The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Ammunition safety: never carry live ammunition in your pocket and this is why

A warning on exploding ammunition from Mark Ripley

Ammunition safety

Carrying live ammunition in the same pocket as a battery can cause the round to detonate

Two recent queries about ammunition safety.

Q. Can ammunition go off in your pocket if you also have a battery in the same pocket and if so, would it fire like it does in a rifle?

A: Yes, it can indeed go off — and I know of two people it’s happened to. A good friend of mine put an HMR round in his pocket along with a spare battery he picked up while clearing some stuff out of his truck. In the same pocket were his keys that, combined with the battery, led to a current passing through the bullet and detonating it.

Though it blew a small hole in the inside of his pocket and burned his leg slightly, he didn’t suffer any severe injuries.

A similar thing happened to another man involving a larger bullet, which burned his leg somewhat more seriously, although it was nothing life changing.

When a bullet is unrestricted outside a firearms chamber, the explosion goes in all directions, splitting the case rather than directing a bullet out of a barrel. It has less destructive power, but can still cause injury. The lesson here? Don’t carry live ammunition and batteries in your pockets. Think ammunition safety at all times.

Read how to store shotgun cartridges safely and legally. 

ammunition safety storing cartridges in bag

While technically a dropped cartridge could go off, it’s unlikely to happen

Can cartridges explode?

Q: Can a shotgun cartridge go off if it’s dropped and would it kill you if it were pointed at you when it did so?

A: Theoretically yes, a cartridge could potentially be detonated if it were to be dropped on the primer, although due to the weight of the lead charge at the front of the cartridge, the chances are it will land on this end rather than the primer end.

Should a cartridge go off outside the chamber of the gun, it’s actually not likely to do any serious harm because the case will simply blow apart, rather than fire as it would from a gun. The chamber of a shotgun has only one open end — the barrel — so all the force of the blast is channelled down the barrel, pushing the wadding in the cartridge, and the lead shot in front of it, towards the target with full force. (Read more about the different parts of a shotgun.. )

Outside these confines, the blast from the powder charge will take the path of least resistance, which will generally be the sides of the case and, although the contained shot will likely be scattered, it will be with considerably less velocity.

Read these shotgun cartridge safety rules and ammunition safety.)

This article was originally published in 2022 and has been updated.