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Rhode Island Gunsmith > Training > Ammunition

Firearms Training


By + John P. Silvaggio

    1. There is four components of a pistol cartridge:
      1. Case - a metal cylinder (usually made of brass) that is closed at one end and contains the other three components.
      2. Primer - an impact-sensitive chemical compound used for ignition.
      3. Powder Charge - a fast-burning chemical compound used as a propellant.
      4. Bullet - the projectile.

    2. Rimfire and center-fire cartridges.
      1. Rimfire cartridge - the primer is contained in the inside rim of the case's base.
      2. Center-fire cartridge - the primer is contained in a small metal cup, and is in the center of the case's base.

    3. The firing sequence of a cartridge
      1. Firing pin strikes and ignites the primer.
      2. The flame generated by the primer ignites the powder charge
      3. the powder burns very rapidly and produces a high volume of gas.

    4. Storing ammunition
      1. Ammunition should be stored in a cool and dry area.
          Avoid storing ammunition in extremely high temperature areas like an attic or the truck of a car.
      2. Always keep the ammunition in the factory box or carton.
      3. Wipe fingerprints off cartridges. Perspiration may cause corrosion.
      4. Ammunition should be stored in a place where children and other unauthorized persons will not have access to it.
      5. Ammunition should not be exposed to water or to solvents, petroleum products, bore cleaner, ammonia, or other chemicals.
          These materials can cause the primer and powder charge to deteriorate, resulting in a cartridge malfunction.

    5. Cartridge malfunctions
      1. Misfire - a failure of the cartridge to fire after the primer has been struck by the firing pin.
      2. Hangfire - a perceptible delay in the ignition of a cartridge after the primer has been struck by the firing pin.
          When a cartridge fails to fire immediately, it will not be known at first wheather the problem is a misfire or hangfire. Keep the pistol pointed in a safe direction - a hangfire condition might exist and the cartridge could still fire. Wait at least 30 seconds before opening the action to remove the cartridge.
      3. Squib load - development of less than normal pressure or velocity after the ignition of a cartridge.
          If anything unusual is noticed when a shot is fired, such as a difference in recoil or noise, the shooter should stop firing immediately. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and unload the pistol. Check to be sure that the chambers are empty. Then, with the action open, visually inspect the barrel to be sure that it is not obstructed. Squib loads can result in a bullet failing to exit the barrel. If the bullet is lodged in the barrel, the firing of another shot could cause serious injury or damage.