This past weekend, I had a chance to fire an M1 Carbine I recently found in the bottom of a lake. My diving crew friends also recovered some ammo with the gun. Uncle Sam’s Lake City Army ammunition plant had loaded it almost 70 years ago. Stored in an ammo can in a detached garage for many of those years, the US government ammo ran flawlessly.
A couple of years ago I wrote here about how antique ammo stored even in less than ideal cool and dry conditions will still go bang reliably. Perhaps not as reliably as modern production ammunition, but pretty darned close.
Ammunition typically doesn’t go bad unless it’s exposed to oil contamination. Corrosive environments (such as being near an ocean), extreme heat, or perpetual high humidity take many decades to meaningfully erode the reliability of loaded ammo.
For those of us who store ammo in ammo cans, they do a nice job protecting cartridges from moisture and other issues.
This past weekend’s experience again proved that ammo will last longer than most people will, even when stored poorly. So don’t be afraid of firing factory-loaded ammo that has a “born on” date older than you on a headstamp.
Not only that, but that antique ammo shot plenty accurately too, at least minute of bad guy.
In this case, I sighted in the rifle. Five clicks to the left on the rear sight put me dead-on at 25 yards. Then a follow-up 15-round magazine on a fresh target put all but one into a ragged, roughly one-inch hole. For the record, I called the errant round. The Rockola barrel shoots true with those antique rounds.
The only ammo that posed any issue was some custom-made defensive loads. The issue, however, had nothing to do with the rounds firing.
Someone had cast .30 caliber hollow-points and loaded them for use in the M1 Carbine. Those rounds didn’t feed reliably. Of the sixty cartridges (two loaded 30-round magazines), I managed to shoot a total of twenty rounds.
While shooting those, I suffered through at least that many rounds that wouldn’t feed even with some cajoling. Eventually, I chucked the rest in the trash. I did manage to find three loose ones for photos though.
Somewhere along the line, a previous owner of that ammo spent good money probably in the 1960s or 1970s to make something they believed more effective for personal defense than ball or soft-point .30 caliber ammo.
Fortunately they never needed it because it wouldn’t have functioned for them, largely because of the shape of the bullet and the overall length of the loaded rounds. (Pro Tip: This is why we always function test ammunition and magazines we intend to use for personal defense.)
Speaking of which, I’m a fan of Hornady’s Critical Defense .30 Carbine defensive loads. They ran reliably in the 15-round magazines that came with the rifle from the bottom of Lake Michigan.
To sum up: shooting is fun. And shooting old ammo is fun, too.