By Glen Zediker:
Last time we talked about case lube, and also about getting it gone. This time, let’s talk about storing ammo. Concerns and cautions aren’t necessarily only applicable to those looking to store a lot of ammo for a very long time. Nope. Ammo can “go bad” pretty quickly.
Tough to see good efforts go to waste. Remanufactured ammo has a shelf life, but I can’t say exactly what that will be for everyone. “Cool” and “dry” are our allies, but, here in Mississippi, and in many other similar climates, that’s tough to find without climate-controlled storage.
Moisture, mostly, is the enemy. Propellants can last for years and years and years, if they’re stored air-tight. When a propellant goes bad, it smells bad. Very acrid. Or it gets moist, and then its ruined too. Use it for garden fertilizer (honestly). Primers likewise need to be stored away from contact with outside air.
After time, it’s common for reloads to develop “stiction,” which is a freezing of the bullet in the case neck. Some call it a “cold-weld.” Despite reasons some have provided to describe a near-alchemy-like relationship between brass alloys and copper alloys, it’s more simple than that. All this is, is corrosion.
The chemically-responsible source of the corrosion is from touching the bullets with the fingers. If you’re loading for extended storage it might be wise to avoid epidermal contact with the bullets by wearing latex-examination-type gloves when you’re seating. Get them at a drug store.
A work-around if you encounter a stiction condition is to seat the bullets just a tad deeper. This breaks loose the bond. It’s liable to take a good 0.005-inches additional dialed into the bullet seating die to hear the “pop.” And it will make a pop. This is the “trick” I use to pull down Lake City .308s to break the “seal.” Moving the bullet, therefore, may negate this sticking, and it’s then not likely to reoccur. It would be easy enough to leave bullets in loaded rounds standing tall and then finish the seating to desired length prior to firing them, but the only problem with this tactic (including “popping” the seal) is if there is stiction afoot the resultant increased force to seat may cause change to the case neck/shoulder area, possibly also damage to the bullet. It takes some force.
Stiction is rare in commercially-loaded ammo. Folks who have pulled down thousands of mil-spec bullets from ammo loaded for decades don’t encounter it. Again, it’s from touching the bullets. Factory ammunition, by the way, is frequently assembled with a sealant. Likewise, neither cases nor bullets are normally handled during the process of loading at an ammo factory. It’s automated.
I’ve had this happen, and the results (on this batch) were blown primers. There was that much more resistance to overcome at the moment of bullet release, and less than a millisecond is moment enough to spike pressures. This, indeed, is a problem, and it’s very important for those looking to rely on a stock on hand. Inspection of these pulled bullets and case necks showed a few fingerprint whorls on the bullets and the case neck insides showed bright patches where, evidently, the bullet had been frozen in place and abraded the surface upon removal. Stiction doesn’t happen overnight. The rounds I encountered this in had been loaded, though, for only about two years. Not really a long time. You might want to check a couple of rounds if you have any that have been sitting back a spell and see what you find, especially if you see any corrosion on the exposed bullet. As suggested, an easy check is seating a bullet a few thousandths deeper and seeing how much resistance there is compared to that on a fresh loading.
Don’t leave propellant sitting out in a meter! Empty it back into its canister at the end of each loading session. Keep it sealed. I’ve done enough weight-tests to tell you that it soaks up moisture in a hurry.
The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from the new book, “Top Grade Ammo,” by Glen Zediker. It’s soon to be available at BuyZedikerBooks.com or call 662-473-6107. You can also find Glen’s other works at Midsouth Shooters Supply’s.