Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Safe is your Bullet Jewelry?

You may read statements such as, “…the bullet casing is tumbled for several hours to ensure that no gunpowder residue remains…” Truth be told,  the simply process of washing a dirty bullet casing after it’s been found will remove any gunpowder ‘residue’ as some call it.  Normally if a bullet casing has been fired and lying on the ground for any period of time, the sand, dirt, wind, air, rain and natural elements have removed any remaining minuscule ‘residue’ if any, which may have remained after firing.

After finding spent casings the first and foremost is to examine it to make sure it’s primer has been fired, and making sure the bullet is not live.  Obviously no experienced bullet jewelry designer is going to use a live or dangerous bullet provided they know the difference!  But do they know the difference?

The scary part is not knowing if the person attempting to make a bullet pendant from spent bullet casings is experienced to know the difference between a live or fired bullet; if the primer is live, if the bullet head is lead, copper, jacketed or dangerous, was the bullet a misfire or is the bullet live in any way? 

Searching the internet you’ll find several instructional or informational sites explaining ways to make a bullet necklace; some work, others are downright dangerous.  Some sites warn not to attempt working with a bullet unless you are familiar with live bullets, other instructions assume you are familiar with a live primer and bullet head where in fact you may know little if anything about a live bullet. 

I find myself writing numerous warnings to those attempting to create a bullet pendant.  Drilling a hole into a live bullet can kill you, striking a blow to a live primer can inflect major damage to your body parts.

When purchasing any bullet jewelry make sure you read everything possible about its creator; how long have they been making bullet jewelry, where does their experience come from?    Don’t be afraid to ask the designer questions.  Simply stating they rinse, wash or tumble bullet casings once, twice or several times doesn’t assure the casing is safe to wear.   

Finding bullet casings on the ground or buying spent casings doesn’t make you an expert on bullet jewelry.  Has the creator every held a handgun or shot a rifle?  Does the maker know the difference in calibers?  Do they know anything about shooting; can they carry on a conversation about bullet sizes, head markings, or bullets in general?  If a customer calls and asks if a memorial bullet casing can be designed will the jewelry maker know which size casing the customer is referring to or generally used at military, armed forces, or law enforcement funerals?  Maybe this doesn’t matter to you, but it should.

Anyone knowledgeable in the handling of firearms will know if a bullet, bullet casing/shell is safe.  Make sure the person you are purchasing bullet jewelry from knows what they are talking about.  Making a statement their bullet casings have been tumbled or washed several hours doesn’t mean squat if the casing has a live primer. 

Ask the maker about their personal experience with firearms and bullets, make sure they know what they are talking about and not someone who has jumped into making bullet jewelry for profit without knowledge or safety. 

Feel free to ask me whatever questions you have about bullet casings and the making of bullet jewelry.  I’ll use the experience I have in fire arms to answer your question.  If I don’t know the answer I will provide whatever resource information I have in order to help you feel confident and to answer your question. 


  1. So how do I know if there is primer still in the casing/bullet or not when I'm making jewelry out of what I think are spent shells?

  2. Not to be mean but you shouldn't be making jewerly out of something you don't know about. Take a course at a gun club, go shoot your first firearm, learn about it.
    Easiest way, make sure the primer is totally removed from the casing by someone other than you, someone who knows about bullets. Clean your casing inside and out then make your jewelry.
    Be safe, not sorry.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. My pointer about buying bullet jewelry; know who you're buying from, ask questions. And yes of course I make bullet jewelry, have been for more than 19 yrs and I'm an expert. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading my blog.

  4. I've seen your work and am very impressed.
    I've been making brass and antler Keychains.
    The question I have is, is all my brass is fired once with the spent primer left in, I Polish everything with a dremel and wire wheel until it's left almost with a mirror finish.
    There should be no harmful residue leftover to hurt anyone using it?

  5. Polishing the outside of the casing and primer doesn't remove any remaining gunpowder. Any remaining gunpowder in the primer will be deep inside the casing. Make sure you're cleaning the casings thoroughly inside and out.