RELOADERS CORNER: Factory Tricks

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A few factory “tricks” can be applied to handloads, if you feel a need. READ MORE

ammo storage
Handling precautions during round assembly and then good storage afterward extends the shelf life of reloads.

Glen Zediker

Last time we took a look at some of the differences between factory-loaded ammo and our own recipe handloads. That material wasn’t a total indictment on factory ammo as might have been expected coming from me and directed toward mine, and that’s because there are some times ready-made has its place.

One of the main-most good things that can be said about factory ammo is that it has a shelf life that, given decent storage conditions, will likely exceed that of handloads. Or not. “Not” depends on what steps or processes were applied to the handload.

Sealants
The main culprit in decreasing stored life of a loaded round results from corrosion. Some call it “sticktion,” and I’ve had it happen a few times. What it is, is the case neck and bullet corrode — stick — together. That will elevate pressure. I had a rash of blown primers from the batch I used.

There are a few ideas on how to reduce or eliminate stiction, and the first starts with eliminating the catalyst for the corrosion. Don’t touch the bullets with your bare fingers! Don’t touch the cases either. I know a few commercial loaders who produce precision ammunition and they’re all about surgical-style gloves.

I have run some tests using bullet sealant (applied as a liquid then UV-cured) and such a product will, indeed, virtually eliminate any worries over corrosion. Most factory, and virtually all mil-spec, ammo uses some formulation of sealant (bullets and primers). The reason I tried it, though, was because of the promise of greater accuracy. Glued bullets tend to produce from a little to a lot smaller velocity spreads. My jury is still out on the value of this additional step, and when there’s a verdict I’ll let you all know how it played out.

reloading sealant
Here’s a simple and easy sealant that works well. One bottle will last about 1000 rounds. Check it out at Midsouth HERE.

There are a few different bullet and primer sealers available. For the most part, these are fairly easy to apply and none are what I’d call expensive.

Giving loaded rounds a good cleaning, and then storing them at the least in air-resistant boxes, keeps the shine on and the corrosion away for a good long while.

Some run their loaded rounds in a routine-type case cleaner, like a vibratory tumbler. That’s all good, but I suggest not using anything but “pure” media to ensure that no residues are left behind.

I use denatured alcohol and a bath towel: place the rounds on half the towel, pour on the alcohol, fold over the towel and roll the rounds around. Let them dry and box them up.

Handling precautions during round assembly and then good storage afterward extends the shelf life of reloads.

More about another factory trick — crimping — next time.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

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11 thoughts on “RELOADERS CORNER: Factory Tricks”

  1. What? “Some run their loaded rounds in a routine-type case cleaner, like a vibratory tumbler.” Yeah if you want to blow up your gun. Never put loaded ammo in a tumbler. I don’t know what you were trying to say. If you run loaded ammo through a tumbler you wind up with the powder grinding against itself and becoming smaller particulates and thus high, HIGH pressures!

  2. I have some handloaded .30-’06 ammo that is at least 30 years old if not older. Corrosion is starting to form around the case mouth and on the bullet. Thanks for letting us know that this can cause elevated pressure levels. I will disassemble these loads and recycle the cases and bullets. The powder will be spread over my yard. since it acts as fertilizer.

    Phil in TX

    1. Since you said you are going to dismantle the rounds, this reply is more for the other readers, but it is important. If you are getting corrosion around the case neck, the powder inside is already ruined. In fact you will probably find the brass is also. The neck will be brittle. To check this, hold the case in you left hand. Take the thumb of your right hand and push on the neck or the shoulder while the index finger wraps around the bullet and pulls it toward the thumb. Kind of like you are trying to break a stick. You’ll find the bullet breaks out of the side of the neck with just a little effort. The first time I came across this I notice a little green around the case mouth. Then I notice some of the necks were split. Since I always inspect the cases before loading I knew they weren’t split when I reloaded them. The following is really just speculation, but based on my experience and research, I think it describes what happens. As the powder breaks down the chemicals attack the brass making it weak and brittle. As the corrosion increases you get the green circle around the case mouth, but it also expands between the bullet and the case. since the bullet isn’t going to compress, the weekend neck splits open. It could be anything form a hairline crack to a full blown split, depending on how long it’s been going on. By the way, as smokeless powder breaks down the first thing to go is the flame retardant that is used to control the burn rate. This is more likely the cause of the higher pressures the author experienced than “sticktion”. If it continues, it will eventually become useless for anything except fertilizer.

  3. Yeah, i wear nitrile gloves in all stages. A big part is to keep body oils off the components, but it also keeps chemicals, heavy metals etc. off of me. All my backstock ammo is packed in acid free cardstock boxes, then vacuum sealed. My average relative humidity is below 30% , so pretty dry anyway, but vacuum sealing helps this very much. Dry and temp stable, with clean components, and they will last forever.

  4. I seem to remember reading when I first got into reloading, about 30 years ago, that it is not good to tumble loaded rounds. Any idea why Or why not?

  5. Just loaded 400 rounds of .45 and about to load 200 rounds of .38 for storage. I use cast lead bullets that are coated with Hi Tek Supercoat. I prevents the metals from touching. And so prevents corrosion in that area. All of my 45-70, .308 and .223 are also cast and coated. In case you were wondering about accuracy with cast and coated, the .308s are running mostly 1 1/2″ groups with some under MOA at 100 yards.

    I can see a use for primer sealer though. I may buy some for my stored ammo.

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