mercury fulminate


Alexander Forsyth and the percussion cap,

In the early 19th century Alexander John Forsyth was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and avid duck hunter.  During his many duck hunting excursions, Forsyth noticed that his flintlock fowlers had a flaw which made duck hunting difficult.  When the priming powder in the flash pan ignited, it would scare away the ducks before the firearm would discharge.  In addition this delay in between ignition and discharge made it difficult to shoot ducks that were flying.  Determined to solve this problem, Forsyth sought a new compound to replace black powder as a priming mechanism.  

The compound Forsyth settled on was mercury fulminate, a chemical which tended to exploded when struck with an object.  Mercury fulminate provided a much faster and more efficient ignition material, and in 1807 he patented the scent bottle lock, also known as the Forsyth lock (firearm pictured above).  The Forsyth lock utilized a small container filled with mercury fulminate.  By taping or twisting a button, a small amount of mercury fulminate was blotted into the flashpan near the touch hole.  When the hammer struck it, it would ignite the charge in the chamber.

The Forsythe lock became popular with hunters in the early 19th century, especially during the Regency Period.  However the military took very little notice of his invention. In fact the director of the Tower Armory would later dismiss Forsyth from his position in British Ordnance. Napoleon Bonaparte offered Forsyth  £20,000 if he took his invention to France, an offer which Forsyth refused.

Forsyth is often credited with the invention of the percussion cap, and although his invention served as a precursor of the percussion lock system, Forsyth didn’t invent the percussion cap himself.  In fact, he actively discouraged it as he threatened gunsmiths and inventors who came up with the idea with lawsuits.  Finally in 1822, an American named Joshua Shaw secured the first legal patent on the percussion cap.  Much more reliable than the flintlock and Forsyth lock, the percussion cap featured a simple copper cap filled with mercury fulminate (today they use other non-mercury chemicals), which was used as the primary ignition source of firearms up to around 1870.

thegreatrhapsode  asked:

Actually there is actually a reason that rad lightning works, see it's full name is Raikô: Red Lightning, aikô is the Japanese name for Mercury Fulminate (properly known as Mercury(II) fulminate), which is a lesser explosive that was originally used to ignite gunpowder in older firearms. So in chemistry terms, the lightning wouldn't have hurt Wahl, however an ignition caused by laxus's punch would have created an explosion big enough to destroy wahl. Now I don't know why wahl couldn't scan it.

I actually didn’t know this! Cool B)


Webster double scent-bottle percussion shotgun

Manufactured by Webster & Co. at 122 Regent Street, London c.first third of the 19th century.
16 gauge loose powder and shots, Forsyth’s scent-bottle percussion lock, twin side-by side smoothbore barrels with their respective triggers.

A scent-bottle lock, as designed more or less by reverend Alexander Forsyth in Scotland when he started to get annoyed by his game not being immediately shot by his flintlock hunting shotgun - it instead ran away when it heard the detonation in the pan, was a small bottle filled with mercury fulminate that when rotated a full turn would drop enough of it in front of the barrel’s touch hole. A captive firing pin would then be depressed by the hammer into the fulminate, setting off the gun.

This was before the percussion cap was invented by François Prélat in Paris and made thing a little simpler, but it did have the advantage of being very safe to carry around since the scent-bottle’s pin could rotate out of the hammer’s reach.


Jacob’s rifles and the Jacob Double Rifle,

In the 1830′s the Brunswick rifle was the common rifle of British sharpshooter regiments. Invented before the development of the Minie ball, the Brunswick rifle featured a conical bullet with two studs, which fit into two grooves rifled into the barrel. An officer of the British Indian Army named Col. John Jacob felt the Brunswick rifle was not accurate enough. In the early 1850′s Jacob began designing an improved version of the Brunswick rifle bullet that would be more accurate and have greater range. Jacob rejected the newly invented Minie ball, believing it to be good enough for the common infantryman, but not good enough for a skilled sharpshooter. Jacob invented a new .524 caliber bullet and new gun to fire it. The bullet featured four studs, which in turn were fired from a rifle featuring four grooves. The bullet was also elongated more than other bullets of the time.

Jacob had a fascination for double rifles, thus his new “Jacob rifle” was a side by side double barrel rifle which used a percussion-lock mechanism. With a very stout powder charge, It was found in testing that the rifle could accurately hit targets up to 1,200 yards away when fired by a skilled rifleman.  Sights were graduated for a maximum range of 2,000 yards. In addition, the Jacob rifle featured a bayonet mount, with which a special sword bayonet was mounted. Sword bayonets had always been a traditional weapon of the rifleman. 

To further the Jacob rifle’s capabilities, Jacob invented a special exploding bullet which featured an insert filled with fulminated mercury. The bullet was not meant to kill enemy soldiers, but as an anti-material rifle. Such targets of the exploding bullet included wagons transporting barrels of gunpowder, ammunition, explosive shells, it was even tested in disabling artillery caissons with precision shots.  Jacob conceptualized a long range rifle that would be able to deny the enemy of vital supplies, in essence it was a mid 19th century version of the .50 caliber long range sniper rifle.

In 1858 Jacob raised a regiment of Indian sharpshooters, all of whom were armed with his double barrel rifle. John Jacob died unexpectedly mere months later, after which his regiment was re-issued with standard military arms. His rifles were sold as military surplus, mostly to big game hunters.


Demonstrating an explosive: mercury(II)-fulminate!

Mercury(II)-fulminate and other fulminates are quite interesting compounds, the fulminate anion’s chemical composition is identical with the cyanate anion (fulminate: -CNO, cyanate: -OCN), only the sequence of the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen is different. With the this small difference something important also changes: cyanates are white powders, doing nothing when heated, while fulminates (especially silver and mercury and other heavy metal fulminartes) explode upon heating

Interesting fact no. 1: when mercury fulminate detonates one of the decomposition products is elemental mercury what is left behind on the surface where it exploded (in the case on the surface of the paper) and it lets us see where did the “reaction happened”. 

Interesting fact no. 2: the famous chemist Justus Liebig when he was a teenager published an experimental writeup (his first publication) about how can we prepare safely silver(I)-fulmite what is also a powerful, light, heat, friction and everything sensitive explosive. 


Maynard Carbine
Massachusetts Arms Co. 
Chicopee, MA

As southern secession and even a possible war against the Union became more realistic by the late 1850s, many southern governments looked to bolster their armories. Thus, as demand for both edged weapons and firearms spiked around the country, arms production became big business – and not just for gunsmiths. Practically anyone with even a remotely practical idea on how to gain a battlefield advantage through superior firepower could cash in, and from the mid-1850s through to the end of the Civil War, an influx of firearm alterations, gadgets, gizmos and other weaponized curiosa emerged.

One such offering was the Maynard Carbine, named for its inventor, a New York dentist named Dr. Edward Maynard, whose southern advertising campaign emphasized ease of use:  “Nothing to do with a Maynard but load her up, turn her north, and pull the trigger; if twenty of them don’t clear out all yankee-dom than I’m a liar…” The ads worked. Southern armories ordered about 1,600 of these first-model, breech-loading pieces prior to secession, and the Confederate Congress placed an additional order of 1,000 guns for assorted Cavalry units throughout Virginia and the Carolinas.

Carrying a nickname of “pop-gun,” the Maynard was anything but. It was an efficient weapon to say the least. Factory warranted to fire 12 rounds per minute with an effective range of 1600 yards, it was simplistic in its workings as a breechloader and, moreover, utilized brass cartridges. But, despite its overwhelming popularity, the Maynard had its shortcomings. The lack of a forward stock, for instance, forced the shooter to place his hand on a bare metal barrel, which after six or so rounds became quite hot to the touch. More of a liability, however, was its paper tape primer (similar to toy cap guns still around even now). In an effort to cut down on reloading time, Maynard devised a rolled length of tape embedded with multiple mercury fulminate capsules. Unlike the single-shot percussion caps, however, these capsules were embedded at measured intervals inside the tape and would automatically feed into place when the hammer was cocked. 

To be fair, Maynard’s paper tape priming system worked great - at least until it started raining. Despite its varnishing, the tape roll still proved unreliable in damp conditions, and was soon replaced with the standard metallic percussion cap action. 

Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing.  We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share!  #WeaponryWednes


Forsyth lock pistol

Manufactured by Forsyth & Co. In London, United Kingdom c.1807~1810′s - serial numbers are overrated anyway.
.49 caliber twin smoothbore barrels, scent-bottle percussion lock, swivel ramrod and gold inlays.

A very rare type of lock, Forsyth’s design worked a bit like a rotating pez dispenser filled with mercury fulminate priming pellets.


The Hanes Excelsior Civil War Hand Grenade,

One of two grenade designs to be mass produced during the American Civil War, the Hanes Excelsior hand grenade was the invention of W.W. Hanes in early 1862.  The Hanes grenade was a simple weapon, merely a cast iron ball with a hollow center which was filled with gunpowder.  Grenades had been used for centuries, however they never became very common until the 20th century due to unreliable detonation mechanisms, such as fuses.  In the 18th century specialized soldiers called “grenadiers” experimented with the use of grenades in warfare, by they were discontinued after when it was found that the grenades were just as dangerous to the user as to the enemy. The Hanes grenade suffered from the same problem of having an unreliable detonation system.  Spaced evenly among the grenade were ten protruding nipples upon which percussion caps were placed.  When thrown, the force of the cap striking the ground struck a spark which detonated the grenade.  The percussion caps used were not the same type of caps used to fire percussion muskets and revolvers, rather they were special grenade caps produced by DuPont which used a very refined form of mercury fulminate, causing the caps to be highly sensitive to percussion.  While this ensured that the grenade would detonate reliably (which it didn’t), it also made the grenade very dangerous to carry unless its percussion caps were not in place. Any bump or jostle of the grenade could cause an accidental explosion. Then of course a soldier would have to cap the grenade whilst in combat. To solve the problem, the grenades were stored in special rubber cases, but accidents were still common.  As a result no sane soldier would want to carry one.  Thus they were rarely used when issued.

anonymous asked:

Starke, if you filled the cavity on a hollowpoint with stuff (garlic for vampires or iron for the fey or similar), would that affect the performance of the round significantly?

Does roast garlic affect them?

With handguns at close range, it shouldn’t. Though, once you start getting past about 50ft, I’d worry. I’d be more worried about the garlic slipping out and jamming the mechanisms, though. If it was ground into paste, and then capped with something, it should be fine.

That’s certainly not the only creative ammunition option though. High explosive rounds come to mind. There are a lot explosives that will detonate on contact, and can be fired from a gun… mostly, safely. mercury fulminate is the first one that comes to mind, thanks to an old Law and Order episode. I’m not sure if picric acid would detonate when the weapon was fired, or only on impact, but it would also deliver a devastating wound from what you could pack into a hollowpoint.

If mass tissue disruption is enough to stop them, Glaser safety slugs might actually be a legitimate choice. These things are designed to shatter on contact spraying birdshot everywhere. I could easily see someone taking the basic design and loading it with a far more disruptive payload, like holy water, or maybe even the garlic paste above. This might be a better delivery method for an explosive round too.

With fey, if any iron would do, steel core AP rounds might actually be a better option. The softer metals should slough off on contact, and the resulting iron would do… whatever it was supposed to in the first place.

In theory you could make the entire bullet out of iron, but, with anything other than a very soft metal, you’ll irreparably damage the barrel’s rifling after the first or second shot. That said, you can stick a soft jacket over it, lead or copper are common choices. This protects the barrel from damage, but allows for much harder bullets to be fired. If you’re curious, that’s what the term Full Metal Jacket refers to.

Copper is a good option, even for lead rounds, because, unlike the lead, the copper isn’t toxic. So you can handle the rounds without having to be as paranoid about lead exposure.

You can use iron shot in a normal shotgun load, so that might be an easier option. I think you can actually buy up to 6mm steel shot commercially.

For iron bullets, there are apparently issues with them losing momentum faster than with normal rounds. I don’t know if this is relevant at handgun ranges or if it’s a rifle issue. That is the case with silver rounds, as I found out a couple years ago. (They’re fine for pistols, but rifles lose range and accuracy.) This has something to do with the density of silver, but explaining it requires a slightly better grasp on ballistics than mine.

If you’re wanting to take a more high tech look at vampire hunting, my recommendation will always be the British TV series Ultraviolet. Not to be confused with the 2006 American film. It takes a very non-mystical approach to tracking and eliminating vampires, with characters using graphite fragmentation rounds, and re-purposed gas grenades that disperse the active ingredient from garlic that affects them. Also, it’s got Jack Davenport and Idris Elba as the leads with some very sharp writing. This really is worth watching if you want to do vampire hunters in urban fantasy.



The Allen and Wheelock lipfire revolver,

Invented by Ethan Allen in 1860, the Allen and Wheelock revolver was an attempt to circumvent the Rollin White patient on the bored through cylinder, which allowed for practical metallic cartridge revolvers, and the rimfire cartridge held by Smith and Wesson.  The new revolver used metallic cartridges called “lipfire cartridges” which featured a small lip containing mercury of fulminate which served as the priming component of the cartridge. 

Ethan Allen claimed in his patent application for the lipfire cartridge that it was meant to reduced costs compared to the rimfire, where priming component rimmed the entire cartridge.  The cartridges had to be placed lip up, and recessed were machined into the cylinder so that the lip would fit snugly. The Allen and Wheelock lipfire revolver came in both .36 caliber (Navy) and .44 caliber (Army) models.

While the revolver was intended to evade the Rollin White patent, the fact of the matter was that it still had a bored through cylinder. Only 500 were produced before Rollin White and Smith & Wesson filed court injunctions, forcing Allen and Wheelock to cease production in 1863.


The Springfield Model 1855 rifled musket,

The Springfield Model 1855 was one of the most unusual muskets produced for the US Army.  It was also a great leap in technology which ushered the army from an age of Napoleonic Warfare into the age of modern warfare.  The Model 1855 boasted several advances that were unlike all other American musket designs produced before it.  First and foremost the M1855 was the first American rifles musket, using the deadly conical shaped minie ball.  Before the M1855 all muskets produced for the US military were smoothbore, which mean’t they lacked the rifling of a rifle.  This was done because muskets at the time fired a simple round ball.  It took a lot more time to load a rifle because the user had to cram the ball against the rifling down the bore with a patch, whereas with a smoothbore the user only had to drop a slightly under-caliber ball down the barrel.  Of course, this cost the smoothbore musket accuracy compared to a rifle.  The M1855 used what was called a minie ball, a recent invention by French Army Captain Claude Etienne Minie.  The minie ball was conical shaped and had a hollow rear end.  Thus the user could simply drop it into the barrel like the older round ball.  When the musket was fired, the minie ball would expand into the rifling, thus giving it accuracy.  The minie ball was an incredible advance in firearms technology because it allowed muskets to have the accuracy of a rifle, but the loading speed of a smoothbore. With the adoption of the minie ball came a reduction in caliber as well. Originally American muskets were based on French muskets and thus were .69 caliber. At first a .69 caliber minie ball was considered by both French and American ordnance officials, however, it was determined that a smaller caliber bullet would have better accuracy and range. Thus a .58 caliber minie ball was developed and adopted with the Model 1855 produced in .58 caliber.

The most unusual addition to the M1855 was the Maynard Tape System, invented by a dentist named Edward Maynard in 1845.  Unlike other percussion firearms which used copper caps filled with mercury fulminate (percussion caps), the Maynard system used a paper tape filled with blots of mercury fulminate.  A mechanism advanced the tape over the nipple of the musket when the hammer was cocked, and when the hammer struck it, a spark traveled down the nipple and ignited the main powder charge in the chamber.  It worked much in the same way roll caps work in a toy cap gun today. Unlike other Springfield models, the M1855 featured a noticeable “hump” on the lock, which contained a spinning roll of tape.  The theory behind the Maynard System was that it sped up the loading process.  Soldiers only had to worry about loading the rifle without placing a cap on the nipple. US Army Ordnance was skeptical of the new system, but Maynard found a friend in then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who was very enthusiastic about Maynard’s system.  As a result, the Maynard Tape System was included in the M1855 design. While a great idea in theory, in practice the Maynard System proved to be impractical in the real world.  Often the Maynard mechanism malfunctioned or failed to advance the tape directly over the nipple.  Tests also found that the Maynard tape itself tended to misfire.  The tape was also very susceptible to moisture, humidity, dirt, and mud.  As a result, the tape system was abandoned, and the US Army simply used standard percussion caps with the musket.

The Model 1855 was used primarily in the American Civil War by both Union and Confederate forces. It was succeeded by the Springfield Model 1861 and 1863.  Around 60,000 were produced.

anonymous asked:

Can you explain cup fire?

Of course, it’s very simple .w.

In 1855, Rollin White patented revolver cylinders with chambers running completely through it, much like any modern revolver is conceived today. This patent would only expire some twenty-or-so years later, with Smith&Wesson owning exclusive rights, meaning no one but them could manufacture metallic cartridge revolvers for all that time, unless someone found a way around it.
The cupfire cartridge design was one such way. A cupfire cartridge was in conception almost identical to a rimfire cartridge, except that the rim containing the priming mercury fulminate formed the edge of a depression in the brass’s base, as pictured below.

A .28, three .30 and one .42 cupfire cartridges. These measurements referred in fact to the base’s diameter, the calibers being respectively .26, .28 and .39. This choice of denomination will be justified below.

This peculiarity was itself due to the cylinder’s design. Rather than completely bored through, each chamber would have a slight step near the rear of the cylinder, reducing its diameter by a few millimeters. This small step will then stop the cartridge when loaded through the front, and keep it seated just short of the rear end of the cylinder. In a completely bored-through design a cupfire cartridge would simply slip through.

Loading a Merwin and Bray 1st Model revolver - here with blanks.

The hammer, curved sort of like a hook, would then reach inside the cylinder to strike the inside of the cup’s rim where the mercury fulminate is located.

The same gun, showing the cylinder rear-up and the unique shape of the hammer, designed to hit beyond the stopping rim of the cylinder.

Cupfire cartridges weren’t necessarily that hard to manufacture but with revolvers being held pointing down most of the time this design was not ideal as nothing much was stopping the rounds from sliding out, and it faded out in favor of rimfire and centerfire firearms as soon as Rollin White’s patent expired.

I hope this helped .w.


Allen and Wheelock ‘Army’ center hammer revolver

Patented in 1858 by Ethan Allen and Thomas Wheelock in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, serial number 84.
.44 lipfire, six shots.

Another revolver from the time of Rollin White’s infamous patent on bored through cylinder. This one said ‘have sexual intercourse with the representation of state authority that enforce the law, protect properties and limit civil disorder” and decided to infringe on that patent. The lipfire system was very much like a rimfire cartridge would function, except with only a small portion of the brass’ rim protruding and filled with mercury fulminate. This required the user to align the rounds correctly in the cylinder not unlike pinfire systems but overall worked just fine.
Reloading the gun is achieved through a loading gate and a trigger guard assembly doubling as an ejector road - becoming a loading lever when the law caught up with Allen and Wheelock and they had to switch production to a cap and ball design - pushing out empty casings.


The Butterfield Priming System,

By the 1850’s the user of percussion caps for an ignition system ended the use of the flintlock mechanism for most military muskets.  However there were many ingenious designs created to compete with the percussion cap.  One such system was invented by Jesse Butterfield in 1855.  Rather than using a copper cap filled with mercury fulminate, the Butterfield system used small cylindrical shaped wafers or pellets of mercury fulminate called “Butterfield’s Wafers”.  This was combined with a feeding mechanism that was installed on the lock of the musket.  The mechanism featured a tube which held a number of wafers, and when the hammer was cocked, a spring loaded mechanism would force a wafer out of the reservoir while a sliding bar would push or feed the wafer onto the nipple for firing.  When struck the mercury fulminate would explode, sending a spark down into the chamber which ignited the main charge.

Butterfield’s system was a good idea in theory.  The idea was that the system reduced the process of loading a musket by one step; placing a percussion cap on the nipple. It was also meant to solve function problems of the caplock system, namely when a spent cap became lodged into the cup of the hammer, it could cause a misfire (happened to me), or in the case of revolvers, jamming up the cylinder.  However since Butterfield’s wafers lacked a metal cap, this was not an issue. In practical terms, however, Butterfields wafers and feeding mechanism failed in real world condition.  The wafers themselves were much more susceptible to the effects of moisture compared to percussion caps.  In addition the feeding mechanism often jammed or malfunctioned.  Misfires were very common.  A few thousand older Springfield and Harpers Ferry muskets were converted to the system, although for the most part regular percussion caps were used instead of the Butterfield wafers.  A small number of Betterfield priming breechloading rifles were produced as well.  Jesse Butterfield also designed a .41 caliber revolver which utilized his system (bottom picture).  In 1861, at the beginning of the American Civil War, the US Government contracted him to produce an order of 2,250 Butterfield revolvers, of which only 650 were delivered.  None were ever officially issued but a few hundred were fielded by soldiers who privately purchased them.