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Old April 12, 2011, 07:15 PM   #1
cptmclark
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Cartridge quandry

Tried but failed to post this on the handloading forum. I have some old cartridges lined up on a shelf in my shop that have been there for quite a while. Today when cleaning (every 20 years or so) I noticed a rifle cartridge oozing green liquid from the neck/bullet junction, and it's also split the neck. Bubbling and all. Must be something going on with the powder or powder and primer interaction, but I've never seen anything like this. Green no doubt from the brass, but something is making pressure inside the case for sure. The round appears to be a 2506, handloaded from a military 3006 case. It's probably at least 30 years old, maybe a lot more. What do you think?
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Old April 12, 2011, 07:30 PM   #2
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I'm thinking that's probably not one that should be shot. But then, that's just me.
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Old April 12, 2011, 08:07 PM   #3
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Har har har
I think you're right.
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Old April 12, 2011, 10:16 PM   #4
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Pull the bullet, dump the powder and put the case in a rifle to pop the primer. Then discard all and clean the gun.

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Old April 12, 2011, 11:04 PM   #5
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Corrosion caused by dissimilar metals. Metal salts occupy more space than the metals do, so the case neck expanded and split. Discard them.
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Old April 13, 2011, 09:05 AM   #6
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Who would have thought the reaction would result in a liquid, running down the case and over my shelf?
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Old April 13, 2011, 10:24 AM   #7
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Do you live in a humid part of the country? Fluid created due to the moisture in the air, pressure doing the rest of the job for you. I'm no scientist, but I can guess.
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Old April 13, 2011, 11:37 AM   #8
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Sounds like the powder inside the cartridge got wet, and started to decompose. The decomposition products are acidic, and attack the the brass, leading to the corrosion split. The decomposition reaction is also autocatalytic, so once it starts it really takes off, bubbles and all.
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Old April 13, 2011, 01:41 PM   #9
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Agree. If it is that old, it's also just possible it was loaded with repackaged surplus powder that was sold to handloaders and that wasn't fresh to begin with, so the powder itself could be way beyond its normal expiration.

I've pulled bullets from old surplus ammo before and found powder clumped and sticking to itself. These were eastern block, Soviet era cartridges made in the early 80's and they were already bad in the early 90's. They had no neck seal and the bullets weren't very tight, and I expect moisture simply migrated through to the powder. As powder breaks down, the acids probably help attract moisture even more rapidly. Even if the bullet was originally tight in the case, you could have had the neck split due to multiple reloads without annealing kind of like season cracking with exposure to ammonia gas, but instead being induced by acid fumes from the inside.

Personally, I wouldn't want to contaminate my bullet puller or other equipment with acidic verde gris and maybe even stray acidic nitro if the powder was double-base. I would drop the thing in a penetrating alkaline cleaner, like Formula 409 and just leave it there long enough for the acid to be neutralized and the powder to get wet. Then I'd think about pulling it.
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Old April 13, 2011, 04:32 PM   #10
cptmclark
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Yep, we have humidity, but it's been living in an air conditioned house for 40 years. I forget where I had it before that. looks like some sci-fi scene, just sitting there bubbling. The crack in the neck is new, and the liquid is also coming up around the crimped neck/bullet joint. Must be a lot of pressure in there. Thinking back to some old western movies where old dynamite was "sweating" and drops of nitroglycerine (same stuff as in gunpowder) were forming. I don't think I'll try hitting that stuff with a hammer, at least not in the same shop with all my powder.
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