Current Small Arms Ammunition Demilitarization

Back in the early 1990s, I was the Chief of the Environmental Flight at Randolph AFB TX, here in San Antonio. Among a lot of other responsibilities, one was the disposal of condemned ordnance. Randolph, being primarily a training facility for instructor pilots and navigators, happily (for me) generated very little such material, and in fact there was only one time that I needed to dispose of any munitions. It involved several cases of 9mm M882 from a lot that had been declared defective for some reason which I do not remember. None of the local USAF bases had an EPA-permitted Open Burn/Open Detonation (OB/OD) disposal range, but there was such a range at Dyess AFB in Abilene TX, so that’s where the ammunition was sent for disposal. While I did not make the trip, I had been told that the disposal procedure used there for small arms ammunition was to put it into a closed metal container, build a fire around it, and cook off all of the rounds. I haven’t even thought about that incident for years, but it popped into my mind yesterday. I was wondering if anyone knows what the current military procedures are for demilling small arms ammunition?

I know there is (or was) was some privately-owned facility in Paw Paw WV that took old/surplus US military ammunition and disassembled it for components, and I think they even re-loaded it for civilian sale using the same components.

My son-law came back from Iraq last year and they dug a pit then through the crates in and burned them until they cooked off. .50cal and larger were sent somewhere else for disposal. Lots of 7.62x39 some 7.62x54r late production and .303. He was amazed how the spam cans opened from pressure and not the rounds going off.

The “Place in Trench or Steel Steam-Boiler Body and Burn” system goes back to the early 1900s.

Current (“UN mandated” ) methods include destroying Fired Brass as well, followed by shredding the Burnt cases prior to sale as scrap metal.

Australia since 2008 has used this “UN Rule” to justify cutting off supplies of spent cases, and the sale of "Milsurp"ammo either in Australia or Overseas, of Aussie Issue ammo.
When a similar thing was attempted in the USA, it took only one or two days for angry “remanufacturers” to lobby their congressmen to reverse the decision ( 2009/2010?). Many other nations take the UN Bribe Money, not only to destroy “old” ammo, but also to destroy the machinery (Old or new) when they close or upgrade an Ammo factory ( Examples, Kenya, South Africa, etc. Now probably Libya, and so On…it is already happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US DoD already has Mobile Range Burners to process fired brass in bulk ( a rotary kiln, with gas or oil firing to ignite any live rounds mixed in with the spent brass ( OHS measure to prevent “accidents” in Metal recycler Furnaces…a poor excuse… The proprotion of “Live ammo” in Range brass is less than 1/100 of One Percent…ie, 1 live round per 10,000 rounds…I know, from sorting Spent brass by the Ton before 2008 here in Australia.

I agree, demilitarization is necessary for “Artillery” type ordnance, because of the stability of HE etc, but SAA destruction is pure anti-gun -ownership Policy of the UN, hiding behind the specious argument that by destroying old military ammo , one somehow reduces the (Illegal) traffic of arms and ammunition…the UN is a bunch of Naive, Corrupt, and Power-Hungry Dictatorial Third world states, controlling the rest of us.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Technical Services and Film Ordnance Services

( Up to 2008-9, individual purchasor of over 10 tons of spent brass ( .30, .50, 7,62N, 5,56N and 9mm, a YEAR.)…all money that went to reduce the DoD deficit. Now it actually "costs " DoD to have a contractor “demilitarize” the SAA and brass.) Talk about crazy accounting.)

The range at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, which is by far the largest in the USAF, at one time had one of the gas-fired rotary kiln/shredder devices for processing fired brass cases (about 15 million/year), but they could never get it to work properly and ended up disposing of the equipment. The stated idea of this nonsense was allegedly to ensure there were no live rounds leaving the range as scrap metal. I’m not sure just what they do with the brass at present but I believe it is now required to be manually inspected to ensure no live rounds are in it prior to disposal. My understanding of the DRMO regulations (the US military’s property disposal agency) is that fired military brass can be sold intact so long as it does not leave the US. I do know that sale of the fired brass is a very major contributor to the monetary proceeds of Lackland’s base recycling program.

I at one time recommended a study be made as to the pros and cons of installing a contractor-operated reloading facility at Lackland due to the high volume of shooting done there, but no one but me was interested. Probably just as well.

That’s different from my original question about how the US military currently demils live small arms ammunition.

The UK currently has a high temperature incinerator at the Showburyness ranges on the Essex coast for the disposal of out of specification ammunition and to ensure that no live ammunition is included in the scrap leaving the facility. I gather that all ‘range pickup’ brass also goes through the incinerator.


[quote]The range at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, which is by far the largest in the USAF[/quote] Dennis, if you are talking just the CONUS small arms complexes, yes, Lackland AFB must be in the running. But, the largest range in the USAF (CONUS) is the Nellis AFB complex, followed by Vandenburg and then Eglin. There are several others way above Lackland.

DoD regulations currently require either two independent inspections, or a treatment approved by the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board (DDESB). Thermal treatment in a rotary kiln is one approved method, but not used that much, although several remain throughout DoD. Open Burn/Open Detonation (OB/OD) is frowned upon for the environmental impacts, and for small arms takes large amounts of time, effort and donor fuel. As stated, small arms brass recycling “pays the bills” for a large number of installation “qualified recycling programs” throughout DoD, funding the recycling of less fiscally rewarding materials, and funding the general base/post programs.

There are certainly far larger USAF ranges (at least in area, such as BMGR in Arizona and Nellis, which are air-to-ground ranges), but no USAF small arms ranges can approach Lackland’s in firing activity. It is a complex of about 13 separate co-located small arms ranges on Lackland’s Medina Training Annex (located just west of the main base), which is also used by other services and Federal agencies. Reason being that all USAF basic training is done at Lackland, therefore a lot of small arms firing is conducted - mainly M16/M4 and M9 pistol. Nothing larger is fired at Lackland due to surface danger zone restrictions. There are no bullet traps or target line berms at Lackland, just open fields. Heavier small arms such as the M240B can be fired at some USAF small arms ranges, but those are usually restricted in some way, such as tube ranges or fully baffled ranges. For example, the “Silver Flag” complex’s EOD training area at Tyndall AFB FL has a fully-enclosed 100 yard range used mainly for training on the use of the .50 BMG M107 Barrett (which in the USAF is considered “a Tool, NOT a Weapon”). Most USAF .50 BMG training and long-range sniper training is done at Army ranges. Typical USAF bases have 7 to 21-point small arms ranges with bullet traps or berms, and are located within the confines of the main base. These are used primarily for re-qualification. Virtually all of them are 25 meters, with many, if not most, being essentially indoor-type range designs.

I agree, demilitarization is necessary for “Artillery” type ordnance, because of the stability of HE etc, but SAA destruction is pure anti-gun -ownership Policy of the UN, hiding behind the specious argument that by destroying old military ammo , one somehow reduces the (Illegal) traffic of arms and ammunition…the UN is a bunch of Naive, Corrupt, and Power-Hungry Dictatorial Third world states, controlling the rest of us.[/quote]
You couldn’t have said it better Doc.

I have been involved in preliminary testing of an experimental de-mill unit…it is pilot scale, and munitons fed have include SAA (.22 rimfiire, .38 Specials, 5.56 and 7.62 blanks, .50 cal), Artillery Primers, Practice Mortar rebuild kits, mortar propellent cartridges, and some other items.

According to the rules now, all components must be destroyed to uselessness. No more pulling bullets, dumping powder, and re-selling the components. Destroyed means destroyed.

The people responsible for these rules are socialist anti-gun scumbags. All of them…from the administration officials, the Dept of State, DOD, and the upper echelon military leaders (Generals and up) who in the name of promotion bow to their liberal political masters, all of them.

There is no reason why this stuff couldn’t be sold to shooters, and the gov recoup some of their money. Or at the very least the components reclaimed and sold to reloaders.

Its pure anti-gun BS…there is no doubt about it. This stuff was all clean, well stored, boxes all perfect. This isn’t stuff that layed around in a leaky storage bunker and was useless. This is simply bowing to the UN…

Now instead of doing something smart the Gov will be PAYING lots of money to various companies to DESTROY this, and then aloowing the companies to keep the scrap and sell it. Now…thats great if you are one of these companies, but it really sticks the taxpayer in the shorts.

Sorry, but stuff like this really lights a fire in me, especially when you see it first hand.