Monday, June 26, 2017

Rotating Carry and Defense Ammo

The other day my wife caught me replacing ammo in her gun. Actually she didn’t really catch me she’s seen me do it before. She just noticed this time and asked questions. “How often do you replace ammo? Is the replaced ammo still good? What do you look for when inspecting ammo? Is there any other time you would rotate it?”
These were all good questions. I also have some other things I’d like to point out.
Defense guns and ammunition are special items. These tools you must have work when you need them. They should be what you consider the best. Or at least the best that you can afford. One of my home defense guns is a S&W auto compact 9mm. Would I rather have a Sig Saur or a Kimber? Sure. But I like my S&W and I am accurate with it. We have other guns of other calibers hidden through-out the house.
Anyway, I like to switch out my ammo in our carry guns and home defensive weapons every 6 months. This is just a conclusion I came to many years ago from experience. If you Google “rotate your ammo” you’ll find several articles and forum threads on this topic. I also consider what type of gun I’m keeping ammunition in.
The difference between a semi-auto pistol and a revolver is obvious. But not so much how each type of gun treats its ammo. With a revolver, your rounds are dropped smoothly into the chamber. Every surface of the ammunition, save the face of the bullet, is protected, and there is no high-impact insertion into the chamber. Autoloading pistols have a tendency to beat the daylights out of the first couple of rounds in the magazine. When the gun is loaded, the first round is slammed rather violently into the chamber. The second round is subject to the slide’s movement over its case, and if you load and unload frequently, these two probably get cycled in and out of the chamber more than once.
The “revolver or auto” question also pertains to any spare ammunition you carry. With extra mags for a semi-auto, all of the ammunition in the magazine is protected by the magazine body with the exception of the first round. If you carry a revolver, things are a bit different. If you carry spare rounds in a Speed Strip in your back pocket then after a month or two, the rounds on this strip are discolored and usually one or two of the cases is at least a little dented. If you carry speedloaders in belt holders (or magazines in magazine pouches), the ammo will probably not age as quickly, but can still eventually encounter issues from exposure moisture and debris.
The next question you should be asking is, “How do I store the gun?” Is the gun a nightstand pistol that rarely leaves the bedside table? Is it a daily carry gun? Do you load and unload it daily? Your answers here may dictate how often you should rotate your ammunition. If the gun never leaves the bedside, the ammunition could probably last pretty much indefinitely. Because it is not exposed to sweat, humidity, temperature fluctuation, and daily handling, the ammunition should last much longer than ammunition in a carry gun. If you are like me and you check the condition of your firearm every time you put it into the holster, the ammunition in it can become a little worn and should be replaced more frequently.

You should inspect your ammunition occasionally. When I pull the rounds out of my gun, I am looking for some specific indicators that it should be replaced. First, I’m going to look at the bullet itself. Some discoloration from handling is normal, but alterations in the shape of the bullet are not. Did it get slammed into the feed ramp and is now misshapen as a result? This is probably a good indicator that the whole cartridge has suffered some abuse, and the change in shape may impact the bullet’s performance. If the bullet is deformed, replace those rounds.
Next, you should look at the position of the bullet in the case. A condition called “bullet setback” can occur when pressure is repeatedly applied to the bullet – from chambering and rechambering – and forces it backward into the case. This can compress the powder and create dangerously high chamber pressures, and ammunition exhibiting significant bullet setback should not be fired. If the bullet is set back, replace those rounds. Federal, Remington and Winchester all recommend that cartridges should not be chambered more than twice before being discarded. I usually shoot the rounds unless the setback is significant or there is other damage. (I reload so I have a bullet puller. I’ll pull the bullet and re-use the case if it’s not damaged)
Next, you should inspect the case. Non-nickel plated brass cases may be discolored. Some mild discoloration isn’t reason to remove them from duty, but corrosion is.
I then inspect for deformities, especially the kind that would prevent the round from feeding reliably. These include dents or slight bulges in the case or deformities around the case mouth. I find this to be most common with revolver cartridges carried in reloading strips. I carry these in my back pocket, so each time I sit they are liable to impact with whatever I am sitting on. If cases are badly corroded or deformed, get rid of them.
What do I do with the ammunition that comes out of the rotation? I shoot it. There is some value here, other than just an expensive range session. It also gives me confidence in my ammunition.
I admit this does cost a little money. For me, it’s totally worth it for the peace of mind in knowing that my ammunition will go “boom” when it has to.

Semper Paratus
Check 6