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Thread: How old is too old for Rifle Ammo ??

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    Default How old is too old for Rifle Ammo ??

    In my ammo collection i have Several boxes of Winchester Silvertip Ammo that i purchased many years ago.
    Actualy they were purchased about 1964 to be exact.
    They have remained in the original boxes and were never handled. The only reason that they were never fired is because i purchased more than i needed and held on to them for someday, somewhere.
    Now im thinking of using them so that i will have the extra brass.
    Just wonder if that is a wise choice or not.

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    I'd bet they're A-OK....that said, if you are worried about it and want the brass, a bullet puller would suffice wouldn't it?

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    From personal experience I know that 25 year old factory ammo I purchased went bang each time I expected it to. I fired military surplus ammo that was 50 years old and it went bang too, actually every time too. Although I have no real data to back up my "theory" I personally would hunt with more fresh ammo but be perfectly comfortable plinking with the old stuff. While plinking, if it didn't go bang, I'd keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction for a couple of minutes just to ensure it wasn't a slow ignition. If the bullet is coroded or there are obvious issues with it, I wouldn't even chamber it in my handguns or rifles.

    There are a lot of knowledgeable folks here so I'll watch this thread to see what the other folks say.

    MyTime

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    If they were well stored in a fairly constant clement they are likely fine but you are wise to question them. Back about 1986 my Dad and I bought some WWII surplus 30-06 ammo . . . this carnage was the result.
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    Pulling bullets showed clumped powder as if it was water damaged in about half the rounds, this clumped powder flashed like black powder when we light it in a pie plate. The other half of the ammo was fine but we were lucky nobody was more seriously injured. I was peppered with sand and pebbles 30 feet away, Dad, who was holding it, got minor abrasions all over, some splinters in the arm, and a throbbing head. Only takes one little bad round to make for a very bad day!
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    Some more pix.

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    Holy Moly, Andy. That must have been exciting!!!

    furbearer,
    If your Winchester silvertips are in the yellow boxes I'd trade you new brass for them. I do think they will likely fire and be OK but the brass may be very brittle and not be very good for reloading. I don't know how you could ship them if you're in AK...I'm not.
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    Downright wet your britches exciting, we were happily poking rocks on a distant hill and the all the sudden someone set off a grenade in the middle of the firing line. I thought Dad was dead when the dust first started to clear . . . his eye protecting landed twenty feet to his left, ear muffs ten feet behind him and the fun was all over.

    Couple more, the gun lives in a shadow box on my wall here since Dad died, great conversation peace.

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    Can't say I've witnessed any catastrophic event like what your pics show, and I hope I never do. Wow, simply wow!

    MyTime

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    I wouldn't shoot any US made ammo any older than about 1955 as it may have corrosive primers which is more trouble than it's worth.

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    I'm in the exact same boat and may plink, may pull some of the ammo.....what do y'all do with the primed cases if you pull the bullets?

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    When In doubt pull them apart!
    I write the date on box's of ammo I purchase. It helps me shoot up the older stuff first so I don't have this problem. On my hand loads I always stuff a note in the box that includes bullet, primer, powder weights and types and when they were loaded. My memory isn't what it once was. This way if I like the way they shoot when I get around to trying them It takes the guess work out if I want to duplicate the loads.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa12drvr View Post
    .....what do y'all do with the primed cases if you pull the bullets?
    I run them through a decamping die, you got to slam them hard to set one off. I have had them go off when I started going way too fast but itís not a big deal if they do, scared the poo out if me and the primer went down the shoot to hit my leg . . . might injure you if it hit your eye but in the leg along with the pop it was just startling is all.

    I wouldnít do it on a progressive press with powder and racked primers there that could light off if the stars all aligned just wrong but other than that I treat them just like fired brass.
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    You guys worry too much about nothing. I have original Kynoch 9x57mm ammo made before 1920 and it works fine. About 100fps slower than original but goes bag every time.

    Water will not harm gunpowder. That Garand blew from something else.
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    Default Can be dangerous!

    A year or so ago I tried shooting some .375 H&H ammo that I had loaded some 20-30 years ago. I after shooting several OK I got extremely high pressure on one - it blew the primer out and stuck the case in the chamber requiring me to drive it out with a piece of drill rod. Fortunately it didn't hurt the gun but it came close.

    I then pulled the rest of the loads. Some looked normal with loose powder but in some the bottom of the bullet was corroded and the powder was fused to a solid mass - I had a hard time digging it out of the case with a screwdriver even after soaking in hot water. Remember these were identical loads with the same powder etc. all stored together. Why some were good and some were dangerous I can't determine. The powder didn't decay to the loose rusty looking stuff like I've seen in the past - it just fused together to a tight dangerous mass.

    On the other hand I've shot very old ammo that fired just fine. I've also got some 8x57 ammo I loaded back in the late 60s that has started to corrode but I haven't pull any apart yet.

    I'd recommend pulling some of the bullets and see if the powder is still good andthere are no signs of corrosion.. With corrosive primers I punch them, re-primer, and then re-load the powder and bullets.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    You guys worry too much about nothing. I have original Kynoch 9x57mm ammo made before 1920 and it works fine. About 100fps slower than original but goes bag every time.

    Water will not harm gunpowder. That Garand blew from something else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    You guys worry too much about nothing. I have original Kynoch 9x57mm ammo made before 1920 and it works fine. About 100fps slower than original but goes bag every time.

    Water will not harm gunpowder. That Garand blew from something else.
    Oh, what something else ya thinkin

    We had 1000 rounds of this ammo to play with and did a heck of a lot of experimenting with it, had a lot of smart folks look into it. Powder from the ammo was clumped, the clumps in some of the rounds were damp with water still. The non clumped powder when light in a pie plate made a nice slow fire, a bit slower than fresh 4895. The dry clumps on the other hand burned very violently and extremely fast, faster and far more violent than FFFF black powder. Looking at the clumps with magnification you could see they had a different looking crystal looking structure than the loose powder, even the loose stuff in the same case.

    Everything but the clumped powder was fine, I donít know what all and where all this ammo had been but I am deadly sure that powder was damaged and caused a catastrophic overpressure in the perfectly fit M1. Damaged how I donít know but since some were still damp even in the Arizona summer heat my bet is water damage as it sat steaming someplace in the South Pacific back in 1945-46. Your welcome to come see the carnage (I have all we could find) and see if you can find another reason, hundreds have looked, all find the same things.

    Like I said before I believe the OPs ammo is fine, we shot many MANY thousands of rounds of old surplus from all over the world before this happened. But having this happen made me ask how much savings makes the risk (itís a very real risk) worth taking . . . what is my life worth, what is the value of my finger, or the eye of the guy next to me at the range. It only takes one round to do this so I feel itís not worth messing with old ammo for what little is saved, you do as you wish but IĎll take them down and use the components myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    I then pulled the rest of the loads. Some looked normal with loose powder but in some the bottom of the bullet was corroded and the powder was fused to a solid mass - I had a hard time digging it out of the case with a screwdriver even after soaking in hot water.
    Yup, that is the stuff and it is dangerous. Your hand loads were likely stored bullet down so it clumped at the bullet. Our surplus was in in M1 clips in the GI cans but there was sure screw driver and dental pick work envolved getting that stuff out.
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    Default Some bad- some wasn't

    The real odd thing to me is that some of the rounds were bad and some weren't - yet they were identical otherwise. In my case the ammo was always under controller conditions i.e. room temperature or below. As you mention - you don't know where your WWII stuff was stored or under what condiitons.

    I do have a bunch of WWII AP ammo made by RA SL that I got way back in the 60's from the DCM program. Some of it is corroding but some still looks perfect even though the rounds are in the same box. I need to pull some and see what the powder looks like inside. Interesting fact is that '06 AP ammo is still legal to sale; it brings a good price on Gunbroker.

    I also have a box of WWI 1917 aircraft tracer ammo in which the bullets and cases are splitting and crumbling. the powder that has spilled out and still looks like new - I'm going to load some ammo with it and I bet it will shoot fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Yup, that is the stuff and it is dangerous. Your hand loads were likely stored bullet down so it clumped at the bullet. Our surplus was in in M1 clips in the GI cans but there was sure screw driver and dental pick work envolved getting that stuff out.
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    We had 1000 rounds of it and something around 450 of them were clumped to one degree or another, the others were fine. We reused all components but the powder, the non-clumped stuff was fine Iím sure but we were all spooked so didnít trust it. I still have some of the brass in use now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    A year or so ago I tried shooting some .375 H&H ammo that I had loaded some 20-30 years ago. I after shooting several OK I got extremely high pressure on one - it blew the primer out and stuck the case in the chamber requiring me to drive it out with a piece of drill rod. Fortunately it didn't hurt the gun but it came close. Ok, but how do you know it was due to age. When powder gets old, the reaction rates slow.

    I then pulled the rest of the loads. Some looked normal with loose powder but in some the bottom of the bullet was corroded and the powder was fused to a solid mass - I had a hard time digging it out of the case with a screwdriver even after soaking in hot water. Remember these were identical loads with the same powder etc. all stored together. Why some were good and some were dangerous I can't determine. The powder didn't decay to the loose rusty looking stuff like I've seen in the past - it just fused together to a tight dangerous mass. How do you know it was dangerous?

    On the other hand I've shot very old ammo that fired just fine. I've also got some 8x57 ammo I loaded back in the late 60s that has started to corrode but I haven't pull any apart yet.

    I'd recommend pulling some of the bullets and see if the powder is still good andthere are no signs of corrosion.. With corrosive primers I punch them, re-primer, and then re-load the powder and bullets.
    So how do you know you have corrosive primers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Oh, what something else ya thinkin

    We had 1000 rounds of this ammo to play with and did a heck of a lot of experimenting with it, had a lot of smart folks look into it. Powder from the ammo was clumped, the clumps in some of the rounds were damp with water still. The non clumped powder when light in a pie plate made a nice slow fire, a bit slower than fresh 4895. The dry clumps on the other hand burned very violently and extremely fast, faster and far more violent than FFFF black powder. Looking at the clumps with magnification you could see they had a different looking crystal looking structure than the loose powder, even the loose stuff in the same case.

    Everything but the clumped powder was fine, I donít know what all and where all this ammo had been but I am deadly sure that powder was damaged and caused a catastrophic overpressure in the perfectly fit M1. Damaged how I donít know but since some were still damp even in the Arizona summer heat my bet is water damage as it sat steaming someplace in the South Pacific back in 1945-46. Your welcome to come see the carnage (I have all we could find) and see if you can find another reason, hundreds have looked, all find the same things.

    Like I said before I believe the OPs ammo is fine, we shot many MANY thousands of rounds of old surplus from all over the world before this happened. But having this happen made me ask how much savings makes the risk (itís a very real risk) worth taking . . . what is my life worth, what is the value of my finger, or the eye of the guy next to me at the range. It only takes one round to do this so I feel itís not worth messing with old ammo for what little is saved, you do as you wish but IĎll take them down and use the components myself.
    Everything I have ever read of, seen, and know from chemistry would indicate any old powder would be slow. Next, anything clumped up would be slower still. You can store powder under water if you want. Water won't hurt it, and will cause it to not burn. Without actually looking at, and testing the powder, I still think it was something else.

    Just one, (just one), example of this type of problem was Winchester .458 shells not performing at all in Africa. Sometimes squib loads where the bullet would exit the barrel to drop in the dirt, other times not penetrating, just terrible performance. Powder too compressed, it clumped up and simply wouldn't burn. They were able to fix it, but not before the .458 Win got a bad rep from it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Oh, what something else ya thinkin

    We had 1000 rounds of this ammo to play with and did a heck of a lot of experimenting with it, had a lot of smart folks look into it. Powder from the ammo was clumped, the clumps in some of the rounds were damp with water still. The non clumped powder when light in a pie plate made a nice slow fire, a bit slower than fresh 4895. The dry clumps on the other hand burned very violently and extremely fast, faster and far more violent than FFFF black powder. Looking at the clumps with magnification you could see they had a different looking crystal looking structure than the loose powder, even the loose stuff in the same case.

    Everything but the clumped powder was fine, I donít know what all and where all this ammo had been but I am deadly sure that powder was damaged and caused a catastrophic overpressure in the perfectly fit M1. Damaged how I donít know but since some were still damp even in the Arizona summer heat my bet is water damage as it sat steaming someplace in the South Pacific back in 1945-46. Your welcome to come see the carnage (I have all we could find) and see if you can find another reason, hundreds have looked, all find the same things.

    Like I said before I believe the OPs ammo is fine, we shot many MANY thousands of rounds of old surplus from all over the world before this happened. But having this happen made me ask how much savings makes the risk (itís a very real risk) worth taking . . . what is my life worth, what is the value of my finger, or the eye of the guy next to me at the range. It only takes one round to do this so I feel itís not worth messing with old ammo for what little is saved, you do as you wish but IĎll take them down and use the components myself.

    Ok, before I start I do want to say that I am new to reloading and in no way am I an expert this is just an opinion and should be regarded as just that, BUT, I am also the type who studies something ahead of time to learn all the aspects I can. This particular subject had me intrigued when I was reading it as I was learning. anyway here is my thoughts on the original question

    1) In my ammo collection i have Several boxes of Winchester Silvertip Ammo that i purchased many years ago.
    Actualy they were purchased about 1964 to be exact.

    My Opinion: "IF" the ammo is in fact factory ammo and was made around that time period I would think that cartridge is ok to shoot. BUT, I would inspect the cases to look for any signs of corrosion, cracks, or ANYTHING out of the ordinary and start a pile of anything that made me stop and consider it and a pile of obviously "good, clean" ammo. The questionable I would deconstruct, de-prime, clean and start over with new pwdr. The other I would prably fire but pay particular attention to cases and my gun after firing to ensure no other problems might be presenting themselves.

    and
    2) Oh, what something else ya thinkin


    My Opinion: Commercial ammo upto about 1945 was both corrosively and non-corrosively primed with the later continueing on, obviously. The military had a large roll in this by demanding that any ammo made for the military small had to be reloadable and spent cases were saved and reloaded, during peace time of course. So because early primers were corrosive and cleanliness may not have been the most uniform at the time they could leave a highly corrive deposit that could eat away the nipple or web of the case if not neutralized prior to reloading. This cause a problem specifcally when combined with brass or copper primer cups and brass or gilding metal cases. The mercury would make the brass or copper exteremly brittle. This translated into contaminated loads that could lead to case head rupture. Corrosive primers were still available after 1945 and were used by people like us. The problem is possibly that the catestrophic failure happened due to a corrosive primer and the combination stated above. It is also noted that mercuric primers using fulminate of mercury does contain free, liquid mercury, that could migrate after a number of years thus adding to the problem. The NRA published a list of corrosive primed ammo and should still be available other wise it is listed in THE ABC's of Reloading 9th Edition, which is where I have obtained the above infomation as well. and several manufactures did use corrosive primers all through WWII so check the head stamps. Another way of tell per the book is to take fired cases and place them outside for a week or two in a warm humid environmet stnding them on there heads with a drop or two of water in the case and let it stand over night. if a corrosive salt is present there willusually be evidence of corrosion particullarily near the vent. Also look for a black/green color...


    Again this info is all based upon reading that I have done to learn the in's & out's of safe and as hazard free as possible relaoding. I am new to this and it it just my opinion based on my learning. This could be completely wrong. If there is any contrary info I am missing PLEASE tell me. I want to know all I can.

    With that if anyone has "spare equipment they don't use anymore and would like to "donate it" or sell it "cheap" =) to a newbie please let me know.

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