Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IQ Vs. NEQ - Smart Storage of Primers

Your valuable things.  They vary from person to person, but for reloaders they include primers.  Primers are sometimes readily available, sometimes as valuable as gold.  If they're available at a good price people tend to stock up.

If you are new to reloading there is some basic information that you should consider before you start tucking them in your sock drawer. I would also strongly suggest you do some homework and check your local laws rather than just rely on info from someone like myself who just stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Various state and national fire codes have minimum standards for storage regarding methods and quantities. That's what the insurance companies go with, for what it's worth.

I am still learning about primers but over the years I learned about smart, AND dumb things to do with explosives.  Alaska, somewhere back in the 90's.

Just as I think many of you know about hazmat to some degree.
Due to their explosive nature it is recommended that only an absolute minimum should be kept in storage. The National Fire Protection Association' NFPA 495 says that not more than 10,000 primers should be stored in a private residence. This recommendation is law in most communities so you might wish to check your local laws.
 
But think of it, 1,000 each large rifle, large rifle magnum, small rifle, large pistol, large pistol magnum, small pistol, small pistol magnum, and shotshell primers. That's 8,000 primers folks so with care in replacing those supplies used, most people should have plenty on hand.

What about long term storage?  Time isn't much of a factor in primer performance, but temperature cycling is. Going up and down in temp induces condensation.
 
The two biggest dangers for primers (outside of not being able to find any) is
(1) HEAT
(2) HUMIDITY.It goes without saying that you want to store primers in a remote location away from any source of ignition (that includes bullet impact). Watch for any potentials for high heat, spark, electrical percussion in your storage area. A general run through for potential dangers before setting up your reloading and storage area before you make your purchases is a good idea.Keep them away from from oxidizing agents, flammable liquids, and flammable solids (including handloading powders), children, pets or idiots (including those related to you). Always store primers in their original packaging, which is designed for safety. Never store primers in bulk, such as in a can or jar.
 
A gun safe is NOT the best place to keep them. A storage cabinet is strongly recommended, constructed of at least 1 inch thick lumber which will delay the transfer of heat to the contents in the event of a fire. The storage cabinet should be kept away from direct sun rays, open flames (well duh), trash or other combustibles, sources of heat, furnaces, solvents, flammable gasses (well you get the picture). Near the floor, as well, is the coolest place in a fire, but not touching the wall.
And yes, despite commenter's warnings on my blog from fire marshal Bill and other friends, I do store some primers in an ammo can. Why? Long term storage. (Think future days of not being able to find primers as opposed to saving a few for a rainy day during the zombie apocalypse). I have primers stored this way that go back to the Clinton era that still work.

Yes, there are inherent dangers of this, frankly, in ANY storage of explosive bits and pieces.
Primers are a primary explosive and just putting too many of them together in one place makes them "a bomb" whether they are contained or not.  (Someday if we're under the cone of silence I'll tell you a story about a "reloaders grenade")  The metal box storage would be a concussion explosion and the shrapnel not as much as you think, but certainly is a risk. Anyone that reloads in any bulk has all kinds of stuff that will go "boom". Some do it in shops separate from the home, some do it in home with precautions, such as a magazine built in to the structure.

The hazard from the metal box is really almost as much about it creating an isothermal (uniform temperature) environment inside during a fire as it is about fragmentation. I would not want to be the fireman working near a hot metal box full of primers. Yes, the house could catch fire That's a risk I live with. I, for one, drive too fast to lose sleep over it. But if I plan on storing something for really long term, I'm not sure if there are any other options.

Stored in their original containers, packed in a can, I think the risk of them "cooking off" on their own is pretty slim. But NO, an ammo box WILL NOT "contain" them if they did cook off. But I wouldn't want something that strong anyway, because it would only increase the explosive release if it does go up (why I don't store them in a gun safe, among other reasons). For long term storage I think the sides of a GI box would blow out plenty fast enough to prevent excessive pressure build up and it protects your primers from humidity like nothing else if you want to store for years, not months.  I know folks who have taken a 1 inch hole saw (fine tooth) and thinned a place from the inside of the lid, to direct the force of the blow out
, though it brings to mind "The Crimson Permanent Assurance".Some of the primers that have lived around the Range over the years were stored for a very long time , and were still good when used.  Had they been in plastic, even with desiccant they'd probably have ended up duds  (click to enlarge and look at the price on this box. Want to guess how old it is?) This box was stored in an ammo can, not the plastic can and they are as good as new. The problem with plastic containers may be the vapor permeability of the material itself. Plastic gas cans/vehicle fuel tanks were only possible after the development of a flourination process used to create an impermeable layer in the plastic after the part is formed. But I know there will be many that disagree with me and there's lots of discussion pro and con in the forums on storage. If you're worried about a fire, store your primers in a plastic ammo box, like you see pictured, still in their original packaging. The original packaging is designed to be non-static so you shouldn't have a problem with the plastic box. If a fire will causes the box to melt and if the primers cook off, when the first package pops it will probably help scatter the rest of them. A pack of 50-100 primers would make a decent bang but the flying bits are small and low powered. Plastic is fine for short term, but in my humble opinion if you want primers that will be useful 10 years from now, plastic is not going to cut it unless you own a desiccant factory. (Note: dessicant  is going to do less than you expect if the individual boxes aren't sealed. The primers are assembled in 30% humidity, and anything much less causes the cake (the pressed mixture) to crumble.)

My primers are stored in their original boxes, with several desiccant pouches and a humidity indicator. I have the primers I'm going to use soon in plastic containers, with desiccant, but I also have a couple ammo cans packed long term need, one for one for small rifle & pistol primers, the other for large & magnum primers. They're kept in a cool, dry environment until I might need them some day when times get tough, and I only keep the can in use long enough to select what I'm going to use, and occasionally replacing the desiccant.
I've never heard of primers, in their box, stored in an ammo can, going off on their own. In a reloader, yes, but the can no. Has anyone else? If my house burns I'm in a lot more danger from the ammo then from two or three cans of primers stored in a carefully constructed magazine.


Powder is a whole other issue for long term storage. Powder stored in a pressure containing device (like a sealed ammo can) is NOT a good idea because powder is designed to burn and create a gas and if you put it in to a sealed container. . .well. . .

I don't keep my powder in any kind of a sealed or air-tight container, but I feel safe in putting some of the primers in an ammo can. I don't want anything to crush them and make them pop, and I don't want flame to get to them and make them pop. I also don't want humid air attacking them.If you are going to store primers in some cabinet in your house there ARE some basic rules you wish to follow. Don't use your primer cabinet to store -
(a) your girlfriends Cosco purchase of 8 gallons of nail polish remover,
(b) your blow torch or
(c) your emergency bacon rations. (well just because).
(d) your powders

You can also identify your storage area with NFPA markings to aid firefighters responding to an emergency at their home -

The NFPA 704 marking system consists of a diamond-shaped placard divided into four sections: a white section on the bottom for special hazards; a blue section on the left for health hazards; a red section at the top for fire hazards; and a yellow section on the right for reactivity hazards. Each color box contains a number from 0-4, specifying the corresponding hazard level for the material contained in the container or area.

So for powder, primers, and most reloading materials, the white square at the bottom would be blank, the blue square on the left would contain a "0" for no specific health hazard, the red square at the top would contain a "3" for moderate fire hazard, and the yellow square to the right would contain a "3" or a "4" for high reactivity hazard, depending on what you're storing.   Click on NFPA Marking System for more detailed information.Naturally, never smoke around primers. If where you reload is frequented by guests or household members that may not be familiar with the process, No Smoking signs in the storage area and at the loading bench aren't a bad idea.

Again, these are just some basics and what I do. Others will have better info,, others will disagree. But on the issue of the ammo argument you might wish to reference

49 CFR, Subpart 173.62, packing instruction 133.

Boring yes, it's the federal requirements for packaging Primers, Cap Type, UN0044 (i.e., ALL small arms primers that we the public use). According to that reference, primers MUST be packaged in a certain way, but choices are allowed within certain parameters. For example: It references inner packing consisting of "Trays, fitted with dividing partitions" as one option, (this is what some of you are used to seeing). The reg above requires that if the primers are housed in trays, as mentioned in (1), then intermediate packagings are required. Follow the link above to page 11 of the PDF, look at the "Intermediate packagings" column for packing instruction 133, and see that we can store the tray of primers in a receptacle made of (our choice) fiberboard, wood, plastic, or METAL.

Finally, the regulation gives folks that fall under their guidelines a choice of outer packaging, noted in the 3rd column of the same page 11 of said PDF-- steel box, aluminum box, wooden box, plywood box, and plastic box, among others. I know these regs don't apply to us the individual, but it's nice to read what they consider some safe choices for various purposes. Use common sense, check out local laws if you are so inclined, and follow some standard safety practices of not just HOW you store them, but WHERE. For frankly, given where I live, and what's on the radar this time of year, I worry more about Mother Nature than Mr. Primer. Boring yes, it's the federal requirements for packaging Primers, Cap Type, UN0044 (i.e., ALL small arms primers that we the public use). According to that reference, primers MUST be packaged in a certain way, but choices are allowed within certain parameters.

For example:

It references inner packing consisting of "Trays, fitted with dividing partitions" as one option, (this is what some of you are used to seeing). The reg above requires that if the primers are housed in trays, as mentioned in (1), then intermediate packagings are required. Follow the link above to page 11 of the PDF, look at the "Intermediate packagings" column for packing instruction 133, and see that we can store the tray of primers in a receptacle made of (our choice) fiberboard, wood, plastic, or METAL.

Finally, the regulation gives folks that fall under their guidelines a choice of outer packaging, noted in the 3rd column of the same page 11 of said PDF-- steel box, aluminum box, wooden box, plywood box, and plastic box, among others.

I know these regs don't apply to us the individual, but it's nice to read what they consider some safe choices for various purposes.

Use common sense, check out local laws if you are so inclined, and follow some standard safety practices of not just HOW you store them, but WHERE.

For frankly, there's more things to worry about than your primers some mornings.