Hello, I’m new here. I’m not an ammo collector, but rather a gun collector since the 1960s. My grandmother gave me my first piece, a 20GA Remington Rolling Block with a 2-1/2” chamber that had belonged to her father. I joined this group to get help identifying the odd lots of who-knows-what cartridges that come my way as part of gun trades. (As an aside, when Grandma was a kid in Buffalo before WW-1, her dad hunted ducks in a marsh on the edge of town. He got there on the streetcar, never bothered with a gun case, and it occurred to NOBODY that this might be a problem. How times have changed!)
That said, have any of you ever wondered how the pre-1950 cartridges in your collections would perform if you shot them? I actually shoot the guns in my collection. Maybe I can provide a little insight.
Corrosive-primed black powder ammo has an indefinite shelf life. Circa 1975, when the stuff was just “crusty old ammo”, I shot up several hundred rounds of Frankford Arsenal 1890 45-70-505 Ball. Around the same time, I shot up a loose batch of UMC .22LR with copper cases (I’m guessing it was made before WW-1.) It all went off, shot accurately, and no problems with case cracks, splits or head separations.
U.S.G.I. ammo is the gold standard. I’ve shot probably 100,000+ rounds of surplus ammo over the years, with never a problem. Other than the 45-70 mentioned above, the oldest was FA18 .45 Cal. M1911 Ball. I bought a M1911 pistol from the widow of a WW-1 veteran. It had spent 60 years in his sock drawer, loaded, and she didn’t know how to unload it. Had to soak the magazine in mineral spirits to dissolve the fossilized grease so I could empty the mag. Cartridges had turned black. I still have one. The other 6 all went off.
U.S. sporting ammo used to be nearly as good. The older stuff with corrosive primers has better long-term reliability than later “Kleanbore”, “Staynless”, etc. I think quality has suffered lately, due to the rush to satisfy panic buyers.
Foreign G.I. ammo seems more variable. From my notes:
–7.62mm x 54R Ball, shot in a Soviet Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifle in the 1980s. VPT33 headstamp, brass cases. Ammo looked like it had been under water, the boxes were like papier-mache. Out of 10 rounds fired, only 4 performed normally. Of the others, one went pop and the bullet landed about 25 yards out. Two hang-fires, click-pause-pause-bang and click-pause- BOOM. One complete dud. One detonated, KA-F##KING-BOOM. One case split, and the gas came back through the action (safety glasses saved my eye.)
–British .303 Ball, shot in an Australian No. 1 Mk. 3 (SMLE) rifle in the 1980s. Many different lots, all brass cased. All of it went off, no problems. Arabic-marked Mk. 7, unknown manufacturer, accuracy was OK. WW-2 British-manufactured Mk. 7, accuracy was OK, some lots were better than others. WRA43 Mk. 7z made for Lend-Lease was significantly more accurate than either.
–German 7.92mm Ball, shot in a Danzig Arsenal Gewehr-98 rifle in the 1980s/90s. Lacquered steel cases, mixed WW-2 era headstamps, apparently machine-gun belt takeoffs. It came loose-packed in a plastic bag. Fired about 100 rounds, accuracy was OK, no problems whatsoever, and put the rest away. Found it again 10 years later. Of 5 rounds fired, two cracked at the case shoulder, probably due to corrosion.
–French 8mm Lebel Balle-N, tested in a Berthier M1907/15 rifle I bought in 2012. Brass cased, 1948 headstamp. It looked clean, but the primers were dead. None of it went off.
–German-manufactured 8mm x 56R M1930 Ball, shot in a Hungarian 1930s-reworked Steyr M1895 that I bought in 2008. Brass cased, 1938 headstamp, came on Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 clips in the original cardboard boxes, So far, all of it has gone off, no problems, accuracy on a par with British or German G.I. ammo. It’s very powerful – shooting at an armor-plate SWAT silhouette at 300 yards, I hit one of the carriage bolts holding it to the stand and blew the bolt head clean off.