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Modern primers are shock sensitive chemicals enclosed in a small (a few mm) capsule, ignited by percussion.In some instance ignition is electricity-primed, and there may even be no primer at all in such design (the propellant being directly ignited).The case is commonly made of brass because it is resistant to corrosion.A brass case head can be work-hardened to withstand the high pressures of cartridges, and allow for manipulation via extraction and ejection without tearing the metal.The propellant was long gunpowder, still in use, but superseded by better compositions, generically called Smokeless powder.Early primer was simply fine gunpowder poured into a pan or tube where it could be ignited by some external source of ignition such as a fuse or a spark.

This is less of a problem for small arms of the former Warsaw Pact nations, which were designed with much larger chamber tolerances than NATO weapons.The neck and body portion of a brass case is easily annealed to make the case ductile enough to allow reforming so that it can be reloaded many times.Steel is used in some plinking ammunition, as well as in some military ammunition (mainly from the former Soviet Union and China).A cartridge without a projectile is called a blank.One that is completely inert (contains no active primer and no propellant) is called a dummy.The Blue Book of Used Gun Values offers serial numbers for the following makers: AYA, Boss & Co., Ltd, Browning, EJ Churchill, Colt, Colt Black Powder 2nd Gen, John Dickson & Son, AH Fox, German early Date Codes, German Modern Date Codes, Stephen Grant, WW Greener, Harrington & Richardson, High Standard, Holland & Holland, Italian Year of Mfg.

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