Military Surplus Ammunition Review

Over the years I have fired thousands of rounds of military surplus ammunition from a number of countries in several different calibers. Some has been made with high quality materials to exacting standards and some not so much.

Military surplus ammunition is often a much cheaper alternative to purchasing new factory ammunition but beware, there can be may pitfalls to doing this.

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Buyer Beware

What you see is not alway what you get. One notable example of this is some berdan primed 30 Carbine cartridges with the Lake City headstamp LC 52 which was made by the Peoples Republic of China. . There are people selling this stuff at gunshows who are still misrepresenting it as quality American made ammunition.

Things to watch out for

If the primer sealant is absent and or the brass seems unusually shiny, then the cartridges may have been reloaded or possibly tumbled with polishing media to remove exterior corrosion from the brass.

Loose cartridges in an unlabeled or mislabeled package or container.

Different headstamps in the same package of cartridges.

TZ 80 headstamped ammunition with interior case corrosion.

Test Data for Selected lots of Military Surplus Ammunition

Listed below is chrongraph data from various lots of Military cartridges that I have encountered.

30-06 Lake City - Year 1969

Sold through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. This Lake City ammunition worked fine in my M1 Garand, producing acceptable accuracy. I did see signs of excessive pressure when I fired the ammunition in a Remington Model 700, which has a 1 in 9 inch twist barrel. I suspect that the use of steel jacketed bullets in this fast twist barrel is the reason for this.

Turkish 8 mm Mauser ammunition Year - 1949

Decent quality ammunition with few misfires

Turkish 8 mm Mauser ammunition Year - 1941

This particular lot of Turkish 8 mm Mauser generated a surprisingly consistent muzzle velocity. With a standard deviation of less than 10 feet per second, it is one of the best results that I have had with military surplus ammunition.

7.62 X 25 TOKAREV

Romanian 7.62 x 25 Tokarev

Cycled action properly

Chinese ? 7.62 x 25 Tokarev

Yugoslav 7.62 x 25 Tokarev

This air temperature when this load was chronographed was 45 degrees fahrenheit.

Pictured above are 2 of several nasty case head splits of Yugoslav 30 Tokarev ammunition fired from a CZ52 pistol. Headstamped with the cyrilic letters for Prvi Partizan and the year 1957, I had fired some of the same lot on at least two previous occasions without mishap. On this day in June 2010, it was unseasonably hot with air temperatures in excess of 100 degrees fahrenheit. I did not notice the problem until one of the cases failed to extract. It was only after I had removed the cartridge case from the chamber and observed the case head failure that I checked the other ejected cases for the same problem.

Chinese Norinco 9 x 18 mm Makarov

Packaged in green cardboard box with Norinco logo printed in red. Cartridges held in polystyrene insert (Styrofoam). I bought several preowned boxes of this ammunition some years for $ 2.50 a box. It functioned fairly well but was somewhat dirty producing a lot of powder fouling. Recoil was somewhat stiff in lightweight gun I was using.

Cartridge Headstamps

BHA Black Hills Ammunition,Rapid City, SD, U.S.A.
DAG Dynamit Nobel A-G, Troisdorf, Germany
DAQ Dominion Arsenal, Canada
DEN Denver Ordnance Plant, Denver,CO
FA Frankford Arsenal
EC Evansville Chrysler - steel cased 30 carbine and 45 ACP ammunition
ELD Eldorado Cartridge Corporation aka PMC
FC Federal Cartridge Co
FCC Federal Cartridge Co
FCPQ Fábrica De Cartuchos e Pólvoras Quimicas, Chelas, Portugal
FNM Fábrica Nacional de Munições de Armas Ligeiras, Chelas, Portugal
HRTRS Herters Brand manufactured by Sellier & Bellot of Serbia for Cabelas.
HXP Greek Powder & Cartridge Company, Greece
IMI Israeli Military Industries
IVI Industries Valcartier Inc
KA Pusan Government Arsenal Pusan, South Korea
nny Prvi Partizan - Serbia, initials of company name in cyrilic letters
LC Lake City Independence, MO
OFV Indian Ordnance Factory, Varangaon India
PMC Precision Made Cartridges made for the Eldorado Cartridge Corporation. May be made in Korea
PMP Pretoria Metal Pressings Ltd. Pretoria,South Africa
PPU Prvi Partizan - Serbia
PS Poongsan Metal Manufacturing CO. Seoul, South Korea
RA Remington Arms
REM Remington Arms Company, Bridgeport, Conn
S&B Sellier & Bellot of Serbia or the former Yugoslavia - Commercial production
SL St. Louis Ordnance Plant
T Thun munitions factory Switzerland - headstamp will has two digits at 6'oclock for year of production.
TW Twin Cities Arsenal
TZ Israel Military Industries, Tel Aviv, Israel
TZZ Israel Military Industries, Tel Aviv, Israel
VC Verdun Arsenal, Canada
VPT Valtion Patruunatehdas, Lapua, Finland
WCC Western Cartridge Company
WIN Winchester Repeating Arms
WRA Winchester Repeating Arms

About Corrosive primers

Primers using potassium chlorate were once in common use and can still be found in much of the foreign military surplus ammunition from the 1970's and before.

All U.S military small arms ammunition made in the early 1950's or before should be considered corrosive except 30 carbine which has always been loaded with non corrosive primers

When cartridges utilizing corrosive primers are fired, they leave a residue of salts such as potassium chloride in the barrel and the action. These salts when in contact with steel will react with moisture to cause corrosion and pitting on a firearm in much the same way that road salt rusts a car body. Firearms shot with corrosive ammunition should be cleaned as soon as possible, preferably the same day.

There are a number of materials that can been used to remove this corrosive fouling. My preference is Hoppes #9 but there are numerous black powder solvents designed for use on muzzleloading firearms which work well. Another option is GI Bore cleaner which is fairly effective. Created during the fifties, it is commonly available in 2 and 8 ounce steel cans painted olive green. There is also the old fall back method and that is to use several water saturated patches followed by one or more dry patches. A lightly oiled patch is then run through the barrel to prevent rust. Don't forget to clean the bolt face and any other steel surface that powder residue may have settled on or in.

Other pages on this site about surplus or military style ammo

How long will modern ammunition remain viable?
Counterfeit Lake City 30 Carbine Ammo made by the Peoples Republic of China.
Dynamit Nobel AG (DAG) Blue Plastic 7.62 x 51 NATO Training Ammunition
Indian 7.62 x 51 NATO with OFV 02 headstamp
Wolf Brand and Other imported Russian Ammunition
General Information on Military Rifle Cartridges