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Old 11-04-2004, 11:52 AM   #1
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Early primers contained compounds that actually caused rusting of barrel steels and any surfaces that came in contact with the gasses produced as a result of the detonation of the primers. If left in the bore, these compounds will rust the bore extremely quickly. Rusting is accelerated by humidity levels in excess of 50% and heat. It is not uncommon to find rust forming in the bores of corrosive ammo fired weapons within hours of the end of shooting. The corrosive compounds are hydrosorbic and will absorb moisture from the air very quickly. Conventional cleaning processes are inadequate in the removal of these corrosive compounds. Many well meaning persons have ruined the bores of fine surplus rifles by using conventional methods to clean the bore, thinking that they were going to be protected from corrosion.

Starting in the 1920s US civilian ammunition manufacturers began to adjust the priming mixture on their ammunition to contain non-rusting compounds. By the late 1930s virtually all civilian made ammo in the US was of non-corrosive manufacture.

The US military began to switch to non corrosive ammo just prior to WWII but the entry of the USA into WWII meant that innovative steps, like the use of non-corrosive priming compounds, had to be stopped for the duration of that war. There is one notable exception; all USA made .30 US Carbine ammo is non corrosive. This accounts for the almost total lack of rusting found in M1 carbine bores and their overall fine condition. After WWII most Western nations, who manufactured ammo, began to make exclusively non-corrosive ammo by 1950.

The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies continued to manufacture large amounts of ammo right to the end of the Soviet era (1991). All of this ammo is corrosive primed. Much of this ammo is now in the US market place and can be had very cheaply. In most instances you can buy Soviet era surplus ammo cheaper than you could load that caliber yourself. All of this ammo must be treated as if it were loaded with corrosive compounds. Indeed Russia continues to produce newly made ammo for export to the USA. Some of this ammo is non-corrosive and some is not. The Russians have gotten much better in the last few years about making the ammo they sell for export to the USA consistently non-corrosive. Branded products, like WOLF ammo are notable in this regard. Sadly there is still some commercial-boxed ammo in the market from the early days of Russian importation that is clearly Soviet-era surplus and as a result corrosive. As a result, I strongly recommend that a person treat ALL ammo generated in the former Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact nations (Albania and The Peoples Republic of China as well) as corrosive ammo. Truth in advertising and quality control laws that we have grown up with in the USA are non-existent in these nations and that MUST be taken into account.

I strongly suggest that all 7.62x39 of foreign manufacture, all 7.62x54r, all ammo, regardless of caliber, that comes out of a hermetically sealed ammo can (i.e. SPAM can), all ammo generated in the former Eastern Bloc, all Western-nation-made ammo predating 1950, be treated as corrosive. As well, all ammo from Asia (China, Pakistan, India in particular) should be treated as if it were corrosive primed. There are some exceptions to all the above but one would be very wise to follow the above suggestions to prevent damage to your guns

Many shooters shy away from surplus ammo as they feel insecure about firing corrosive ammo. Surplus ammunition is a tremendous bargain and can be enjoyed with no fear of damage to the firearm with some simple post-shooting procedures followed. The offensive compound in corrosive primers is sodium chloride. Thankfully, this compound is water-soluble and is easily washed off. If you have fired black powder weapons the clean-up protocol for corrosive primed weapons is the same. If not, it is helpful to explain this protocol step by step.

You should learn the way old timers cleaned their guns, if no other reason to see how easy our lives are these days and appreciate how difficult life was in the past. Those old shooters knew a thing or two and we can all learn from their experiences. This method starts with boiling a large pot of water. As the water comes to the boil stick a large metal funnel into the breach and slowly pour the scalding water into the bore. It helps if you have the rifle clamped into place and this is best done outside for obvious reasons. This action both flushes the bore of corrosive compound and dries the water up instantly so you will not have the under-wood rust problems some are plagued with. All surfaces the have been touched by corrosive primer gasses (bolt faces, gas operating systems, muzzle breaks, etc) must be cleaned using the same method. After this procedure you can proceed to clean up the rifle as you normally would using a carbon/copper fouling solvent. As a side benefit the heat of the boiling water tends to liquefy any residual cosmolene and starts it flowing. Just remember all you are doing here is flushing the corrosive compounds from the bore. The bore is still dirty with carbon and jacket fouling. If I encounter a rifle that I suspect has been really neglected I will scrub the bore down with wire brush dripping in water to get at all the possible places corrosive compounds may lurk.

Most of us would be clobbered if our wives saw us using their pots and pans as gun cleaning supplies. As well, most of us live busier lives than they did in the past and lack the time to boil pots of water, or desire to clean our guns at the range. As a result, a newer method has evolved to treat corrosive-ammo fired guns. The basis of this method is the idea that ammonia will act to neutralize the salts in corrosive priming compounds.

I have created a formula that I carry with me to the range every time I shoot. Simply purchase a quart bottle of ammonia. This is located in the soap and laundry aisle at Publix. It is under $1.00. I dilute the quart by 1/2 with water as the ammonia can have negative affects on some metallic finishes and many wood finishes. I also add 1-2 teaspoons per quart of BLUE DAWN dishwashing soap. This is a wetting agent and degreaser that allows the water to adhere and work its way into imperfections in the bore. Shake this mixture up. Some put this in spray bottles and spray it into the breech after shooting. I do choose not to use this solution as a spray, as I prefer to have greater control of the solution than a spray bottle allows. After shooting I dip a patch into this solution and run the dripping wet patch on a one-way trip down the bore. DO NOT run the patch back into the bore. I run four or more dripping wet patches down the bore and then dry patch the bore. By this time you will notice the patches taking on a green/blue color. This is the jacket fouling in the bore beginning to dissolve from exposure to the ammonia. This is a happy secondary byproduct of this procedure. You must also apply this mixture to all other surfaces that have come into contact with the gasses produced from primer combustion. These surfaces include bolt faces, feed ramps, muzzle breaks, gas system components, etc For the most part this ammo is used in bolt action rifles so clean up is very quick. You can now proceed to clean out the carbon and jacket fouling using conventional cleaning solvents and methods. I would caution that this mixture should not be allowed to linger too long on metallic surfaces or wood finishes as it may after these surfaces and finishes.

As a gesture to correctness and safety most shooters who use corrosive ammo will go back, a week after shooting corrosive ammo through their bores, to insure that all traces of the compounds have been dealt with. It is not unknown that surplus military rifles have bore imperfections that can hide corrosive compounds. Since these compounds will rust UNDER grease and oil they will make what looks like a fine bore a mess if you are not safe. This usually involves dry-patching the bore, followed by an inspection and then final application of a preservative compound to the bore.

I would also be remiss if I forgot to mention the use of WWII era and earlier USGI bore cleaner. This comes in small and large cans but usually the small cans are the ones encountered. They are about the size of a full clip of M1 ammo and are meant to fit into the cartridge belt of that era. The liquid is excellent but is becoming a relic of a bygone era as the cans themselves are attracting collector interest. Later GI bore cleaner, of the Vietnam era and later, will not address the issue of corrosive ammo and should not be used as a treatment for corrosive ammo.

I have found that this extra step of cleaning the corrosive primer compounds out adds about an extra minute or two to my cleaning routine. This is a price I am willing to pay for the extreme enjoyment of shooting surplus ammo at give-away cheap prices. Many collectors of older military small arms will tell you stories of finding fine specimens with rusted out bores due to shooter neglect. It is sad that a rifle that honorably soldiered through 50-100 years of history can be reduced to scrap by an unknowing shooter here in the USA. I cannot imagine one would be so glib with your own guns as to accept this abuse. I feel most younger shooters just do not understand the simple, yet effective, procedures involved in shooting corrosive ammo. Follow these procedures and your rifle will last another 100 years. Ignore them and you might be endangering your life and the lives of those around you at the range with a rifle that will likely fail with spectacular results.

Thanks Yall, Now go out and shoot up that corrosive stuff, and dont be afraid!
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