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Protruding primer (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

So Dan and I survived the Texas Concealed Handgun License class. The most interesting part of the seemingly endless endeavor: the instructor’s collection of bad ammunition. Cartridges with protruding primers, missing primers, cartridges with no powder, improperly seated bullets, a bullet inserted backwards and more. (Gallery of God-awful ammo after the jump.) We’ve know that the ammunition shortage has manufacturers cranking out product like Stevie Ray Vaughan cranking out guitar licks. And we’ve heard rumors that quality control was a little, uh, lacking. But this was out first close encounter with bad ammo. It’s at the point where you should physically inspect all your ammunition before insertion – which sounds rude but could save you a digit or more. Meanwhile, have you come across anything like this? . . .


Missing primer (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Bullet that didn't make it down the barrel (not enough powder) (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

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    • Or fear mongering on somebody’s part to impress a captive audience.

      To the educated, it was probably an unintended, undesired impression that was made.

    • Not a joke, it happens, and every gun owner needs to watch out for it.

      Here are a few I’ve personally found over the years. These photos may be used for educational purposes with no restrictions.

      Case too long to chamber (locked pistol closed, would not fire):

      9mm with incorrectly formed case rim (jammed pistol half-closed):

      Military-issued .38 Special and 5.56mm FMJ with primers seated sideways:

      Here’s the nightmare round; no way to catch this one in advance.
      Jammed pistol closed. No flash hole in case:

      I have other photos that I have collected online, but I can’t personally vouch for them like I can for those I posted above. I happens with all ammo, cheap or expensive, even military-issued stuff.

      Check your ammo, folks. The firearm is just a launcher, the ammo does the work.

      • Indeed. I have a few boxes of Freedom Muntitions ammo with faulty primers. The .223 remanufactured 62 grain bullets were seated to variable depths, and I got rid of the ammo without shooting it. I’m not saying that all their ammo is bad, but some of mine certainly was.

        I also bought some gun show 5.56 reloads that had serious seating depth issues as well. I know how dumb that sounds, but it was post Sandy Hook and I just wanted 5.56 when the shelves were empty. Lesson learned.

        I recommend a bullet puller to dismantle crap ammo. YMMV

      • That is reassuring. I’ve had a few problems with my Steyr this could explain. It jammed just slightly out of battery and I’d never been able to figure out how it happened. It should have been too far for the case to have gotten caught on the loaded chamber indicator and the round had to have been totally chambered for it to have closed as far as it did. I never even considered the ammunition, and it was cheapo ammo too.

    • There are plenty of ammo mishaps, even from 1st rate companies. There are recalls a few times a year (Winchester, Federal, Remington and others have had multiple recalls in the past couple of years) and plenty of documented instances of overcharged cartridges, cartridges with no gunpowder, etc. With centerfire ammo, I have personally had:

      * a few dented bullets
      * a couple of cases that were torn at the mouth when the bullet was inserted
      * maybe a dozen completely dead primers (I expect 1 to 4 per 1,000 rounds of Russian steel stuff like Wolf or Brown/Silver Bear)

      With rimfire ammo I have experienced:

      * tons of dead primers (usually means no priming compound in the rim at all). Remington is the worst offender for me by far.
      * a few empty cases in bulk boxes — no bullet to be seen, and once or twice there was loose powder in the bottom of the box. Not sure how this has happened to me a few times and I didn’t find the bullet, but that’s how it worked. I ‘fired’ the empty cases and they were all primed.

  1. Thankfully no, though I load most of my own ammo(store bought stuff is just to replenish my supply of brass, and have fun with), that way I know exactly how much attention was put into loading it right.

  2. Last pic is interesting – did you have a box of ammo that contained a lone projectile rather than a loaded cartridge?

    • According to the alt text on the image (hover your mouse pointer over the image for a couple seconds and it should appear), that bullet didn’t make it out of the barrel due to insufficient powder.

      • I’m fairly certain zero powder is insufficient! LMAO! Every time I buy ammo I open the box and inspect a couple of rounds at random. I’ve never seen it but I don’t want to be the guy who can’t flip off Bloomberg because he loaded one of these rounds!

  3. I opened a box of Winchester white-box not long after I got my CZ and found a cartridge with no bullet. And a small mess of powder in the box.

    • i bought a box of white box at wally world about a year ago. found out the stuff walmart carriers is branded Winchester white box but made by S & B. found a bullet in a 100 pack that had the bullet shoved through the side of the casing as it was seated in the case mouth sideways. found another with no primer. Bought a box of hornady superformance 308 match for a buddy to shoot through his rifle. two blown out primers into the box we stopped and sent it back. extremely hot round and not at all consistent and all that aside from the primers coming out of the pockets. QC is not what it used to be in the rush to get it out the door and onto shelves for eager consumers.

      • I’ve always had great luck with S&B but this past year I did see a box of S&B .380 with all the bullets stuffed into their cases backwards.

    • Same thing happened to me with a box of Federal 9mm FMJ. This was two years ago, so I can’t blame it on the current ammo shortage, but still…it does pay to pay attention.

  4. Work as an RSO here in Virginia. Have had several over the years with no flash hole. Primer goes off and blows itself into the weapon’s action. Have here on my desk a Federal 230 grain .45 ACP with the bullet in backwards. Came right out of a brand new box.

  5. Yes. My last box of Fiochhi’s 9mm had a round that was apparently bent. It wouldn’t feed from the mag into the chamber of my Sigma. When I attempted to simply insert the round into the chamber manually it balked.

    Fortunately, the surplus commie ammo is still at the same level of quality as the day it was made.

  6. I get manufacturer seconds ammo from a major factory. Most of them have scuffs or discolored brass. No big deal. The .45acp had a few boxes that were not crimped in spec to the bullet, so they would occasionally split the brass (more than .472). I started taking a micrometer to the casings. If they weren’t in spec, i put them in a pile to return with case lot info for my provider to send back.

  7. I have had a few 22LR which have refused to fire even after several attempts. I have found a single .380 where the bullet was not properly seated and refused to feed. But, that is it. Never seen anything like what is in those pictures.

    The top picture I have done myself when I first setup and used my press and did not have it set properly, but that was it.

      • I’ve had a few centerfire cartridges FTF. Prior to all the 2012 madness, Cabela’s used to offer S&B 9mm for $8.95 / 50 concurrent with their free shipping over $100 deal, so I’d pick up 1k whenever that came up. Of the 2-3k I’ve shot, I’ve had three or four rounds that did nothing upon primer strike, and that out of a stock Sig 229, so light strikes are pretty much a non-issue. The primers were dented to the same depth as rounds that had fired as expected. S&B doesn’t make crap ammo, so it just goes to show the eternal truth that all systems fail eventually.

  8. This is why I like the commie ammo, it’s super cheap and I’ve never had one issue with it, very reliable stuff, can’t say the same for the Win, Rem, Horn, etc.

    Yeah, it’s dirty, but I can clean a gun a lot faster and easier than I can go out and making money.

    • Com block stuff isn’t as awesome as I used to think it was after a 54R tore inside the chamber of my SVT 40. At this point, I’m afraid to run any com-block ammo through it.

    • Agreed. Friend caught a 357sig “loaded” wrong by Winchester that way. The bullet was loaded in right in one side but crushing the case neck on the other side. Still has it on his shelf.

  9. I got a round out of some WWB 357 Sig where about a quarter of the mouth of the casing was folded in under the bullet. I thought I had checked that box pretty well but I missed it luckily it wouldn’t seat in the chamber so no kaboom when I fired that box.

    • I’ve got to imagine they would stand behind the line “Inspect each round before loading it” since it seems almost impossible not to.

  10. I had several bad rounds of federal match .308. No primers, upside down primers. 6 bad rounds in a case.
    Nothing’s perfect, I guess.

  11. I had a box of Federal American Eagle .44 Remington Magnum that game me the worst trouble. Out of 15 rounds, primers in 8 of them backed out and bound the gun up. I had to take the gun a part just to get the cylinder out. The company made good on it, they sent me a new box and it had zero issues. They tested the ammo and said it was all testing within spec.

  12. I’ve never known Hornady to shirk quality control. Was he shooting reloads? I ask because in 10’s of thousands of rounds I’ve shot I’ve only had a cracked .22lr case and a single .40 S&W that was seated too deep. Apart from that by ammo’s been, well, bulletproof.

  13. Pretty much the only bad ammo I’ve got is the stuff I’ve loaded myself with one exception, I had a .357 Mag Critical Defense that the case had some excess brass at the rim. I have heard that UMC is somewhat notorious for this.

    I do backwards .357 loads some times. I load 148gr HBWCs backwards for a wicked hollow point. I call them melon killers.

  14. Last time I went shooting I had to buy TulAmmo 9mm ball, due to the lack of choice at my local retailer. I had 2 FTF’s out of 100. Both due to bad primers.

  15. One question. Are these from a WWB?

    I have seen the second picture from Winchester box before the ammo scare of 2013. I have also what seemed to be a “side crimp” on a round where the case was deformed so bad that it would never chamber or go into a magazine.

    As for the fourth picture, it seems that it could be a .40 that just kept being rechambered and never shot.

  16. I had a 9mm factory load where the primer was upside down. That’s it sofar. A buddy did load a .223 upside down though.

  17. I bought a bunch of Blazer Brass 9mm a few months back. Went to use it for IDPA first time at a local club and everybody looked at me like i was useless. Looked at the rounds and 17 out of 100 (2 boxes from a 10 box case) had the bullets improperly set in the case so they wouldn’t feed. Haven’t called CCI yet, but I now have 8 more boxes of Blazer Brass that I’ll be inspecting round-by-round before loading into anything.

  18. I bought a case 1k rounds of Tulammo .223, and almost every single case had an absurd amount of surface rust, enough to jam up most rounds in my Saiga .223. There was no visible polymer coating on any case. I had to polish the rest of them by hand.

  19. I’ve seen pics of bulged cases from the bullet being inserted crooked in the case. The first pic was from over pressure, or brass with the hole too big….

    IMHO it is the hurry to crank out ammo that has many companies missing obvious defects in manufacturing not to mention the proliferation of internet use by gun owners.

    Another fact is that in our mass produced world folks are hired because they can take instructions and produce profit. It’s about cheap and fast not about craftsmanship, quality and PRIDE! Welcome to the ‘Global Marketplace!’

  20. I recently bought a case of Remington .45 ACP and out of the 5 boxes I opened all of them have had 1 or 2 bullets that look like the second to last picture.

  21. If the ammo comes in any type of holder inside the box then it is an easy thing to just set it on a flat surface and see if they all look uniform then flip over and visually check for primers. Never had one /w a missing primer but I have caught several rounds with an improper bullet seat- stand out clear as day when the rest of them are correct.

  22. My friend loves reloads, I refuse to use them. One of the reloads he got looked as if the primer had been welded or fused to the case some how. It wasnt very good and there were gaps so that when we removed the bullet from the case you could look through the “primer” and see out where the bullet should go.

  23. I recently shot some CCI Blazer aluminum case 115 grain FMJ I had around through a friend’s 9mm. We immediately noticed that it was too hot. Stout recoil and blowing primers out…

    Since I got it in a trade deal I can’t contact the manufacturer to make it right. I’m going to pull it down and recycle the components as best I can. Thankfully I didn’t give up too much for it.

    • Marcus,
      Is that like falling on your sword?
      Only modern but same result?

      Is Darwin your middle name?

    • Winchester White Box; shot a couple of 100 rd boxes of 9mm once a few years back. Dirty as hell – excessive burnt powder residue. Shot up the rest to see how well my CZ would handle all the residue. It came through with out fail.

      Stopped buying ANY Winchester after that; too many high quality alternatives available, and price is not an overiding issue for me.

  24. I’ve had cheap bulk 22s that had QC issues. The bullet was loose in the casing, the bullet was cockeyed sideways in the casing, the bullet had a serious cut or dent near the tip, rounds that didn’t seem to have enough omph to cycle the action on my ruger pistol and of course the occasional dud…
    The solution seemed to be to spend 7-10 cents per round (CCI) instead of the 3.5 cents per round of the bulk ammo. Nowadays, we takes what we can get and hold back the good stuff for when we really ‘need’ it, when failure is not an option.

  25. I am surprised. I have fired over 10,000 rounds, e.g., of .357 in my life. Never once have I had any issue with any ammo I bought, other than perhaps a little incosistency with reloaded ammo I have bought. Only FTF I ever had was with ammo I loaded myself (two cartridges, I think I accidentally got grease on the primers)

    Even with 22 lr ammo, I am dead serious when I say I have never had ammo fail to fire…fail to feed, yes, but not fail to fire. Every single round of 22 I have ever bought went bang. And that includes what I am told is “crap ammo” like Remington Thunderbolt.

    Even firing 40 year old 30-30 ammo, no problem. No problem with any .25 either.

    So why have I never seen any thing like this (other than in my own failures at the reloading press)? Just lucky, or is this really rare as I have been led to believe, or is it just more common of late?

  26. We have a small box full of defective factory ammo that we’ve come across during our academy classes over the years. Rifle, shotgun, pistol. Everything. With billions of rounds being cranked out over the years it’s not surprising that a few get by QC. Nothing made by man is 100% perfect 100% of the time. Cars, buildings, bridges, watches, shoes, space shuttles, and yes, ammunition.

  27. I had the chance to shoot a case of 45-70 govt ammo back in the 60s ( right now ammo collectors are wincing) I had a friend who’s folks bought an old farm and in the loft of the barn found a wooden crate of Frankford arsenal dated 1889. This was obviously not kept in a place that would engender long storage life.

    I had my grandfathers Winchester 1886 in 45-70 so we spent a very pleasent weekend at the sawmill pond at my folks farm and they all went bang with none sounding soft after 80 years… I do recall that we had to take breaks every 40 to 50 rounds to let the Winchester cool down…. black powder sure heats up a gun. We also had a similar exp with a wooden nail keg size of package that was filled with .38 colt new police ammo that was packed with sawdust around the ammo which was also black powder this ammo was in not as good condition with the slugs having white lead oxide on them and the cases with lots of green spots…. Fired through my Dad’s Colt police positive about 5% of roughly 500 rounds failed to go bang due to I expect bad primers.

    I have seen the missing flash hole in the case 2 or three times over the last 50 years once on a surplus 9mm ball round from Pakistan the other 2 on surplus Greek 5.56 mm Fmj ammo in the 1970s

    It happens but for me it has been damm rare.

  28. Billions of rounds and you are going to get outliers. I have loaded thousands of rounds and will admit I have loaded a few with no powder. Its even more embarassing when you get 4 in a row at a competition. That is what I get for watching the kids while reloading.

  29. I guess I must be missing out.

    I’ve capped a LOT of ammo over the years always the better quality major USA factory manufactured stuff plus probably about 1K reloads purchased range side. I mostly shoot what I depend on in JHP, with some similar quality FMJ for practice or ‘guests’, cost be darned.

    I’ve probably experienced fewer than a two dozen FTFs out of many tens of thousands of rounds. I always load my own mags or cylinders; never have I detected a defective round, and I check each round as I load it for discrepancies in weight and appearance. Even the currently available ammo has been faultless.

    Guess I don’t know what I’ve been missing, but I’m good with that!

  30. I’ve heard of loading .308 subsonic loads by inserting the 220gr bullet backwards. Has to do with the stability of the projectile at speeds below what it was originally designed for, i.e. ~1000 FPS vs 2000FPS+.

  31. “It’s at the point where you should physically inspect all your ammunition before insertion”

    Question: How exactly do people load their magazines without “inspecting” each round as it’s inserted?

  32. I’ve been reloading my own ammo since 1994. I couldn’t afford to shoot otherwise.

    Only one person to blame if something goes wrong but in the 20-30k of ammo I’ve made I’ve had three (3) instances of bad loads, and none of them caused damage to a gun or the shooter.

    My stuff is more consistent and trustworthy than their stuff will ever be, less expensive, too.

  33. For my part, I’ve had a couple of dud 9mm rounds over the years – IIRC, one Winchester white-box, one UMC – and a .38 SPL FMJ that was loaded backwards in the case, with a resulting overall length just long enough that it would not fully seat in the chamber.

    Which, alas, I didn’t realize until I closed the cylinder on my brand-new S&W 638 Airweight on it and left a nasty scratch on the back of the frame. Drat.

    I later shot it successfully out of my .357 Ruger Blackhawk, so at least the round didn’t go to waste…

  34. I posted a comment a week or two ago saying that I thought a wheel gun was better suited for self defense.
    One of the reasons being that in the case of a faulty round, it would be a simple matter to just pull the trigger, and the next chamber would then come on line, with a fresh new round.
    I rest my case!

  35. Why complain about ammo quality when its so affordable, thanks to the ammo industry refusing to price gouge because of Obamas hot air? A few bad rounds are a small price to pay for integrity in the ammunition production/distribution industry. We are lucky to be living in the US where we never have to worry about getting a box of .22 LR for a few bucks. We are lucky the ammo industry isnt gouging prices even though there is plenty of supply, like the evil petroleum industry. We are lucky. Buy Americian!

      • You will never see ammo companies shortchange their customers on quality, just like you will never get a bad tank of 3.50 per/gal gasoline. Ammo companies are ethical and care about supporting their customers RKBA, without caving to political scaremongers and creating artificial shortages to justify price gouging. I have no doubt that CheaperThan Dirt, Ammoman, Natchez, Bulkammo, etcs warehouses are empty. They would never have huge stockpiles of ammo piled to the roof and charge 50 cents per rd for dinged up FMJ ammo that should have been left on the factory floor. Buy Americian! You can’t trust that cheapo commie ammo!

        • What “Commie” ammo? Wolf or Tula? Surplus Russia military ammo?

          If you’d recall…your beloved Ronnie Reagan single handedly defeated the Russkies (Can’t understand any logic on this being preached but ask Palin…I’m sure there’d be understandable logic with her response)…so…what “Commie” ammo would you be referring to? Cuban? Chinese?…??

  36. I’ve never had a bad centerfire round, but I have had a few .22LR that just refused to go off.

    • I had a .22 LR round which refused to go until the 4th time. Why I attempted to fire it 4 times? Because I paid for 25 bullets and wanted to shoot 25 bullets.

    • Bought 3 bricks (525 rnd boxes) of Remington Golden Bullet .22 rim fire, maybe four years ago. About one in 40 or 50 gives me a FTF. Still have some left, and use it in my Henry lever gun, wont cycle the action on a couple of my auto loaders sometimes.

  37. No ammo shortage. Just companies manipulating the system and series of shootings. Maximize profit with less production while keeping payroll down while claiming there is a shortage to jack prices up.

  38. How about this- there is a LGS in my area (which no longer receives my business) makes their own ammo, both reloads and new. I had a jones for some heavy OTM rounds after getting my first AR, so I played the premium for some some boxes at $18 a pop. MANY of the rounds oviusly had powder pellets that were lodged between the neck and bullet. Like a food, I bought more hoping it was a bad batch- nope. Never fired a round of it because I don’t trust their QC for a second. My last experience was picking up some.38 reloads for Mom. The difference between the seating of each bullet was beyond amateur. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when a news story broke a few months back that they’d had an explosion at their place of loading. No one was seriously hurt, but it goes to show the attention they put in to rolling their own. Anyone else seen this powder in the neck issue? FYI, theure a Cincinnati area store, so anyone in the area can feel free to read the news story on their little bang accident. Also, the staff is full of rude, know-it all kids. Rant on LGS over : )

    • For the same reasons, I don’t buy any center fire ammo. I buy the brass and other components and load myself.

  39. Load your own…..yeah I know…parts still somewhat iffy but componets can be had if one approaches buying powder/primers/etc with group buying unless you like spending hundreds of dollars at one punch buying for yourself online…which I do.

    Cast your own handgun bullets….I shoot more because I reload for all but 223’s for the AR’s. Bolt action 223’s I load for these. Tula 223’s work just fine for AR’s though there are those that will differ in opinion,

  40. I am completely dependant on handloads for my match rifles. My 8mm Mausers use 1950 Turkish. One batch shoots very well, and moreso for 60 year old surplus. The other batch is so bad I only use it at 100 metre matches, and is nicknamed “The Ramadan Batch” because the worker’s were distracted from their job.

    Norinco steel cased .308 shoots okay (looks like 7.62×39 on steroids) but is no longer available. I have a small batch of 7.62x54r from Albania which is used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles.

    Home cooking at least provides me with what I need in .223 and .308 in match loads at a price I can afford, especially as many of the components were bought over a decade a go.

  41. With hundreds of millions of rounds being produced and production facilities maxed out there is bound to be some defective ammunition produced. Even if the defect rate is one-eighth of one percent (.125%) with 100M rounds…you’re talking 125,000 potential defects…

  42. Personally, I’ve had fewer problems with the Russian stuff than with US-made ammo. Remington and Fiocchi USA being the worst offenders. But, overall, the vast majority of ammo I’ve used has been very consistent and high quality. Except for one of my shooting buddy’s handloads that is.

  43. I’ve seen a lot of bad ammunition, but I deliberately bought it. A guy locally was selling lots of rejects from a reloading company. I’ve been pulling 1000 .223 reject apart for components.

    I’ve seen bullets fallen out of the rounds. I saw bullets pushed back into the case. I saw one primer mounted backwards. Measuring the powder in a dozen rounds was all over the map, including some that probably would get a round stuck in the barrel and a few that would run your gun pretty hot. Most of the rounds had split necks.

  44. A couple of years ago, I got a box of Winchester white box .38, (100 count). Had two squib rounds out of the first 51. Shooting from a Smith 642, after the second round, I couldn’t close the cylinder. Sent the remainder as well as the gun to Olin. They gave me a credit for $50 for new ammo and sent the gun to S&W for repairs on their dime.
    Bad ammo, but great customer service.

  45. I just bought a box of Hornady 12g sst 5 slugs in a box and 3 of the 5 failed to eject due to brass swelled upon casting I think..? Waiting to hear back from Hornady

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