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Old June 6, 2002, 06:47 PM   #1
priv8ter
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What about Mercury?

So, I was reading the post on poison bullets, and my mind kind of went ping, and I was reminded of something I read once.

During my mispent youth, I read a comic book once where one of the charecters talked about putting a drop of Mercury in the hollow point of a shell, and then melting a bit of lead over the top to hold it in. Theoretically, the mercury explodes like a grenade, causing some nasty damage.

Any Mad Hatters out there ever heard of doing this in a non-fantasy situation?
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Old June 6, 2002, 07:12 PM   #2
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Mercury has two things going for it. It's heavy and it's a liquid. Thus, you have a heavier package being delivered with - theoretically, anyway - somewhat more reliable expansion.

No grenade-like explosions.

Now, if we're talking mercury-fulminate, that's a whole 'nuther story.
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Old June 6, 2002, 07:19 PM   #3
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Yeah, I heard that when I was a kid too.

I heard that it used to work in the old days, but they updated the laws of physics to prevent it.
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Old June 6, 2002, 07:43 PM   #4
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That was in The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe (sp?) The flaw is that mercury will disolve lead.
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Old June 6, 2002, 07:46 PM   #5
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If we spill mercury at work, we have to use a hazmant kit to clean it up. Still want to mess with it?
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Old June 6, 2002, 07:58 PM   #6
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One of the dangers from a mercury bullet would be to the person who was creating one. If he/she is not careful and gets some on their skin, it could be absorbed and play havoc with the nervous system. It has some other nasty side effects as well. I don't think mercury is combustable by itself, but if I remember my high school chemistry, if mixed with a chemical like ammonia or some other halogen, it will become unstable. It's nasty stuff. I don't think I would want to mess with it.
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:07 PM   #7
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Funny thing about mercury on the skin.....

When I was a kid, mercury was commonly used in making fillings for teeth. My dentist would give kids samples (at least he gave me some, in a vial with a stopper) and he would "demonstrate" it by rolling a drop around in his palm (which I did also.)

I'm still here, and he died of old age not too long ago.

Quicksilver....a fascinating element.
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:18 PM   #8
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Mercury is a great bore cleaner. The rest is comic book stuff.
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:24 PM   #9
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True, fillings are a mixture of mercury and other metals, such as silver, copper and tin, I believe. The mercury is used to chemically bind the metals into a hard stable substance. This process is known as amalgamation, and because of this process, the resulting filling material is safe. However, I do recall stories where people would have serious allergic reactions to their fillings.

Mercury by itself though...geez......something I don't want to play with.
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:31 PM   #10
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We used to shine coins with it in the palm of hand when kids. I'm still here too. It is hazmat and highly poisonous though. Be extra careful not to ingest or drop on floor where kids or pets could ingest it.
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:37 PM   #11
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After reading Forsythe's book, I had a brief conversation with my high school chemistry teacher about it. The conclusion we came to was that, since mercury is both extremely dense and liquid, it could improve the terminal ballistics of a projectile by "splattering" into dozens or hundreds of tiny, high-velocity droplets on impact, essentially turning into very fine shot inside the target. We didn't test it, but it made sense at the time.

He mentioned the possibility of lead being damaged by mercury, and we decided it could be avoided by encapsulating the mercury in either plastic, glass, or some inert metal (gold?) and then implanting the capsule into the round.

It wouldn't explode per se, but it would definitely have devastating effects, provided that it does what we think it does. I'm certainly not going to be the guy who tries it first.

On a tangential note, in some westerns, I've seen guys scoring the tips of their bullets with a knife before using them. They cut a little cross in the end. Does this have some effect on ballistics, or is it just some weird ritual?
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:51 PM   #12
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Count me as another one who use to play with mercury as a kid. Lot's of fun! We use to break thermometers to get at it.

Ever heard of the term "Mad as a hatter"? Supposedly, mercury was used in the felting process of making hats. The long term exposure to the mercury made the hat makers crazy.

Now days you can't play with any of the good stuff. We used to think that asbestos was kind of cool too!
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Old June 6, 2002, 08:52 PM   #13
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I remember reading a National Geographic article on mercury mining. They showed a miner floating in a pool of mercury. (fully clothed) It looked like a gas - because it is so dense (sorta like a liberal's head) you float very high. You couldn't sink if you tried. And they talked about how the miners have to go into the sauna periodically (daily? weekly?) to sweat the mercury out of their pores.

Bottom line is, I don't believe all the horrible tales about how toxic mercury is. Nor lead. Now compounds which CONTAIN those two metals are another matter. I've had lead poisoning, and it is not fun. Didn't affect my nervous system at all, thoughCLICK thoughCLICK thoughCLICK SMACK!

Hmmm. Gotta get that fixed.


Quote:
That was in The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe (sp?) The flaw is that mercury will disolve lead.

Yeah, I've played with mercury and .22 pellets, and it softens them up pretty quickly. I always wondered if the reference to "mercury" in that story was short for mercury fulminate. But I don't know if the fulminate would stand the shock of firing without detonating itself.

Now we'll all get a visit from the FBI.

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Old June 6, 2002, 10:01 PM   #14
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I used to get my daily minimum dosage of mercury by eating tuna, but I think they cleaned that up now. Chelation, anyone? BTW My sister is allergic to mercury and has had mercury poisoning a time or two (she's a nurse practitioner). Nasty reaction.
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Old June 6, 2002, 10:14 PM   #15
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The most dangerous thing about mercury is if it is heated. The vapors WILL KILL. Two years ago,(aprox.), two kids in Kentucky put a little mercury in a pan, heated it on the stove...and the whole house had to be trashed...litterally. It was demolished as and treated as toxic waste. I just want to encourage you to do your homework before you use mercury. Learn a little...save a lot!
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Old June 6, 2002, 10:16 PM   #16
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Encapsulation in gold wouldn't work. Mercury will turn the gold into a cheesy amalgam. Tis used to seperate gold in mining operations. Mercury gobbles up the itty bitty pieces of gold.....then is cooked to get the gold back. That way you get to breath lots of mercury fumes.

Lots of things we not supposed to play with anymore.

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Old June 6, 2002, 10:18 PM   #17
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Captain Hoek;
Don't worry about the FBI, their featherweights who can't tell the lefthand what the righthand is doing. Fear however the EPA and OHSA cause they KNOW what stuff can do to them and they do not wish to get hurt.
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Old June 6, 2002, 10:26 PM   #18
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The deal with The Day of the Jackel bullet was a drilled hole partially filled with mercury & then capped. Upon hitting the target, the mercury was said to slam againt the tip, rip it off & distribute widely = mild "explosion" due to inertia, not actual explosive anything chemically.

Lead will float in mercury.

We used to play with it, bring it to school & sell it. Some floorboard cracks were shiney with the stuff. My cousin, 8 yrs older than me, squirted it bfrom between his teeth. We're all still around albeit a tad twisted.

Mercury will amalgate with all the noble metals (and lead). That's what went on with the shining the quarters bit - they used to actually have silver in 'em. Dulled up fairly quick though. They were slippery as all get out in the meantime.

Mercury'll pick up (amalgate) with gold & is used in gold panning to get at the minute gold particles. It'll eventually turn into a kind of waxy/putty substance when fairly saturated. Olden day miners would place this putty into a potato, bake the merury out (leaving a pure gold nugget inside) & sometimes in leaner times, eat that potato.

Always thought a suitable sized mercury-filled gel-cap (.45 cal or so) at supressed delivery would make a decent untraceable bullet. Yeah, run a ballistic check on a liquid ....
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Old June 6, 2002, 10:30 PM   #19
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Quote:
On a tangential note, in some westerns, I've seen guys scoring the tips of their bullets with a knife before using them. They cut a little cross in the end. Does this have some effect on ballistics, or is it just some weird ritual?
Poor man's dum-dum. The scoring caused the bullet to expand instead of just compressing. Made it act sort of like a hollow point.
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Old June 6, 2002, 10:47 PM   #20
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Quote:
Quote:
On a tangential note, in some westerns, I've seen guys scoring the tips of their bullets with a knife before using them. They cut a little cross in the end. Does this have some effect on ballistics, or is it just some weird ritual?
Poor man's dum-dum. The scoring caused the bullet to expand instead of just compressing. Made it act sort of like a hollow point.
Dum-dum's will get you arrested in many places. Check your local laws before doing something stupid like making one.
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Old June 6, 2002, 11:09 PM   #21
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Captain,

You should see cranial CAT scans and MRIs done of people who have severe mercury poisoning...

You'll sort of scratch your head and say "Where did the rest of his brain go?"

It is NOT pretty...
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Old June 7, 2002, 12:16 AM   #22
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I often wonder how anyone survived from my youth with all the dire warnings of today. Not only did we play with mercury on a regular basis but we use to run behind the city truck going down the alley fogging DDT about twice a week. Every school and home was full of asbestos. All paint had lead in it but I don't remember anyone eating it either. Sniffed gasoline at times. Played with matches. Rode in cars without seat belts or air bags. Rode motorcycles without helmets. Ate foot-long, chili covered hotdogs for lunch everyday from a non health inspected joint across from the elementary school. Shot BB guns on a daily basis in town. Played with fireworks on all holidays and didn't brush after every meal.

God, those really were the "good ole days".
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Old June 7, 2002, 12:55 AM   #23
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Ran behind DDT foggers!? You must be crazy!

We rode our bikes through it.

Bottle rocket/roman candle wars, homemade, uhm .... stuff that made better noise than anything you could buy .....

Stuff we had in our pockets most days would cause a shut-down & the EPA would order a cool $1M+ clean-up as a toxic dump.

The good old days indeed.

Wonder how long it'll take for this thread to wander off into a "you youngsters just don't know" ....
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Old June 7, 2002, 10:20 AM   #24
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Back in the mid '60s there was an article in Hot Rod magazine about some top fuel dragster builder (the old front engine ones) was putting mercury in the frame rails. Upon launch, the mercury would flow to the rear of the frame and compress thereby aiding weight transfer and increasing traction at the rear wheels.
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Old June 7, 2002, 11:35 AM   #25
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There's this little matter called "bio-availability". Liquid metalic mercury doesn't absorb into the body easily, (It's not particularly soluble in water.) whereas organic mercury compounds are incredibly dangerous. So you can get away with playing with metalic mercury, so long as you're not heating it up. But even a tiny amount of methyl mercury, for instance, will kill you quick and dirty.

The reason they go berserk about metalic mercury today is that if it's released into the enviroment, eventually it does get converted into organic form, and it sticks around in the food chain, gradually accumulating, year after year. So if we kept playing around with it long enough, eventually everyone would get poisoned. Might take a couple of centuries, but it would happen. So I can't really say that they're insane about how they handle it, in the long run. But they could stop pretending that it's an IMMEDIATE threat if some is spilled.
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