Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
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    Default Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    As part of a side business, I deal in antiques, vintage items, gold & silver jewelry, coins etc. Part of that is attending auctions, estate sales, flea markets & yard sales.

    Quite frequently, I come across boxes of old handgun / rifle ammo and shotgun shells.

    99% of the time it’s a good to great deal, price-wise. However, I have not “pulled the trigger” so to speak, generally out of concern for safety.

    Am I being overly cautious and missing out on good discounted ammo? Does ammo have a shelf life? What about shotgun shells?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    Ammo doesn't have a shelf life for the most part. Certain blackpowder and certain smokeless powder cartridges are susceptible to moisture intrusion or the powder breaking down. And some priming materials break down over time.

    If the ammo was kept relatively dry, it should fire.

    We've fired some WWI era .303Brit at the farm. ...some of it still left, hasn't been a problem.

    My dad has some turn of the century .32Rimfire ammo that goes bang every time.
    RIP: SFN, 1861, twoeggsup, Lambo, jamesjo, JayBell, 32 Magnum, Pro2A, mrwildroot, dregan, Frenchy, Fragger, ungawa, Mtn Jack, Grapeshot.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    I am no expert, so others should correct me if I'm wrong.
    Was told a lot of old domestic ammo is corrosive and the firearm needs to be cleaned accordingly.
    I have WWII 45 cal and M1 ammo that I was told is corrosive like a lot of foreign ammo.
    Any thoughts on this from those in the know is appreciated.
    How can you have any cookies if you don't drink your milk?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    U.S. military ammo was loaded with corrosive priming well into the 50's.
    Crusader's local #556 South Central Asia chapter

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by cdi View Post
    U.S. military ammo was loaded with corrosive priming well into the 50's.
    US miltitary ammo mostly changed in the early 50's. By 1955 it was pretty well all done over.
    Here is a reference: http://www.odcmp.org/1101/usgi.pdf

    Foreign imports were not changed over nearly as quickly.

    If ammo is stored in a cool dry place, it will last a long time. If in the original tin or steel ammo can, even better. The likely problem with questionable ammo is not that it will blow up, rather it will not fire at all or hangfire and shoot off after a delay.

    The only danger is reloaded ammo of unknown origin or if you want to get esoteric there were special batches of ammo made to blow up the enemy's guns that was covertly distributed to some war zones like North Viet Nam, but this is very rare and if you find some it would be worth more as a collector item. There are articles out there that discuss this oddball ammo which is usually in commie calibers like 7.62 X 39.
    Last edited by gghbi; September 9th, 2018 at 11:49 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    It all depends on how it was loaded at the factory and how it was stored. If it was loaded in less than controlled condition and storage conditions were poor then you might have issues. A lot of milsurp ammo from reliable countries like Switzerland or Austria will also have sealant around the case neck and primer and was stored in sealed packs in controlled conditions without wild temperature swings.

    Hand loaded ammo can be sold for components value and is worth less.

    There are collectors that collect vintage ammo so it's one of those things you sell with that caveat.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    Ok thanks everyone. Given the responses, I will now be taking advantage of discount ammo on the secondary market!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by PickingPA View Post
    As part of a side business, I deal in antiques, vintage items, gold & silver jewelry, coins etc. Part of that is attending auctions, estate sales, flea markets & yard sales.

    Quite frequently, I come across boxes of old handgun / rifle ammo and shotgun shells.

    99% of the time it’s a good to great deal, price-wise. However, I have not “pulled the trigger” so to speak, generally out of concern for safety.

    Am I being overly cautious and missing out on good discounted ammo? Does ammo have a shelf life? What about shotgun shells?

    Thanks


    Found some of my late Grandpa's 38 special rounds. They were stored indoors. Half of the mouths were splitting. I've shot WW2 vintage M2 that fired just fine.


    Depends......



    Let me pose a question to you. Is your Liability Insurance paid up?

    When you sell someone some corrosive rounds, they shoot them, and then put the firearm away, to discover a week later a "sewer bore" are you ready to pay? You did not inform them, did you?

    If someone gets a hang fire because of a shaky primer, opens the action and gets blasted with fragments, are you ready to pay?

    What if someone gets a hang fire, points the muzzle in the wrong direction and someone catches something nasty where it's not wanted, are you ready to pay?


    Here's my thought - sell them as Collector's Item only. Offer them as "onesies" and sell the box separately. If the seller wants them all they buy them as "Cartridge collector" items. Get them to sign a form that acknowledges this, keep a copy for your records.


    Consult with your attorney to see if that will work to limit your liability.


    Some folks will not like signing the form. Their money spends elsewhere. Explain that you are a small businessman who cannot afford disasters due to old ammunition but are making these available for interested cartridge collectors.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by gghbi View Post
    The only danger is reloaded ammo of unknown origin or if you want to get esoteric there were special batches of ammo made to blow up the enemy's guns that was covertly distributed to some war zones like North Viet Nam, but this is very rare and if you find some it would be worth more as a collector item. There are articles out there that discuss this oddball ammo which is usually in commie calibers like 7.62 X 39.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Eldest_Son


    I've long suspected that Police agencies will do this to gang bangers. Give them some heartache during drivebys.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Vintage (old) Ammo .... safe or not?

    I should clarify.... I come across old ammo while I am buying other stuff to re-sell. I have no intentions on re-selling the ammo. Just wondering if the stuff is safe to shoot so I can plink for less

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