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Is this dangerous? (Answered, thank you) Answered

A friend recently bought a new house with an extremely large rural garden.

While we were having a "tour of the grounds", her daughter found what appears to be a gun cartridge (pictured).  Thinking quickly, our friend handed the cartridge to me for "safe disposal".

What is it?

If I rip it open, what will I find?

(It is about 70mm long, and feels hefty enough that it could contain lead shot.)


Thanks for all the helpful answers - pretty well confirmed what I thought I knew (except for the sabot!).

I'll keep it safe and dry until I have time to dissect it with the boys.


Wish I'd seen this when it got posted.....I'd recognize a 4/10 shell at 20 paces LOL One of the few shot guns you can shot easily with out putting the stock against your shoulder. When I was young is was called the lady's shot gun; I have no idea why. :-)

When You Cut It Open Make Sure And Do It Slowly If You Did it too fast the gunpowder could warm up and go off even though its unlikely

This was posted today....


lol thanks for promoting my instructable

Hehe, I was just reading that!

Kiteman, in that second question of yours, I think you misspelled "when" :-D


6 years ago

It looks like a .410 shell. People hunt rabbits and small game birds with them. Personally, I would put it in the trash and not monkey with it. I've watched somebody slice a live 12 gauge shell open, nothing happened, but I was hiding behind a sheet of plywood.

If you rip it open you will find a few grains of smokeless ball powder(or something similar), a plastic wad/shot cup, and some small lead shot(2-3mm diameter). Here's a website that explains it in more detail:

Here in America they make shot shells for hunting waterfowl with steel shot. I'm guessing that your shell would have been used for hunting rabbits.

What happens to your trash?
It's not uncommon for trash to be incinerated, and that's not a good disposal method for ammunition.


Good catch, lemonie. I hadn't thought of that. Our trash is not incinerated, it is placed in a landfill.

Isn't there also a small power station nearby, running on dried sewage solids?

Or am I mistaken?

ICI used to have it's own (coal) power-station, but coal was everywhere once, all the buildings went black (a few still are, never having been cleaned).


dla888, ALWAYS is irresponsible to throw to the waste things that EVENTUALLY can be dangerous.

This is a Gamebore #7 (73mm) shotgun shell. Its probably not that old because they can still be purchased, but based on its poor storage, its not likely good to fire.

You'll notice by the second image I've included, that MANY manufacturers, open there own shells to show customers the inside. If you use just a pocket knife and keep to the plastic area only, you can safely open the casting and remove the shot.

Keep in mind, this is something I have NOT done, and would suggest every safety precaution, just to be on the safe side (especially if you believe in Murphy's Law).


"Poor storage"?

It was lying in a small field!

Safety? Ha! All you need to do is to not hit the primer with a hammer, but given that you're working with what is essentially an anti-personnel mine....

Firstly, In general I'd suggest contacting the local "Firearms Officer" through your local Police station. That's the "Right" to do, on the other hand...

I'm not so experienced with AMMUNITION, since I work with FIREWORKS, and as such I have knowledge and experience as well as materials and equipment to work safely with dangerous materials like this. What follows is not intended as an exhaustive "how to..." as an intellectual exercise in the KIND of considerations I would apply in this situation. This is not a KNOWN SAFE procedure.

Given the pictures I'd be reasonably comfortable cutting the plastic open to find out about the internal construction etc. Do not do so in an enclosed space, ensure that there are no naked flames, incandescent or hot elements or risk of sparks (including sparks from friction, stone or metal or static discharge) in the vicinity. General common sense safety precautions apply and frankly I'm confident that the "House of Kite and Conker" is eminently sensible, other people reading this I'm not so sure about.

Fire Extinguishers? There no way you are going to be able to operate anything fast enough if the explosive elements SHOULD ignite, but you might need something to put the resulting conflagration to rout. Pressurised water should be adequate, but remember water can react badly with some pyrotechnic materials, and always use an extinguisher appropriate to the nature of the fire. I don't THINK there's anything in that piece that's likely to be a problem, but I can't be SURE, and obviously I don't know what else you might have in the vicinity.

The propellant can PROBABLY be disposed of REASONABLY safely in fire as long as it's NOT contained in ANYTHING and you do so from a safe distance. There's not a very large quantity (compared to some of the things I'm used to at least) I don't THINK there's anything in there that's likely to cause trouble with water but I'm NOT CERTAIN.

The Difficult thing is likely to be the percussion cap and/or primer (not always the same thing). Once all propellant has been removed it shouldn't be a MAJOR problem to dispose of this element by striking with a suitable tool from a safe distance, or perhaps by burning again in a controlled and safe manner.

I will say again that I'm not an expert in ammunition but I do have experience of dealing with similarly dangerous material and I believe this can be dealt with safely, but you do this entirely at your own risk. Please do PM me if you want more assistance.

if you open it (which is safe to do as long as you do it properly) you will find 3 things

1) a small charge of gunpowder located towards the base of the shell (the brass capped end)

2) a plastic sabot (a cup used to contain the shot while it travels down the barrel of the shotgun)

3) #7 shot (typically used for shooting trap / skeet and occasionally small game)

as long as you do not impact the primer located on the bottom of the brass end you will not set off the shell

That seems to be an innocent (!) shotgun shell. You can disassemble it peacefully, by the end which is sealed with a round cap that says 7.