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Old June 20, 2013, 08:52 PM   #1
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12 ga shells

here goes
my wife wants to know how safe are 12 ga shells outside the shotgun? she's worried that if i dropped a shell will it go off?
what would happen if by a slim chance if it does?
is there a youtube video out there that we can watch together?
I've tried explaining within reason they're safe as what black powder can be, but I'm looking for comments that she can read for herself
so if there is anybody that can help me out please thanks
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Old June 20, 2013, 09:04 PM   #2
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Re: 12 ga shells

If they are dropped they are as safe as any other shell or round of loaded ammunition. If the primer is hit just right, yes, it can discharge. However, that possibility is more than extremely remote.

In competitions when we have to "unload and show clear", the common method is to simply cycle the action and let the loaded round that was in the chamber fall to the ground. No one gives it a second thought.

(with a little practice though you can catch the round in the air )
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Old June 20, 2013, 09:09 PM   #3
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They are pretty safe. I wouldn't worry at all about throwing them on the ground. I have dropped the a bunch hunting and never worried about them. The only way to make them go off is to put a small dent in the primer. A larger dent will not work.
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Old June 20, 2013, 09:14 PM   #4
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I have been shooting for 40+ years now, and have never heard of a shotgun shell or any cartridge discharging from getting dropped. Has it happened? I’m sure it has, but I’ve never seen or heard of it.

If one did go off from getting dropped, it could do light superficial damage, but chances of it being life threatening is doubtful.

The force of the rapidly burning gun powder needs to be contained, as in the chamber of a firearm. Since an unsupported cartridge is not contained, the energy bleeds off rapidly in all directions. Contained in a chamber, all the energy goes in one direction, down the bore.
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Old June 20, 2013, 09:34 PM   #5
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Has it happened? I’m sure it has, but I’ve never seen or heard of it.
I seem to remember it happening about 10 years ago to a police officer during qualifications. A pistol round fell off of the table, discharged, and the round lodged itself into the officer's rear end. However, I cannot find a link to that story (if it did indeed happen) for the life of me. As has been mentioned, this would be extremely rare due to the force not being contained in an enclosed area such as a firearm chamber.
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Old June 20, 2013, 11:27 PM   #6
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It isn't going to happen - I shoot over 15000 shells a year, have dropped my fair share and not even close to go off - the primer needs to be struck with force to make ignition happen
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Old June 21, 2013, 01:20 AM   #7
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In my misspent youth, I empirically tested the impact resistance of a variety of primers through the judicious use of a common claw hammer.

Although I wasn't able to test a shotgun primer, the rest took quite some force before they popped. Even with gross mishandling, it would be difficult to set one off unintentionally.
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Old June 21, 2013, 07:19 AM   #8
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First off shotshells haven't been loaded with black powder in ages and eons. Secondly it sounds like your wife can't seem to take your word for it. I don't think a YouTube video is going to help....

Maybe a trusted friend can convince her.....
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Old June 21, 2013, 07:21 AM   #9
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If she's a worry wart, just give her a week.
She'll find something else to keep her up nights.
Walt Kelly, alias Pogo, sez:
“Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.”
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Old June 21, 2013, 11:49 AM   #10
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I found this description of a character in a book (but I'm afraid I don't remember the title.) It just might apply here.

"He was a worrier. When he didn't have important things to worry about he worried about things that were not important."
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Old June 21, 2013, 11:51 AM   #11
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Welcome to TFL, welshgal2001 !

FWIW, the primers that ignite the gunpowder are recessed a bit, so it would take a dropped shell landing primer-end-down (the other end is heavier & will usually turn & land 1st) exactly on a sharp object to set one off - very unlikely, so unlikely that I've never seen a centerfire cartridge, dropped by itself, discharge.

More likely with a rimfire, as the priming area's unprotected - but as with other ammo, the business end's heavier & usually lands 1st.

Since it's your wife AND evidently worried about the issue - instead of beating both your brains out, why not just put the ammo not kept in your HD weapon in an ammo safe ?
It's easy to whack together a lockable thick wooden box out of some planking - wooden crates are how ammunition companies used to ship ammo, before cardboard (and beancounters) came along.

That way, all the ammo would be out of sight ( and out of mind).

[When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. ]


Last edited by PetahW; June 21, 2013 at 12:01 PM.
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Old June 21, 2013, 01:31 PM   #12
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When I was a kid, I worked for a farmer who was a duck/goose hunter. The dashboard of his truck was always covered with shotgun shells, even in the off season.

One day while talking to a neighbor who'd stopped by, he absent mindly picked up one of those shells and started to tap it on the side of the truck. I'm not sure how long it took, but eventually it did go off in his hand.

Scared the SNOT out of him...and the neighbor...but did no real damage. A slight burn on his hand, and that was about it. I seem to remember the shot just fell on the ground.

Now remember, he didn't drop it, he was tapping it, primer side down on the side of the truck. He may have hit a screw, bolt, nail (it was an old farm truck). If nothing else, he hit it over and over and over. Who knows how many times he'd done exactly the same thing before with no damage.

Dropping one? I'd worry more about being hit by a flying saucer.
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Old June 21, 2013, 02:43 PM   #13
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I can't imagine that happening. The only rounds I've ever been able to get to work that way are .22lr rimfires... When I was a kid, we'd go up to a tall cliff, stick the nose of a .22 into a coffee stirrer type straw... and throw it over the edge. It'll fly down with the rear down because of the straw and ignite once it hits the hard rocks at the bottom.

Probably a stupid move, but we were kids.
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Old June 22, 2013, 10:41 AM   #14
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This video is for all sorts of ammo, but it also ought to satisfy anybody wondering about shotgun shells. It's been posted here before, but here it is again:
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