Heading out to the range the other day, I figured I’d shoot my deep-conceal carry piece. Tossing a box of factory rounds in my range bag, I headed out. A few magazines in, the gun’s trigger went slack. Dangling. Broken. Upon disassembly, I found the drawbar broken in half. Naturally, I was alarmed: This is a gun I guard my life with on a daily basis. That, and I’d been shooting factory ammunition in a reliable, well-built gun. What happened?
Calling the customer service department, I asked what could have happened. Manufacturing defect in the gun or the ammo? They asked what kind of ammunition I was using, and upon telling them, was gently warned not to shoot ammunition made in the Philippines in their firearms. This blew me away—I knew some factory ammo was of better quality than others, but it had never occurred to me that I couldn’t use certain brands in my guns. After a little research, I quickly learned that each gun manufacturer includes different warnings about ammunition. While this varies, there are some types that are almost universally discouraged.
As your gun’s chamber heats up, the lacquer sloughs off and lines your chamber, gumming up the works, creating reliability issues, and sometimes, causing a dangerous buildup of pressure that could lead to a catastrophic failure.
Odds are your gun’s receiver is made of steel. Brass, being softer than steel, doesn’t do damage when a discharge swells the case neck against the chamber throat. Steel-cased ammunition, however, puts steel against steel—a formula for accelerated wear. Plus, most of it comes lacquer-coated to aid in lubrication.
Some foreign-manufactured ammunition has earned a bad reputation for being dirty (leaving unspent powder behind, creating heavy fouling with even low round counts) and for being produced with inferior components and in factories with little or no quality control.
Though most factory remanufactured ammo is reloaded to the same specifications as new ammunition, firearm manufacturers generally shy away from it, as anything other than newly manufactured presents the possibility (regardless of how remote) of irregularity or error that could adversely affect your gun.
Mil-surp ammo has several things working against it: First, it’s often loaded with Berdan primers, which are corrosive. Second, ammo no longer being used by the military it was produced for is probably pretty old. Though ammo can keep almost indefinitely when sealed up and stored in a temperature-controlled environment, it usually isn’t. Just picture Dmitri stumbling upon a cold-war cache of 7.63x39mm in the back corner of a damp bunker the next time you crack open a brown paper cartridge box with Cyrillic text on it.
Many firearms manufacturers suggest using only brass-cased, domestically produced, new-production ammo produced to SAAMI specifications. That said, you should check your firearm’s manual regarding which brands and types of ammo are recommended for your gun, or, if you’re like me and purchase most of your guns used, take the time to research this information before heading to the range. It could prove to be well worth your time.