Old Ammo


May 10, 2003, 09:22 PM
I've heard this many times before as a gun safety rule: Don't use old ammo. I'm just curious as to why old ammo is unsafe, and how long is the shelf life of ammo?

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Mike Irwin
May 10, 2003, 09:33 PM
Well, if you're talking about ammo for personal protection, who knows how it's been stored?

Has it been exposed to contaminants, such as oil?

Has it been exposed to extremely high heat?


Cheap insurance, really, to regularly swap your ammo out.

As for other ammo, I've shot 100 year old ammo with no problems other than the expected misfires.

May 10, 2003, 09:35 PM
just saw something in one of the gun rags about some WWII .45 ACP which had been stored in the magazines. Springs functioned well and ammo went bang.

IIRC, really old ammo and black powder is a problem because it isn't as chemically stable as modern (the powder that is)

If it's post 1970's and stored correctly, I wouldn't worry. 1950 to 1970 I would be careful as to source and storage. Older would be a science experiment best handled by "EXPERTS" like Sanow....:evil:

May 10, 2003, 10:13 PM
What is proper swap out time? I picked up a case of that cheap 9mm, how long would you go before blowing thoug it all? I know what happens when you use old ammo.... Dad and I were going though some old ammo in my aunts .38 smith revolover. while *I* was shooting it, it jambed 2 times before we gave up. Box of 50 with 2 jams...what i mean by jams.. Well the slug got stuck half way down the barrel or such.

How long would you keep properly stored ammo?

May 10, 2003, 10:21 PM
cheap ammo with malfunctions gives practice for malfunctions :p

cheap is different than old.

I usually shoot Sellier & Belliot from the Czech Republic -cheap, but reiable

in my AR is shoot that South African and Portuegese surplus (less flash) and it is both cheap and reliable also.

now as for OLD ammo, I have no experience, just know what I have read in the gun rags

May 10, 2003, 10:31 PM
A good friend, who has been a benchrest competitor for some 40 years, told me a while back that in some cases, the projectile can, in effect, weld itself to the case. He said this can be caused from static electricity generated by vibration. He said old ammo can be extremely dangerous when this happens as the pressures involved in firing the cartridge climb much higher than they normally would. I had some ammo for a 243 that I had loaded 10 years or so back and he advised me not to use it. I took his advise.

May 10, 2003, 10:36 PM
I think the reason that everyone says not to use old ammo is the fact that ammo manufactured before about the 60's was made with a corrosive priming mixture. The time line varries with which country manufactured the ammo but that is roughly the date to watch for. They switched from mercury fulminate as the priming mixture to lead stephenate to eliminate the need for intensive cleaning after firing. As long as the ammo states it is non-corrosive it should be fine to shoot in practice. The older stuff is ok to shoot too, just remember if you don't clean right after shooting it WILL rust. Of course your carry ammo should be something a little more trustworthy.

May 10, 2003, 11:43 PM
A friend of mine had a glock 22, in 40s&w. He had left two standard capacity mags loaded with some hydroshocks he'd bought several years ago (5+ years).

Turned out to be from the early 90's. First mag does fine. Halfway through the second mag the pistol jams. Tries to clear it, and suddenly looks very confused.

The case head had ruptured, and blew the extractor into low earth orbit. The remainder of the case was fire-formed into the chamber, and has yet to be removed.

Morale of the story? Just because its name brand ammo, doesnt mean they don't occasionally ship defective lots. If its going to be your means of defense, at least go through a box to make sure it works.

For those interested, it turned out to be one of the first self defense loads for 40 offered by federal. Turned out they had long ago issued a recall because of weak brass...

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2003, 02:24 AM
"I think the reason that everyone says not to use old ammo is the fact that ammo manufactured before about the 60's was made with a corrosive priming mixture."

Commercial ammo in the United States was largely free of corrosive primers by the early 1920s, a fact often advertised in the brand name of some ammos, such as Staynless, which IIRC was a brand name for Winchester.

Here's a nice example that touts the primers as being both non-mercuric and non-corrosive.


I forget what Remington's brand name was for their non-corrosive ammo, and I don't feel like running down into the basement to check out the collection.

Some commercial ammo, mainly match ammo, was loaded with corrosive and/or mercuric primers up to the early 1970s.

I've got a box of .30-06 in the collection that has warnings on it that the gun must be thoroughly cleaned because of the corrosive primers, and the brass must NOT be reloaded because of the mercury in the primers.

The situation was, of course, quite different with American military ammo, where corrosive primers were used up through the end of WW II, and possibly after.

Mercuric primers were largely eliminated from American commercial ammo by WW I, and from American military rifle ammo prior to that.

May 11, 2003, 02:41 AM
Peters --"Rustless"
Winchester--" Staynless" ( as Mike mentioned)

Federal, I forgot

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2003, 02:54 AM

Thanks, I was just coming back to update my post with the information on Peters. Pretty unimaginative, but it got the point across. :)

For the life of me I couldn't think of Remington's!

Federal really didn't enter the commercial ammuntion business until commercial corrosive primer use was pretty much a thing of the past so they may never have had a special name for their product.

IIRC Federal started production in 1918 for the military, and only got into commercial in a substantial way in the 1920s.

I have a fascinating manual in my collection by Federal Cartridge Company, put out during WW II, that went through each and every production step for the manufacture of a complete round of .30-06 ammo. It was apparently a guide to be used at the new factories that were being set up during WW II.

May 11, 2003, 03:28 AM
Mike, your welcome.

Thanks for the clarification on Federal...I don't have the knowledge-or reference material you do. I did look in my 1955 Field and Stream though...the above ammo co's had the primers listed in ads...Federal did not ( I even used a magnifier).

Mike your fond of the Savage 99 IIRC
Sept. 1955, F&S pg 73

99-EG $105.65
99-R $108.60
99F $108.60

May 11, 2003, 07:48 AM
A friend of mine gave me a bunch of .45 ACP and the headstamp was 18. It was steel cases and a steel jacketed bullet with little pin-prick punch marks to hold the bullet in rather than a crimp. I was not and am not into the .45's so I gave it to a buddy and he said it shot fine.

Art Eatman
May 11, 2003, 10:22 AM
I have some .243 stuff I loaded in 1968. Groups just fine; point of impact is a couple of inches lower at 100 yards than the new stuff.

I recently shot some 1974-vintage .220 Swift that my father loaded. 3/4 MOA. I have some old GI Carbine handloads of similar vintage that work just fine. Same for some .223.

I have some old GI .45ACP; "EC 43". Shoots just fine.

I've never noted any particular difference in "just yesterday" handloads vs. five- or ten-year old stuff...


May 11, 2003, 02:02 PM
I bought a box of remington kleenbore .45acp at a gunshow for
$8.00. Old green box with cardboard dividers for each round.
The ammo collector guy who sold it said it was from the late 20's
I don't have the room for ammo collecting so I shot it out of my sistema. Every round went off and it was fairly accurate.

The only problems were the hot burning bits of powder flying in all directions, the report was much louder than normal and I could see sparks come out of the barrel on each shot.

I'm not sure what caused the ammo to act that way....

Ala Dan
May 11, 2003, 02:28 PM
Greeting's All-

Who really knows the shelf life of ammunition? I certainly
don't! But during my days as a former LEO, we always
qualified with the ammuntion that we carried; then we
were reissued new ammo.

As for my personal use, I have fired some handloads that
I know were at least 10 to 12 year's old; with NO
problem's. Of course this was .38 special stuff, in which
I used all virgin component's!:uhoh: :)

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Mike Irwin
May 11, 2003, 03:45 PM

Interesting information on the Savages, thanks!

I had thought that the RS was still in production in 1955, but apparently not.

That also would have been about the first year of production for the F, as well.


Hum, interesting. I've never heard of the US using .45 ammo with steel cases during WW I, or using pin crimps. Pity you don't have any more of it, it would be very interesting to take another look at it.


I've had that happen with old Remington ammo, as well. I don't know if it was the ammo of the time, or if it was the result of age.

May 11, 2003, 04:10 PM
Better safe than sorry ...

If anyone has some old ammo, just send it to me and I will dispose of it for you. ;)

May 11, 2003, 05:12 PM
I've fired BP loaded .43 Spanish that was Spanish-American War surplus in the 70's with no trouble, except the occasional misfiring dud. Dirty as heck though, and I wish I'd stuck a few boxes away as collectabiles. Same for the old Greener-Martini bottleneck 12/14 ga shotgun ammo.

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