Ammunition Stability


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Phaethon
October 16, 2010, 06:33 PM
I have a couple of milsurp rifles sitting around, and a bunch of milsurp ammunition to go with it. Sometimes when I handle the ammunition I get nervous, and once I accidentally dropped a few rounds on the floor and froze out of fear that they were going to explode.

Perhaps my fears are unfounded, but when dealing with ammunition that was manufactured back in the 50's and 60's in communist controlled countries, how safe is this ammunition to handle casually? Would anyone dare put it in their pockets, for instance, or stack a few rounds on their night-table next to their bed? Is there only risk of an explosion if the primer itself is struck very hard?

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Mac's Precision
October 16, 2010, 06:38 PM
Ammo is FAR more stable than you are suggesting.

You can repeatedly throw loaded cartridges on the floor with out fear of ignition. I can't tell you the countless times loaded cartridges have been left in my pants pockets...ended up going through the washing machine...and done a full cycle in the dryer. They come out nice and clean! I have out of curiosity loaded them up....they fire just fine. Ammo is quite safe. The primer must be hit a good solid blow on center such that it will hit the anvil in the primer. I occasionally get guns in the shop with light primer strikes that have a legitimate dent in the primer and it fails to ignite. It needs a good smart strike to an adequate depth to light it.

Cheers
Mac.

Jorg Nysgerrig
October 16, 2010, 06:41 PM
You might want to investigate how the various compounds in ammunition work and see if that puts your mind at ease. Surplus ammo isn't exactly the same as sweating dynamite.

Average Joe
October 16, 2010, 06:45 PM
I think you are being paranoid. Ammo is not that volatile.

Freedom_fighter_in_IL
October 16, 2010, 07:01 PM
Not to mention that Milsurp ammo has VERY hard primers.

matrem
October 16, 2010, 07:21 PM
You might want to investigate how the various compounds in ammunition work and see if that puts your mind at ease

This.

They DON'T go boom, until they're supposed to!

Jim Watson
October 16, 2010, 07:33 PM
I don't keep ammunition on my bedside table.
Not because I fear it going off by itself but because when I knocked it off, it would be unpleasant to walk on.
In my pocket? Sure.

Coolbreeze8804
October 16, 2010, 07:57 PM
Hmmm.... I'll probably get flamed for this, but. I've ben reloading for around 40 years now, and when I'm done with a batch I heave the whole batch into the vibrating case tumbler and let them run overnight so I have nice shiney stuff to box up the next day with no case lube on it. I have never had a round detonate.

As a child my cousin and I would shoot with bb guns at 30-30 shells and every once in a while we'd get one good enough for it to go off. They kinda go pop and then burn up the powder. Lots of smoke, but not much flame or noise.

I wouldn't be worried about your old ammo at all if it was me. It's really durable stuff.

Patrice
October 16, 2010, 08:03 PM
Hhmmm...well, there has been a bullet or two that's gone off in the washer. [Oddly enough, if they make it through the washer, we've never had one go off in the dryer.]

I hope I'm not contributing to the initial poster's fears??? Just thought I'd chime in with my 2-cents worth.:rolleyes:

S000 far bullets in washer---possibly not good....dryer---so far so good...vacuuming under the edge of the bed---no negligent discharges yet.--Patrice:)

Freedom_fighter_in_IL
October 16, 2010, 08:09 PM
vacuuming under the edge of the bed

Beater bar on Vacuum + Primer on loaded round = UPSET wife!!

medalguy
October 16, 2010, 08:52 PM
I'm shooting tons of ammo made in the 40's in my milsurp guns, never had a problem. I also reload and also tumble my loaded ammo to clean off any lube left over. Again never had a problem. Don't worry about it, it isn't going to explode sitting anywhere and is very unlikely to detonate if dropped unless you happen to hit the primer on a rock. What are the chances???

Sherri
October 16, 2010, 10:21 PM
I was told that tumbling cartridges could alter the consistency of the powder (i.e. making it finer), which could affect how it burns. Is this not true?

My neighbor gave me a box of her .45 brass and I tossed it into the tumbler without first looking it over. It scared me to death when I discovered 8 unfired rounds as I sorted through the brass several hours later. I hadn't thought through what happens when an unchambered round goes off. I'm less creeped out now, but still. :)

NavyLCDR
October 16, 2010, 10:39 PM
I put my loaded rifle rounds in the tumbler after they are completely done to remove the resizing lube. Never had one go off in the tumbler. Think of the tons of bulk pack ammunition that are trucked all over this country every day.

Sherri
October 19, 2010, 01:49 AM
Hmm.

I think I'll take apart one of those .45's that got tumbled and compare the powder with one that hasn't been tumbled.

Not arguing. Just curious.

MinnMooney
October 19, 2010, 01:56 AM
Ammo is very stable and difficult to "accidently" have explode. I've seen many hunters unload many, many rifles & shotguns by ejecting all of the rounds onto the floor. I don't think that's a great practice for many reasons but I've never seen one explode.

MinnMooney
October 19, 2010, 01:59 AM
I also reload and also tumble my loaded ammo to clean off any lube left over.

I tumble my primed but not loaded brass to remove the lube. I don't want to take the chance on having the bullets pushed into the neck and change the COAL.

NavyLCDR
October 19, 2010, 02:10 AM
I tumble my primed but not loaded brass to remove the lube. I don't want to take the chance on having the bullets pushed into the neck and change the COAL.

I tried that, but I ended up with media in the flash holes and that's a bear to get out with the primer already there. I've never had a problem with bullet setback.

Sherri
October 29, 2010, 01:15 AM
On the issue of setback and COAL...

I attended a defensive handgun training course where we went through a lot of ammunition over two days. I dumped multiple boxes of 50 into my pocket for magazine loading on the range.

When I got home, I unloaded the unfired cartridges from my magazines, and found one that was shorter than the others. By a lot, enough to be noticed even by my novice eye. That gave me a good case of the creeps. I think I'll make a habit of looking over boxes of ammo before I dump them in my pocket.

ljnowell
October 29, 2010, 01:38 AM
If that worries you, you should see what ammo goes through in an autoloading rifle or pistol!

Deus Machina
October 29, 2010, 03:49 AM
If it helps at all, if you ever do manage to get ammunition to go off outside the gun at all, it's not at all likely to hurt you.

The bullet itself is the heaviest part, which means the casing goes flying away.
Without resistance against the other side, if doesn't get any velocity, and the relatively lightweight casing loses energy fast. The worst that would happen would likely be a nice little ring-shaped cut if the case mouth got bare skin.

Ammo is so hard to set off accidentally (ever see how the military treats full cans in a truck?) that you'll never set one off by dropping it unless your floor is covered in upright nails to catch the primer.

revolversrbetter
October 29, 2010, 04:34 AM
As a child my cousin and I would shoot with bb guns at 30-30 shells and every once in a while we'd get one good enough for it to go off.

:p That is the funniest thing I've seen in a looooong time.


Although, now, ahem, if I caught my son doing that... :eek:

DPris
October 29, 2010, 01:46 PM
Sherri,
The biggest argument against tumbling loaded rounds is not detonation, it's powder.
Two issues attach, one is that extended tumbling CAN alter individual grain shapes, and CAN remove any coatings on individual grains.
Both of which CAN alter burn rates & characteristics.
Denis

gunzee
October 29, 2010, 02:59 PM
The bullet may not always be the heaviest, it depends. What I've seen in fires is the case splits, and the bullet is still in the neck of the case, or it's popped out a few inches away. Brass frags may fly, if you are too close, you could get gas burns. If a lot of ammo was confined in a small area, and set afire, the room could become a "container", and thus a bomb of sorts.

ljnowell
October 29, 2010, 03:01 PM
Sherri,
The biggest argument against tumbling loaded rounds is not detonation, it's powder.
Two issues attach, one is that extended tumbling CAN alter individual grain shapes, and CAN remove any coatings on individual grains.
Both of which CAN alter burn rates & characteristics.
Denis

I have to say that I disagree. If you search on this site you will find a test done by a few members of the reloading forum. They loaded test rounds and tumbled them for multiple days straight. Then tore some down for inspection and chronographed the others. There is no danger in tumbling loaded rounds. Manufacturers do it also.

Sherri
October 31, 2010, 11:18 PM
At the range we disassembled one of the tumbled .45s and compared its powder to that of a non-abused round, looking for consistency of the grains. They were indistinguishable. My friend had never seen powder burn, so I carefully poured the powder out on paper to set a light to it, but a breeze turned it into fertilizer. Oh, well.

After thinking things through, I'm not worried about unchambered ammunition going off, unless it's in my hand.

revolversrbetter-

Ahem, aren't we all fortunate to have survived our youth? :)

WardenWolf
October 31, 2010, 11:36 PM
There's far more risk of old ammo NOT going boom than going boom in any harmful manner, and zero chance of it going boom just through casual handling. Here's the deal: a bullet needs a gun barrel to concentrate the pressure of the explosion in order to accelerate. No pressure, no acceleration. This is why ammunition isn't even considered a hazard by firefighters in a fire. Even if it gets hot enough to cook off, the bullet just pops out of the casing and falls. Just about nothing short of a .50 BMG poses any kind of risk whatsoever. Basically, it's not going to go boom, and even if it did, it wouldn't really hurt you.

DPris
October 31, 2010, 11:41 PM
I said tumbling loaded rounds CAN alter burning characteristics, and that depends on powder types and the length of time exposed to tumbling.
Tumbling CAN round off grain corners & remove coatings, either of which CAN change the way those grains burn.
It usually isn't much of a difference, and if you want to tumble yours, have at it.

Which makers tumble live rounds?

Denis

ljnowell
November 1, 2010, 02:02 AM
I said tumbling loaded rounds CAN alter burning characteristics, and that depends on powder types and the length of time exposed to tumbling.
Tumbling CAN round off grain corners & remove coatings, either of which CAN change the way those grains burn.
It usually isn't much of a difference, and if you want to tumble yours, have at it.

Which makers tumble live rounds?

Denis

Nearly all of them. Winchester certainly does. If you look around on the net you can find multiple citations as such.

Tim the student
November 1, 2010, 10:25 AM
I can tell you firsthand that the ammo that the military uses in Iraq gets beat and tossed around with no ill effects.

It gets bounced around in trucks, gets IED'd sometimes, gets tossed onto the ground sometimes, and falls out of planes and helicopters - and its all ok to shoot. It certainly gets treated rougher than I treat my ammo now, and I think its a safe bet that it gets treated far rougher than you treat yours as well.

woodsoup
November 1, 2010, 01:41 PM
Sherri,
The biggest argument against tumbling loaded rounds is not detonation, it's powder.
Two issues attach, one is that extended tumbling CAN alter individual grain shapes, and CAN remove any coatings on individual grains.
Both of which CAN alter burn rates & characteristics.
Denis
Sorry but that has been debunked numerous times. Think of what a round goes through before you load and fire it. The factory runs loaded rounds through orientation and packaging equipment, An un-sprung forklift bounces it into the warehouse and plops it on top of the last pallet full. Then they haul it out and load it into a shipping conveyance, either rail or truck. It bounces along until it gets to the distributor where it is again moved around off the truck/rail car into the warehouse on yet another unsprung forklift. then the pallets are broken down and etc etc etc.

Running them thru your feeble vibratory bowl or tumbler won't hurt it one bit.

NavyLCDR
November 1, 2010, 08:10 PM
And that's just commercial ammo. Imagine what military ammo goes through!

DPris
November 2, 2010, 01:15 PM
Regular bouncing & jouncing is not the same as tumbling or vibrating for an hour or two.
You can remove the graphite coating & alter grain shapes in doing so.
I didn't say powders are fragile or that they can't take normal handling, just that tumbling or vibrating CAN alter their structure & burn rate.

I'll have to check into the factory stuff, I've never seen indications that factory product is tumbled after assembly.

Denis

CZguy
November 2, 2010, 02:11 PM
I must be the only one who wipes ammo down with a rag after I load it. :D

ljnowell
November 2, 2010, 02:20 PM
Regular bouncing & jouncing is not the same as tumbling or vibrating for an hour or two.
You can remove the graphite coating & alter grain shapes in doing so.
I didn't say powders are fragile or that they can't take normal handling, just that tumbling or vibrating CAN alter their structure & burn rate.


http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=530645&highlight=tumbling+live+rounds
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=498890

NavyLCDR
November 2, 2010, 02:35 PM
So, we have empirical data that tumbling does no harm to the powder. Any evidence...any at all.... that it does?

ljnowell
November 2, 2010, 03:15 PM
Any evidence...any at all.... that it does?

Not that I have seen. Its a lot like that "dont use reloads for SD or else the prosecutor will hang you" thing that you hear a lot of. No evidence for that either.

NavyLCDR
November 2, 2010, 03:18 PM
Let's not forgot you will get shot first for open carrying. We should have a subforum of mythbusters, but that would probably get us in trouble for using the name.

MinnMooney
November 2, 2010, 03:23 PM
Hunters carry loose rounds in their pockets all of the time and I have NEVER heard a story of an accidental explosion.

CZguy
November 3, 2010, 12:58 AM
Hunters carry loose rounds in their pockets all of the time and I have NEVER heard a story of an accidental explosion.


I had a .22 short explode in my pocket when I was a kid. I had a pocket knife, some change and several loose .22s, in my pocket when it happened. I was not injured at all but it did startle me.

I have never carried loose ammo since then. ;)

DPris
November 3, 2010, 03:17 AM
So far, one company does tumble (2-4 minutes, which is not the time frame I'd be concerned about), one does not.
Hodgdon says there should be no problem in tumbling.
Waiting for more responses.

Tried to find the source of my ancient memory, but I wasn't able to in my reference materials. Whatever it was, I viewed it as credible enough to avoid vibrating live ammo.

And, in the meantime, what I'm refering to is not the sporadic jouncing that ammunition takes in travel & use, or five minutes in a tumbler, but longer periods in a vibrator.
Vibrators & tumblers create different levels of jostling in the powder granules.

I could be wrong, have been before, but I'll keep on just ragging assembled rounds in the Bullet Mine. :)

Denis

RimfireChris
November 3, 2010, 12:11 PM
@ Sherri-I'm having problems with the link, but over on you tube, a fellow by the name of Cutlery Lover had a similar occurence to yours. He had a bunch of bullets stored in a plastic container, he dumped them out to find the bullets pushed in on several, probably the bottom ones I'd guess.

Sherri
November 5, 2010, 01:33 AM
RimfireChris--I don't believe that the bullet in that round was pushed back by dumping the box of 50 into my pocket. It was short in the box, and my bad for not looking the box over before dumping it into my pocket. I'm lucky I didn't fire that round and discovered it when unloading my magazines. I will examine every box of ammo beforehand from here forward.

Jeez, if I thought the bullets moved around like that, I'd need to press each and every round against the bench before firing it, no?

Just saying...

ljnowell
November 5, 2010, 02:29 AM
And, in the meantime, what I'm refering to is not the sporadic jouncing that ammunition takes in travel & use, or five minutes in a tumbler, but longer periods in a vibrator.
Vibrators & tumblers create different levels of jostling in the powder granules.



Did you read all the way through the threads that I posted above? Some of those rounds were tumbled for DAYS straight.

Shadow 7D
November 5, 2010, 06:02 AM
Um, anyone who believes DPris has never been in the military, hell ridden in a Hummer, cause I'd challenge a lyman turbo to an 8 hour convoy over secondary roads in Iraq, and put my money on the convoy, some of those roads are more potholes with some asphalt than asphalt with some potholes.

Not that 30 yearold humvees are known for their quality suspension, lets just say, what works great over very uneven ground at 10mph, ain't know for a nice ride at 70 even on even ground, an our mechanics were advanced, they at least made sure the tire didn't fall off the balancer (literally) before they mounted a NEW tire. And this is 7 days a week, 2 weeks running, then 5 days off (3 with duties, so really only 2 free) for a year plus, and yes it still went bang. Not saying the powder is like new, but it still shot the same.

DPris
November 5, 2010, 01:33 PM
Guys,
Neither a tumbler nor a Hummer produces the same type of agitation that a prolongued spell in a vibrator creates.
30 minutes in a vibrator has much more effect on the powder granules & coatings such as graphite than bouncing in a HumVee for a month, regardless of road conditions.
You're making it sound like I'm claiming ammunition is fragile. I'm not & it's not. We all know it can & does get bounced around.

Anyway, two more returns- one other ammomaker says no, the other says it's a secret. :)
So far, only one major maker says they tumble, and that's just very briefly.

Do it or don't, as I said I recall warnings about the issue from a credible source years ago, just can't recall where it came from.
One reason it may have stuck in my mind is that I've never used a tumbler, I started out with an old Vibra-Tec, one of the early vibrators & I've used different brands as each one wore out ever since. So, any commentary on using vibrators would tend to stick.

Hodgdon advises "caution", and suggests not filling the vibrator or tumbler full, a small amount of media & a small number of loaded rounds is best.
Denis

ljnowell
November 5, 2010, 01:42 PM
30 minutes in a vibrator has much more effect on the powder granules & coatings such as graphite than bouncing in a HumVee for a month, regardless of road conditions.


Did you read the threads linked above? MULTIPLE DAYS in the tumbler.

Ben86
November 5, 2010, 01:48 PM
Is there only risk of an explosion if the primer itself is struck very hard?

That's it, well unless you put it in a fire of course. The gun powder in the case is not nitroglycerin, it takes a sharp, hard blow to the center of the primer to ignite (rim of the primer for rimfire of course).

What worries me when I drop a cartridge is messing up the bullet seating. An improperly seated bullet can be dangerous. But, those things should be in there really tight.

DPris
November 5, 2010, 02:25 PM
LJ,
Yes, I read most of them, including the post about ALL of the major ammomakers doing it. :)
And the post about the bullet merely popping out of a case in the event of a fire detonation, equally not true. :)

Since what I saw was always reference to tumbling, were all of the results from an actual drum tumbler, or are we using tumbling as a generic term that includes both tumbling and vibrating?

Anyway, as I said- if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.
I gave the best info I have & if it's incorrect, then by all means do whatever you wish with your reloads. :)
Denis

ljnowell
November 5, 2010, 02:42 PM
Since what I saw was always reference to tumbling, were all of the results from an actual drum tumbler, or are we using tumbling as a generic term that includes both tumbling and vibrating?


The threads above all reference using a vibratory case cleaner with loaded ammo. They have close up pictures of the powder granules, some with magnification. There is no change. Its a bunk myth.


Do as you want to, but its been covered and disproven, the facts are there for you to plainly see, if you want too.

rcmodel
November 5, 2010, 02:52 PM
Tumbling ammo test:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=6075289&postcount=18

I have tumbled everything I reload for 30 minutes after I finish to get off finger-prints and sizing lube. At first I used a home-made drum tumbler, then later a vibratory polisher.
Been doing it about 30 years with no problems.

Ammo in a fire test:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=3845886&postcount=28

What happens to ammo in a fire depends entirely on the type of ammo, powder burn rate, and rim-fire or centerfire primers.

rc

DPris
November 5, 2010, 04:10 PM
LJ,
OK, as I said, again- if I'm wrong I'm wrong. :)

On the heat detonation issue, the bullet doesn't just pop out of the case.
When expanding gases separate bullet & case the case becomes the projectile.
It can & does (as RC shows) travel some distance with sufficient force to injure.
Some years ago a teenage girl was building a fire with friends in an old rock fire ring up the hill behind the house. They didn't know some jackass had left a live round in it (people do brainless things up there on occasion), she nearly lost an eye when it detonated from brass fragments that hit her.
Denis

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