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50 year old mil surp ammo- How much life does it really have left?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by .455_Hunter, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Well-Known Member


    I stopped by the local "military oriented" gun shop and looked at 7.62x54mmR Com-Block ammo. They had several pallets of Bulgarian sealed tins from 1955, some Albanian from 1985, and new production Wolf Gold. As I was looking it over, a realization came to my mind. Though the Bulgarian is very cheap ($1.99/10- paper packages, very clean) compared to the new Wolf ($12.99/20- boxed), it is at least 50 years old and corrosive. Many times I hear about folks firing WWII surplus (only 10 years older) and getting numerous hang fires or duds. It seems to me that this stuff is approaching the end of it useful life, suitable only as fun range plinker ammo (which is a perfect use for it, of course). If you wanted to buy a large amount of ammo to store for serious possible future use (SHTF, end of legal gun/ammo sales, surprise gift to great-grandson, etc.), 10-75+ years down the road, would you really want ammo that was already past the half century mark in age? I think you would be better to spend your money to get a smaller amount of new or newer production stuff and squirrel it away instead. Am I totally wrong on this? Please comment.



    Note: As a compromise, I did clean him out of his last 1985 Albanian (160 rounds @$3.99/20). Seems like good stuff :)
  2. General Geoff

    General Geoff Well-Known Member

    The corrosive milsurp will probably outlast you for its useful "go-bang" life, as long as it's kept clean and dry.
  3. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Well-Known Member

    I have some 1941 Frankfurt arsenal 30-06 (neat looking nickel jacketed stuff) ammo in boxes that is now going bad. A couple were hang fires and one darn near blew the bolt out of my 30-06 Columbian Mauser.

    I pulled the bullets out of about 10 of them and discovered the powder is now sticking together in clumps...Plus the powder had a bad smell to it... So now they are collector items or I can try pulling and reloading them,, which is a pain since the bullets have sealant around them..

    The sealed giant sardine cans the com-block used seem to last a long time, as long as the seal holds out...
  4. trueblue1776

    trueblue1776 Well-Known Member

    I bought a few tins of Bulgarian heavy ball when they were still common, I had 100% success with them. Geoff is correct, store it right and it will live longer than you.
  5. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

    Storage is the key. If it is good now and you store it right, it will stay good. The problem with milsurp ammo is that you don't know how it was stored before you bought it. In some instances, improper storage might be the reason it was surplussed in the first place. What I do is buy two containers and pray it's from the same lot. I use one for shooting and, if it's good, store the other one. If it's bad...well, more plinking ammo!

  6. cslinger

    cslinger Well-Known Member

    I have shot 100 year old ammo without so much as a hangfire. Ammo life is more or less indefinite if stored properly. Even stuff that wasn't likely stored well still tends to shoot, albeit with a few hangfires or duds.

    As a rule ammo will outlast you when stored cool and dry.
  7. RNB65

    RNB65 Well-Known Member

    I recently bought 5,000 rounds of 1955 manufacture Bulgarian heavy ball from AIM surplus. Awesome ammo. Kicks like a mule, but it shoots nice groups out of my 91/30. Every cartridge looks like it was made yesterday. Just remember that it's highly corrosive and your gun will need prompt cleaning after shooting to prevent the bore from rusting and pitting.
  8. Andrewsky

    Andrewsky Well-Known Member

    What's the best way to store ammo? Is it okay to leave it in its original commerical box?
  9. General Geoff

    General Geoff Well-Known Member

    Get a bunch of milsurp ammo cans (or failing that, "dry storage" plastic ammo cans like the ones Cabelas uses, but make sure to add a rubber o-ring around the rim of the lid), load em to the brim with cartridges (commercial box optional), and put in a couple of active carbon/silicon gel packets to suck out all the moisture in the cans.

    You could leave those cans in your basement for decades without worry, unless your basement flooded.
  10. 6mmintl

    6mmintl Member

    Was that Bulgarian heavy or light ball? do they sell in bulk?

    Id be interested in buying some.

    name/# of shop
  11. General Geoff

    General Geoff Well-Known Member

    They's all out now. :(
  12. SigfanUSAF

    SigfanUSAF Well-Known Member

    I've been shooting some .303 of 1940s vintage lately, and other than a few (read most) hangfires, it always goes "bang". Kinda gives you a "flintlock" feel with the old 1917 BSA no 1 mk III*. I have been shooting some 1943 vintage AP '06 ammo I took in trade about 10 years ago, and I have had maybe 2 or 3 FTFs out of 400 or so rounds. I'll plus one with the quality of storage of the ammo for the majority of its life is the major determining factor.
  13. Monkeybear

    Monkeybear Well-Known Member

    1.99 per 10
    300/10 = 30
    30 x 1.99 = 59.70

    Now just add tax.

    J&G has some in 300 round tins for 47.85. Shipping to Texas brought it to around $62 per 300. Cost about the same.
  14. Spiggy

    Spiggy Well-Known Member

    That the old smelly stuff with the cordite and paper wadding?
  15. JWarren

    JWarren Well-Known Member

    You really just need to consider your storage needs for the next 5 years. According to the Mayan Calendar Prophecies, the world comes to an end December 21, 2012.

    Kinda throws a monkey wrench in one's 5 year plan. :)

    -- John

    -- (no, I really don't believe the world will end with the Mayan Calendar.)
  16. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    The communist bloc stuff seems to have been stored pretty well. Maybe it has something to do with those countries being generally cool and dry. I've never had any trouble with any 7.62x54R and I think I've tried a can of everything out there, a lot of it from the 50's (I have over 10,000 rounds of various makes stashed away).

    The communist 8mm seems to be pretty good too.

    I suspect these were surplussed because they don't need it anymore, not because it had anything wrong with it.

    The .303 stuff from Pakistan and India doesn't appear to have been stored as well.
  17. eliphalet

    eliphalet Well-Known Member

    I have some Korean war era ammo that shoots fine, some very old 38 rimfire in copper cases that looks fine, but I do have some very old ammo I bought at a yard sale many years ago that is showing green corroding completely through the case in a few places. I would never shoot any of it and only bought it because of the very old obsolete calibers which to me are fun to have. What I am saying here about shooting older ammo is just be careful and if things look OK they probably are. that has been my experience.
  18. dumdum303

    dumdum303 Well-Known Member

    I have some 1920's Turkish 8mm that shoots fine. Also some 1940's Australian .303 which is nice. Had some Chinese 7.62x54r from 1953. Some hangfires, some duds. I should move the ammo into the house. About 104 in the shade for a couple of days now. No telling how hot that garage is.
  19. The Annoyed Man

    The Annoyed Man Well-Known Member

    I don't bother buying milsurp ammo any more, but some years ago I played around with .308 milsurp ball ammo of British, Brazilian, and Chinese origin just for plinking with out in the desert. These were being fired in a Ruger M77 MkII. I experienced hang fires with all three, with the British stuff being the best, and the Brazilian stuff the worst, failing to fire about 1/2 the time. With the Chinese stuff, I actually experienced a primer blowout. And with all three, I often experienced sticky extraction. The rifle has a stainless action and barrel, but I always cleaned it religiously after shooting this kind of stuff. Finally, I decided it was a bigger pain in the patoot than it was worth, and I started buying American Eagle brand .308 - which at the time could be found for $9.95/box - for plinking.

    I suppose that if I owned some old battle rifles, I might still go ahead and purchase the milsurp, particularly if the rifle is chambered in 7.62 NATO, as I have often heard that one should not feed commercial .308 ammo to a 7.62 NATO chamber because of head spacing issues.

    Maybe some day I'll join the 2x4 club and buy a Mosin-Nagant if I discover the need to introduce an aggravator/explosive device into my life, but for now it's a non issue for me.

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