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A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Midway USA. Seems some AR-15 ammo I bought last year had a teensy little problem:

Dear James,

We have been notified by Winchester of a recall on a product you purchased from MidwayUSA between December 2011 and April 2012 . . .

The specific information regarding this recall can be accessed at the following location: Recall Details

While MidwayUSA could not have anticipated this situation, we are confident Winchester will make every effort to ensure your satisfaction.

We are very sorry for your inconvenience.



Going to the link (the full info on Winchester’s Web site is here) the issue is that Winchester might have used the wrong powder in some of the rounds from this lot, which could lead to unpredictable results. Including the sort of results that leave people missing important appendages.

As a result of this little oopsie, Winchester wanted me to send what I had left back in for replacement. Going though my ammo box, I discovered that I had fired roughly 300 of the 900 rounds I’d bought. I’d speculate that my box was therefore probably good as I still have all of my body parts attached, but why take the risk when Winchester is footing the replacement bill?

A call to the number provided connected me almost immediately with a friendly Winchester rep who took my address information and will be dispatching a UPS truck to come and pick up the remainder of my ammo. They’ll then send out a replacement and I was given two options. I could have either 1,000 rounds of the 62 grain penetrator ammo that I’d bought, or they’d be happy to send me 2,000 rounds of 55 grain ammo.

That’s pretty much a no-brainer. This is just plinking ammo and my Sig 516 really doesn’t care one way or the other (it really wants 69 grain Sierra HTBT, but that’s a story for another day). I only got the 62 grain stuff because that’s the mil surp that’s available. It’s kind of a pain because a lot of ranges don’t like it due to the penetrator core.

Now, for those who wear their tinfoil hats snug, this little incident does expose the double edged sword of Internet ammo sales. Looking back through my records, I bought this package way back in February 2012. A year later, Midway had no trouble finding me to let me know about the recall.

On the one hand, it does show that should push ever come to shove, Uncle Sam could certainly use the records of the big online firearm supply houses to figure out exactly which houses in each town are more likely to be trouble spots. On the other hand, without Midway’s email, I’d have never have known about this recall and would have simply shot my remaining stock with the best case being that I missed out on a lot of free ammo and worst case being one of the rounds in my package going boom in a really bad way. On balance, I think the good outweighed the bad, but your mileage may vary.

So, in the end, I bought 900 rounds of ammo, shot 300 of them, and then got 2000. Not a bad deal. Cost per round works out to about 15 cents apiece for all 2,300 rounds.

Gotta tip my hat to Winchester for doing the right thing.  Sure, they need to replace the ammo for liability reasons, but they could just as easily have done it in a one-for-one even exchange. They didn’t have to offer me 1,000 or 2,000 rounds.

Maybe all that stuff about ammo shortages might be a bit overblown.

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  1. >Maybe all that stuff about ammo shortages might be a bit overblown.
    So then where is all the ammo hiding?

  2. I hope you get the replacement ammo, and that this isn’t a scam for the U.S. “Government” to acquire more ammo intended for civilian use.

    I’m not saying it is. I hope you’re right. But unless you have a ton of SS-109 ammo, I’ve have opted for that. Might come in handy, if you know what I mean.

    • “I hope you get the replacement ammo, and that this isn’t a scam for the U.S. “Government” to acquire more ammo intended for civilian use.”

      The tinfoil is strong with this one…

  3. I wonder how much budget shortfall could be made up for by the Federal Government selling off some of its billions of rounds?

    • considering that a billion plus rounds hitting the market would bottom us out even with the current demand? Call it .15 cents per round. So probably 150 million dollars or so.
      In other words imagine how much money you’d have save if you sold your can of soda to a co-worker at lunch for a quarter.
      I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it, and I’m not saying that I don’t want to see ammunition prices take a nosedive. I actually want to see both of those things very very badly.

  4. Winchester is not standing behind the product. You are. Which is the most dangerous place to be if your gun is going to go kablooey.

    • Not in a literal sense, but they are reaching out to make it right. That is the kind of people we need in the industry… I buy from them because of that.

  5. There’s no privacy or secrets any more. They know what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. The sad truth is, it comes down to practicality. They don’t have the resources and manpower to come at us head on. Don’t wave a red flag in their faces and you’ll be ignored, for the most part.

  6. Could this be why I reload now. Granted I don’t have what most of you have but my Henry .44 does OK 225 gr accurate up to 200yds. Hope none of the buyers got injured.

  7. This kind of thing is why banning internet sales of ammo is so inane as a gun control measure. There is nothing less “anonymous” than an internet transaction where you have to sign for the delivery of the item. Credit card number, billing and shipping addresses, email addresses, maybe phone numbers, those are all tied to the order.

    • Laws governing privacy and security are rarely authored or sponsored by people who understand information technology. It never ceases to amaze me how in 2013 we still see legislation introduced which is based on the assumption that a face-to-face retail transaction is somehow more subject to audit and controls than an Internet transaction.

      This one from de Leon, for example:

      Everyone should register their opposition after reading this steaming pile of quality. Please.

      • Well, you know, this “Internet thing” is pretty scary to those old farts on Capitol Hill. They think it’s a series of tubes, where anyone can order an evil assault weapon with the shoulder thing that goes up… with no background check at all!

  8. It would have been nice for them to publicly acknowledged their bad run of 9mm ammo in which occasional rounds were missing a flash hole. I discovered this problem the hard way, trying to use Winchester cheap target ammo from Walmart for a competition.

    I posted about my experience in a Pennsylvania-specific forum, got several responses from others who experienced the same thing, and google later turned up several other similar reports. Winchester gave me credit for the ammo but as far as I know never issued any public statement about what appears to have been a run with poor QC on the cases.

    There is also a purported internal FBI memo from the same time frame (spring/summer 2012) indicating a flawed run of .40S&W duty ammo which was recalled and replaced.

  9. The reason for the records is two fold. For just what happened with the loads being dangerous and the second. The IRS and the tax code for all sales transactions other than cash are kept for at least 7 years.

    • Very true. Many companies will keep records of high ticket items or items that may have a problem later on for longer than the required 7 years.
      Nothing nefarious, simply CYA for the company. The IRS does not see these records unless you get audited.

  10. Sending 2000 rounds to make up for a bad purchase of 1000 is quite nice from the end-user perspective — and certainly worth it to Olin (Winchester) to nip off any liability or bad press that could result from defective overpressure ammo.

    Makes me kinda wish PMC or AE would have a similar recall on 40SW, sure would be nice to trade half a case of FMJ target ammo for a full case of JHPs. 🙂

  11. Jim,

    Is there any reason to believe that the bad batch of ammo seems to be loaded too hot? The repsonse off the link seems to be canned. I would not put it past a company to bend the truth to create a greater sense of urgency.

    I am thinking it is just as possible, that the ammo is weaker than it is supposed to be. Still a big problem; a rifle that does not cycle when you need it to will not blow off your limb but the guy shooting at you might.

    How was the performance w/ the rounds you did fire?

    • I had a case of the 556 I had to send back. When I spoke to the rep at Winchester he said they had mixed propellant in the rounds. Im guessing thats pistol powder in a rifle round. 24 grains of pistol powder in a AR would be a nice big kaboom….

      But its been 2 weeks since Winchester got my ammo and I havent heard a word from them.


    • Didn’t have any problems with the 300 rounds I shot. I fired them in both my Sig 516 and my P556 pistol and they all worked flawlessly. Decent groups, etc. My guess is that a small portion of the run had the wrong powder and my box probably was not part of that, hence I did not experience any issues.

  12. My experience with Winchester/Olin was similar.

    I bought some Winchester White Box .38 special at Wal-Mart a while ago. While shooting at the range with a Smith 642, I has 2 squib rounds with that ammo. The first time, I punched the bullet back out of the barrel and continued. Ten shots later, I had another. Time to quit. Punched that one out and found I couldn’t close the cylinder. Called Winchester/Olin, the tech guy said send them the unused ammo, the two bullets and the cases. Told about the gun, he said send that also. They provided the mailer and UPS picked up.

    End result, Winchester sent the gun to Smith and Wesson for repairs on their dime and sent me a coupon for $50.

    From my experience, their customer service is tops.

    • This, incidentally is one reason not to reload. When I took an armorer’s class at Sig Academy last year, it was taught by one of the guys who used to work in the Sig factory. He told me that the Sig boys had gotten very good at diagnosing pistols returned under warranty that had shot hand loads. His advice was that if you always use name brand ammo, if you ever have a problem due to ammo, either the gun manufacturer or the ammo manufacturer would take care of the repairs.

      Now, that said, I still reload my own ammo. If you do it carefully with the right equipment, and pay attention to what you are doing, you are unlikely to ever have any problems.

  13. I have no doubt that my internet ammo sales are tracked. Of course I shoot all of the ammo the day it arrives officer, so no I don’t have any of it left.

  14. I’ve always found Olin to be a stand-up company, even if the quality of their brass isn’t the best out there.

    As for tracking of ammo sales: Duh. Yet another reason to load your own. There’s only two sizes of rifle primers, and they get used in a lot of different loads, especially large primers. There’s only two different sizes of pistol primers, and they get used in a lot of loads. Get a couple of versatile powders in bulk, work up loads appropriately and it becomes a knapsack problem trying to figure out what you own from what components you’re buying.

    • +1 for the knapsack problem reference. Did you get an engineering degree before going into gunsmithing? 🙂

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