Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell
Apache Junction, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- As we shooters are finding out the cost of bulk ammo is spiraling out of control.
Every time you go into a gun store, sticker shock happens when you buy some ammo.
There are a couple of reasons for this occurrence. First of all, with the re-election of Obama and the recent horrific Sandy School Shooting there is a fear that he is going to go after us gun owners in one way or another.
Unfortunately, that fear is justified. Another reason that ammo is going up is the demand from both military and civilian usage. People are buying and stockpiling ammo for a rainy day. The law enforcement community is also buying large amounts of this product. I have toured various ammo and bullet factories plus I have talked to various contacts in the industry and they all say that they can’t keep up with the demand even withsome companies running production 24-7-365.
So if you like, to do a lot of shooting what are your options? Some people opt for reloading their own but the supply problems also plague that industry. It is however a good option but we are going to look at the other route. Many of the guns that are currently popular are chambered for military rounds from various countries. One fact about military calibers is that they are commercially successful regardless of their characteristics. For the shopper of these calibers there are some good sources for these loads. One definite upside to buying bulk ammunition is the price. Ammo bought in bulk is about 50% the cost of regular store bought fodder depending on caliber and location and opportunity, (deals go quick when you can find them).
Ok so you are sold where do you get this stuff? One good place to start is at the Gun Shows. Especially the larger ones there is usually at least one distributor of bulk ammo. For the purposes of this article bulk will be at least 500 rounds. There isn’t much sense in buying smaller quantities especially if you want to save money. I see folks buying bulk is such quantities that they bring in a cart to carry it out. Perhaps they get together with some friends and go into large lots which would be a good idea. Another advantage to buying at a gun show is the elimination of shipping charges, which can be steep with all ammo but especially with the large quantities and heavy packages.
In the area I live in there is a company that sells bulk reloads in such calibers as 38 special and 45 Colt.
The old adage that buying reloads at a gun show is risky business in no longer valid. If you deal with a reputable company you will get good ammo at a reasonable price. I have tried a few of their calibers with satisfaction. Naturally, the brass is reloadable so you should pick it up after your shoot.
You may live in an area that doesn’t have a gun show near by so the next best option is buying from various distributors online or get their catalog.
Since shipping cost may be an issue you want to buy the largest quantity as you can. Going in with shooting buddies is a good idea. One good source is Cheaper Then Dirt (www.cheaperthandirt.com ) ,but they can be expensive. You can go to their online catalog and check on prices and availability. If it is out of stock that info will show up on that page. They have a good selection at reasonable prices.
Another good source of bulk ammo is Ventura Ammo. ( www.venturamunitions.com ) They have both Wolf and reloaded ammo including 38 special and 40 S & W besides the regular military stuff. I have dealt with these folks and the experience was good.
Another possible source for surplus ammo is J & G sales. (www.jgsales.com ) A company I ran across that advertises 7.62 X 39 is www.swisslink.com may help out with your ammo purchases.
Another excellent source for bulk ammo is SOG ( www.southernohiogun.com ) They have such calibers as the 7.5 French and 7.62 X 38 for the Russian Nagant. The 40 S & W is also available in bulk quantities.
So when you buy this ammo what should you expect in regards to quality and reliability? That is a legitimate concern, as poor ammo isn’t a bargain at any price. The ammo should feed and eject reliability and go off every time. You also want decent accuracy and safe loads. Keep in mind that this ammo is lower priced so they use less expensive materials, which isn’t a bad thing if done properly.
A lot of the ammo is made overseas again that is ok. A lot of the cases are steel as opposed to brass which cuts the cost. The down side is they are not reloadable which may or may not be important to the consumer. They also have Berdan Primers, which also makes them not suitable for reloading but further cuts the cost of the ammo. They generally have FMJ bullets, which for shooting purposes is fine.
One of the largest manufactures of bulk ammo is Wolf Performance Ammunition. ( www.wolfammo.com ) They do offer brass cases with soft point bullets for those who prefer this type of ammo. Ventura ammo also offers this option in some calibers. That ammo may cost a bit more but is worth it to some consumers. The soft point ammo is good for some types of hunting. I had a batch of Wolf in 7.62 X 54 with a 205 grain softpoint and it shot quite well. I even pulled some of the bullets to use in the 303 British and 7.65 Mauser rounds with good results.
Since there are a lot of military rifles and handguns from WW I and II the question on buying bulk ammunition frequently comes up for these relics. Buying bulk rounds is possible for some but can be tricky.
Keep in mind that WW II ended 67 years ago and the manufacture of ammo for some was discontinued.
If you buy bulk ammo for these arms there are a couple of things to be aware of. Depending on original quality and storage you might have a lot of misfires. Another problem and potentially more dangerous is the hangfire. What happens is when you shoot the round doesn’t go off right away but may go off a few seconds later. If you have a misfire with any ammo keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction for at least 60 seconds before opening action. If you start to open the gun and the round goes off a serious injury may occur.
Some years ago I had some 303 British that did exactly that. About the only thing you can do is pull the bullets, if able and dispose of it. This ammo had the Cordite powder, which made for a good photo so all wasn’t lost.
Another time I bought 500 rounds of 7.5 X 54 French and the ammo looked great. Unfortunately none of it went off so I pulled the bullets and used them for another project. Like the newer bulk ammo World War era can sometimes be found at a gunshows.
A good source to find bulk ammo is the Shotgun News Magazine ( www.shotgunnews.com ), which is available by subscription and on magazine racks. (http://tiny.cc/t7niqw).
They are essentially a militarily orientated publication and they have advertisers of bulk and surplus ammo. I have seen such items as 30-06, 8 X 57 Mauser and 7.65 Mauser ammo advertised. Some of it was made in the 1980’s and 90’s and should be reliable. Occasionally you can find other calibers such as the 7.35 Carcano but it may not go off. Pistol calibers such as the 7.62 X 25 Tokerav can be found with a little research. I have a CZ 52 and found that the bulk works well in it. When looking for some of the less popular calibers some patience is required which will pay off in the end. If the ammo is old and looks bad you might want to give it a pass unless it is really dirt cheap. That way if it doesn’t go off you still have the components. Another thing to keep in mind is most of it has corrosive primers which will require you to thoroughly clean your weapon to avoid rust or other damage.
When buying surplus or bulk ammunition assume that it has a corrosive primer to avoid any problems.
Like any other shopping if you put some time and effort in it you will find what you are looking for at a decent price.
Understanding The Risks
When buying surplus ammo there are some other risks involved. Some years ago I bought some copper washed steel case ammo in 308 made in China. The ammo stuck is every rifle I tried it in. I don’t think that the pressures were excessive but the brass itself was of such poor quality that it just stuck in the chambers. I ended up pulling most of the bullets. By the way, if you pull bullets try seating them a little deeper because many have a hard seal that makes them very difficult to pull. You can hear the seal break when pushing the bullet deeper. There is also a possibility that that seal will increase pressures and make the ammo more inconsistent. You can try and break it prior to shooting but to be honest that is a crap shoot. It may or may not work.
Old ammo that may have been improperly stored, especially in a hot climate may have powder deterioration. In most cases the powder will be stronger which causes a pressure spike in the ammo. That will cause inconsistent and possibly dangerous ammo. If you have sticky extraction or blown primers stop shooting and check out the ammo. One sign of bad powder is a red mist when pouring powder which indicates for sure that that ammo is not safe to shoot. A weird or bad smell is also a good sign of dangerous ammo. No ammo is worth risking your body for, so if in doubt discard it. You can chronograph it, which will give you an average velocity but also will give you the standard deviation, which will let you know how consistent it is.
Another possible hazard is ammo being mislabeled which is especially true if it has been removed from its original packaging. A lot of those calibers look alike but firing the wrong ammo can be extremely dangerous.
A good example is shooting an 8 X 57 round in a 30-06. It will camber but you are pushing a 32 caliber bullet down a 30 caliber barrel plus since the case is shorter it won’t be properly supported. I can guarantee that firing an 8 X 57 in a 30-06 will result in a bad day for you. Don’t trust the seller as they may be ignorant of the proper caliber. If in doubt have it checked out by someone who is knowledgeable in these matters. Ammo can be replaced, fingers can’t.
A situation that I have encountered is with the 30 Tokerav ammo. The problem is that the loadings are very hot, especially the machine gun round. It will fit in a Broomhandle Mauser but would probably damage that gun so it should be avoided for the older gun.
Military calibers can be confusing. For example, there are 3 different 8 X 50 rounds all military. There is the 8 X 50 straight pull, 8 X 50 Siamese Mauser and the 8 X 50 Lebel. They do not interchange so it is important to make sure you have the correct ammo. A real scary thing is I found that a 9 mm Luger round will fully chamber is a 30 caliber Broomhandle. Shooting it would result in total disaster. There are 9 mm Broomhandles that the Germans used in WWI.
Whenever shooting any gun safety glasses and hearing protection should always be used. This is especially important when shooting old guns and ammo. Occasionally you might run into some ammo that is under loaded so I won’t function some semi autos. Usually that is more of an annoyance then a risk but there are exceptions. I would probably pull it rather then putting up with the feeding problem or other possible risks. Under loaded ammo can leave a bullet lodged in the barrel so if you are not sure if the bullet exited stop and check barrel for an obstruction. If you fire a round with one in the barrel, you just ruined a gun not to mention possible injuries. The ammo should produce the same sound and amount of recoil to be consistent.
I don’t want to scare you off in regards to bulk ammo but common sense and some caution is in order in order to be safe and save money. I have shot a lot of bulk ammo in various weapons in my line of work. I study ammo performance in various weapons and situations. I have shot a lot of ammo in anything from 9 mm to 308 and 30-06 and larger calibers.
With such brands as Wolf quality is generally good. Some loads leave some residue though I never had a malfunction because of it. I have chronographed some and consistency and velocity is usually pretty decent though not top notch. Then again you are not paying premium prices either. If I have a large standard deviation or the velocity is way off I will pull the bullets rather then shoot it. Accuracy is more then adequate for most purposes. I have been to our public range quite a few times and have observed that most shooters of the AK and AR platforms seldom shoot over 50 yards.
The same is true with older bolt action rifles. A few do go out to 100 but that isn’t that common.
For what it is designed for performance is good and I would recommend using bulk ammunition whenever available.
About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com
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