Twelve-year-old Boy Ignites .22 Cartridge with Cigarette Lighter

By Dean Weingarten

.22 Cartridge
Twelve-year-old Boy Ignites .22 Cartridge with Cigarette Lighter
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -( In the story out of Texas, the boy's mother drives him to the hospital.  The deputy interviewing the young man found out how he was injured.  From

Deputy Hobson stated that upon interviewing the young man as to how he got injured from the bullet, the young boy told Dep. Hobson that he had held a cigarette lighter under a .22 caliber bullet to see what would happen. The bullet exploded sending bullet fragments through his left middle finger and lodging in the left eye lid.

There are a couple of lessons here.   The first is not to try to set off cartridges outside of a firearm in close proximity to your flesh.   A .22 does not have a lot of gunpowder in it, but it is enough to cause minor injuries if it is in contact with flesh when it goes off.  If you are more than five feet away from it when it happens, presuming that it is not contained in the chamber of a firearm, your risk is minimal.   Surprisingly, the tiny .22 rimfire seems to entail a bit more risk than centerfire cartridges.   The case is very thin and light, and is more likely to rupture or develop enough velocity to be dangerous.

While we do not know exactly what happened, a .22 case and bullet, being made of metal, transmit heat very effectively.  I suspect that the boy was using something to hold the cartridge to avoid being burned.  Even a pair of pliers or a a few wraps of tape might have been enough to provide some support for the case and make the resulting ignition more dangerous.  I have heard of people who put the .22 cartridge in a vice and hit the base with a hammer.  That is a dangerous procedure.

In another article on fires and ammunition, a source on an Internet forum reported that he had experience of a fragment that barely punctured the skin at a range of less than five feet from a .22 rimfire case that was ignited in a fire.  He concluded that any other cases were too sturdy to fragment.  Here is a Link to the SAAMI paper, “Facts About Sporting Ammunition Fires”.

40 or more years ago a fellow told me he touched a match to some homemade gunpowder to see if it would go off.   He lost his eyebrows and burned his hand a bit, but suffered no permanent injury.    Young males are adventurous, curious, and willing to take risks.   We can guide them and attempt to channel that energy; but suppressing it can result in more harm than good.  An amusing web site could result from the theme: Silly risks I took as a boy/young man.

As the “fragment” in question (almost certainly from the case and not the bullet) lodged in the boy's eyelid, it seems likely that the eye itself is not at risk.

Eyes are the most vulnerable parts of the body to these sorts of projectiles, which is why safety/shooting glasses of some kind has become a regular part of most shooters' gear.

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 4 thoughts on “Twelve-year-old Boy Ignites .22 Cartridge with Cigarette Lighter

    1. As with [most] similar occurrences such as this one, the onus lies upon the parents/care-giver, especially when considering the age of the boy. Not having details the unfortunate event could be the result of a lack of diligence simply due to a lack of decent parental-guidance- read: no/dysfunctional parents or my least favorite “answer” regarding parental woes: the “set kid down in front of xbox because don’t bother dad/mom watching TV 24-7”. I realize this is nothing new; common sense, regardless we know and have heard similar stories since day 1, not all involving firearms…commonality between incidents is a complicated mix. One one hand (extreme) you’ve got kids on leashes bumping around in padded playgrounds- perfect storm for raising a whining, presupposed “entitled” kid…the other hand is of course the “he’ll figure it out…what doesn’t kill will make him stronger”. Both IMHO are erroneous in the 21st. There’s no template, just a subtle awareness (or lack of). As a kid, I grew up in sparse suburbs, with nowhere to walk to, no neighbors. The furthest I went into idiocy with “gee what will this do?” was going nuts with my dads’ dremel tool, “dremeling” everything, to the ire of my mom. A kid nearby (10 yrs) lit a match to a gasoline canister, in a garage- he sufferer 3rd degree burns over 30% of his body. This was before the Internet/video games. I didn’t know the kid but it freaked me out.

      1 more example, related to firearm safety/kids. In the 4th grade, my best friend and I were rummaging through his older brothers’ closet- a varitable goldmine of bric a brac, old action figures from the 70’s, comic books…a huge pile of stuff. So much fun! His older brother was much older, had already moved out of the house. Anyway, I remember this crystal-clear: as we were picking out things like broken comb “switchblades” and led-football “games”, in a second or what seemed as such, my friend found this tiny, “obvious” toy “cap” gun. This when kids could buy cap gun toy replicas which looked convincing. Anyway this thing was smaller than a kids hand. He (friend) picked it up said “hey? What’s thi (bang)”. It sounded like a cap gun!, that is until we noticed a small hole in the wall, closer then 1′ to my head! This was in a closet aka almost point blank. We were both scared, because the bullet had gone through a few of his brothers’ cool shirts.

      This family had a gun safe and the dad was very good with teaching us safety when on the farm re: firearms…the problem lied with in the dysfunctional relationship between the (friends) parents. Dad was literally “loaded” with $$$, never home, the VP of a well known grocery store chain. Giant house, 8 kids…no communication between parents and kids (remember this was around 1983ish).

      Here is where I think it went from potentially bad to bad bad. The friend was in a panic about his brothers’ clothes and out of guilt, told his mom. She did nothing, didn’t tell my mom, the brothers, the father- just hid the tiny “toy”, outta sight/mind.

      My mom would of been angry, yet she’s understand. Ironically, that incident would impress upon both myself and my friend the fundamental rules of gun-safety conduct. No lighting of rim fire for us!

      ps- I have no idea how the climate was /w public perception of firearms in the early eighties. I do applaud the efforts of firearm owners and most companies with the big emphasis on safety especially re: children.

      I say this being a CCW holder and hobby-sportsman.

      Good info on frangibity of .22 vs centerfire!

      -have a good (safe) day!

    2. I guess the gungrabbers will come after us for that too. This little dumbo needs to find something to do with his time.

    3. Reminds me of an 18 year old purchasing several 50 bmg rounds. He was asked / told “this is live ammunition do you understand?” He replied yes. A hammer , screwdriver and a vise you can imagine what happened next. He hit the primer trying to disassemble the round. He is missing several fingers today , all to make a roach clip holder.
      This all happened in Anchorage Alaska 12-18 years ago. I can’t remember exactly when, but unfortunately true.

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