This somewhat recapitulates my question about making gunpowder which was so brilliantly answered yesterday.

Basically, my question is, given that the gang in Blood Meridian certainly had primers, which I understand to be small metallic containers which are full of, importantly, a high explosive -- probably mercury fulminate. Such devices could not be made in the wilderness. Acid and mercury are required -- I think temperature also matters and the small containers have to be made in such a way that the firing pin of the weapon detonates the explosive.

My belief is that a weapon which uses primers simply could not effectively be used without them -- they have no other way of causing the gunpowder charge to go off.

Prior to primers, a spark from flint or even an open flame was used. Far less reliable.

So is the failure to mention primers in the lengthy gunpowder creation segment of Blood Meridian an indication that their weapons did not use them (at that time -- Tobin is recounting a story that occurred prior to the Kid joining the gang) or that, of course, they had literally thousands of primers because they were out of luck when the ran out away from a bigger town or is it just an omission on Cormac McCarthy's part?

Or the remote possibility that some pistols could work with or without primers? I note that primers were one of gifts that Glanton with uncharacteristic generosity/kindness bestowed upon the men trapped in the fortress -- I assume he would not have given them had they not been absolutely necessary.

1 Answer 1


They mention repeated times throughout the book including during the gunpowder making scene that someone Caps or capped the cylinder or piece, this is referring to priming the charge with a percussion cap which is the primer, these are small and often in tins by the hundreds so are easily carried in large quantities, so it is assumed and shown through the text that the band has caps at that point but only lack the gunpowder during that sequence in the story.

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