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Old April 8, 2014, 12:34 PM   #1
damionkeller
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Risks of Using Old Ammo

What's a good rule of thumb for when ammo is too old to use? I found a box of 32 short ammo in the closet that's probably been there for 10 years. It was just in the cardboard box. Safe to try in a revolver or don't take the risk?
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Old April 8, 2014, 12:40 PM   #2
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I'm halfway through a batch of M193 that spent a week underwater 10 years ago.

500 rounds and zero malfs.
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Old April 8, 2014, 01:00 PM   #3
carguychris
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damionkeller
What's a good rule of thumb for when ammo is too old to use? I found a box of 32 short ammo in the closet that's probably been there for 10 years.
Modern smokeless-powder ammunition stays good almost indefinitely if it's stored properly, in a place that doesn't get unusually hot or humid, and isn't subject to unusually quick temperature swings. An interior closet in a modern climate-controlled home is virtually ideal. In such conditions, 10 years is nothing.

If in doubt...

Pull a bullet, using appropriate tools of course. Bad powder has a reddish appearance and a pungent odor.

Don't fire ammo that's excessively corroded, particularly with corrosion on an outside-lubricated bullet. A badly corroded case can rupture, and a corroded outside-lubricated bullet can damage the barrel. (This type of bullet is the same diameter as the cartridge case; the most familiar modern rounds that use them are .22LR and .22 Short. I'm not exactly sure which cartridge you have, as there are several rounds that are referred to as "32 Short"- e.g. .32 S&W, .32 Short Colt, and .32 Short Rimfire. Some sub-types of the Colt round have these bullets, and .32 Rimfire always does.)

Test-fire a few rounds. If any of them seem excessively loud or quiet, discard the rest. CAUTION: If a round is abnormally quiet, DO NOT fire the gun again until you visually verify that the bore is not obstructed by a stuck bullet (or squib). Firing subsequent rounds into an obstructed bore may result in a catastrophic gun-destroying kB! and grievous injuries to the shooter or close bystanders. It may be necessary to hammer a squib out of the barrel using a metal rod. If you don't feel confident doing this, take it to a gunsmith.
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Last edited by carguychris; April 8, 2014 at 01:11 PM. Reason: info added... plus reword
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Old April 8, 2014, 01:16 PM   #4
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Absent signs of obvious corrosion, you should be fine to fire 10 year old ammo. Heck, you are not even halfway to the point where I would even think twice about pulling one down to inspect.
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Old April 8, 2014, 01:42 PM   #5
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If the box is in good shape.....

It's probably safe to say the ammo is in good enough shape to fire. If the condition of ammo doesn't match the box then I'd dispose of it.
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Old April 8, 2014, 02:18 PM   #6
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Ive shot ammo from the 30's and 40's without issue. Ive shot stuff from the 70's and 80's that had problems. I think how its stored and kept has probably more bearing on it, than anything else. From what Ive read, according to the US military, arctic is good, heat is bad.

Back in the 90's, I bought a bunch of 70's era Malaysian 5.56 for cheap. Im currently finishing up the last of it, and Im now getting a lot of split necks in the cases. Never an issue up til now.

Ive also been having some issues lately with some old reloads I inherited that were loaded back in the late 80's, early 90's, that up until the past few years had been fine. I started to get splits in their necks as well, and in some cases, complete separations where the neck meets the shoulder.

When I first noted the problem, I pulled them down, loaded both the powder and bullets back into once fired cases, and all seemed well. I fired about 30 rounds of them, without any sign of a problem.

That box (and a few others) got misplaced during some rearranging, until a week or so ago, when I found them again. I figured Id burn them up now, as they are the oldest in the queue. First round out of that box that had the rounds 30 fired in it, had a split neck. A little lateral pressure on the bullet, and it popped right out. I start looking closer, and about 2 of 3 all have split necks. I get to checking on the other boxes, same thing.

From what I can tell, from a quick search online, its a degrading powder issue, and when the powder degrades, it releases an acidic gas, that builds pressure in the case and attacks the brass, at points of tension.

This seems to be whats happening in my case, and the fact that the once fired brass I loaded using the "old" powder, are the only ones that are having the issue, the same lot of cases I loaded with fresh powder, are not.

A member here who goes by "slamfire", has a lot of good info on this, if you do a quick search.

I would say if the ammo was kept in cool, dry conditions, and looks good, its probably fine. Just watch keep an eye on things as youre shooting.

Another issue with some of the older stuff, can be corrosive primers, which if you dont properly clean the gun (basically hot soapy water or old GI bore cleaner), you can have some nasty problems. Most of that stuff is pre mid 50's or so, but I have had some foreign surplus 9mm from the 60's and 70's that was pretty nasty.
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Old April 8, 2014, 02:49 PM   #7
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10 years old-that's still fresh in the box. I've fired some of my 25 year old reloads that worked fine, as well as vintage milsurp. My personal rule is that if I find a box of ammo more than 40 years old, it's a collectible.
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Old April 8, 2014, 03:14 PM   #8
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There is ALOT of .50 BMG Ball ammo that is 50+ years old and works fine.
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Old April 8, 2014, 04:48 PM   #9
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10 yr. old ammo is not old.

If it looks good and isn't corroded, shoot it.
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Old April 8, 2014, 04:59 PM   #10
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I've fired ammo that was packed in 1938... nough said?
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Old April 8, 2014, 07:32 PM   #11
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If you don't want it, I'll take it. I have lots of .32 revolvers crying for .32 S&W ammo.

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Old April 8, 2014, 08:09 PM   #12
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Depends on the quality, 10 years though is nothing, shoot the stuff and forget about it.

When I bought a Carcano rifle last year it came with some original ammo from the war. The case necks were brittle and starting to crack, some cracks running almost down the length of the body. I wouldn't shoot the stuff, and when I sold the gun I included a letter with the ammo saying that the ammunition is for collectors purposes only and I did not recommend shooting it.
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Old April 8, 2014, 08:35 PM   #13
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Around ten years ago, I got some .45-70 that was loaded in the 1880's, so it was over 100 years old. Most of it fired.

The most common problems with old ammo are failure to fire and hang fires, with squib loads less common. If old ammo (or any ammo for that matter) doesn't fire, do not open the action right away; a hangfire could go off with the action partly open destroying the gun and causing injury or go off in the air and cause serious injury. Any odd sound should be investigated to be sure a bullet is not stuck in the barrel; is it is, another shot could burst the barrel.

Jim
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Old April 8, 2014, 10:10 PM   #14
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I still have some shotgun shells I reloaded in the mid to late 70's. It still goes bang. Practically all my ammo other than rim-fire are from my reloading. It has always been kept in a climate controlled environment.

I am willing to bet you $5.00 all yours will go bang too. Now go shoot it.
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Old April 9, 2014, 09:12 AM   #15
damionkeller
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Thanks, everyone. Glad to hear. 32 short ammo is kind of hard a find. At least in my area.
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Old April 9, 2014, 11:25 AM   #16
gyvel
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Quote:
Thanks, everyone. Glad to hear. 32 short ammo is kind of hard a find. At least in my area.
Yes, it's not exactly the most popular round anymore.
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Old April 9, 2014, 11:50 AM   #17
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If you reload, the components are fairly readily available, and if your gun is of the black powder era, you can address that as well.

The few places I found 32 S&W on line, that actually had any in stock, were getting about $50 a box of 50 for them.
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Old April 11, 2014, 09:59 AM   #18
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I can't even find it online.
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Old April 11, 2014, 10:20 AM   #19
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Back when I was first looking, the Old Western Scrounger had a box or two. I also found it one other place, but I cant remember who it was now.

Theres now doubt, you have to look pretty deep, but it is/was out there.
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Old April 12, 2014, 12:16 PM   #20
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My local Academy Sports stores have a bunch of .32 S&W. They seem to have stocked up during the recent shortage, presumably because it was all they could get, and they didn't want the shelves to appear empty.

I'll check the prices later.
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Old April 13, 2014, 07:11 AM   #21
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It is obvious that no one here can factually say when ammunition is unsafe to shoot. During the current .22 lr insanity I began shooting ammo from cans that have not been opened in 30-40 years, had a few misfires but new ammo will give that. Also shot a coffee can full of 1913 Frankfort Arsenal .45 auto (that's 100 years ago folks) with only one FTF. Posters have previously noted ammo should be correctly stored and as a result will have an exceptional shelf life.
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Old April 13, 2014, 11:20 AM   #22
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Curious and Respectful

So I now have a couple of my mother's guns ( she was born in 1922 and probably used them during the 40's). She has died and I have the guns and some unopened boxes of the 32 S&W. Curious about wanting to fire her guns but also wanted to preserve those "collectibles." I'll probably shoot a little but either way they are and will be fond memories.
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Old April 13, 2014, 03:50 PM   #23
damionkeller
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I took the old 32 that was handed down to me to a local gun shop to be inspected, cleaned and test fired. Suggest you do the same.
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Old April 13, 2014, 06:23 PM   #24
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10 yr old ammo is essentially new if stored correctly.
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Old April 14, 2014, 01:15 PM   #25
carguychris
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigop
So I now have a couple of my mother's guns... I have the guns and some unopened boxes of the 32 S&W. Curious about wanting to fire her guns but also wanted to preserve those "collectibles."
Quote:
Originally Posted by damionkeller
I took the old 32 that was handed down to me to a local gun shop to be inspected, cleaned and test fired. Suggest you do the same.
+1, and be aware that many vintage .32 revolvers were not very safe to fire when they were new. This is particularly true of top-break revolvers- i.e. revolvers with a latch at the back and a hinge under the barrel allowing the cylinder to be loaded from the rear.

Even if you're confident that a particular gun has only been fired a handful of times, don't be surprised by broken parts, or a gunsmith's earnest advice to hang it up on the wall and forget about firing it even though it's technically functional. Many of these guns simply aren't well-built, safe, or durable.
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