Mercury Fulminate

Section I

No. 24

Mercury Fulminate is used as a primary explosive in the fabrication of detonators (Section VI, No. 13). It is to be used with a booster explosive such as picric acid (Section I, No. 21) or RDX (Section I, No. 15).


  • Nitric Acid, 90% conc. (1.48 sp. gr.)
  • Mercury
  • Ethyl (grain) alcohol (90%)
  • Filtering material
  • Teaspoon measure (1/4, 1/2, and 1 teaspoon capacity) - aluminum, stainless steel or wax-coated
  • Heat source
  • Clean wooden stick
  • Clean water
  • Glass containers
  • Tape
  • Syringe


  • Field grade (Section I, No. 4) or industrial metal processors
  • Thermometers, mercury switches, old radio tubes
  • Paper towels


1. Dilute 5 teaspoons of nitric acid with 2-1/2 teaspoons of clean water in a glass container by adding the acid to the water.

2. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of mercury in the diluted nitric acid. This will yield dark red fumes.

24 1 Mercury Fulminate

NOTE: It may be necessary to add water, one drop at a time, to the mercury-acid solution in order to start reaction.

CAUTION: Acid will burn skin and destroy clothing. If any is spilled, wash it away with a large quantity of water. Do not inhale fumes.

3. Warm 10 teaspoons of the alcohol in a container until the alcohol feels warm to the inside of the wrist.

24 2 Mercury Fulminate4. Pour the metal-acid solution into the warm alcohol. Reaction should start In less than 5 minutes. Dense white fumes will be given off during reaction. As time lapses, the fumes will become less dense. Allow 10 to 15 minutes to complete reaction. Fulminate will settle to bottom.

24 3 Mercury Fulminate

CAUTION: This reaction generates large quantities of toxic, flammable fumes. The process must be conducted outdoors or in a well ventilated area, away from sparks or open flames. Do not inhale fumes.

5. Filter the solution through a paper towel into a container. Crystals may stick to the side of the container. If so, tilt and squirt water down the sides of the container until all the material collects on the filter paper.

24 4 Mercury Fulminate6. Wash the crystals with 6 teaspoons of ethyl alcohol.

24 5 Mercury Fulminate

7. Allow these mercury fulminate crystals to air dry.

CAUTION: Handle dry explosive with great care. Do not scrape or handle it roughly. Keep away from sparks or open flames. Store in cool, dry place.

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