Stockpiling ammo?

by
posted on July 23, 2014
gsagi2015_fs.jpg

If you’re like me, the rimfire ammunition shortage has seen you go deep in your stockpile. In my case, some of the .22 LR stuff I’ve been shooting lately looks ratty, although I have yet to encounter any function problems. I take the usual precautions, but this week I ran into something rarely mentioned when testing an Alexander Arms AAR-17-chambered in .17 HMR.

When I policed up nearly 300 pieces of brass, I discovered three cracked case necks so I called the rifle’s designer, Bill Alexander. He is undoubtedly one of the nicest people in the industry and he always eagerly shares his wealth of knowledge.

Part of his design challenge was that the early ammunition was, well, “sporty in a self-loader” is a polite way of putting it. Usually a factory anneals (heats and cools) a cartridge’s case at the bullet end to make it more pliable. The treatment reduces the chances it will crack as the company inserts the bullet, or spring a leak at the shoulder or neck when you touch one off at the range. Norma has a good explanation here.

However, the .17 HMR is really a .22 WMR necked down to .17 caliber. The original rimfire .22 magnum has a straight case (ignoring that rim), so quality ammo is annealed, primed, powder goes in and the bullet is inserted. The .17’s slender neck made it impossible to get primer at the rim after necking, so the primer went in first. Then it was necked down, which precluded annealing because the heat required would set off that primer.

As a result, case-neck cracking was common. Things have changed since the cartridge’s introduction in 2002, though, and Alexander said one of his biggest design challenges was making sure his rifle could handle the older fodder. It did with aplomb in my case, with only three cracks, all from the same lot and manufacturer (from what I can gather produced in 2005). There were no failures to fire, squibs, odd velocities or damaged cases from fresher cartridges provided by other companies. Alexander said he’s seen fewer problems with new ammo (although cracking still occurs), and even had to resort to making faulty cartridges to test his rifle’s ability to protect shooters during a catastrophic failure.

I’m still waiting for confirmation from manufacturers that they’ve altered the process, but in the meantime, I’m rethinking the 10-year-old .17 HMR in my ammo bunker. It’s my understanding those cracks I detected after my range session were probably there before I began to shoot-microscopic little fissures, letting moisture in by the second, increasing the chances the powder will fail just when the zombies attack.

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be getting rid of my guns in the chambering. The rimfire’s performance is too good for that to be an option. However, there is a good lesson to be learned: Not all cartridges/loads are created equal in regard to long-term storage.

Latest

Taurus USA Model 327 stainless steel 2" revolver right-side view text on image noting "NRA GUN OF THE WEEK"
Taurus USA Model 327 stainless steel 2" revolver right-side view text on image noting "NRA GUN OF THE WEEK"

NRA Gun Of The Week: Taurus USA 327

Watch this Gun of the Week to learn about the Taurus 327, a compact yet potent revolver chambered for one of today’s underappreciated defensive cartridges.

The Armed Citizen® May 20, 2022

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Rifleman Q&A: A Parkerifled Single-Shot Pistol

Q: I have an old gun that I cannot identify. It’s a .22-cal., single-shot, target-style pistol. I believe the barrel is a Parkerfield, but the stamping is spelled “PARKERIFLED.”

Century Arms And GForce Arms Issue Recalls

Century Arms and GForce Arms identified durability issues with BFT47 and GF991220-DLX guns, requiring immediate inspection and remediation.

Editor’s Choice: Kalashnikov USA Khaos

Kalashnikov USA now offers a non-NFA 12-ga. firearm called the Khaos based on the company’s gas-operated KS-12T semi-automatic AK-pattern shotgun.

Review: Henry X Model .410 Bore Shotgun

Henry Repeating Arms offers a unique and well-made option to fans of the .410 bore, with its lever-action, tube-fed X Model based off of the company's other lines of lever-action rifles.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.