Sunday, September 1, 2013

Praxis: Have you inspected your ammunition stockpile recently?

We have just finished pulling the bullets on one lot, quantity 118, of .30-06 M2 ball ammunition made at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in 1943. These rounds belong to a friend and, to his horror, he discovered recently quite by accident that virtually all of them had corroded primers. He bought these rounds still in the USGI 5-round stripper clips and bandoleers at the AGCA Birmingham gun show some years back, put them up in an M19A1 "thirty-cal" can with some desiccant packs and forgot about them. He owns a US M1917 Enfield so the 5-round strippers were perfect for him.
Now the can has been stored in the proverbial cool, dry place so my friend was at a loss to explain how moisture had got into the can. The stripper clips on some of the rounds were corroded as well, yet the can's integrity seemed to be intact. Did he pack them away on a humid day without verifying that the desiccant packs were fresh and activated? He doesn't recall. It could be simply the fact that the ammo is corrosive primed and 70 years old. In any case, We're going to reload the pulled bullets into the same cases after a good tumbling.
One problem we've run into is that because the cases have never been fired, the primers are still locked tightly in the primer pocket. The tremendous pressures generated in firing actually loosens the primer within the case, as well as stretches the brass, and this makes it easier to punch out. What is happening with a good percentage of the cases is that the decapping pin is actually punching a hole through the primer rather than dislodging it from the case. I will let you know if we manage to salvage these cases.
In any case, it is a cautionary tale for those of us who have put back ammo. Take the time to carefully inspect your stocks (once a year is not a bad idea), Put in fresh desiccant as you go. Don't end up betting your life on corroded ammunition.


Anonymous said...

Lead paint + steel stripper clip + brass case + lead azide(spell?) primer = electralisis(spell) NEVER EVER store your WW-2 ammo in an old can without a plastic or cardboard spacer. It keeps the stuff from creating an electrical charge and destroying the ammo. This will effect the INSIDE of the case more than the OUTSIDE. At the slightest hint of green or white, inside the case SHITCAN THE CASE they have pitted and will split when fired causing a KB! ---Ray

SWIFT said...

Good advice. I've always squirted engine starting fluid (ether) into the can for long term storage, especially if the can/tube is going underground.

Carteach said...

Popping the primers on the empty brass in a rifle will help loosen things a bit. Primer setback breaks the seal ever so slightly.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,

My own experience with 1943-era USGI ammo is that after half-a-century of storage even in the best of conditions, the necks of the cartridges become brittle. Yes, even though they were annealed at the time of manufacture, decades of mere existence under the tension of having the bullet seated will eventually cause the molecular structure of the brass in the neck area to harden and become brittle. For me, evidence for this is seen in the high number of cracked or split necks when I fire this ammo in the '03 these days.

This did not happen when I used this ammo in the '60s and '70s--after only 20 or 30 years of storage. In fact, I reloaded those cases many times before having to discard them from split necks.

Some reloaders extended the useful life of their old mil brass by re-annealing necks--Phil Sharpe had instructions on how properly to do this in his book; I never got that far into it.

In any case, it may well be that your old brass--even though unfired-- is not safe to reload any more. You might salvage them if you anneal the case necks, but it may not be possible to know how far the molecular weakness of the brass extends into the shoulder or beyond.

You may find that prudence suggests salvaging the bullets may be the best you can do here, and discarding the cases is in the best interest of you and your rifles.

Keep us posted!

Ed G

Anonymous said...

Pop the bullet, dump the powder, and use the primer-only cases to get a bit more 'realistic' dry fire practice. (The primer going off could possibly cause flinch due to the noise despite no recoil.My thinking, at least.)

Anonymous said...

The first commenter is correct there needs to be separation using cardboard.

I personally use those slip top boxes or cardboard boxes with the foam bottoms. I know they take up space but with current prices you can afford to loose ammo.

P.S> I have lost ammo using bulk storage and had to salvage what I could. You guys are going through that now.

I had to learn the hard way. That’s the damned expensive way too learn!

Dakota said...

I wear gloves when handling ammo going into the "can". Sweat, contains salt, a corrosive material that is not good in any stable environment. This is especially true when that environment contains metals and other materials that are susceptible. I have some ammunition dating back to the 50's and it is pristine and in good shape. Lucky I guess.

Paul X said...

I hate reading stuff like this.

And guess what, tumbling may be a problem too. In Precision Shooting mag some years back some writers talked about a process known as "cold welding" where very clean bullets going into very clean cases caused welding of the bullet to the neck, raising pressures tremendously. Some people were resorting to seating the bullets a few thousandths deeper just before shooting to break the bond.

pdxr13 said...

The mil-surp ammo that MV is commenting on has staked primers. Staked primers are in TIGHT, to the point that you may have to mechanically grind or adjust the brass to get the old primer out and the new one in. Regular commercial ammo has friction-fit priming that needs to be sealed for maximum dependability, to not leak moisture (deactivating/corroding priming compound) and slightly improve the mechanical attachment (not as permanent as staking).

I have been under the impression that staking is done to military ammunition to prevent loose primers jamming your MG.

In the past, expended cases were unaccountable "throw-away" items for military units. No longer: European units are facing "100% brass accountability" which drives them nuts. They have taken to digging up WWII brass cases from either/both sides of any age and turning it in to meet quota. Is this policy to restrict, slowly but relentlessly, civilian access to low-cost reloadable cases? The same thing is happening with mil-spec Gore-tex clothing.

Thanks for SSI, Mike. Update on Absolved?

Anonymous said...

Desicant packs can absorb moisture from the air if not stored properly. But all is not lost. I worked for a company that used to have to pack certain orders of parts with desi paks. They came in packed in cardboard boxes (half gaylords) and open to the air. We would take the paks and put them in an industrial oven for 12 hours at 250'F. That dried the pak and "refreshed" it. I have done this at home as well. It works fine. As long as the wife doesn't want to use the oven while you are drying the desi paks.

Anonymous said...

Here's a concept that works for retail.

Rotate your stock.