Shelf Life of the German 7.9x57

Does anyone know the official “shelf life” of German WW2 era 7.9 ammunition. This is the amount of time that it could be stored and still considered first class ammunition.

Whilst I have No “official” documentation regarding German specific practice with regard to storage-dating of ammunition and functionality,
the Germans, like most European nations, proceeded with the “Rule of Fives”…First Five years from manufacture/assembly (“Lieferbar”) the ammunition was considered “Combat ready” (my term). After five years, it was usually Inspected and tested, and if it passed muster, then it was allocated “Secondary (Emergency) Combat use, and Training” (my term , again).

If it got to Ten years old, it was classified “Training use only”; After 15 years, it was “Disposable” by either destruction, dismantling, or surplus sale.

These notes have been deducted from viewing many, many labels with overstamps relating to Inspections, re-packing, re-assignment of role, etc seen over more than 40 years of cartridge collecting and research, not just in German ammunition, but ammo practices from other countries as well.
The “Rule of Fives” is still practised today around the world.

What has upset all this “rigid” classification, is that from 1942-43, the quality of German Powder diminished, such that Nitric acid decomposition of the powder will occur in about 15 years after manufacture, and in Steel cased ammo (the majority of 42-45 production) this led to the cases rusting from the inside out, especially at the stressed areas of the neck and shoulder folds.

So by the 1960s Biafra War, much ex-WW II german steel cased ammo was starting to breakdown, often with disastrous results in MGs…By the 1970s, in US Milsurp use, problems were regularly seen in NFA fireams using steel cased German WW II ammo in the 20-25 year age group.

The problem was not restricted to German WW II powder…DDR Powder in steel cased 7,9 and 7,9Kp was also subjected to this “acid corrosion syndrome” ( in the 1990s onwards.).

Some countries, (Like Australia, under “UN instruction”) now destroy all ammo older than 15 years, even without inspection, or surplus sale.
Some small lots of 15 yr old 7,62 Nato did escape to surplus sale in the USA back in the early 2000s ( 2005-6) (Ammo dated 1985-1993) but since then,(about 2008) NO Aussie ammo has been surplussed of any date, 15 year limit or not. All “unused” ammo older than 15 years has been Burnt or shredded (“Demilitarised” according to UN rules.–even the fired brass is shredded.).

So, in mind of these “indications” as to shelf life, I would assume
that German shelf Life was a Five year period for Instant Combat use, with subsequent inspections and re-allocation as the test results indicated. It is also probable that Luftwaffe ammo was held to a higher use standard than ground ammo, but outside of anecdotal evidence, I have no firm indications here.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

True enough, but I am still shooting many lots from 1933 and later. From a shooters stand point, the primers are the main issue. Aside from the powder degradation seen in steel cased ammo, most of these cartridges still give excellent performance nearly 80 years after manufacture and who knows with what kind of storage. My last large purchase of German 8mm was nearly 160,000 rounds and while I have not kept accurate records, I will bet less than three or four percent of those rounds used to date (about 90,000) have been pulled apart as scrap. Most of which, as I mentioned earlier, has been because of dead or dying priming. JH

Excellent information all around. Those sleeves are marked for clips. Are the shells on clips ? I see many boxes marked so but without clips and no evidence of ever having been loaded on clips. Clips leave obvious marks inside the flaps.

I guess that there is no good reason for 1938 and 39 dated SS ammo not to be found on all battlefields including Normandy.

The sleeves shown all all factory sealed and contain chargers. I generate quite a few of them. JH

That is a fact. Have you found any SS marked clips yet ?

I have never seen one. JH

I did find this note from an SS Sargent in a repacked case dated 1941 however. It was written on the back of 1500 P315 1936 case label and stuffed between the two center sleeves in the case before the lid was welded shut. Clips were added during the repack .JH

Neat ! What does it say ?

I have been told by German speaking friends that it basically translates to: “Best wishes from home, etc. SS Sargent Ernst” It would appear the ammo being repacked was in SS hands and was common, though 5 years old, standard German issue ball. JH

Very interesting information. I have never seen German ammo sent in a package which needed to be welded. Do you have a photo of that ? What was the date on the sleeves where you found the note and was there a date on the large pack ? Ammo collectors usually see singles, boxes and maybe a sleeve but not larger containers. I would like to see that. Very interesting.

The Luftdichter Patronenkasten 1500 (air-tight cartridge case [crate]) had a metal liner which was lead soldered shut with a metal sheet after the case was filled with the 5 Packhülse 88 (300 round sleeves). The 1500 round Patronenkasten 88 case did not have this liner.
Here are some pictures plus one showing the metal liners being sealed in a DWM plant.





great Photo, how about the Address and Notification stensils in the backgrounds…can these be blown up to readability?

And look at the manufacturing quality of the Pine cases!!! ( Dovetailed Corners, inletted hinges and latches, smooth surfaces, etc…True German Excellence (But Misplaced in the necessities of a War Economy)

BTW: soldering and welding (two different processes) often use the same word in European (non-English) languages…the term has to be modified by adding the method such as to the “material used” to make the joint.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


That picture was taken from a digital copy of the 1939 book “50 JAHRE DEUTSCHE WAFFEN- UND MUNITIONSFABRIKEN AKTIENGESELSCHAFT”. The resolution isn’t high enough to allow much enlargement. It would sure be interesting to read what all the stencils say, wouldn’t it.

Thanks for sharing. Excellent! Is that lead or tin ?

I am no expert in metals but I would say lead if you are referring to the material used to seal the liner and its cover. It melts at a fairly low temperature.

The liner is made from Zinc plate.