BREAKING: Explosion at Lake City Ammunition Plant Leaves 1 Dead, 4 Injured

Just one day after Orbital ATK’s announcement of a $92 million order for 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO ammunition the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri suffered a detonation in a primer mixing cell that has left one person dead. News organizations are reporting that four people suffered what we can only assume to be minor injuries from the explosion as they were evaluated and then treated at the scene. The explosion occurred at around 1:00 PM

Some of you will remember that back in March 2011, six people were injured in an explosion at one of the more than 400 buildings on the sprawling, almost four thousand acre facility just outside Kansas City, Missouri. According to news sources, about 30 government employees work at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, consisting of 29 DOD civilians and one US Army soldier.

The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is owned by the Unites States Government and operated under contract by Orbital ATK since 2001. In the past Remington and Olin Corporation have held the operational contract. The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is the single largest producer of small arms ammunition for the United States Armed Forces, manufacturing up to 1.4 billion rounds per year.

Orbital ATK is a $5 billion, publicly traded aerospace manufacturer and defense company.

Scott is a firearms enthusiast and gun hobbyist whose primary interest is the practical application of gun ownership. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he hosts and blogs for The Firearms Podcast, a podcast and blog about gun stuff by gun people. Scott is a 20-year veteran of the USAF and been a member of his base, state and the All Guard marksmanship teams. He can be reached via email at


  • Chase Johnson

    My thoughts go out to the friends and family of the one poor guy who wont be going home. It’s always a damn shame.

  • QuadGMoto

    I wonder what the affect will be on military ammunition supplies.

    • USMC03Vet

      Probably nothing. Military bases have crazy amounts of ammo in stock and the US military has numerous always ready floating caches of weapons, ammo, equipment if something unforeseen happens.

      • Drew Coleman

        Yup, they plan ahead for these sorts of things.

        • Rick O’Shay

          They “plan” for these sorts of things in manufacturing more in the sense of multiple safety redundancies. Small quantities of components in multiple isolated/segregated buildings, separate buildings for different stages of manufacturing, etc.
          I’m not dismissing the caches and stockpiles all over. I’m simply saying that it’ll take much more than a single explosion at a manufacturing plant to significantly damage the military’s ability to manufacture ammo.

    • Aaron

      So much of the space at Lake City is warehousing this event won’t even constitute a blip in the supply.

  • Anonymoose

    Oh, man, that’s sad. I hope the other 4 guys aren’t too badly hurt.

  • noob

    That’s a horrible tragedy. I remember an old infantry veteran telling me about his post-korean war career as a manager at the ADI plant in Mulwala. One day he came to work and was getting out of his car when he felt a concussion like a slap to the face. he ran out of the car park and over the berms that separate the buildings and saw bits of tin roof flying end over end in the sky.

    When he got to the building where the accident was, it was not good.

    The investigation revealed that there was a worker in the detonator packaging production line whose job it was to make blasting caps. The last operation for each batch is to dust unused compound off the work space with a non-static brush into a paper funnel for re-use, and then put the brush back into the cradle where the brush lives.

    Apparently the worker somehow dropped the brush which was loaded with blasting cap compound onto the floor, causing multiple fatalities.

    My thoughts are with the families.

  • Geoff Timm

    I wonder if this is related to the new lead free ammo? Geoff Who is conservative when it comes to experimentation.

    • Rick O’Shay

      Sounds like the explosion was connected to the primer components, so I’m guessing no, nothing about this explosion would have been directly due to lead free ammo.

      Wild-a$$ guess on my part though.

      • Wow!

        All lead free ammo has lead free primers, which are notoriously unstable and everyone has their own proprietary mix. I wouldn’t doubt it if this was the issue.

        • some other joe

          So notoriously unstable that my rifle and pistol fire every time I have to load ’em, at least once a day right now. Totally a real accidental vs. negligent discharge.
          I do understand that lead can be used as a stabilizer, but other stuff can, too. I also appreciate efforts to reduce exposure to heavy metal poisoning in our chosen occupational and recreational activities.

          • Wow!

            Lead poisoning from primers is a little bit overhyped. The byproducts of lead free primers are still just as harmful as current primers. The real offenders are the spall from berms which are granulated metal that makes it easier to breathe in by accident. The only way to truly reduce exposure to harmful vapors and ash is to shoot with a P100 respirator which I do whenever I go to an indoor facility.

            It isn’t so much that they are always sensitive but that that they are inconsistent depending on which formulation and construction is used. Tula had a short run of lead free primers which they seem to have fixed inconsistency by making it magnum spec. I liked those primers, they were reliable and also very cheap. I’m not sure about stability but I got some opened boxes that have not degraded in about 3 years. In contrast, I had some German primers dated 2011 I won from an auction that had quite a few duds and some that slamfired from an AK firing pin. I am guessing that to compensate for degradation, the stabilizers they use bulk up the composition that also makes it less sensitive. To make up for that they use thinner primer cups which leads to varying performance since the small variations in cup thickness plays a bigger role. In contrast with tula going the magnum route, they use the same cup thickness, but just modify the anvil to accommodate a larger primer charge. At least, from my observation of the few brands I have gotten my hands on.

    • No one

      Remind me how a copper and steel inert projectile would cause an explosion?

      Do you not think the fact it happened in the primer mixing area would be a much bigger hint? you know, those things that, when struck by the pin of your firearm, burst and create sparks that start the ignition of the gunpowder inside a cartridge?

  • raz-0

    Sounds like perhaps the primer plate filling station went up. It is not a safe job, and is deliberately designed to contain an explosion.

    • Sgt. Stedenko

      At GD-OTS in Marion, IL, all building that house potential kabooms have blast roofs and are isolated from others. Static dissipating shoes are mandatory.
      There they averaged 1 “pop” a month. Mostly during maintenance and cleaning efforts.
      They manufacture 20, 25, 30, 40 and 155 mm rounds, propellants and tracers there. Projectiles, sabots, penetrators and casings come from outside.

      • Dr Duke (not David)

        Glad to hear General Dynamics is still in Marion.
        Are they still right next to Crab Orchard lake?

  • Jones2112

    Sorry for the people injured/killed in the explosion…

    A/R ammo might also go up in price because of this too…

  • Rodrigo

    My uncle told me of the time the DuPont plant blew up in Old Hickory, Tennessee. He said they all used to gather on a hill and watch the buildings blow up. It burned and blew for almost a week.

  • I’m wondering if this was a static electricity event. The 4 injured were treated and released at the scene.

  • marcus johannes

    What is surprising is that it does not happen more often , Not just in this country

    • Wow!

      Years of trial and error have given us a pretty good set of standard procedures to prevent such disasters. Anytime an accident occurs, lots of money and investigation is done to see what happened and what can prevent it. Unfortunately accidents that do happen are sometimes due to carelessness which is much harder to prevent. Thatchers Notebook (I think) has some interesting but sad stories on the evolution of ammo plant manufacturing safety.