How Safe is Old Ammo To Shoot


December 2, 2008, 04:08 PM
I have 5 boxes of paper wrapped 12 ga. & some 20 year old 16 ga. The paper is corroding on the 12's er Brass. Its all American ammo. How do you tell if something is safe to shoot? I have 6 boxes of 40 year old 22 bullets that are starting to turn green as well. Thanks!:confused:

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December 2, 2008, 04:15 PM

Claude Clay
December 2, 2008, 04:19 PM
been shooting without your ears?:uhoh:;)

22lr is probably ok--wipe it before shooting it and toss any rough feeling cases. the shotgun stuff sounds not good.

December 2, 2008, 04:49 PM
Are you saying it's paper hull shotgun loads? That's antique stuff and collectable.

If you mean it's "wrapped in paper" -- wipe it down and shoot it. It can only "fizzle."

Nothing is going to mysteriously blow up.

December 2, 2008, 04:56 PM
A little more info on the shotgun ammo would help.

For instance, if it is very old, pre-WWII era, it may well have corrosive primers!

There should be enough info on the boxes to determine if it is or not, but without more info, it's hard to say.


December 2, 2008, 05:16 PM
Some of the old paper shells and boxes are collectable, you may want to see if there is any interest locally. Might sell what you have and buy new. Might see if a local gunshop would trade for new. Some of the shops I've been in through the years use old stuff for displays.

December 2, 2008, 06:43 PM
I depends on how the ammo was stored. If it was sealed with desiccant to absorb the moisture, it should be ok. However, if the ammo was left in a moist environment for long periods, it could develop high levels of acidity that could affect the gun you shoot it from.

December 2, 2008, 07:16 PM
Storage is key. I've got surplus 7.62x54R from the 70s..all of it goes bang. I've shot 40's era 8mm Mauser and all of it fired.

One exception though. I found some old 16 ga shells sitting in a cabinet on the porch a couple years ago. Porch is covered, but is still vulnerable to heat, cold and humidity. Plastic was faded and brass was a bit corroded. I fired a couple and all went off. Needless to say...I shot all of it.

December 2, 2008, 10:09 PM

I have burned up a few bandoleers of Belgian made (F.N.) .303" Mk.VII made in 1950, every round fired just fine, actually it was some of the best surplus .303" Mk. VII cartridges I have fired. Not one missfire or hangfire in the whole lot (150 rounds).

I have (attempted to) fired surplus .303" Mk.VII made in Pakistan in the late 1960's. Of the few boxes I fired, it was like firing a matchlock musket from the English Civil War in the 1600's...LOL. I could hear the stricker hit the primer, click...boom! Most of it "fired" (at least technicaly "fired"), but not like it should have. But there was no damage to me or my rifle if that means anything.

A few weeks back I bought a lot of loose .38 S&W Cartridges for $5 for 35 or so. Most were nickle cased WW marked rounds that fired perfect from my Webley mk. IV. There were around ten rounds of brass Peters marked round that every one was a dud. I pulled the bullets and reloaded them. So it was sort of hit and miss.
Hope that helped.

December 2, 2008, 10:23 PM
If it's stored high and dry, your good to go. I have ammo from the early 70's that I still shoot with no problems.

December 2, 2008, 10:32 PM
Sounds like it's something you could sell on ebay good money.

Why shoot it?

December 3, 2008, 06:59 AM
if the brass is seriously corroded, or the paper is swelled enough that it is dificult to chamber, chuck it. other than that, shoot it. WEAR EYE PROTECTION though. if a case does split, you do not want the hot gasses coming back a hurting your eyes. it will not "blow up", but if a case splits upon fireing, it may make you cleaning a little more of a task. if you get a lot of case splitting, i would just chuck the ammo. it is not worth all that hassle if most of it is bad. as for disposal, most law enforcement agencies can dispose of bad ammo for you. call them up and ask. that way, you avoid burrying it and poluting mother earth. r worse, have a dog dig it up and chew on it.

December 3, 2008, 08:41 AM
Greatly depends upon the exact condition, as other posters pinted out.

I have shot some WWII-vintage .45ACP ammo in my 1911's...every round went Bang! as expected, same as some WWII-vintage M2Ball .30-06....Bang! every time.

I found some very old (late 1960's) vintage .22LR ammo whne cleaning out my late father-in-laws 'Ammo Locker'. Based on the lot code number, Federal Cartridge advised me NOT to shoot it. It was plain lead solid point stuff. Lead & brass looked OK, but I just put it away.

December 3, 2008, 09:49 AM
Wipe the 22 shells clean. If they chamber without trouble, then shoot them.

The paper shotgun shells are another matter. If the paper has deteriorated, then the paper might seperate from the brass when shot.

December 3, 2008, 09:40 PM
Sounds like it's something you could sell on ebay good money.
Why shoot it?

What's the point of keeping it? As for ebay, whatever I could get would not out do the pleasure of shooting ammo that is 35 plus years old.....:rolleyes:

December 3, 2008, 10:26 PM

My father took some old 12 Gauge ammo to the Trap shoot that was maybe 25 years old. A couple of the rounds had delayed fires. We would hear the firing pin hit then about a second later it would fire. My Dad stopped after the 2nd or 3rd time. (My memory is a little fuzzy on the details) It was suggested that he stop and throw the remaining rounds into the river. He did.

So if you decide to use them, make sure you wait awhile before ejecting the round if one does not go off.

Be Safe.

December 3, 2008, 10:29 PM
I have two boxes of .303" Mk.VII Cartridges, one was made in England, the other is Canadian made, both are dated 1944. Both boxes are complete, so I intend to hang onto those as a collectable. Also have a WWII Japanese cartridge (7.7mm without rim) my Dad snagged off a shot down Zero on Guam during the War. I don't intend (or have the means to) fire that round ever.

Now I bought some surplus .303" Mk.VII Cartridges at a gunshow for cheap. They are mostly dated 1945 and some are early 1950's. I dug through them and kept some of the same make/year for a couple complete 5 round chargers. The rest I plan to burn up next time at the range.

December 22, 2008, 05:04 PM
Ive shot many of the old paper hulled shotgun shells. My father had reloaded them almost 30 years before we found them in the back of an old filing cabinet in the basement. All of them went off just fine and for 30yr old handloads they shot better than most of todays factory offerings.

Those paper shells were wax coated to keep out moisture but the wax would come off with repeated reloading. If they have not split or swelled and still have a wax coating they should be fine. Just to be sure grab one with one hand on the brass and one hand on the paper and pull gently. if it comes apart chances are that they will do the same on firing possibly leaving the hull inside your barrel to obstruct the next shot.

Boba Fett
December 22, 2008, 05:27 PM
sell on ebay good money

I'm pretty sure you cannot sell ammunition on eBay. or other such firearm and ammo auction sites would be your best bet.

December 22, 2008, 05:38 PM
One other thing to watch out for with old shotgun shells: squib load.

Many years I fired some 12 gauge shells that had gotten wet. One of them had a funny sound and little kick, so I stopped and looked down the barrel. The wad and some unburned powder were stuck and needed to be pounded out with a rod.

If you fire another round with the barrel obstructed as a result of a squib load, the gun could indeed blow up. I've seen photos of shotgun barrels peeled back like a banana, just like on a Bugs Bunny cartoon.:what:

December 22, 2008, 08:26 PM
Oldest ammo I ever shot was some old Mauser ammo from the 1920's. About 25% of it shot. I remember one that went *click* *crickets* s s s ssssSSSSSS *BOOM*
Took maybe 10 seconds to go off, but it seemed an eternity.

In retrospect, I should have kept a few of those, but I didn't. I don't plan to shoot these:

December 22, 2008, 09:17 PM
I have some Mauser ammo from the late 1930's....still shoots fine.

Boba Fett
December 22, 2008, 09:46 PM
I stopped and looked down the barrel.


Jeff F
December 22, 2008, 09:55 PM
I am currently working on a case of RG .303 British dated 1944. So far it has all fired just fine. Corrosive and cordite loaded but stored well.

December 22, 2008, 10:10 PM
I have some Mauser ammo from the late 1930's....still shoots fine.

+1 for that. The oldest ammo I've shot is Turkish suplus 8mm that was dated 1937.

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