MERCURY FULMINATE PRIMERS
Before we get started, I am not a chemist. I am not very knowledgeable in science at all. I do want to know basic recipes of improvised explosives, in case of nation-wide gun control, or in case of civilization collapse and the cessation of modern industry. I don’t want to go back to using flintlock rifles if possible. Flintlocks are as low tech as you can get without going with a matchlock. I would prefer to have primers so that in foul weather I am not unarmed. So a compromise is needed- lower tech, just not too low. Mercury fulminate primers should fit the bill. I am giving you here the basic outlines on how to make the primer filler. Do not attempt unless you know what you are doing. If you don’t know what you are doing, wait until after civilization collapses since by then it wouldn’t matter if you take crazy risks. In other words, only attempt if the alternative is going undefended from lack of primers.
In a collapse situation after all ammunition is depleted, after all modern reloading equipment has been used, then you can use black powder in your cases and mercury fulminate to re-prime your primers. The next step down is somehow fashioning replacement cases. I don’t, off-hand, know any way except swagging. And that is not going to work for most of us. I am talking about manufacturing from scratch under primitive methods ( if anyone has a clue please let me know ). But perhaps this step will hold you until a new arms industry comes along. The problem I have had with all of my improvised recipes, as told from the military manuals to Duncan Long, is that they assume you have mercury. “First, get mercury…” Hello!!! They don’t offer much in the way of mercury anymore. Too toxic, it has been phased out. It is just like the strike anywhere matches they tell you to get. The few you can find are low powered anymore. Not like the good stuff you used to be able to get.
Mercury fulminate itself is easy. Take mercury, dissolve in nitric acid, add ethanol to the solution. We just covered making saltpeter. To make nitric acid you take saltpeter, heat it until you get a gas, condense the gas to get liquid nitric acid. This is where that solar ice maker comes in handy, both to condense the chemicals and the ethanol. To manufacture saltpeter, to get more than just scrapping the chicken run, do the following. Layer dirt, limestone and manure in piles four feet deep. Let stand three to five years, then take top twenty centimeters. Add water and wood ashes, filter thru sand, boil to remove water and cool overnight. The large crystals are saltpeter ( potassium nitrate ).
However, to get the mercury you are going to need to go through a lot of trouble. First, you need to find a region that has the ore red mercury sulfide, also known as cinnabar. Usually formed underground in warm mineral solutions from volcanic action. Found at shallow depths, from three to three thousand feet. The cinnabar ore is crushed and then heated to release vapor. The vapor is cooled, condensed and collected. To heat, the ore is ground fine by sending it through a series of mills. Fed into the furnace to heat. The heated cinnabar reacts with oxygen to produce sulfur dioxide. The furnace exhaust passes through a water cooled condenser and liquid mercury is collected. Impurities are on the surface as scum, treated with lime to separate. Stored in wrought iron or steel flasks. And very toxic. Inhalation is very dangerous, absorption through the skin almost as bad. And can be cumulative.
As you can see, you are in for a level of sophistication most of us don’t have. If you can kidnap, bribe, or force a chemist or chemistry teacher in to your group you will be in much better shape than most. Then you can get all kinds of great weapons produced, as well as artificial fertilizers and other nifty items. If you do manage to get a mercury extraction process going, you will be faced with not only the military need to secure the ore site but the need to provide labor for the mine and processing facility. Even with safeguards the toxicity will take a toll. A perfect activity for former lawyers, politicians, CEO’s and bankers. After they are all gone you should get enough POW’s in. Or political prisoners.
This might not be the greatest primer system there is. Of course, any advance over living through another Stone Age is going to be great. We are so spoiled and surrounded by an abundant Energy Age we can’t imagine life without it. Most post-Apocalypse fiction can’t even imagine it. You had better start imagining it.
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