View Full Version : How dangerous is ammo in a fire
September 03, 2001, 21:04
What the topic said. Hasving been in two house fire in my life time, that question is always in the back of my mind.
Most of us keep WAY too much ammo at the house. I store mine in ammo cans and the orginal containers.
So if your house doe burn, just how dangerous is the ammo when it starts to cook off. It would seem to me that it would be somewhat dangerous but not as dangerous as one might think. When the powder ignites and the bullet gets pushed out of the casing, then the burning powder is going to dissipate in all directions very quickey not just one dircetion, confined, down a pipe, (bbl).
So it would appear to me that the bullet might travel for a shot distance but a very unpredictable path and not very fast.
September 03, 2001, 21:22
I agree with you that most folks probably overestimate the danger. Still, I would imagine it could be dangerous enough! I wouldn't want to be around. Your post made me wonder if I needed to move my ammo cabinet out of the garage (where the gas water heater is...)...yikes!
September 03, 2001, 21:27
The brass doesn't hold pressure well so you'll have bits of brass fly further than any of the bullets would. The biggest danger is if they are contained in something that will hold alot of pressure when they cook off. That's why they say to never store powder or lots of ammo inside a safe.
That being said I wouldn't standing next to a fire tossing ammo into it :)
September 03, 2001, 21:29
There isn't a chamber and bolt to direct the pressure, it would just *POP* apart. Sorta loud, but not like a shot.
September 03, 2001, 22:18
The NRA has done studies on this subject. They are discribed in their Blue Book (NRA Firearms Fact Book)-a good book to have- Essentially, 30 06 rounds cooked-off inside a cardbord box would NOT penetrate it. Bulk ammo, cooks-off one-at-a-time. The article ends with the statement "there is no appreciable hazard in storing any amount of small arms ammunition in a dwelling" ....unless it is chambered in a firearm.
September 03, 2001, 22:20
Don't underestimate it though. It would be foolish, and worse, to casually allow ammunition to burn say, in a campfire.
A house fire involving ammunition will certainly make the fire team stay well back, until the cookoffs are over.
September 03, 2001, 23:10
I had a 9MM get burnt with the trash. Didn't sound as loud but it whizzed by me pretty fast with a 'Zing' sound. It would have hurt if it hit I think.
September 04, 2001, 05:19
In the case of ammo being detonated by fire the cases tend to be the "projectiles" and not the bullets. The cases always are the lightest of the two. Energy always takes the path of least resistence.
BTW - this is not a "new" discussion. As I am 51 yoa I grew up with the WWII legacy up close and personal and remember reading books that had cartoons about fireman hiding under their trucks at house fires with explosions in the burning house and the home owner stating things like "wait until the mortar round on my desk goes off". Apparently many WWII soldiers brought ordinance home a souveniers.
September 04, 2001, 08:03
From the Fire Department FAQ at http://www.ci.corvallis.or.us/fire/firefaq.html
How can I store ammunition so it doesn't harm emergency personnel in a fire?
Firefighters experience the surprise of exploding ammunition in a fire situation with some regularity. When bullets and shells are exposed to fire, as long as they are not chambered in a weapon, they are generally not lethal. They do explode and you certainly would not want to be in the immediate vicinity. Most often, however, they will simply explode and not project the pellets or slugs with much force. The safety gear worn by firefighters has been fairly effective in protecting them from injury in this case.
Loaded weapons exposed to high heat, however, will "shoot;" and semi-automatic weapons will keep shooting, especially if gas-operated as most repeating shotguns and some rifles are. This is a severe hazard for emergency personnel (or anyone in the vicinity). There is a documented instance (which occurred elsewhere, by the way) in which a loaded rifle, mounted on a wall rack, kept discharging during a fire, hitting the command vehicle, causing fire personnel to believe that they were being shot at. They withdrew to a safe location and consequently, the house was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that instance. So, this is another good reason for not keeping loaded weapons in the home.
Safe storage of shells and bullets would be best in a fire resistive gun cabinet. Lacking that, there are metal ammunition boxes; however, they create a risk of a larger, more powerful explosion of the components were to detonate due to the confined energy created by the box itself. A personal safe with a fire rating would be the next best, giving security against unwarranted access as well as fire protection.
September 08, 2001, 00:29
My sister was hit in the eye by an exploding cartridge in a fire and it did not penetrate her eye, though it did cause problems and she still sees double after a few surgeries.
September 08, 2001, 13:46
This is covered in depth in hatchers notebook. It is a non issue. I can hear the anti's now...If it just saves one fireman...
September 08, 2001, 17:06
I wish I still had the link but there's a Military investigation website concerning the explosion of some ordnance at a storage depot and the subsequent explosions caused by other ordnance and ammunition cooking off as a result of the fire.
Basically they had lots of pictures of .308, .223 and 9mm in ammo cans where the can's had bulged but few if any rounds escaped. I believe the .223 had a one round go thru a can, but .308 and 9mm just bulged the can with no escapes. Was kinda interesting looking.. all these bullet shaped bulges in the can.
The site of the original explosion left a huge crater that went all the way thru the concrete slabs the ordnance was sitting on.
September 09, 2001, 06:30
In Vietnam I saw first hand what .50 BMG does in a fire. Tightly packed in an ammo can the bullet will sometimes penetrates the metal ammo can. However, with the loose rounds, it's the casing that's more dangerous because the bullet stays put and the lighter casing splits like a banana and goes flying. (Don't ask me how I know :O )
Generally rounds cooking off make more noise than anything.
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