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Buying surplus military ammo is often times a good way to get large qualities of high-quality ammo at cheap prices. No one wants to pay any more for range ammo than they have to so bargains can be pretty attractive. However, some dealers push some pretty shady crap as “surplus.” Stuff you wouldn’t want anywhere near your gun. Here is my ammo-buying nightmare story…

Back in 2009, during the height of the Obama gun buying frenzy, I purchased 1000 rounds of what was advertised by R-Guns as being “Surplus Israel Military Industries 7.62 NATO 147 Grain M-80 Ball.” The price was $430 plus $45.00 shipping. That was a good price (for that time), but not so good that one might have reason to suspect something was amiss.

Everything looked good when the package arrived. But upon closer inspection, things started to go downhill rapidly. About 20-30% of the ammo was badly tarnished and corroded. Even worse, about 50 of the rounds had obvious defects. There were dented rounds – one of which even had a hole drilled in the side and the powder removed:

Soft points that had been sent through a tumbler:

Bad primers:

Corroded ammo:

Cracked case necks:

Bent case necks:

I decided to shoot 30 rounds from the remaining batch, just as a test. I chose the rounds at random from those that had no glaring defects. Of the 30 rounds, only 24 fired. Of those 24 rounds, two exhibited ruptured case failures:

So what do you do in a situation like this?  Laws may vary from state to state, so you may need to get legal advice, but here’s what I did.

First, I always pay with a credit card. That way, if the shipment is not as advertised, I can call the credit card company and get the charges reversed (including shipping). Second, I wrote a letter to the company, sent certified, return receipt requested, and told them that I was rejecting their shipment.

I explained the reasons why in a few paragraphs. I let them know that the shipment was boxed up and available for pickup by the commercial carrier of their choice. I gave them the pick-up address and the times at which the shipment would be available for return. And I let them know that if the shipment wasn’t picked up with a reasonable time (10 business days from the date of receipt of the letter), I’d dispose of the shipment in whatever manner I saw fit and wouldn’t be responsible or liable for it.

I also let them know that their act of picking up the ammo constituted acceptance of the terms specified in my letter, and would fully resolve the issue. Otherwise, the ammo would be retained to be inspected by an expert, in accordance with the credit card’s dispute resolution policies.

In my case, all worked out well, and the company picked up the ammo and my credit card was credited $475. But how about you? Have you ever had a situation like this? How did you handle it? The Armed Intelligentsia wants to know.


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  1. I picked up 300 rd of 7.62×51 for 135.00 and I’ve had a few problems with it. Nothing on the scale of the trash you got but I’ve had the rim break off a case causing FTE, a few duds, and some heads that were a bit high on the case.
    The ammo was made Dec ’79 and was from Malaysia.

  2. Bought some “Greek SS109” that was garbage. There is a very slight chance that it was underpowered to run in the L85, but in all likelihood it was just bad.

    • OTOH I have bought a bunch of the surplus “DAG” 7.62×51 that has been floating around recently and it has been great.

      • Yeah, that DAG stuff in the battlepacks is really good stuff. Not cheap, though. Remember the good ole days when those battlepacks for 30 bucks? I can’t remember if they were South African or Aussie, but they were great.

  3. This is the reason I don’t buy surplus ammo. More often times than not surplus means BAD ammo sold at cheap prices. I have an Enfield and often enough surplus .303 British is the only choice I have for buying ammo in person from dodgy looking fellows at the weekly gun show tables in Houston. On more than one occasion I have received full boxes of junk ammo that were left over from some foreign war. When I can I buy hand reloads or factory reloads. Enfield’s weren’t blessed with an abundance of accuracy to begin with, but with surplus rounds your lucky to get 5 MOA at a hundred yards.

    • Enfields are actually very accurate rifles, but many of the surplus ones you find on the market are completely shot out. I own two Enfields that were imported in new, never-been fired condition, and they are real tack drivers. (in that 1.2 MOA to 1.7 MOA range at 100 yards with iron sights, I suspect they would do even better if scoped). But I also have a few of the ones that I bought at Big 5 and Joes, and those vary a lot in accuracy – from decent to downright bad.

      I once purchased 100 rounds or so commercial soft point ammo at a gun show from a fairly large regional ammo manufacturer. The ammo looked good but I really could not get it to shoot any better than 4-5 MOA. When I switched to some British military surplus I had brought along that day, immidiately the groups shrunk to 1-2 MOA.

      Back when I didn’t know any better, I bought some really crappy surplus Paki .303 Brit ammo from Aim Surplus. I was really bad ammo- most of the round had an ignition delay that made it feel like i was shooting a musket. I didn’t bother to return it, however, and I think I still have it somewhere in my basement! That was my only bad experience with Aim; other than that they have been great.

      • For what I do with my Enfield the 1-2 MOA I get (scoped) is plenty of accuracy. I have never seen anyone get an Enfield to sub MOA, but that is just the design of the firearm. It wasn’t ment to be a sub MOA tack driver and it never will be, but man sized targets at 300, I can do that all day. The problem I have is that it is getting harder to find good factory ammo for the rifle and most of the surplus that is floating around is pretty awful. So it is either handloads or factory reloads if you can find them.

        • I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that at least one of my two “new” No 4, Mk 2’s could shoot sub-MOA if I scoped them. I’m just not that good of a shot anymore to reliably shoot sub MOA with irons. Also, it might require some hand loads to git-er-done, since, as you correctly note, good quality .303 surplus is rare.

          BTW: Here’s a pic of one of my “new” Enfields:

          • I would love to see the 5 shot groups. I have never seen anyone fire sub-MOA with an Enfield. 1.25-1.5 all day, but sub-MOA at 100 yards, I have never seen it, or seen it repeated.

            • Just be be clear, I’m not saying that I have ever gotten sub-MOA accuracy out of mine. I’m just saying that I have a gut feeling they “could” do it. Honestly, I doubt I will ever scope those rifles because i don’t want to mar the finish. I HAVE seen a guy at my range get sub-MOA accuracy out of a Mosin Nagant that he had bedded, etc. As I recall, it still had the factory barrel, so I was really blown away by that.

              • I have seen guys bed the barrel, sand down the stock, shorten the stock, trim the barrel (which actually makes things far worse) and a whole host of barrel “tuning” to get sub MOA with Enfields. It aint gonna happen IMO. The bands that hold the rifle togther will prevent the gun from being sub-moa.

  4. Joe Grine, that’s some fugly looking ammo. I’d prefer to be downrange of that stuff rather than shooting it.

    I’ve been lucky with milsurp ammo, but also careful. All the milsurp that I’ve bought has been US or combloc, and my combloc preference is Russian. It always seemed to me that the two countries who could wipe out the world would use the best ammo to do it. Of course, great manufacture can’t overcome poor storage, but Russian spam cans are awesome.

    • I agree Ralph. Chris Dumm and I have been going through a bunch of that Russian surplus 7N6 (5.45 x 39), and its really high quality ammo (albeit very corrosive).

      I’ve had good luck buying Yugo M43 (7.62 x 39) by the crate. Its very high quality (but again, corrosive). Its also more accurate then Wolf or Whatever-Color-Bear or Tula-ammo.

      • I carry an oiler bottle of ammonia diluted with distilled water to the range. When I finish shooting, I wet down a bore snake with the solution and run it through the rifles several times. A clean, solution-dampened cloth takes care of the receiver and mag. I know that it’s overkill — cleaning could wait until I return home — but it only takes a couple of minutes to do, and I don’t worry about corrosion. The rifles smell like cat piss for a few minutes, but it’s worth it.

        Russian ammo can eat through the lead shielding from Chernobyl, but it takes time.

    • Yeah, sdog, the 7.62x54R and the 7.62×39 Russian-made ammo from the 70s and 80s that I enjoy shooting is cheap, sure fire and pretty damn accurate. Opening up the cans is a bitch, though, since I lost my spam can opener tool thingy. I have to use a hammer and sickle — oops, I meant a hammer and chisel.

      • lol, yea i have taken to duct taping the openers to the back side of the cans, the tend to get misremembered else wise. This goes towards feeding my sgl as well as handguns. tul 9mm and 45acp has been good when i don’t have as much brass ammo as i’d like.

  5. I purchased a box of 300 rounds of Australian 7.62 NATO a few years ago. The rounds were still on the belt and I had to unlink each of them before I could load them into my rifle. My only nightmare is being stuck in a room unlinking a pile of those rounds over and over without end.

    Aside from that my 91 gobbled them up like a dog eating choice sirloin.

  6. Anything on .30-06 surplus ammo? I got some ammo at a gun show a few days ago, and opened up the box. It had what looked to be arabic characters on the bottom on the round. Anybody have any experience with this ammo? I’ve seen on Samco Global’s website they sell 200 round cases of .30-06 from 1960s Iran and I would like to know if there is anything worng with them, and if they are similiar to the ones I’ve bought.

  7. I mostly shoot brass. I’m not some snobb, but I’ve heard horror stories like this and other stories about violent explosions in and around the receiver. I dont feel like dealing with that or spending the money to get back to where I was before my receiver blows out. I buy reloads from an ammo man who runs a little reloading operation. I’ve bought about 8500 rounds from him over the past year or so. Mostly 9mm though. He sells PMC .223 brass at a decent price. I’ve shot WOLF through my AR and she doesn’t like it one bit. Then again, I had just finished building her so she may have needed a little break in time.

    • Yea, my dad suggsted in the future to load my own ammo. Maybe then I’ll finally get me an Arisaka rifle.

  8. I purchased several Federal bulk 1000-round Xm193 bricks and was appalled with what I received. Each brick was short several rounds and there were a number of dented rounds. Given that you are paying 30 cents a round this made me kinda angry!

    • dented rounds are normal (and unless the dent is severe, has little to no effect on the round), missing rounds is not.

  9. Being a bit pedantic, those primers aren’t “bad”, they’re in backwards. I’ve seen this happen in name brand premium ammo also.

  10. Speaking of 7.62×51 I got some israeli 147 gr match years ago,came in brown cardboard 100 rnds per .beautiful stuff ! .got 500 rnds for 8.99 a box 20 yrs ago have only 100 left, wish I would have bought a ton of the stuff!!.

  11. I bought some 308 battle packs from SAC last year the packs had been slit open amd there were bug holes in the plastic bug poop in the eaten boxes and corrosion on the ammo, I have yet to fire any and I’m sure its corrosive what junk!
    However I will sell it for $1 a round! 🙂

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