It’s Good to Know!
My initial plans for this article had to do with what we can do as reloaders to help out first responders/firefighters in case of an emergency in our homes where they would be faced with the dangers of powders, primers, and loaded ammunition. As a firefighter myself, I felt that this would make for a good topic of discussion. The research that I did though made me reconsider the way I would present this information.
I do still believe that it is important for firefighters to know that there are reloading components in the home as that information will aid in the way they react to the environmental aspects of what they may encounter. The reason I mention this has to do with the senses that firefighters use during “the heat of the moment” so to speak. The sounds you hear, the heat you feel, as well as the things you touch during a fire can give you a lot of information in that moment. More times than not, the ability to see in a structural fire comes after the initial attack, the smoke can be so thick that you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face, so that is why we have to rely on the other senses we have.
I have not been in a situation where I have had to deal with rounds of ammunition going off in a house fire, but I know many who have and I imagine that the sound is as scary as they make it sound. I have been in house fires where aerosol cans have ruptured due to the heat, and not only does it scare the squibs out of you, it sounds like a bomb going off. When you have no idea what that may be going off due to the fire and extreme heat, it definitely makes you reconsider if it’s worth staying in the structure to keep up the fight or if you should leave. It all comes down to risk versus reward; has it been confirmed that all occupants of the structure are out, or do rescue operations need to continue?
The one thing that I found in my research is that through innovation and years of research, the firearms industry has come a long way in producing products that are not as hazardous to first responders as they used to be. Yes, they can still be extremely dangerous in the right circumstances, but they do not present the risks today that they did during the early days of firearms technology. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) teamed up and did a video about the dangers that live ammunition presents when in a fire. The situations were done in a controlled environment, but are typical of what firefighters are likely to encounter when responding to a fire where ammunition is in the structure. Here is the video that was sent out to Fire Departments around the US:
The video above does a great job of showing what to expect if firefighters know the situation they are getting themselves into, but that is hardly ever the case. Residential homes can be a challenge, they are not like commercial structures where preplanning by the Fire Department can be done. The only way they are likely to know what it is that you have in your home is for you to tell them directly. Here is a case where the response was delayed due to firefighters not knowing the exact contents in the home: http://www.azfamily.com/story/31912440/ammo-explodes-at-phoenix-house-fire-man-found-dead
In the above article, the sounds of live ammunition going off delayed the attack of the Fire Department. I did not link the article because of the way it was written, which seems to paint the owner in a negative light because he was supposedly a firearms dealer or had ammunition in his home; I linked the article because it proves my point of a delayed response due to the firefighters not knowing the exact contents of the home or if the contents were properly stored. Again, the video above shows us how ammunition will react in a fire, but the video also stated that loaded firearms that have a round in the chamber will fire a projectile in the same way that pulling the trigger of the firearm will, so that also must be taken into consideration.
The information that I gave above may cause some to conclude that there may not be as much danger to reloading components as some believe, but improper storage of propellants can make for an extremely hazardous situation. We have to remember that the powders we use in certain situations can be catastrophic in the right circumstances. It’s extremely important that we follow the recommendations of manufacturers when it comes to the storage of our powders. Smokeless powders that seem like they may not be as dangerous as black powder can be just as dangerous when not stored properly, or used for malicious purposes. Here is information from the FBI on how smokeless powders have been used to create Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/april2002/mccord.htm. The purpose of linking this information is to show that under pressure, even smokeless powders can be extremely dangerous if not stored correctly.
What We Need To Know
I mentioned that my initial intention for this article was for reloaders to take into account the dangers that our firefighters/first responders would face in the event of a house fire where reloading components could be involved. Yes, I still believe that it is important for firefighters/first responders to have that information, whether it be a sign on the door saying reloading room, or a visit to our local department notifying them of the hazards (which in most jurisdictions is not required) in our homes. The thing I feel is most important though is understanding our own local and state laws.
Local, State, and Federal laws are important for us to understand. Today, the gun community faces many challenges when it comes to firearms and the practice of reloading. With the political turmoil we face, it’s extremely important to know the laws that your local City, County (Parish for those of us in Louisiana), State, and Federal laws require when it comes to small arms ammunition, which includes smokeless powder, black powder, and primers. Each level of Government that I have mentioned could have their own set of laws specific to their jurisdiction. When it comes to knowing the laws of each entity, ignorance of the law does not exempt us from the consequences for breaking those laws.
It would be extremely time-consuming and impossible for me to realistically look at every law that has to do with reloading components. I will, however, list the codes from the National Fire Protection Association that many State and Local Governments tend to follow. These are guidelines that are recommendations made by the NFPA and it’s up to each individual Government entity to decide whether they want to turn those guidelines into law and code enforcement, add to the recommendations, or ignore them completely. What I have found is that many use the recommendations of the NFPA. When I looked into the laws of my own State, Louisiana follows the recommendations (guidelines) of the NFPA.
The NFPA has recommendations on private transport and residential storage of smokeless propellants, black powder, and primers. Here is what NFPA 495 Chapter 14 says:
14.3 Smokeless Propellants.
Quantities of smokeless propellants not exceeding 11.3 kg (25 lb.) in shipping containers approved by the U.S. DOT shall be permitted to be transported in a private vehicle.
Quantities of smokeless propellants exceeding 11.3 kg (25 lb.), but not exceeding 22.7 kg (50 lb.), transported in a private vehicle, shall be transported in a portable magazine having wood walls of at least 25.4 mm (1 in.) nominal thickness.
Transportation of more than 22.7 kg (50 lb.) of smokeless propellants in a private vehicle shall be prohibited.
Smokeless propellants intended for personal use in quantities not exceeding 9.1 kg (20 lb.) shall be permitted to be stored in original containers in residences.
Quantities exceeding 9.1 kg (20 lb.), but not exceeding 22.7 kg (50 lb.), shall be permitted to be stored in residences where kept in a wooden box or cabinet having walls of at least 25.4 mm (1 in.) nominal thickness.
Black Powder intended for personal use in quantities not exceeding 9.1 kg (20 lb.) shall be permitted to be stored in residences where kept in the original containers and stored in a wooden box or cabinet having walls of at least a 25.4 mm (1 in.) nominal thickness.
Where smokeless propellants are stored in the same magazine with Black Powder, the total quantity shall not exceed that permitted for Black Powder.
14.5 Small Arms Primers.
No more than 25,000 small arms primers shall be permitted to be transported in a private vehicle.
For small arms primers classified by the U.S. DOT as 1.4S, the limit shall be permitted to be increased to 150,000.
No more than 10,000 small arms primers shall be permitted to be stored in residences.
For small arms primers classified by the U.S. DOT as 1.4S, the limit stored in residences shall be permitted to be increased to 150,000.
Division 1.4 refers to the specific nature of the ammunition, and the suffix “S” refers to the packing, as follows:
Articles and substances that present no significant hazard. This division comprises articles and substances, which present only a small hazard in the event of ignition or initiation during transport. The effects are largely confined to the package and no projection of fragments of appreciable size or range is to be expected. An external fire must not cause virtually instantaneous explosion of almost the entire contents of the package.
Note: Articles and substances in this division are placed in Compatibility Group S when they are so packed or designed that any hazardous effects arising from accidental functioning are confined within the package unless the package has been degraded by fire, in which case all blast or projection effects are limited to the extent that they do not significantly hinder fire-fighting or other emergency response efforts in the immediate vicinity of the package.
If your Local, or State Government follow these guidelines like my State does, that means we are expected to follow these guidelines. Again, like I mentioned above, it’s extremely important to know what laws will affect you where you live as ignorance does not exempt us, unless we are politicians of course.
If there is an unfortunate incident at your home where reloading components are involved, your insurance company will know what the laws are pertaining to your Local, and State mandates, and they will use that against you when it comes to paying out claims. The last thing any of us want is the denial of payment, or even worse, jail time for doing something we love to do.
I have been asked several times about how we should store our powders, and the above guidelines presented by the NFPA are what many jurisdictions use when it comes to the storage of powders and primers. A simple Google search will bring up many options for storing your powders. As we all know, if there is a market for an item it can definitely be found for sale. I would recommend following the guidelines of your local and State codes, and if they are anything like the NFPA recommendations, it’s extremely easy to build your own storage for your powders if you have the amount of powder that is mentioned in the guidelines. I see no need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on storage containers unless required too. Now, of course, there will be those circumstances where jurisdictions will get ridiculous with their requirements, but that’s a subject for another article I am sure.
We all know that with today’s SJW society and the political push to vilify gun owners, it’s extremely important for us to know the law. I put this article together as an information source; do what you please with this information, and I really hope it helps in some way, shape, or form. This article is not meant to scare anyone, It’s meant to help you make decisions that are right for you and the circumstances that pertain to you.
I look forward to all comments, opinions, and even criticism if it’s deserved! Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and God Bless!
My name is Shane and I am a brand new reloader. I first became interested in reloading after my first AR-15 purchase back in June of 2017. My interests became a hobby in April of 2018 when I was able to purchase my reloading equipment. I am excited about the journey and cannot wait to see what reloading brings to my life.