Old Ammo-How Safe?

Talk about things other than the Model 8's and 81's
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jack1653
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Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by jack1653 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:13 pm

Hey Guys,

Let me say right up front that I know nothing about reloading, ballistics and associated knowledge about cartridges. I have always bought ammunition off the shelf and have never had any problem with "store bought" ammunition. I have purchased brass for the 35 and 300 and had them reloaded by a professional and these cartridges have not been a problem.

Like many of you, I am always looking for ammunition for these old rifles. I have been somewhat successful in finding some old ammunition for the old rifles in years past and just put it up. I was stock-piling it until I could make another trip to Texas to make some videos with 81police using the Police Models and all my conversions that use the 15 shot POE magazines.

I just purchased a set of dies,bullets and brass for the 25 off of Gun Broker and they were in excellent condition. I was going to take the components to a professional for reloading. I checked my stash to see if I had some additional brass for reloading. When I pulled some of the old ammunition, I found several issues with some of the ammunition and brass. My question may seem to be absurd to the experts, but that is why I am asking the experts because I am truly ignorant about these issues. Common sense would say to be careful but I would like to know more specifically if I need to have a real concern before doing something stupid.

Now here are some of my questions.

#1. How can you tell if old ammunition is safe to shoot? A couple years ago, I took some old .30 Rem to Texas to shoot with 81police. The cartridges looked good, clean but we had several rounds that would not fire. The cartridges had appeared to have good firing pin contact and looked like the cartridges that did fire. These cartridges had a new appearance but were old and not reloads. They were in the original boxes.

#2. Is it safe to "pull" the bullet out of cartridges that do not fire? Since the brass is hard to get as well as some of the bullets, I was wanting to try and recover the brass and bullet to use for reloading by somebody that is knowledgeable about the process. A couple of guys at the hangout said I could get a kinetic bullet puller and remove the bullets without doing damage to the bullet or the brass. Will this work and is it safe?

#3. What does it mean if old ammunition has a "frost" appearance on the bullet. I notice this condition on the bullets that have a lead end inserted in the bullet and not the solid nose brass bullets. Does this indicate a degradation of the cartridge? Can you just wipe the frost off and not cause an issue? How do you prevent this from happening?

#4. If the cartridge has a "blue-green" residue on the brass, what does that indicate? Not all the cartridges in the box have this condition. Is this a corrosive action that could weaken the brass and make it unsafe for shooting?

I thank all of you in advance for your advice and recommendations. I am a collector of the model 8 & 81 and normally do not do a lot of shooting of the rifles. I have not ventured into the ammunition collecting and have no intention of doing so. I buy old ammunition to be able to complete projects and have it available should I want to shoot some of the old rifles to make videos with 81police.

Regards,

jack1653

ctgodog
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by ctgodog » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:54 pm

Jack,

I am no expert on reloading, as I am just getting set up and going with my reloading bench and equipment. But I have done considerable research about the subject of reloading, and I found that the Lyman 49th Reloading Handbook addressed the majority of your questions. It will also explain how to inspect brass for any defects. I Have also found some very interesting and informative articles in some of the periodical magazines.
I have read that the kinetic bullet puller is the safest way to remove bullets from brass without damaging either one. I can't find the magazine that the article was in at the moment, but it was very informative. You might try googling kinetic hammers and see what you can find.

Hope that helps, as I am still learning...my local gun shop owner is an avid reloader, so he has been a very valuable source for all my questions.

Cllint
[b][color=#0040FF]Time is the Essence of Life, Wine, and Great Guns[/color][/b]

h.charlie
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by h.charlie » Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:35 pm

the safest route to tell if a case is good, is clean them first, In your case i would soak the loaded rounds in kroil oil or some type of gun oil to neutralize the powder and primer just in case there is any possibility it would go off, this does a good job to prevent it, and yes you could pull loaded rounds with a kinetic puller safely but sense these are old I wouldn't do it until you are sure they wont go off especially if the primer has been hit. Once you have them cleaned using steel wool, tumbler, polishing media what ever way you want, look for cracks and dings that wont fire form mainly in the shoulder, if you have corrosion still after two or more cleanings i would toss that case or use it for a bullet seating gauge. If you have corrosion around the primer make sure the flash hole is clean as well check inside and out the case some older rounds had corrosive primers and powders and they look good on the outside but are horrendous on the inside in that case you will need to check wall thickness sorry for poorly written reply there is a lot to look for, but I'm sure someone on here will give you a better idea on how to handle your question

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Sarge756
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by Sarge756 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:28 pm

Jack,
With the old stuff the biggest problem I have found is that the cases have become brittle with age and when fired the neck will split. This is not particularly dangerous but it destroys the case.With our springpoles shooting obsolete ammo and the brass getting harder to find I would try a few and see if you have this problem. If they are fairly clean without corrosion that could damage the chamber give em a try. If you have splits ,stop and pull the bullets. Don`t attempt to deprime a live primer.Either soak it as suggested above or chamber the empty case and fire it. After you have deprimed and cleaned the cases to prevent the necks from splitting you will have to anneal them. There are many techniques for this and it seems everyone has a best way. I have used a propane torch with a variable speed drill to spin the case with good results. Some people like to immerse the cases up to the neck in a pan of water and play the torch on the necks. The key is not to leave the torch in one spot too long and not let the heat extend into the body of the case. A change of color with a rainbow type effect is what you are trying to do and this only in the neck area and shoulder.If you get a dark spot from overheating the case is toast so just pitch it. The annealing rearranges the molecules of brass and softens it. This will allow you to resize them without splits when you reload . With the old ammo even if you fire them without splits occurring I would suggest annealing prior to reloading cause if they are old they are brittle.
Joe
".......ain't many troubles that a man cain't fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."

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Sarge756
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by Sarge756 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:34 pm

Jack, Left out answering your question..blue green is the brass oxidizing, If excessive it does weaken the case. Clean it off with steel wool and examine the case and see if it is pitted. If pits are deep toss it. Frosting on the bullets if you are speaking of the lead tips is the lead oxidizing.
".......ain't many troubles that a man cain't fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."

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jack1653
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by jack1653 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:15 pm

Hey Guys,

Thanks a whole bunch. I knew I could count on y'all to help my questions. I can tell from the responses so far that I am way in over my head to try and start a new process that can have severe consequences if not done correctly. I think the best thing for me to do is to sort out the questionable cartridges and find someone to take on the challenge that better knows what they are doing.

The guy that custom loads all kinds of ammunition doesn't want to take the time or have the liability to "fix" old cartridges and I can appreciate his position. He said it would be cheaper to throw it all away and get new cartridges. :o I don't think he appreciates the difficulty in finding new ammunition for these old rifles. :lol: The last thing I need to do is use poor judgement on what I "think" would be okay and damage one of my cherished rifles. :(

I am trying to get about 200 rounds of each caliber for the 25, 30 and 32 for videos. The 35 and 300 is not a problem and I have sufficient new rounds for these two calibers. What we have found in making these videos is a lot of trial and error and that boils down to a lot of re-takes which means more ammunition. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Regards,

jack1653

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Sarge756
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by Sarge756 » Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:57 pm

Jack,
u still have my email .I have a Winny project to finish when I get back from my Alabama hunt next week. Soon as that`s done will be available if you need my help with this. I `ve set up cleaning with the stainless media so unless the cases are severely damaged they will come out like new.
Joe
".......ain't many troubles that a man cain't fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."

DWalt
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Re: Old Ammo-How Safe?

Post by DWalt » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:44 am

Old ammunition is seldom unsafe, at least in regard to firing it. In general, about the worst that can happen with old ammunition is that it won't fire when you pull the trigger due to a deteriorated primer. That's usually the result of long storage at high temperatures. I've even found WWI-era ammunition won't have many misfires.

A white frost on lead bullet noses or bullets is usually lead oxide. It won't hurt anything. Blue-green case corrosion is usually lead acetate. I usually take a piece of fine sandpaper and sand it off. It may extend completely through the case. Sometimes brown splotches are found on old cases. They won't hurt anything.

Old ammunition will sometimes show neck splitting on firing. At one time, case necks were not annealed at the factory, and got brittle. It's not unusual to see unfired old ammunition that has neck cracks. You can fire it, it's just not a good idea to reload it. Breaking it down for components is OK, but if you do, it's a good idea to anneal the case necks using a propane torch and repriming them. You can deprime them in the usual way, and I've never had one go off. But wear safety glasses and keep your hands out of the way. It's probably best to not re-use the powder.

The worst ammunition I ever found was some old military ammunition from WWI which was corroded completely through the case as a result of smokeless powder decomposition. You shouldn't attempt to fire any in that condition, but you can salvage bullets.

I've broken down thousands of old rounds using an inertia bullet puller. It's slow, but I've never had any incidents.

On the topic if inerting primers, many advise using oil. I'm here to tell you that won't work. Not much will. Some advise that boiling in water will do the trick. I don't know. Anyway, there is virtually nothing you can do to inert a primer in a loaded round, except to shoot it.

Summary - if you find old ammunition it will usually be OK to fire. A couple of years ago, I bought a full box of Winchester .38 Special ammunition from the mid-1930s and all 50 rounds fired like new. Not only that, but my chronograph said the MV was right where it was when it left the factory. Pre-1930 commercial ammunition will be corrosive (and most military ammunition prior to 1950 is also). So clean the bore using water after shooting it if there is any doubt if the ammunition is corrosive-primed.

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