Some Things Should Know About Your Ammunition

Selecting and caring for ammunition is unending issue I’m asked about is carry ammo.In particular, how often do we change it out? I’m not going to say that I’m an expert, but have learned a few things over the years.

For example- most people do not carry rifles around 24/7. You rarely see police even carrying their rifles unless something extremely unusual is going on- like a manhunt/standoff situation. Here is an item that perhaps you did not know- if you carry around .223 /5.56  hollow points for a year in your thigh pouch, you get very expensive ball ammunition. The tips will beat themselves shut by walking around. If you want good terminal performance without this concern, check out a round with a polymer tip for just such an occasion. This type of round is also a good performer in certain barrel lengths of AR pistols.

You will need to do your own research on this, but they work, as do bonded bullets. I can also tell you that if you must contend with things like windshields, a bonded bullet far out performs conventional carry rounds. These are things you learn after shooting a few dozen windshields in the name of science. Bonded bullets, whether pistol or rifle rounds, do not deflect nearly as much, and are superior for still having the terminal energy to stop the offender. The disclaimer here is that all bullets do strange things when they meet glass.

Carry ammunition is expensive, yet some are willing to do dangerous things to avoid spending money. The most dangerous is called setback. This occurs when people repeatedly load the pistol, chambering a round, and eventually the bullet is set back, into the casing. This is incredibly dangerous, as it causes a LOT of extra chamber pressure, should firing that round become necessary. I’m sure you can see this via Google Images, but I don’t want to borrow someones copyright protected image, and be sued for it. If you have rounds like this, you likely have a friend who reloads. Give those rounds to them, and under no circumstance should you attempt to fire them.

Color is a key consideration. If you like a particular round, buy at least enough ammo to load all of your magazines at least twice, and buy a box to fire through the firearm to ensure reliability.What you will find is that some firearms have feed ramps that might not like big empty hollow point rounds, and they won’t chamber reliably as a consequence. Again, this is a wonderful example of carrying rounds with a polymer filler in that hollow point cavity.

Color- what we’re getting at is that new brass is shiny. Nickel coated cartridges can be a little more difficult, but they too will fade with time. If your cartridges are considerably faded, you may consider changing out your rounds. These are fine to fire, and should be , while you’re practicing at the range. You should have old rounds around for this reason- recoil impulse. A carry round will have a stiffer recoil impulse, because it’s a performance round. Something I personally feel is silly is the idea of training with a .22, and then expecting this to be equal to whatever it is you use in “real life”. You’re going to be in for 1 hell of a surprise when you’re likely fighting for your life. Do you really want/need that?

Verdigris- in the event you didn’t know- things like copper turn green with age, and this is called verdigris. This can occur in extremely damp climates, and/or you have a filthy gun, and probably rounds that will not work. If you are guilty of this, don’t tell anyone, but seek professional help, as this is insane.

Top round is more golden than other rounds in your carry bullets. This is about as serious as setback, and this is why. This means that you have been over lubricating your firearm, and there’s a pretty good chance that this round will no longer function as designed. Some lubricants are quite capable of penetrating cartridge casings, and fouling the propellant. In the moment of truth, do you want to hear a subdued “pop”, and see wisps of smoke, because your propellant has balled up, and cannot do its job?

Over lubrication of the firearm can mess up the chambered round. This can set up what is known as a “squib”, or “primer pop”. I have seen these dozens of times over the years, and they can be fatal, especially if a rifle is the culprit. I’ve witnessed an example of a person who had went a little nuts with the lubrication, pressed the shot, and it did not sound correct. As I turned to stop him, he pressed a second shot. Thankfully, the fouled propellant had enough energy to propel the bad round out of the barrel, and there was no injury. Eyewear is mandatory for shooting, and this individuals face was  completely fouled grayish black, except for where his eyepro was. He said that he “should have stopped when it didn’t feel/sound right”, but he opted not to- so he has a self deprecating story to tell, if he chooses. These rounds were full powered duty ammo, not FMJ, so he could have gotten seriously injured. By the way, this guy is full on Ninja, just ask him, and he’ll tell you the same.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a female shooter who is squared away, and in the middle of some fairly intense moving/shooting drills, she was surrounded by several other people, all taking care of their areas of responsibility. She heard a primer pop, and immediately ceased fire. I was on her side within a second, and within an inch of the muzzle, there was the bullet. Had she decided to send another round, it could have been a very bad day. Remembering the segments of training where these types of malfunctions are covered -she did the right thing.Though the male Ninja has moved on, we still have this squared away young woman who can definitely hand out punishment, if required. These are 2 examples of 2 bad bullets, and 2 different personalities/shooting attitudes. No injuries occurred, but ultimately, you are responsible for you.

Aluminum cases are out there, and I’m sure that they are the greatest things ever, depending on who you talk to, but here is another example of things I’ve witnessed over the years. I ran into some alluminium cased rounds in a revolver, the lubricant of choice was WD40. It was also recommended to spray the bullets down too (I guess to keep them looking like new?) Long story short, these rounds had been carried on duty for YEARS, and not rotated out. What we found was that at least 80% of them would not even give a primer pop, because the primers had been deactivated by the lube. Comforting, no? I guess at that point, use the revolver as a club, or perhaps the big Mag Lite. Some of you may remember those days.

Another tricky issue with aluminum casings in semi autos, if you opt to do this, is that case expansion can cause all sorts of malfunctions. If you use these rounds and they work for you, great, just be very careful what you choose to maintain the firearm with. This has no bearing on case expansion, but if you like them, fine.

With carbines/rifles, you can get knock back. This can occur due to the top round not chambering/getting slammed against the locking lugs, and the bullet is knocked back into the casing. Another cause for this COULD BE a live/dead round that’s chambered, and did not eject. If there’s a live un-fired round in the chamber, there are ways to remove it, just be extremely careful. A rifle round suffering from knock back is of no further use- give it to the re-loader you know. Often times, the propellant will trickle out if you invert the round. Remember that the primer is still alive.

Hang fire- I can honestly report that after over 40 years of shooting lots of things, I’ve had exactly 2 hang fires, and both were with .22 rimfire. Both occurred after they failed to fire in an ancient 22 rifle that I had acquired from past familial generations. Both were old crappy rounds to begin with, and both scared the bejeepers out of me, because I’d been holding onto them. As I tossed them to the side, both went off. This was not the same day, the incidents were on separate occasions.

I’m not exactly sure what would happen to your hand in this circumstance, but I’m in no hurry to find out, either. Bottom line is this; these things will happen- if you have a round that has been struck on the primer, do NOT hang onto it, or give it careful scrutiny. Put it somewhere safe to let it go off, should that happen. Again, I’ve had a few hundred of these over the years, but none have ever detonated (so far). Be cautious in your handling of such events.Remind you friends that bullets are tiny little bombs, in essence.

So- what did we cover?

1-Carry ammo is a personal choice, so choose wisely.

2-Carry ammo is expensive, but we have to test it for accuracy/reliability. We don’t simply stuff these rounds into magazines, and consider ourselves armed.

3-Over lubrication of the firearm can ruin the top round that we chamber

4-Set back can ruin the top round that we chamber. If the round has set back, we give it to our reloader friend.

5-Discolored rounds that don’t have set back become practice rounds.

6-If the rounds in our magazine turn green, we have a filthy gun, and rounds for our reloader friend. It’s time to scrub that gun, and reload with fresh carry ammo.

7- Knock back in a carbine/rifle may mean the chamber is obstructed with a casing, or live round. Extractors can break, and the rest of the firearm will work as designed.

8- Aluminum cased ammunition can be problematic in some combinations, as can any other ammunition type.

9-Polymer tipped hollow points are superior to conventional hollow points for reliable loading in most firearms.Bonded bullets are better than conventional hollow points, too, in most cases.

10- WD40 should not ever be considered a legitimate cleaner/lubricant for firearms. It’s wonderful stuff, but keep it away from firearms.

Stay Safe, Train Often

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