The current (July/August 2022) issue of American Handgunner carries my article on testing the Smith & Wesson CSX 9mm pistol that was introduced a few months ago.  I was very much impressed with the gun, and wound up purchasing the test sample for personal use. 

I noted in the article that there was a single misfire in the course of the test.  The pistol itself worked perfectly.  However, one volunteer member of the test team filled a magazine with some ammo that had been left in the flooded bed of a pickup truck; total immersion had left it badly corroded.

One of those rounds did not go “bang” when the hammer dropped.

The interesting thing is that the rest of them – I don’t recall if that shooter was using the ten-round magazine, or the twelve rounder – did go off despite the abuse. 

Obviously, the gun couldn’t be blamed for that.  Nor the shooter, who was smart enough not to use the compromised cartridge for “serious business.”

Still, it was a reminder that we have to take care of our ammunition, just as we take care of our guns.  

I discussed the matter in greater detail in a 2007 article in Backwoods Home magazine.

I think the points therein are worth reviewing.

32 COMMENTS

  1. A refresher is always helpful. The only Ammo I have that is not stored in ammo cans with desiccant are my flats of shotgun shells. But they are stored high and dry.

  2. I hate to admit it, but a couple of times I had ammo go through the wash & dry thing at least twice before I discovered my error. They were loose rounds in a pocket. All fired normally, but it’s not a recommended practice.

    Again, not a recommended practice, but back in the late 1960’s we came across a lot of .30-40 Krag ammo in the original Winchester boxes made around the time of the Spanish American war. It’d been stored in an unheated warehouse for ages. We sold off the intact boxes to collectors but had a certain amount of broken box ammo. The boss decided we should see if it functioned and despite a few split necks after firing, it all went bang and hit where it was supposed to. It got sold off as “shootin ammo”.

    Lastly, I recall a roughly 70 year old Colt loaded with maybe 20+ year old ammunition that successfully ended a lethal threat.

    None of the above is a suggested standard for tools your life may depend upon.

  3. I advise students to store ammo like they do their drugs, cool dry place, not exposed to temperature extremes and not available to prohibited persons.

    As for the wrong cartridge in a gun, there was one very astute shooter that I vaguely knew, who thought he could shoot a 9mm in a .40 pistol. After realizing the gun didn’t go bang as it should have, he came running to me and said he had a squib. After inspection of the circumstances, the shell casing was malformed and the primer actually had a hole punched through it. I kept the casing as a reminder to students in class, be sure of what gas you put in the tank, as Mas so eloquently put it.

    lets go brandon!

  4. When I was in high school, in my small town there was a turkey shoot. They shot targets, and the best scores received a frozen turkey. It was here in Michigan, in early November, just before the 15th opening day of deer season.
    I took my dad’s Remington 721 in 30’06. Of course, I sighted it in with some buddies first. My dad had some rounds in a box he got when he bought the gun from my mom’s dad. They were Remington 180 gr. Core Lokt. They were green, nasty looking things. Just for fun, I shot a couple of them. The first one fired normally and as accurately as new ones. The second one, however, a bit sadder looking, shot fine, but when I tried to extract it, it moved about 1/2″, and stopped.
    I could not get it to come out in the field. I had to go home and take a cleaning rod and carefully from the muzzle end tap it gently out. It appeared that the brass, due to it being corroded and green, was sort of like I had taken it and roughed up the sides of it, to give it something to grip onto so that it could stick.
    No matter, it was a good lesson learned. I still would use older ammunition, but only if it is in good shape. Sadly my dad and mom both have been gone for some time now. But one of my brothers has the rifle, and I know that he takes care of it. My dad was like many here in Michigan, a deer hunter. But not really a gun guy. So I have had to learn things on my own and from writers like you.
    One word about that Remington Core Lokt ammo. While I realize that the manufactures have made huge strides in development of bullet design, you can still do a good job with this old bullet, provided you do your part. For example, I felt that 180 gr. was simply too heavy for Whitetail deer found in my mid Michigan area, where I typically shoot less than 150 yards and the deer weigh around 140-150 pounds, so I dropped back to 165 gr.

    • Dear pigpen 51, would you use 180 grain .30-06 soft point Corelokt for shots from the side on elk, mule deer, black bear, etc? Elmer Keith shot a black bear behind the shoulder with a .30-06 220-grain Corelokt and said he lost the bear. Would a 180-grain soft point have been a better choice? Or a 150 grain? Or a round nose? Elmer was promoting his .333 OKH at the time.

  5. I somehow through mixed 9mm and 40 cal ammo put a 9mm round in a 40 cal magazine. I shot the rounds and didn’t notice anything amiss until I was picking up the brass and found an expanded 9mm case. Somehow the 40cal striker hit the 9mm primer and the round fired and ejected. I have a souvenir that fortunately didn’t cause any problems. A good lesson learned.

  6. Sad state of affairs when police officers can’t tell the difference between bottlenecked 357 Sig rounds & 40 S&W.

  7. Good advice, Mas. We periodically get people at the range who try to shoot .380 ACP in a 9mm Luger pistol and wonder why their gun doesn’t work very well. Also the 9mm in a .40 cal issue you mention.

    I enjoyed re-reading your 2007 article, Mas, especially the part about ammo prices. I have a picture on my phone of a 20 round box of 30-06 Winchester silvertip for $2.77 – found it when helping a friend clean up his house before moving out. Also have a bunch of 20 round boxes of premium 230 gr JHP defensive loads (Black Talon and HydraShok) with price tags around $5. If only those prices would return!

    • Tom in NC,

      Just for comparison, I have two boxes of Winchester .30–’06 Power-Point Super X 180 grain cartridges. My guess is I bought them 4 years ago, approximately. They are marked $24.99 each.

      • @ Roger Willco – Even your price of $24.99 is from the “Good Old Days” of the Trump Administration. It is prior to the inflation kicked off by “Bare-Shelves Biden” and his Regime.

        The current market price of this exact ammo (when you can find it!) is $49.99 as illustrated here:

        https://ammoyard.com/rifle-ammo/winchester-x30064-30-06-spg-180gr-power-point-20rd-per-box/

        Soon, ammo may be worth its weight in gold. It is already almost worth its weight in silver. 🙁

      • TN_MAN,

        Correct as always, TN_MAN. I recently paid $45 for a 20-round box of .30–’06. I just thought the price on my old ammo was shocking enough. Also, I was afraid to admit I paid $45, but I guess I didn’t have to be afraid.

        It’s sick out there, and getting sicker. The only thing worse than high-priced ammo is having no ammo available. I hope we don’t get to that point, but I have enough for now. Whew!

  8. It’s pretty amazing that the 2022 prices are so similar to 1986. We don’t know what is going to happen in the future, so even though today’s prices seem high compared to 4-5 years ago, I’m continuing to build my stash gradually, at what may be the lowest prices we will see again. At least ammo prices haven’t increased like fuel prices. So I’ll drive less and shoot more.

  9. Hi Mas,

    On Memorial Day weekend 2020, we went on a local river kayaking excursion. Two days earlier, a horrific murder occurred in the area and the killer was still on the loose. I had my Ruger LCP loaded with 8 rounds of .380 Hornady Critical Defense ammo, in a pocket holster tucked in my dry bag. Normally my dry bag is attached to the seat strap of my kayak, but due to the circumstances, I wanted it quickly deployable, so it was unsecured. Well, you can guess what happened. I got hung up on a rock sideways and swamped, and my dry bag got washed out of my kayak. The loss was immediately reported to state police. We searched for it until dark and then the next day without finding it. It was found by a boater on Tuesday and recovered by CT State Police, and returned to me that evening. The bag had been submerged and filled with water. Gun, wallet, keys, glasses, cell phone all trashed and water-logged.

    I completely disassembled, cleaned, lubed, reassembled, and tested my gun. No problem there. Since I could no longer trust the ammo for self defense, I put it aside for some testing.

    I took two random rounds out of the eight and disassembled them with a kinetic puller. There was no corrosion or other visible signs on the outside. The powder inside was completely dry and burned as expected when ignited in a pan. The cases were secured in a vice and the primers struck with a punch. Both primers popped as expected. The remaining six rounds were loaded and fired at the range for target practice and worked as expected, but there is no way I would have trusted my life on them.

  10. On all my factory carry ammo, I always check each one visually, then roll them over a flat surface to make sure the bullets are loaded straight. If the primers are not sealed, I use red nail polish to seal them. I then run them through a crimp die as many of them are not crimped properly and some even have slightly flared case mouths which could cause feeding problems. The boxes are stored in metal 50 caliber ammo cans inside my air conditioned walk in closet until ready for use. As an added precaution, I shoot up the ammo in my carry guns and spare magazines at the end of each year and replace them with fresh cartridges.

    I have a small collection of deformed factory cartridges, mostly ball pistol rounds, where the bullets bulged or crushed the cases during the seating process and slipped by the quality control inspectors. These are from big name domestic makers like Remington and Winchester. Have not found a bad round from Federal, Hornady, or Speer yet.

    • @ Tom606 – “Have not found a bad round from Federal, Hornady, or Speer yet.”

      I had one of those from Federal. I was taking a one-day “Tactical” rifle class. For this class, I was using my Ruger Mini-30 carbine in the Russian 7.62×39 caliber.

      My Ruger absolutely despises Russian steel-case ammo. So, using the inexpensive Russian ammo for this class was not an option. Instead, I purchased a good quantity of Federal brass-cased 7.62×39 FMJ range ammo.

      Well, during the class, my Mini-30 jammed on me and I had a hard time clearing the malfunction. The bolt was locked forward and did not want to release and eject the jammed cartridge. The class instructor came over and, with some effort, managed to get the bolt to retract and eject the jammed round.

      We examined the round and it was what you said above. The bullet had bulged and distorted the brass case badly. Not only had the factory quality control inspectors missed it but I must have also missed it because I had loaded the round into a magazine and attempted to fire it.

      When the instructor saw the distorted case and, knowing that it was 7.62×39 ammo, he assumed that I had purchased some cheap “foreign” ammo to use in the class. He began to “bad-mouth” foreign ammo makers and their quality control.

      However, he had to “shut-his-mouth” when I pointed out that it was ammo made by an American Company, namely Federal.

      When ammo is produced by millions and, even, billions of rounds, a few mistakes are (statistically) bound to sneak by quality control. Normally, I would have caught it when loading the ammo into a magazine for use. However, under training conditions where we were loading magazines over and over and over again, it is possible to “get into a loading groove” and not pay enough attention. As I noted, the bad round slipped my me, too.

      To err is human!

      • Maybe I should start checking my practice ammo for defects too which I don’t currently do, just my defensive carry stuff. None of the deformed rounds I’ve found were from my carry stash although there is a Winchester .45 ACP Silvertip where the case was crushed by the bullet during seating at the factory. I never trusted the .32 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Special, or .45 ACP Silvertip ammo because of their soft aluminum jacketed bullets.

        I did load my 9mm pistols in the early 1980’s with the Winchester 9X19 Silvertips, but never carried a 9mm pistol as a primary weapon. This was the ammunition that failed to stop one of the bad guys in the infamous Miami bank robbery shootout back in 1986 I believe. I switched over to the Federal’s 9BP load and still have ten 50 round boxes of the Winchester 9mm 115 grain Silvertip ammo in their very colorful boxes in new condition. My 9mm defense load for the past two decades has been the Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P which seems to have a good track record for stopping bad guys/gals, but I still depend on the .45 ACP for serious purposes.

      • Roger:

        Crooked Joe Biden may be Mr/Ms Murphy’s separated at birth twin brother. Seems everything he touches turns to crap, and his poor decisions causes disaster and mayhem whenever they’re implemented.

    • Esteemed Tom606, good thing you don’t use WD40 or other penetrating oil for cartridge cleaning! Also, if nail polish does good without harm, it sounds like a good idea for any expedition ammo that will be exposed to perspiration, water vapor, rain, or immersion.

      • I prefer to seal the primers of my defensive ammo because it gets very hot in the summer in my part of the country and often my concealed carry guns are damp from perspiration at the end of the day, especially when I work in the yard. It takes little effort to put a dab of nail polish on the primer and wipe off the excess with a paper towel while watching TV. I use Bertha’s red Sally Hansen #304 nail polish so my primer seals matches her sizable, tablespoon sized fingernails.

  11. Just recalled a story from Charlie Petty about old ammo. Seems some gent toted his Winchester ’94 and a box of ammo around in his pickup for an extended, but unknown length (years?, decades?), of time. At some later date he took a shot at a deer and the rifle disassembled itself. Of course, he sued.

    Examination of remaining ammo by an independent lab showed the powder charge had pretty much turned into flour with an instantaneous burn rate. Winchester won.

    In a somewhat related note, it’s not unknown for plastic hulled shotgun ammo loaded in the magazines of patrol cars with dash board racks to deform from heat and glue themselves to the magazine tube. I assume the same might be true for trunk storage. Ammo rotation is a very good idea.

  12. I have a quantity of military ball .30-06 ammo which I acquired in the early 1960’s when my unit was switching to M-14’s (7.62×51) but they are headstamped 42 and 43 so already old WWII ammo. I’ve kept it loaded in M-1 clips in a couple of .50 cal. ammo cans all these years. Every so often I will get the urge to shoot an M-1 Garand and use some of this (corrosive) ammo. I’ve found that 8-9 out of 10 rounds WILL fire. That’s 80-year old ammo!

  13. I own multiple editions of “Cartridges of the World” and actually enjoy sitting down and reading the books for pleasure! As a result of “knowing my stuff”, with regard to cartridges, I can honestly say that I have never, never, ever loaded a wrong caliber/gauge cartridge into a firearm. That is one mistake I have managed to avoid.

    This is not to say that I am perfect. I am human and, so, prone to error. I have (I must admit) carelessly handled a firearm on a few occasions. Fortunately, without causing any serious mishap. No “Baldwin Blunders” on my record yet, thank the Good Lord! (Knock on Wood! 🙂 ).

    I have also avoided sending ammo into the river or into a washing machine. I did (one time) leave a box of .357 magnum ammo in the floorboard of my car. During the trip, it slid up under the seat and managed to hide itself. I found it again a few weeks later. However, the ammo shot fine. Apparently, spending a few weeks under the seat in the floorboard of my car produced no ill effects.

    To err is human! That is why we have our rules of gun safety. The rules overlap and provide redundancy to help save us fallible humans from our own carelessness and folly!

  14. I had a friend who I’ve lost contact with now, tell me that his grandfather fought in WW I and returned home with a Colt 1911 pistol which was kept in a box stored in the attic. When the veteran passed away in the early 1970’s his son found the pistol which had a loaded magazine and empty chamber wrapped in a towel. My friend’s father and he took the gun out and fired it as is and all seven rounds of 50+ year old ammunition went off and the pistol functioned perfectly. There was a 50 round box of military ball ammo with the 1911 and 49 of them fired with one dud. The pistol with it’s one magazine worked without any malfunctions for all 56 rounds. My friend later did regret shooting up that box of ammo as it was probably collectible, but at the time it was just something to use. The last I heard, my friend will inherit that 1911 pistol when his dad passes.

  15. The celebrated/notorious big game/ivory hunter/poacher/author John Taylor often commented in his writings on the effect of heat in Africa in raising the power of cartridges. He mentioned, too, that he preferred to use “fresh” ammo. He was generally shooting up a storm according to him and may not have kept the same shells around too long anyway. Conversely, I noticed that when I fired .375 H&H rounds at 60 below zero from my Winchester Model 70 during subarctic Yukon winters, the noise seemed diminished, so maybe the power was lowered. I would like to see some others’ experience with extreme temperatures regarding various ammo.

    • That is true about John Taylor preferring to use “fresh” ammo. He preferred to use British made rifles, especially British double-rifles, and he preferred to use high-quality British-made ammo in them. He said that he would order his ammo direct from Britian with the individual boxes of ammo, in either 50 or 100 round boxes depending upon the caliber, wrapped and sealed in lead foil so as to be waterproof. He would only unwrap a box when he was ready to use it thereby keeping the rounds “fresh”.

      As a result of his caution (using only high-quality firearms, high-quality ammo, and keeping it wrapped until use), he said that he only had one misfire after beginning such methods. This was a cartridge that he, accidentally, dropped into a pool of water. This cartridge later misfired on him.

      John Taylor spent his life hunting dangerous game animals for a living. In such a profession, he was wise to take every precaution!

      • TN_MAN:

        In my readings of John Taylor’s books, I recall an incident where he lost several rifles and cases of ammunition when a hippo turned over a boat he was riding in. Imagine what his lost British double rifles would cost today?

      • @ Tom606 – Yes, I remember reading about that incident in his books, too. I believe that John Taylor held a grudge against hippos from that day forward. He writes, almost joyfully, about shooting hippos after that event! 🙂

        No doubt, those rifles would be worth a “pretty penny” today. Heck, they were worth a pretty penny back then! You can almost hear how sorrowful John Taylor was as he remembered and wrote about that loss!

      • TN_MAN:

        There was also an incident where Taylor used a Webley revolver in .455 to shoot a lion which had pinned him down and was chewing some part of his anatomy. The writings of John Hunter and Peter Capstick are also very interesting reading if you are into African hunting. The same goes for Jim Corbett and tiger hunting in India. I would have liked to go on a long African safari back in the 1920’s or 1930’s when there were fewer crazy people and no terrorists running around the Dark Continent with AK-47s and RPGs and planting land mines, but it’s too dangerous now.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here