Tip of the Week: Firearm Fire-Starting

Discussion in 'Vintage Topic Archive (Sept - 2009)' started by Jag, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. Jag

    Jag Member

    PLEASE NOTE: Sorry about the length of this post—I tried to shorten it as much as I could; if it is too long for you to read now, please feel free to copy the text and print it out for reading at your leisure!

    Well, folks, I thought I might as well keep up a steady stream of info for y’all to read, seeing as how I’ve got GIGABYTES worth of data on my hard drive devoted to nothing but guns, survival techniques/methods/tools/materials/situations, and the history of human cultures and convictions that have led the development of civilization down its many paths to success and failure. I’ll keep this thread, though, as short as possible for convenient reading (gotcha covered there :wink: ).

    As an idea, I’ve been wanting to post a “tip-of-the-week†section here on the survival board as regularly as possible to allow folks to come up with specific ideas about fulfilling the basic needs for survival (evacuation/protection from immediate danger, shelter/heat, water, signaling devices/means, food, rest—these are the order of survival needs in descending priority, at least for a SHORT-TERM survival situation). For this post, I’d like to start off with addressing one of the more “interesting†topics in survival: starting a fire. There’s something immediately satisfying about watching a tongue of flame leap up from a pile of tinder and kindling that you’ve just successfully started on fire. To do this, though, there are a multitude of various techniques out there. Aside from the obvious ones (like matches, lighters, and even magnesium blocks/metal matches), I’d like to keep this thread on the more intriguing and unusual methods of fire-starting. For this first post, I’ll cover one myself that most people have probably never thought about. Many of us here on the forum own guns for survival, hunting, recreation, and protection uses. The key to the technique that I will describe here comes from a synonym of the word gun: firearm. The chemical projectile weapons that we use derive their potential energy, obviously, from the combustion of chemical propellants. But what if you were to use that same propellant for a different use—say, starting a fire?

    Here’s how this technique is done (note that these instructions are for modern cartridge-based firearms and not for black powder guns, although the same basic technique can be applied to muzzleloaders with a little modification): first off, since a loaded cartridge is a precious commodity in a true survival situation, it would be wise to relegate this technique to a truly “last resort†status to avoid wasting ammo. Take a single cartridge (of whatever caliber or gauge of weapon you might have on hand) and obtain a pair of pliers (like those found on the various multi-tools that any prepared individual should have on their person in such a situation). Holding the cartridge in one hand, proceed to grip the bullet with the pliers. For shotguns, use one of the screwdriver blades on your multi-tool to pry the crimp or wad out of the casing. Once this has been done, you should see the powder (in rifles and pistols) or the pellets/shot (in shotguns). Remember, in a survival situation, every piece of paraphernalia may have a vital use, so save the bullet/shot/pellets for later use (solid lead shot or bullets can be melted in a piece of tin foil or in a makeshift wooden container, crudely cast into a block or any suitable 3D geometric shape, punched through with an awl or screwdriver, and used for fishing weights, for example). Remove the projectile(s) and dump about half of the gunpowder out of the case and underneath a waiting pile of tinder. When starting a fire, it is more efficient to gather a large pile of wood/fuel BEFORE you start attempting to use your precious ignition sources (matches, etc.) to try to start a fire. It does you no good to get a small flame going only to realize that you need more fuel to stoke the blaze and keep it going—and you don’t have enough within reach. Always prepare a nice formation of sticks and tinder before attempting to start a fire to ensure that there is a minimum of wasted time, energy, and materials (make sure not to make your formation of tinder so compact that there isn’t enough oxygen to keep the fire going).

    Once the powder has been placed beneath a suitable pile of tinder (preferably on a platform off of the ground, like a fairly flat stone or log, to keep it as dry as possible), grab your gun and the now half-empty, powder-filled cartridge and proceed as follows: keeping the gun pointed up, load the cartridge BY HAND into the firing chamber of the weapon (DO NOT try to load the cartridge into the magazine and work the bolt or action on the weapon to load the cartridge; without a bullet to plug the opening, the remaining powder in the cartridge will fall out). Ensure that both the gun and half-empty cartridge are pointed at the sky to prevent spillage of the powder. Once this has been done, slowly bring the muzzle of the weapon level with the pile of powder that has been set underneath the tinder. Gently tap the barrel of the gun to spread the powder out a little at the base of the barrel so it has a uniform path out of the end of the muzzle to follow (to clarify this, imagine that it is like a trail of gunpowder dumped on the ground and lit to set off a larger explosion—in other words, a crude fuse). When this has been done, flick the safety into the fire position and squeeze the trigger. The primer should explode and ignite the powder in the barrel, thereby sending a hot stream of gases down the barrel and onto the waiting powder under the tinder. Once ignited, the powder should help start an otherwise stubborn fire.

    A couple of notes on this method: since shorter-barreled weapons like pistols often don’t give the powder enough time to burn in the barrel of the gun, there is a greater likelihood that short-barreled guns will have a jet of flame protruding out the end of the muzzle (thereby giving you a greater chance of igniting your fire). I have personally tried this method with a .22 LR carbine (namely, my Ruger 10/22) and my Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun (both have barrels around the 17â€-20†range); I have had no luck with the .22 LR carbine (the barrel is long enough that the powder just burns completely inside it, and the resulting pressure wave just blows out the end of the muzzle and disturbs the waiting powder), but the shotgun has successfully started a fire using this method (I believe that the larger primer and the wider barrel gives enough oxygen to the powder and primer to allow a jet of flame to emerge from the barrel, allowing the powder inside the barrel to burn outside it, even though the barrel on the shotgun is around the same length as the 10/22). My theory is that the shorter and/or wider the barrel and the bigger the caliber of weapon, the more flame and the better chance that you will have to start a fire.

    In the name of short posts, I will now sign off. Please weigh in on this idea, and, if you have the time/money to experiment with some empty cases, fresh primer, and powder, let everyone know how successful you are in your experiments. For a great resource on many methods of fire-starting and other survival topics, check out this website: http://www.wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/index.html . I’ll try post a new tip every week (and, per the request of several forum members, I’ll try to be as concise as possible). Later, and enjoy!


    Jag 8)

  2. Thayldt21

    Thayldt21 Senior Member Member

    Mythbusters tried this and had no luck,
  3. rrjenn

    rrjenn Guest

    Saw one of those TV survivalists do that with a 30-30 I think. He crimped the end of the case a little so the powder wouldn't fall out. Took him a few trys but it did work.
  4. I think Mythbusters just dumped the powder out in some tinder and shot the primer at the powder.

    Jags method is to leave part of the gunpowder in the barrel for a more positive ignition in theory at least.
  5. Jag,

    Tip of the Week is a great idea, so get busy and keep em coming!

    Now for the Topic....

    I have used this method to start numerous fires while attending survival training as a member of the Armed Forces and as a civilian. The only time I got a fire going with a .22lr round was from a handgun. You have to pull the bullets from several rounds, top off one case to fire and dump the remainder in your tinder pile. One .22 cartridge does not have enough powder to get things going. Instead of crimping the end of the .22 case try inserting a small piece of cotton ball in it, this will keep the powder in the case when you point the barrel towards the ground and it will also catch a spark and aid in igniting the remaining powder and tinder.

    Other calibers I had good results with are 5.56mm (.223), 30-30, 7.62x39, .38Sp, .357Mag, 9mm, .45ACP and .45LC.

    SAFETY NOTE: Always wear eye protection when doing this because the blast from the barrel could be enough to throw tinder or a small pebble back at you.
  6. Jag

    Jag Member

    An ammendment to this thread:

    Well, I've been able to locate the original source for this tip that I posted. It was in a survival book that my dad gave me for my birthday many years ago. The title is Camping & Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is 1-896713-00-9. On page 130, in the fire-making chapter, I found these instructions:

    "Fire From Firearms"

    "Use a firearm with a large bore.

    *Prepare tinder and kindling.

    *Remove lead bullet or shot pellets from shell.

    *Sprinkle 2/3 of powder on a piece of dry frayed cloth.

    *Push the frayed cloth into the muzzle.

    *Fire the firearm straight up into the air or into a solid object a few feet away. The flaming or smoldering cloth will only fly for a few feet.

    *Pick it up (have stick ready to pick up the flaming cloth) and place it under the prepared tinder and kindling. If required blow and fan to produce a flame.

    Do not use this method if there are highly flammable materials in the area."

    This quote supplements what I have already wrote. Note that a large bore firearm is required to make this method work properly. This book is an awesome resource on all things survival, and I would reccomend it to anyone as an addition to their own personal library.

    Hope this helps!


    Jag 8)
  7. Thayldt21

    Thayldt21 Senior Member Member

    As I remember you are correct that the mythbusters did not leave some poweder in t=with the primer.

    Still very interesting to say the least. Hell at any rate it is still a sound idea heck at the one could use the poweder then bang rocks together lol.

    good adition on jags part to include the use of powder in with the primer.
  8. Corelogik

    Corelogik Member

    This is why I have a brand new, unopened pack of butane lighters in my B.O.B. They may not last forever, but if just used to light fires, they will last a good long time.
  9. Not trying to steal your thunder Jag, but here is an alternate that may be a good addition to any tackle or survival box.

    They sell fire sticks that are magnesium or something, and all you do is scrape anything metal against them and they put off a shower of sparks.

    Sportsmansguide has them for something like 3 for 15 bucks and each one will light hundreds of fires.

    In fact, here is the link.

  10. base871

    base871 Guest

    good tip, although if you find yourself in arizona before the rainy season starts, just shoot at anything. it'll burn. trust me.
  11. These work to perfection as long as you have dry fuel/tinder. They will not get you far in the rain. Here is a tip I use. Get a 35mm film can from Walmart photo for free. Melt some petroleum jelly in your microwave and dip a cotton ball into it. Let it cool and solidify. Take your dipped cotton ball and place it in the film can with a clean dry cotton ball. Seal it with the lid and you have a waterproof fuel. To start a fire, take that magnesium starter and light the dry ball and catch that petroleum ball. It will burn for 5+ minutes. I have done this on many occasions and it works great even in the rain. I got it from an article than was written by a bear hunter in Alaska. The boat was 12 hours late in picking him up and it was raining. Out of the 5 hunters who were miles apart on the coastline that had lighters, he was the only one to get a fire going.

    SHOOTER Z Well-Known Member

    ALSO don't forget pine needles [even if wet] they will contain a small amount of pine oil in them and will burn :wink:
  13. If you are in an area that has birch trees the bark is very flamable and makes a great fire starter as well!
  14. My Mg firestarter has always worked flawlessly in the past, but then I have not used it with wet tinder. Has anyone tried clothes dryer lint? Someone on a survivalist forum I was browsing keeps a ziploc bag of dryer lint in his BOB and when used in conjunction with the magnesium firestarter, it supposedly works very effectively.

    Also, I keep a Light My Fire swedish firesteel in my BOB that works really well in producing sparks (3000 degree sparks, supposedly).


    I have the mini version, which is good for 1500 uses. It was like 3-5 bucks at a local sporting goods store.
  15. Ari

    Ari Guest

    I saw a real big mag fire starter at a fair a few years ago. He was starting all sorts of wet stuff on fire. He could lay down a big pile of mag then start it. I should have bought one as I have never been able to find him again.

    I also like the 9 volt battery and steel wool trick. You add the petroleum jelly and cotton to your steel wool and it really works good.
  16. Clothes dryer lint is very flammable if dry.

    I used to go under houses killing bugs for a living, and went under one and their dryer vent hose had been broken for years and the majority of under the house was coated a half inch thick in dryer lint.

    I told the lady her house was a ticking time bomb to burn down unless she got that stuff cleaned out of there.

    I will have to try the vasoline and cotton ball trick.
  17. i promise you will love it
  18. Hiya all;
    I am a newbie in here; but I have lived 72 wonderful summers and one winter; so I have picked up a few tricks along the way regarding survival.

    I have used the products from my laundry room for a great firestarter. Your dryer will give it to you. Start saving the lint from your dryer; collect lots of the lint and place it in several double zip freezer bags. It compresses real good, so you can stuff lots of it in the smallest size double zip freezer bags. Then place one or more in a pocket of all your jackets, vests, fanny packs, full size back packs; every place you can think of; stash one of these life saving little packets. Some of the best tinder in the world; and it weighs nothing. Strike your spark into a small ball of lint and start blowing. Even if you fall out of a boat those double zip freezer bags should keep it dry for quite a while.


    When you head outdoors carry 5 or 6 (or more) squares of aluminum foil about 4"X4"; then tuck them away someplace handy to get to. As you wander around wondering why all the boot prints you see look remarkably like yours, start collecting some of the pitch balls you see on the sides of any pine trees. use an old putty knife or something like it that you brought with you just for this job (it will screw up a good belt or pocket knife pretty quick with goop that is tuff to get off). Then take one of those little 4"X4" squares of aluminum foil and place the pitch ball in the middle and wrap it up and tuck it away someplace safe. When you need that fire in the worst way, and everything around you is wet, that pitch ball will always catch fire....a very hot fire....and burn for quite a while; long enuff to get some kindling dried out to burn. You can place it under the teepee you made from 'PRAYER STICKS" if you forgot your candle.
    Both of those tricks have saved my butt more than a few times in my 73 years of wondering why my compass was broken again lol.

    My first rule is make camp pleanty early with a good hot fire, when either lost or injured.

  19. +1 to the drier lint.

    My father-in-law started me on this idea. He uses it to start all of his fires in his chimenea (sp?). I have used it several times to start a fire in the outdoor fire place I had at my last house.

    Because it is a mix of fiber, cotton, nylon, polyester, etc., it will start to burn quickly and keep burning for a long time.

    Couple this with the firearm idea and you have a quick fire.