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Replacing powder in surplus ammo

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by WyoJack, Dec 17, 2006.

  1. WyoJack

    WyoJack Member

    I've had some old West German surplus 7.62x51 NATO ammo for about 8 years. When I got it, the cardboard boxes (100 rds per box) were stained from moisture and the brass was corroded and tarnished. I've fired some with mixed results, bad accuracy, 1 squib round (got lucky and noticed it) and real dirty, lots of residue. Firing out of an M1A.

    I pulled a dozen or so bullets out of the brass today and noticed it had ball powder and the powder had clumped in some of the rounds, (I assume from getting wet). To me, that makes the powder suspect.

    Question is: Can I tumble the ammo to clean, pull the bullets, dump the old powder and replace it with some IMR 4895 and reseat the bullets. I've got a Dillon 550 that should work just fine. The primers (Berdan) look fine so I don't need to replace those. With 7.62 surplus drying up, I'd like to fix these if possible as I've got a lot, (good price initially).

  2. Idano

    Idano Well-Known Member

    Jack if you have already when pulled all the bullet I would also suggest de-priming the brass with a universal decapping die and tumbling them before re-priming. We are only talking about approximately $20 per thousand to replace the primers and then you'll know they are good loads.
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Are they berdan or boxer?
  4. orionengnr

    orionengnr Well-Known Member

    "Are they berdan or boxer?"

    Asked and answered, Your Honor. In post #1.
  5. rocklock

    rocklock Well-Known Member

    Universal decapping dies will not work on Berdan primers. They must be removed from the rear (RCBS makes a good but expensive tool for removing them, and there is a post on Swissrifles.com for making one) or with a hydraulic decapper. Right now, Berdan primers are hard to find. Graf and sons have them sometimes. My experience with corroded and tarnished surplus ammo is that if the powder looks bad, probably some primers are going to be defective, too. You might get lucky and not have to replace the primers, be sure to work up a load starting with a reduced load of powder. I reload Swiss GP11 brass, which is berdan primed, and it is not that hard to do, but I would not want to try to pry out live primers in your situation, and would just change out the powder like you planned. Hope this helps.
  6. TooTaxed

    TooTaxed Well-Known Member

    You've got nothing to lose by pulling the bullets, re-powdering with #4895 (good choice), reseating and crimping the bullets, and shooting. Your squib load shows that the primer fired, but not the powder.
  7. Idano

    Idano Well-Known Member

    Sorry my bad, I overlooked that the primers were Berdan. I agree with your original plan go ahead and load them but like rocklock said expect some to misfire.
  8. TooTaxed

    TooTaxed Well-Known Member

    Just re-read your initial post. NEVER TUMBLE LOADED AMMUNITION!:eek: You will need to clean them manually.
  9. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    Seems like the ammo tumbling topic has been done here at least once. :)

    The bottom line is/was that tumbling might change the burn rate of powder by changing its size/shape and removing the deterent coating, although you'll find people who will argue against even that.

    Wyojack, though, is planning on safely disposing of the powder, making it a non-issue. The only remaining concern is detonating a cartridge in the tumbler, and that apparently has never actually happened. The fact that ammo companies routinely tumble their loaded rounds prior to packaging would seem to bear that out.
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Is the brass really brass? Have you tried running it through a resizer without the decapping pin? You will need to resize the neck in order to fit new bullets.
  11. TooTaxed

    TooTaxed Well-Known Member

    He probably won't have to resize the cases as he hasn't fired them...
  12. snuffy

    snuffy Well-Known Member

    Pulling an already seated bullet relaxes the brass in the neck area. That results in a very low bullet pull, almost a loose bullet. Crimping them might help but the case/neck fit will still be quite loose.

    Yes it has! I'm one that did a test using aliant R-19 in a 300 WSM. I tumbled them for 15 hours, removing 5 at 1 hour, then at three hours, 5, 10 and 15. Also I pulled the bullet out of 1 shell of each group, looked at it under 10X magnification. No difference in granual size or shape and no dust from deterrant coating being removed. Then to the range where a control group was fired,( no tumbling), then each group of 5 shells were fired for group while shooting over a chronograph. No difference!

    As far as the myth about a round being detonated in a tumbler, well stop and think for a minute! What does it take to set off a primer? A firing pin with a LOT of force behind a pointed small diameter pin! While the shell is supported by the chamber. Where in a tumbler do you find that kind of dirrected force?
  13. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Pull a .308" bullet, then see how tight a replacement bullet will seat. The act of seating the bullet expands the brass a notch. Otherwise the fit is not tight enough, esp. when there is no crimp.
  14. Hutch

    Hutch Well-Known Member

    Snuffy, thanks for that update on tumbling loaded ammo. I have (fearfully) tumbled ammo that has run thru my Dillon 650, and am relieved to hear I don't have to wipe down the rounds individually.
  15. WyoJack

    WyoJack Member

    OK guys, here's the skinny. I tumbled 50 rounds last night and pulled the bullets tonight. Out of the 50, 2 had no powder in them! The others had between 42.6 to 43.5 grains of the ball powder. I'm not going to measure any of the remainder, take too much time and I got the answers I was looking for. All the bullets are sealed to the brass with some kind of tarry substance, not on the outside but internal and only visible when you pull the bullet. I refilled with 41.5 gr of IMR4895 and reseated and crimped the bullets. All the bullets seem nice and tight. I repulled 5 of them and the pull weight seemed about the same as the original cartridge. I'll shoot them this weekend and post the results here.

    Thanks to all that responded!

  16. Khornet

    Khornet Well-Known Member


    that black stuff is probably asphalt, which is (was?) often used in military ammo as a sealant. I've seen it in pulled M2 Ball.
  17. cracked butt

    cracked butt Well-Known Member

    Here's what I would do, its just the exact opposite of what you are thinking:

    -Pull the bullets.
    -Weigh the powder charges in each case, get an average of 20 or so cases.
    -use new brass and new primers
    -reload the bullets and powder with the new cases and primers, use the average powder charge (I'd back off a grain)

    You'll probably end up with some fairly accurate ammunition for little cost by using better brass, and eliminating questionable primers which might have been corrosive anyhow. I've done this with Turk 8mm ammo in the past with very good results.
  18. WyoJack

    WyoJack Member

    Results are in

    As promised, here's what transpired at the range (the back yard).

    All the rounds shot beautifully! All I could get was 50 yds. to a target but they all hit within a 5 inch circle with a couple of flyers that were probably my fault.
    After all, it was 20 degrees outside and it's hard to stay steady when your fingers are numb and your breath is fogging up the glasses.

    Recoil was no better or worse than S.A. surplus and they all fed and ejected fine.Overall, I'm happy with the results and am going to change the powder in all the other rounds. Primers looked good also.

    Thanks to all.


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