Question about surplus .308 ammo


Lucky Jim
July 7, 2003, 10:18 PM
Several years ago I bought several hundred rounds of .308 surplus ammo in 200 round plastic battle packs. Recently I opened one of the packs just to look at the ammo. It is packaged in 20 round cardboard boxes and each box is marked 7.62 x 51mm Ball FNM 82-21 there is a small circle with a cross in the middle on the box, too. I had read about some surplus ammo having a copper washed steel bullet. I pulled one of the bullets and sure enough it is steel with a lead core. The bullets looks copper, but I took a file to the bullet and the copper is really thin, if it is copper. Question is, where is this stuff manufactured and what will it do to your barrel if you shoot it? I have shot some in my Remington LTR and also in a M1A and have had no problems. The steel bullet worries me though. A magnet will pick the bullet up but the case, I think, is brass & berdan primed.

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July 7, 2003, 10:34 PM
sounds like portugese mil surp. I am looking at two boxes of that.
One says: 20 Round
7,62 X 51 mm
BALL FNM 80-70

The other says: CART 7,62 M/963

The cross in the circle is there too

July 7, 2003, 10:42 PM
Portugese NATO 7.62 ball.............good stuff

steel jacked as you noticed, shoot it up and enjoy w/no worries

Dave R
July 7, 2003, 10:55 PM
That steel jacket is not hardened stainless steel. Its fairly soft. And then it has the copper wash over it. Military rifles are designed to shoot this stuff. It "might" cause some wear in a non-chrome lined barrel, but probably not more than agressive cleaning would.

July 8, 2003, 08:10 AM

Copper washed soft steel is used because it is CHEAPER than a thick gilding copper jacket..... Strictly an economy measure.

Back during WWII copper here in the US was getting scarce. In an effort to preserve copper stocks the Army wanted to go to a copper washed steel jacket on our standard issue ammo for the M1. To this end, both Springfield Armory and Winchester did a thorough test to determine whether or not copper washed steel jackets would cause more barrel wear than normal gilding copper jackets.

After firing umpteen hundred thousands of rounds of ammo and taking dozens of M1 Garand barrels up to the magical "10" on the Throat Erosion scale (replacement point), their end conclusion was.....


From that point on, most all of the US 30-06 M2 ball ammo through WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam was copper washed steel.... right to the end of production in the early 70's. I've fired quite a bit of Lake City '69 M2 ball in my Garands. It has a steel jacket..... shoots fine.

Even much of the 7.62 Nato M80 also has a steel jacket. This was the standard round for the M14......

Remember too that this experiment was done on the barrels of the WWII era.... themselves made of a somewhat softer steel than is used in today's barrel manufacture. If they can take it with no effect... then so can the rifles we shoot now.

If all you have to do is fret about whether or not a copper washed steel jacket is going to hurt your barrel, you might as well also begin wearing garlic and a crucifix around your neck and carrying large wooden stake to protect yourself from Vampires. :D

BTW, I've also shot a lot of the Porteuguese 7.62 in my rifles and love it. Good stuff. IIRC the much sought after Austrian Hirtenberger 7.62 is also steel jacketed.

Just my ramblings....

Garands forever,

July 8, 2003, 12:50 PM
It's portugeese and it's good stuff! I have shot a lot of this stuff through my L1A1 and have not had a problem with it.

Lucky Jim
July 8, 2003, 05:13 PM
I already have the garlic and crucifix and am carrying silver bullets in lieu of the wooden stake. I do thank you for all the info. I bought this stuff many years ago because it was cheap and looked good. I remember the guy that sold it to me at a gun show telling me it was non-corrosive, boxer primed, brass case and copper bullet surplus ammo. I had never opened any of it until just lately mainly because I had read a post somewhere about the copper washed steel bullets. The post did not say anything about this stuff being either good or bad. I had fired some of it with no probem and it was reasonably accurate. Since I had never heard of a copper washed steel bullet the question was asked here about it, since I knew absolutely nothing about the ammo. I had only guessed that since it was manufactured for use by some military outfit that it could not be all that bad. It is not reloadable though, or easily anyways. The bullet is actually pretty soft as I can dent it with pliers pretty easily. Since I have quite a bit of it I will just shoot the heck out of it. I just thought I might have some stuff that everyone, except me, had been warned not to shoot. Now I know and have no worries about it. Thanks again, and have a great shooting summer.

July 8, 2003, 06:59 PM
I have a couple of thousand rounds of the Portuguese ammo that I shoot through my M1A.

However, the Portuguese is Berdan Primed not Boxer. You might want to try going to They have threads and FAQ that will help you determine who actualy made the ammo from the head stamp and the box printing. I don't know THR well enough to know if they also have this same info.

I have some Radway Green, from the UK, also in cardboard boxes. Tomorrow I expect to have 800 rounds of Aussie surplus, in bandoliers, on stripper clips.

If you have any empty shell cases look and see if there are one or two holes. If there are two holes it is Berdan Primed.


July 9, 2003, 10:38 AM
Port is berdan primed.

July 10, 2003, 02:10 PM
Terrible stuff. Send it to me and I will dispose of it properly. :D

July 10, 2003, 02:22 PM
It might be South African surplus .308. Also came in 200-rd battlepacks for a while.

Mine are marked 83-12 on brass (date of manufacture).

Circle with cross should be NATO designation.

July 10, 2003, 02:24 PM
The headstamp of the circle with the cross on it denotes that it is NATO spec.

July 10, 2003, 06:13 PM
I know my AR10 loves the stuff, and it is fairly accurate for mil surp ammo.

Malone LaVeigh
July 11, 2003, 01:22 AM
Is any milsurp Boxer primed?

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