Weapons - Ammunition
Source: World of Darkness—Armory © 2006 White Wolf Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Without ammunition, a firearm is little more than an awkward club. Apocryphally, the first murder weapon was a rock. In time, people learned to throw rocks rather than holding them, reasoning that it’s better to hit the other guy from a distance so he can’t hit back as easily. A bullet is simply a thrown rock, refined via modern science.
Today’s cartridges place two distinct explosive charges within a metal cylinder, the end of which is sealed by the bullet itself. The resulting self-contained unit of ammunition is immune to casual spillage of gunpowder, resistant to short-term environmental hazards such as dust or moisture and easy to transport and to load into a gun.
The exterior portion of a cartridge, the casing, is a hollow metal cylinder, open on one end to accept a bullet. Casings are typically brass, though some manufacturers produce cases with steel (for extra durability) or aluminum (to cut costs). Before ￼firing, the casing serves to keep the entire round together and to protect the propellant from the outside environment. After firing, the casing is merely a small empty cylinder that must be removed from the weapon before the next round can be fired. However, most casings are durable enough to be re-used with new propellant and bullets, which helps cut ammunition costs for a shooter capable of reloading used brass (see p. 164 for more information on “Reloading”).
The smaller explosive part of a cartridge is the primer. It is usually made of an explosive metallic compound and is located at the closed, flat base of the casing. The primer is sensitive to friction and impact – while not prone to spontaneously exploding if dropped, the primer will detonate if struck with a sharp, sudden blow.
The larger explosive part of a cartridge is the propellant. Smokeless powder, the usual propellant for modern ammunition, is made chiefly of nitrocellulose (cellulose treated with nitric acid). The propellant is intended to explode when subjected to the heat of the primer’s detonation. However, the propellant is sensitive to high temperatures and can spontaneously combust if exposed to open flame.
The solid portion of a cartridge, which becomes the projectile when the round is fired, is the bullet. “Normal” bullets are made of lead covered in a thin sheath of copper. However, a wide array of special bullet types exists, and these are detailed in the following sections. A modern cartridge’s case is crimped hard against the bullet, rendering it waterproof for short durations, but long-term submersion (or even brief immersion in oil or solvent) can ruin a cartridge’s propellant or primer.