Army

Non-toxic primers for use in small arms ammunitions and explosive ignition trains

Replaces lead and other carcinogens in primers

Military Technology

Primers are critical components in small arms ammunition, explosive armament ignition trains, and even pyrotechnics. They have a history of being made from toxic chemicals such as mercury fulminate, barium nitrate, and lead. Lead can rapidly build up in the blood stream simply from handling the material. Also, the production of lead primers results in the co-production of highly toxic hazardous waste. Removing lead from ammunition for environmental and health reasons is a goal of the military and private industry. While progress has been made in removing lead from the projectile, it has proven more difficult to remove it from the primer. Previous attempts have resulted in poor performing primers – particularly at low temperatures.

Army researchers have developed a new, non-toxic primer composition and method of manufacturing at scale. The primer mix completely replaces heavy metal compounds and gum binders while maintaining stringent military performance requirements. The new primers are lead, barium, and antimony-free. Those toxins are replaced with copper boron carbide, aluminum, and potassium nitrate in the primer mix – all of which are non-toxic.

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