Much like survival in general, starting a fire is all about thinking ahead and making the most of the resources you have with you. If one approach fails, you’ll need to go to the backup plan… or the backup-backup plan. This adaptability and forethought will keep you alive in difficult situations.


If you’re out hunting and find yourself unable to start a fire, it’s worth knowing that your firearm can provide an ignition source (it’s right there in the name, after all). However, reliably lighting a fire with a gun is much harder than you might think — see our previous article Fire-Starting With a Firearm for some examples. The S.A.S. Survival Manual shows a method of replacing a bullet with a wadded-up piece of cloth and firing it into a tinder pile, but both YouTuber Survival Russia and “Survivorman” Les Stroud struggled to replicate this effectively. The result was usually a blast that scattered tinder material everywhere.

If you don’t have pliers, it may be possible to pry a .22LR cartridge open with the lanyard hole on a knife...

Lighting a pile of gunpowder is easier if you have flint and steel or a ferro rod, but as we’ve said before, you probably won’t be disassembling your valuable ammo if you already have those items. YouTube bushcrafter NW Primate shows how gunpowder can be paired with a friction fire-starter — namely, a bow drill — to create an immediate burst of flame that will greatly accelerate an otherwise tedious process.

NW Primate gunpowder fire starter 22lr bow drill friction ignition hunting rifle ammo 2

In the video below, NW Primate sets up a bow drill using some wood and a boot lace, then carefully breaks open two .22LR cartridges using the lanyard hole on his ESEE knife. The powder is poured into a notch right next to the bow drill divot, and within seconds of spinning the drill, he has a fire going. For more details on the process and materials, check out the description text below his video.

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