primer cup does, their is no endangerment to person or property. I can speak from experience due to a fire in our store in 1991, that under conditions of heat, the most dangerous part of a live cartridge is neither the powder nor the projectile, but rather the primer. In this instance, unlike the protection the primer pocket of a cartridge gives the primer against accidental impact, the primer is basically contained (in the pocket) in a chamber just as a cartridge is in the chamber of the barrel. There is only one direction it can go in if detonated by heat, and that is to leave the primer pocket, sometimes, depending on the circumstances, at high velocity. (There are also times when due to the incredibly unpredictable circumstances of objects subject to fire and heat, it will not even leave the primer pocket. A bad gamble, however!).

This is just my opinion, but one based on 36 years in the firearms industry, 65 years as a gun owner and shooter, and 50 years as a cartridge handloader, not to mention a researcher with a one inch thick file on the effects of heat and fire on ammunition.

I agree with Moss wholeheartedly. When I was younger, I decided to pop a primer in a 7.62x39 Yugo casing with a nail and hammer. I placed it over a nail in a board and struck the primer with another nail. In short I lost part of my finger tip. It took a couple of months to heal and it is still scared today. Basically the blast ripped it open to the bone several ways. Dumb young fellow.


Just on "primer Deactivation by “nail” or Chisel or Fire.

  1. I got a nice boney callus on the Middle Finger Middle Phalange bone from a fragment of Berdan primer ( 6,5 Dutch) which I was removing, thinking it was “Fired” when instead it was a “Click-No Bang”…the priming Composition, although fractured by the Firing Pin indent, was still live enough to go off when Penetrated by a Berdan Chisel./… Should have Hydraulically decapped it…but “Haste Makes Waste”

  2. When “Heat discharging” Primers, I use an Iron Hotplate, the Cartridge case is surrounded by a Piece of Heavy steel Tube (Longer than the case) and the whole lot covered by an old Stainless steel Saucepan, weighted down with a Brick or two. No Free-flying Cases or Primers.
    But .50s I fire off in my Boyes AT rifle (chamber)…except for the Belt, and the Neck, a 55 Boyes is the same head and Body specs as a .50 cal.

Doc AV
Sorry if I misled anyone…Thanks JM for guiding me back to the Straight and Narrow.

I once tried to snap a primer seated in a .50 BMG blank with a punch and hammer and it did not work out very well. I first removed the powder and then put the case in my lathe chuck. The primer was crimped with a 3 stab crimp if I remember correctly so I figured it would not come out of the case. When I struck the primer it drove itself up the punch until it hit my finger. And even though I was waring very heavy leather welding gloves. It hit my finger so hard I ended up with a very large blood blister on the end of my finger.
Later under more controled conditions I tried using heat on another one of these .50 BMG blanks. This time when the primer came out it penitrated two layers of tyvek and a 1/8" thick piece of laminated (plywood style) paneling. I honestly think it had almost as much power as a .22 Short. I nolonger mess with .50 BMG primers.


That is the type of penetration, as I recall, that my friend experienced when the primer he struck blew the punch out of his fingers and went through a garage upright beam. I believe someone was killed many, many years ago, I think at Picatinney Arsenal, when a tray of .50 primers exploded in mass.

Cartguy - I think you are probably right. Just being fired while “chambered” in the primer pocket, with no barrel to add velocity, I think these things if the fly out are probably as powerful as a .22RF fired from a short-barrel revolver. I think a .50 primer cup is probably lighter than a normal .22 short bullet, which would help its velocity, but I don’t really know that as a fact. I have never weighed one. I was looking for a .50 in my stuff this morning to try in a 110 round olive drab web ammo belt I found in my stuff, and couldn’t even find a dummy. NO matter, since I have had the belt probably 50 years and never cared enough to check it before. I simply had forgotten all about it.

I have popped more primers than most but would agree I have been lucky and its a stupid risk to take unless you wear goggles all the time