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[Ben]:Mercury Filled Bullets No discussion found
Could you comment on the possibility of mercury-filled bullets --you make a point that mercury fulminate is much more effective than pure mercury which would dissolve in the lead. Kindly explain this futher

Gerry,
Since you left no contact information, I'll address your question here. I take it you are asking me here because of the post I made on TheFiringLine.com some two years ago.

Mercury has been used in movies and novels to make bullets more lethal. Generally it is poured into a hollowpoint and capped with wax or something. The results in fictional universes vary, but often times they become grenade-like explosive bullets. This is rediculous.

Pure mercury - as you know - will form an amalgam with lead on contact. This paste is not particularly useful as a bullet material. Unless it was inserted into the bullet immediately before firing, the lead would soften to the point that the bullet would likely fly apart and perhaps leave a jacket in the barrel.

Now, mercury fulminate is an entirely different animal. For those unfamiliar with it, mecury fulminate is a very dangerous, friction-sensitive explosive that ignites at ~150 degrees C with an explosive velocity of approximately 4,000 fps. Filling the tip of a bullet with some mercury fulminate crystals would create an explosive bullet (though not nearly as powerful as books and movies might make it out to be). Assuming your gun didn't explode on firing, that is. The reason I suggested mercury fulminate is because I'm pretty sure whoever started the myth about exploding mercury-filled bullets probably heard that mercury fulminate was an explosive and tried to incorporate it into their fiction. They screwed up and the rest is history. Please don't try either one. It would be terminally stupid.

Where could you get mercury fulminate? Well, you can make it ... if you're brave, stupid and a good lab tech. Look around on the web and you'll find sites with directions. One I found (which I cannot vouch for the accuracy or safety of - I've never tried it, nor am I qualified to analyze the reaction) is:

In a 100mL Erlenmeyer flask, measure out 35 mL of 70% nitric acid, then add 5 g of mercury metal. This mixture should be left alone without shaking or stirring until all the mercury dissolves. Toxic gas will be produced. Keep the flask in a well ventilated area, or stopper the flask and lead a length of rubber tubing into water to safely dissolve the fumes. In a 500-mL beaker, place 50 mL of 90% ethyl alcohol, then add the acid-mercury mix in a well ventilated area. The temperature of the mixture will rise, a vigorous reaction will commence, white fumes will be released, and crystals of mercury fulminate should begin to precipitate. Red fumes of nitrogen dioxide will appear as the precipitation becomes more rapid, then white fumes again as the reaction moderates. After about 20 minutes the reaction should be over. Add water to the beaker and carefully decant off most of the water without losing any crystals. Add water and decant several times until the wash water is no longer acid to litmus. Finally, pour the neutral solution over a filter to collect the grayish-yellow crystals of mercury fulminate. The product may be purified by dissolving in strong ammonium hydroxide, filtering, and re-precipitating by the addition of 30% acetic acid. The pure fulminate is filtered off, washed with cold water, and stored in a container filled with water. Dry in a desiccator immediately before use. You will need a graduated cylinder for measuring liquids.

Again, please don't try this. You will probably die or be horribly maimed.

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  2004-09-03
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