Remember when surplus 8mm Mauser ammo was more abundant than White House press conference fibs? I do. Not so very long ago, you could buy as much as you could store for less than 5 cents a round. Now that same round is about 60 cents – if you can find it. Similar scenarios apply for other common military rounds like .308, .30-06, 7.62×39 and 7.62x54R. While harder to find, and a lot more expensive than it used to be, it can still be cheaper than newly manufactured ammo.
While the glory days of surplus ammo have gone the way of real investigative journalism, there are still some deals to be had. For example, one of the current “bargains” (and I use that word begrudgingly) is 5.45×39 for AK74s. That can still be found in quantity for about $.22 per round. Considering new 5.56mm ammo runs into the $.40 to $.50 range, that’s not too bad, assuming you have one of those micro-bullet AKs or a different 5.45mm bullet eater.
But as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The “cost” of that dirt cheap ammo is that some of it has corrosive primers or other issues that require extra care when feeding.
There are benefits and drawbacks to using surplus ammunition. Rather than address pros and cons, let’s just make some observations.
The real issue here is corrosive primers that use material which leaves a potassium chloride residue in the barrel and gas system – if you use a semi-automatic. You might recognize this dangerous (to guns anyway) chemical as… salt.
The problem with salt is that it likes water and attracts it from humid air. It likes water so much that even if you slather your bore with gun oil after shooting corrosive ammo, the salt will pull moisture through the oil to the bore and rust it underneath the oil layer. Did I mention that it really likes water?
The other problem with salt is that it does not really break down into anything less damaging to guns. It dilutes in water, but it’s still salt. So you can’t just “neutralize” salt residue left by corrosive ammo primers. Oil won’t neutralize it. Gun cleaner won’t neutralize it. Justin Bieber’s Greatest Hits won’t even neutralize it. You have to remove it. On the plus side, the fact that salt dilutes in water makes it easier to remove.
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