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Thread: Best way to clean dirty/discolored ammo?

  1. #1
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    Best way to clean dirty/discolored ammo?

    My ammo came in the mail very quickly, which is thanks to Cheaperthandirts.com's fast shipping.

    I ordered 4 different kinds of ammo, and what sucks is that most of it is dirty and sticky to a slight degree.

    If i take an old T-shirt or dry paper towel and wipe the rounds down for a minute or two, there is always a grayish black residue that comes off of the rounds.

    Now i would understand if it was some kind of lube, but the residue is often a bit sticky, and after polishing the rounds for a minute or two, the rounds feel dry and slippery like dry smooth metal surfaces should.

    I'm worried that if i don't clean each round, i will either end up with jams or other malfunctions.

    Most of the ammunition is also very discolored with what looks like very old brass. The brass casings always seem to be worn and discolored around the neck of the cartridge.

    Is it safe to shoot dirty looking discolored ammo from my AR? Some of the rounds have little black spots and other marks that look like little dirt specs.


    All the ammo is mil surplus 5.56 for my AR

    I just wanna know that it's safe to shoot this discolored dirty ammo. It sucks having to sit here wiping black and gray residue off of 500 rounds or so.

    Not sure what to do.

  2. #2
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    What ammo is it? What kind of surplus? How old are they (can you check headstamps)? How damaged are the rounds?

    If the rounds are not damaged and it's just surface dirt (which is what it sounds like), I would just wipe them the best I could and not worry about it for training/plinking purposes.

    If you are a soldier going into battle, an LEO, or using it for defensive purposes then I would perhaps think about picking up some other ammo.

    That being said, I have had only the best of luck with surplus 5.56; South African, Radway Green, IMI, Prvi Partisan, and many other older surplus brands that I am forgetting. Sometimes it's dirty, in which case I just wipe it and go. I still think you should inspect all rounds for serious damage before loading (a good habit even for new ammo).

    In fact the only time I can remember I ever had a problem was when I ordered 10K of the surplus Guatemalan 5.56 in 2003 and about half my crates arrived like this:



    (Yes that is my actual photo.) It turns out they had been from the bottom of a pallet that had been sitting in water for years. Unless it's that bad, I would not worry about it.

  3. #3
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    What brand of ammo?

    The discoloring around the neck of the case are probably an annealing mark. It's from the case necks being heating to soften the metal during the case forming process. It's normal in military and less expensive ammo, because they don't affect function and removing them cost extra.

    The cases used in commercial ammo will go through an extra cleaning/polishing process to remove the annealing marks, blemishes, and give the cases a uniform polished appearance.

    As far as the sticky residue, I can only guess what that is. A little rubbing alcohol on a rag should take care of it though.

  4. #4
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    The ammo i have is

    x60 5.56x45mm Lake City XM193A FMJ on stripper clips

    x80 5.56mm (62) FMJ M855 PENETRATOR green tip

    x80 FEDERAL AMMUNITION XM193F M193 Ball 55g Metal case boat tail bullet

    x180 American Tactical made in turkey 62g

    It looks like it's old and worn, some worse than others.

    i bought all of this ammo from Cheaperthandirt.com and Ammunition to go.com
    Last edited by Jimston; 12-30-10 at 13:31.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JChops View Post
    What ammo is it? What kind of surplus? How old are they (can you check headstamps)? How damaged are the rounds?

    If the rounds are not damaged and it's just surface dirt (which is what it sounds like), I would just wipe them the best I could and not worry about it for training/plinking purposes.

    If you are a soldier going into battle, an LEO, or using it for defensive purposes then I would perhaps think about picking up some other ammo.

    That being said, I have had only the best of luck with surplus 5.56; South African, Radway Green, IMI, Prvi Partisan, and many other older surplus brands that I am forgetting. Sometimes it's dirty, in which case I just wipe it and go. I still think you should inspect all rounds for serious damage before loading (a good habit even for new ammo).

    In fact the only time I can remember I ever had a problem was when I ordered 10K of the surplus Guatemalan 5.56 in 2003 and about half my crates arrived like this:



    (Yes that is my actual photo.) It turns out they had been from the bottom of a pallet that had been sitting in water for years. Unless it's that bad, I would not worry about it.
    Ooo that sucks man. Yeah, my ammo isn't even close to looking that bad.

  6. #6
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    The discoloration of the brass you see around the neck is from the annealing process. It's supposed to be there.

    The stickiness may be from the case and primer sealant.

    Ammo is dirty as are ammo plants.

    To clean it I'd shoot it.

    I've never had a problem with any of the Federal ammo you mentioned. No experience with the Turkish ammo though. I don't think you'll have any issues though. American sporting/hunting ammo tends to be packed in nice colorful boxes with polished nickeled cases or polished brass. Mil-spec ammo isn't.

  7. #7
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    annealed brass is a good thing.. you cannot get the annealing "off," as it isn't "on" to begin with.

    i've put ammo through my guns that you wouldn't have believed would still function, and had, as far as i can remember, ZERO malfunctions. i had several thousand rounds of various ammos get completely submerged in fresh water for about 8-10 hours a few years ago- some of it was steel cased and rusted badly. all of the .223/5.56 fired without malfunction.

    your chamber will probably dictate how well your gun accepts the ammo more than the ammo will. just make sure you give the chamber a good scrub when you're done, if there's any question.

  8. #8
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    Please be aware that we have an Ammunition/ Reloading area. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimston View Post
    My ammo came in the mail very quickly, which is thanks to Cheaperthandirts.com's fast shipping.

    I ordered 4 different kinds of ammo, and what sucks is that most of it is dirty and sticky to a slight degree.

    If i take an old T-shirt or dry paper towel and wipe the rounds down for a minute or two, there is always a grayish black residue that comes off of the rounds.

    Now i would understand if it was some kind of lube, but the residue is often a bit sticky, and after polishing the rounds for a minute or two, the rounds feel dry and slippery like dry smooth metal surfaces should.

    I'm worried that if i don't clean each round, i will either end up with jams or other malfunctions.

    Most of the ammunition is also very discolored with what looks like very old brass. The brass casings always seem to be worn and discolored around the neck of the cartridge.

    Is it safe to shoot dirty looking discolored ammo from my AR? Some of the rounds have little black spots and other marks that look like little dirt specs.


    All the ammo is mil surplus 5.56 for my AR

    I just wanna know that it's safe to shoot this discolored dirty ammo. It sucks having to sit here wiping black and gray residue off of 500 rounds or so.

    Not sure what to do.





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  9. #9
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    Attempting to clean up XM193 is a silly waste of time. Shoot it.

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    I found a box of 1965 lake city 7.62 match ammo a few yrs ago that had been sitting in a garage for 20+ yrs. Used ooo steel wool to clean off the corrosion looks better than new now.

  11. #11
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    If you're really concerned, run it through a vibratory tumbler with a tablespoon of mineral spirits absorbed into corncob media for 30 min to 1 hr.

    It'll come out with any minor surface issues removed, and looking shiny and polished, but the annealing mark will still be there.

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    Alright guys, thanks for all the info as i feel much better about shooting it. I now understand why the rounds are of different color around the neck. I looked up some pictures and compared them with annealed arounds or whatever you wanna call it.

    All i did was attach x10 rounds at a time to a stripper clip and hit them with a tooth brush, and then wipped them down with an old tee shirt.

    I did get quite a bit of dirt, so the rounds are now shiny and smooth.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by markm View Post
    Attempting to clean up XM193 is a silly waste of time. Shoot it.
    This.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizer67 View Post
    If you're really concerned, run it through a vibratory tumbler with a tablespoon of mineral spirits absorbed into corncob media for 30 min to 1 hr.

    It'll come out with any minor surface issues removed, and looking shiny and polished, but the annealing mark will still be there.
    Tumble live rounds? I have never done this and to me it just sounds dangerous for 2 reasons. 1. Primer being struck by another round and 2. Powder being broken up to cause a faster ignition and increased pressures. I see you recommended a vibrator tumbler and not a rotary, but am I just over cautious?
    Do you know what you get when you don't get what you want? Experience.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1_click_off View Post
    Tumble live rounds? I have never done this and to me it just sounds dangerous for 2 reasons. 1. Primer being struck by another round and 2. Powder being broken up to cause a faster ignition and increased pressures. I see you recommended a vibrator tumbler and not a rotary, but am I just over cautious?
    I don't do it. Lots of people do. Seems to be pretty safe though I still don't want to tempt the ammo gods.
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  16. #16
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    How many reports of blown up tumblers/vibrators have you read about on the firearm forums? If it happened, it would be all over the forums with photos documenting everything.

  17. #17
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    I've tumbled tens of thousands of live rounds to clean up surplus, remove case lube from reloads, etc, etc, etc.

    Some gents over on SnipersHide did a 'mythbusters' style test where they tumbled and chrono'd ammo from 1 hour up to 24 hours. End result, no powder breakdown, no recordable speed differences. Do it, don't worry about the internet lore and hand wringing.
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