How old is too old?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Akula69, Jun 24, 2021.

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  1. Akula69
    • Contributing Member

    Akula69 Contributing Member

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    Its time to revisit the worn discussion which is (probably) plaguing some of us who are giving the 'side eye' to some of our ammunition: How old is too old before we need to pull it down?

    Speaking for myself, I don't have a tremendous amount of what I would consider "old" rounds, I believe most of my stash had been manufactured / loaded within the last 6 - 10 years (and I rotate my stock by date - OCD is a terrible disease) BUT - I do have some which is at least 20 years old, and some .22LR which may be at least 25-30 years old.

    Doing the search in the forums, I discovered a thread addressing the viability of primers over the years - the general conclusion of the Air Force was 20 years before dudding (if kept in a temperature - controlled space). I have loaded and shot powder that is over 25 years old, so there is that as well.

    We all know storage is key....no extremes of heat or humidity can be good for the little buggers in any caliber, container, or package. And, inspection of the rounds is a given (even if it only happens occasionally) for telltale signs of corrosion or discoloration.

    So, given the assumption of correct storage and inspection without subtle signs of deterioration - how long do you let it go before recycling? And, would your answer change if you had acquired the rounds without knowing their entire history?
     
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  2. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I don’t recall ever shooting any ammo from pre-WWII, but I know I have had relatively large volumes of ammo 40-60 yrs old and have never had any issues.

    So somewhere in there...
     
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  3. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    If I'm worried at all I just pull down one and have a look. If everything is good shot them. If I'm using old components to assemble rang fodder I dont put those in any type of storage.
     
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  4. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    There is no simple answer about gunpowder lifetime other than it is "indeterminate". That is, unknowable. Determining when it goes bad is beyond the predictive tools of this era, and has been that way, since the stuff came out in the 1888's. Human lifetime more or less falls into the same category. Ask your Doctor what year you will catch prostate cancer. That way, you can avoid all those prostate cancer exams till then.

    Gunpowder breaks down, it is breaking down from the day it leaves the factory and to date, the only reliable measure of shelf life is the percentage of stabilizer left in the gunpowder.

    This is a long military document on that:


    Ammunition Surveillance Procedures SB 742-1


    Chapter 13 Propellant and Propelling Charges

    page 13-1

    WARNING

    Nitrocellulose-based propellant can become thermally unstable as the age. The normal aging process of the propellants involves deterioration of the nitrocellulose with an accompanying generation of heat. At some point, the propellant may reach a state where heat is generated faster than it can be dissipated. The accumulation of heat can lead to combustion (autoignition). Chemical stabilizers are added to propellants to slow the aging process. In time, the stabilizer levels will drop to a point where the remaining effective stabilizer (RES) is not sufficient to prevent an accelerating rate of decomposition. When this point is reached, the propellant may autoigniet, with possible catastrophic results to property and life. Monitoring the stability level of each propellant lot is essential for continued safe storage.

    Page 13-5 , Table 13.2 Propellant Stability Codes.

    Stability Category A 0.30 or more Percent Effective Stabilizer

    Acceptable stabilizer loss: safe for continued storage

    C 0.29-0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer

    Significant stabilizer loss. Lot does not represent an immediate hazard, but is approaching a potentially hazardous stability condition. Loss of stabilizer does adversely affect function in an uploaded configuration. Disposition instructions will be furnished by NAR. All stability category “C” assests on the installation must be reported in writing…

    One year after becoming stability category “C” a sample of the bulk propellant lot or the bulk-packed component lot will be retested. If the lot has not deteriorated to category “D”, it will be retested each year until it has been expended, or it has deteriorated to category “D”, at which point it will be demilitarized within 60 days.

    D Less than 0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer

    Unacceptable stabilizer loss. Lots identified as stability category “D” present a potential safety hazard and are unsafe for continued storage as bulk, bulk-packed components , or as separate loading propellant chargers. Bulk propellant, bulk –packed components and separate loading propelling charges will be demilitarized within 60 days after notification of category “D” status.

    I found that the 20% stabilizer criteria is based on a five year safe storage assumption. If there is 20% stabilizer left, then that gives the military enough time to pack the stuff up, ship it to a demilling facility, and not have the gunpowder burst in fire along the way.

    You however don't have gas chromatography equipment, unless you can afford the TNO system mentioned in their sales literature. This is also interesting The delicate matter of lifetime. Last I looked, one of those portable gas chromatography machines was a quarter million bucks. Chump change for some, but not for me.


    This is what the Army said about clock time, and ammunition lifetime


    Army Not Producing Enough Ammunition

    http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2003/May/Pages/Army_Not3866.aspx


    Regardless of what the Army decides to do with its industrial base, the fundamental issue does not change: the Army needs to produce more war reserve ammunition, Naughton said. Time is running out, he said. “Most of the ammunition in the stockpile today was built 20 years ago during the Cold War buildup.” Most rounds are designed to have a shelf life of 20 years. “We are outside the envelope of the shelf life on 40 percent or more of our existing ammunition. The rest is rapidly approaching the end of its shelf life.”

    Ammunition does not “go bad” overnight, after it reaches a certain age, but “once it’s over 20 years old, the reliability rapidly degrades,” said Naughton. Within a few years, it will become increasingly difficult to shoot it. “You can predict that you’ll lose 7-8 percent of the ammo after the 20-year mark.”*

    To replace the obsolete rounds, the Army would have to produce 100,000 tons of war reserve ammunition a year for the next seven years. Past that point, it would need 50,000 tons to 60,000 tons a year to sustain the stockpile. That represents about “half the level of the Cold War buildup,” he said.


    * I think what is meant, 7-8 percent per year after 20 years.

    So what do you do with loaded ammunition? I recommend shooting up self defense ammunition before it it ten years old. Conservative yes, but is your life worth a box of new ammunition? Some don't think so, and will angrily reply in such a way, that you can see their value system. I recommend shooting all ammunition and gunpowder up before it is 20 years old, and I have had kegs of gunpowder go bad around the twenty year mark.

    Old stuff, pull a bullet and look for corrosion inside the case.

    x87GugF.jpg

    Uv5MGSv.jpg

    aez1i91.jpg

    This ammunition, the gunpowder is bad, did not find corrosion inside the case, but all the case necks splits, along with body splits.

    vPmf99m.jpg

    This was surplus powder sold to me, from Pat's at Camp Perry. At the time, I did not know that surplus military powders were junked because they had 20% stabilizer or less. I talked to Pat and he was clueless about powder lifetime. Or he was lying, I just hope he was clueless.

    1GYBWdC.jpg

    If the ammunition you are shooting develops a high number of body splits and case neck cracks, stop shooting it. The best you can do is pull the bullets, the cases are ruined, and so is the gunpowder.

    And the last one, if your old ammunition blows up your weapon, don't shoot it in another. I contend that the reason this guy's 50 caliber blew up, was that he was firing 2007 military surplus ammunition that somehow escaped demilling. Almost killed the guy, and clearly ruined his rifle.



    But if you want certainty, because all humans crave predictability, certainty, and control, you are not going to find it. I do think that is where most of the push back comes from the deniers. They want a predictable, controllable, and certain future. They cannot live in an ambiguous universe. However, the universe always wins in the end. There are two things that are certain, one of them is taxes, and the other

    7JnHCGD.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2021
  5. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    Sounds like all the reason in the world to store most of your supply for easy inspection as components and load what you plan to use in the next year or so.
     
  6. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    This is but one of the reasons I prep my brass and store it in ready to load lots. It is much easier to just make up what you want to shoot for that trip and keep a few rounds loaded ahead for emergencies. I also rotate those made ahead into the range trip and replace with newly reloaded. Good time managment to process brass in the winter months when shooting is at a minimum other than the .22 league shooting at the indoor range.
     
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  7. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    I do the same thing. I have piles of fully processed brass representing many hours of work. I can load for a rang trip in less than an hour using a single stage.
     
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  8. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    Here are some of my older propellants I will use up as they still work OK. I plan on saving the containers to put on my shelf as decorations. 2020-01-26 18.15.05.jpg 2020-01-26 18.23.13.jpg
     
  9. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I try to always have some powder of the same lot that my ammo is loaded with to check. Last year when I did some checking I found 1 powder that started to clump which is a early sign of powder degrading. I shot that ammo up and/or broke it down and replaced the powder with a fresher newer lot. This way I did not waste bullets and primers for no reason. Here lately I prep all the brass and have it ready to load. I try not to load more ammo than I can use in a year or 2. As we all know it easier to sell components than reloads.
     
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  10. WeekendReloader

    WeekendReloader Member

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    I shot bricks of 30yr old 22LR. Also have shotgun shells older than that that go bang when I try.

    I also store my powder and primers as components. I load what I expect to shoot within the next 6 months - 1 year.
     
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  11. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I have some 30-06 from WWII given to me by a friend. Still in the military small boxes. He heard I bought a Garand and gave me some of his surplus ball 'cause he sold his Garand. Last time I shot some, 9 years ago they worked just fine...
     
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  12. GeoDudeFlorida

    GeoDudeFlorida Member

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    I still have about 1000 rounds of 8x56Rmm for the Steyr-Mannlicher. They still go "boom". I suspect they were stored poorly, transported many, many times in questionable conditions and were made for an army which never did care much about supply chains (occupied Austria). Did I mention they still go "boom"?
     
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  13. Kingcreek

    Kingcreek Member

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    A few years ago I acquired a 1917 colt 1911 with 2 bitone mags with 11 rounds of 1914 military issue ball ammo.
    I shot it.
    8 went bang, some more bang than others.
    2 were dead nothing rounds
    1 went pffft and stuck in the barrel just ahead of the chamber.
     
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  14. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    I run by those philosophy.
    Most of my loaded ammo is relatively new. 7.62x38r, 39, and 54r are the only 3 that are older than 10 years.
    Rimfire is usually cycled through within 10 years.
    My primary cartridges are loaded for as needed with 20-1000 in stock depending on usage.
    I had some aa4350 go bad less than 5 years after manufacture date.
    This soured my load in bulk idea.
     
  15. unwashed

    unwashed Member

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    I loaded 20 rounds of 30-06 in 1994 and shot 10 5 years ago and shot 7 a few months ago and all fired like the day I loaded them. The one's I shot a few months ago, I shot through the chrony and velocity and recoil were the same. Saved 3 for posterity.
     
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  16. Thomasss

    Thomasss Member

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    I have some Bulls Eye in a yellow can like that and it shoots fine. I also shot some 1954 Lake City and everything was great. BUT as I explained in another thread, I also had some old H4831 producing an orange vapor whenever I took the cap off. I fertilized my grass with that stuff real fast. The guy I bought it from use to just add powder and never finished up the powder in the bottom of a heavy red metal can. On the other hand I did some pheasant farm shooting with Federal High Power lead high brass 4 and 5's. They all shot fine. Price tag on the label was $2.92. The box printing date was August, 1967.
     
  17. Zendude

    Zendude Member

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    My concern wouldn’t be whether it goes bang. It’s whether it would go ka-boom.
     
  18. kcofohio
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    kcofohio Contributing Member

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    I was given about 40 rds of 9x19 ball amm that had a stamp of 42. I decided against shooting it, as I'm not sure of the origin. I don't think it's worth the risk.
     
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  19. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I just opened this old can of Herco from the 60's last week, $2.32. I routinely shake it to see if it's starting to clump. It felt different so I broke the seal and opened it. I then transferred it into a plastic bottle and labeled it. There was not clumps, dust or fumes coming out, smelled good, so I decided to use it. Still good after all these years. And it was stored in my dad's un-climate controlled shop, which gets into the 110's during the summer and is exposed to high humidity year round. The reason the can show rust on the out side. There was very little rust on the inside, just a couple of small specks.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    As many have noticed, the lifetime of gunpowder is unpredictable, but it does not last forever. So check the stuff. I recommend breaking any seals, and sniffing whenever you think of it. If it smells bad, get rid of it

    gYgK0S0.jpg

    If it looks suspicious, get rid it of

    KYSquJE.jpg

    If it is clumpy, or gooey, get rid of it

    OSW5VUq.jpg

    If it looks like this, get it out of the house, for you are lucky that the old deteriorated gunpowder did not autocombust in the can.


    SONQaMa.jpg


    Gunpowder does not have to be that old, to break down and be a fire hazard. At a certain point in its life, the stabilizer is consumed, the breakdown rate increases, and the break down produces heat. Which is you notice, is the warning in this recall posted in millions of gun magazines.

    zBWTrXO.jpg

    1TwgGSB.jpg

    the oldest these lots could be are 12 years old, as this powder came on the market in 2007.

    JLxypne.jpg
     
  21. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    As this is in the hand loading forum, I’ll point out that his is one reason I don’t load out components, just to have loaded ammunition sitting around for years. Another is that powder I have in stock might be used to load for a firearm/caliber I didn’t even own when purchased. So it’s not only easier to inspect but utilize as well, if it’s not already been loaded.

    Some of the powders I still use are more than 30 years old and work great but have been stored in original containers in climate controlled conditions.
     
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  22. kerreckt

    kerreckt Member

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    I have shot 45acp dated 1918, they all went bang. 30-06 dated 1943 they all went bang. 16ga waxed shells from Montgomery Ward, they worked. 22LR from the 1950's a few duds. I still use powder and primers from the 1980's they all work. I think if stuff is stored properly it has a very long life. That's my experience, anyway.
     
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