Surplus 7.62 x 51 ammunition – what do you use? Where’s it from? Portugal, India, Venezuela, Derkaderkastan? Today’s guest article is from Kirk at Rockwell Tactical Group. Rockwell is a training company from the cold northlands of Pennsylvania and Kirk is an experienced shooter who only hardly ever has trouble typing one handed. Read on, and be catechized.
Surplus 7.62 x 51 Ammunition – Feeding Your Battle Rifle
Remember the days of buying a case of Aussie 7.62×51 surplus for $99? Rockwell Tactical remembers – sorry, just had a weird craving for cookies – but sadly, those days have long past, and more and more questionable surplus ammunition is popping up for sale these days. Let’s take a look at buying surplus ammo in today’s market.
I was once told “never buy ammo manufactured in a country that pisses in its own water supply”, and “If you can’t drink the tap water without spending a week in the can, avoid it”. While a colorful expressions, they do hold a grain of truth – surplus ammo from third world countries, no matter how up to date the factories are, should be approached with caution.
Here’s a few quick examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Portugal – a headstamp reading FNM indicates Portuguese origin, and is usually a pretty good bet. There’s recently some that’s been brought into the country that’s in sealed battle packs, but still exhibits some corrosion – I’ve been through about 2k rounds of it, and haven’t found anything that worries me. A few years back there was also a large lot of it imported on MG links – if you don’t mind spending your evenings unlinking ammo, this is also a good bet – and if you have a friend with a belt fed, you can make him happy too.
South Africa – who’s used7.62×51 battle rifles in combat MORE than South Africa and their associated allies? There’s basically two headstamps to remember when purchasing South African surplus – R1A1, and M1A2. They’re both solid, go bang every time choices. I’ve run thousands of rounds of R1A1 through my R1, and it’s always worked great.
Indian – An OFV headstamp indicates that the ammo was manufactured by the Indian Ordnance Factory, Varangon – owned by the Indian government.
Beware, and be aware – about 5 years ago, a load of ’98 dated OFV came into the country, and was a disaster – I purchased 3k rounds @ $39 a thousand, knowing I was getting culls, just for the components. It was, to say the least, an eye opener – I found cartridges with two different kinds of powers (ball and stick), rug fragments, a fingertip (swear to god), and an abundance of sticky black tar sealant – it’s probably okay to run through your Ishapore Enfields, but putting it through your $3k SCAR Heavy is a bad, bad idea.
Venezuelan – CAVIM headstamps indicate Venezuelan origin, another garden spot of the world. Cavim is known to be loaded HOT, and the bullets are seated with an unearthly black tar sealant – all of which leads to high pressure. I put exactly 4 rounds through my STG58 before deciding it wasn’t a particularly good idea, and decided to either pull it and reload with a lighter charge, or run it in my Ishapore Enfields. Avoid it, unless you want a project.
POF – Pakistani Ordnance Factory, which I believe is enough said of the quality. A wide range of ammunition was imported into the country from POF, from 9mm to 7.62×51.
When Insh’Allah is your factory’s quality control policy, expect some dissatisfied customers.
Israeli – A TZ headstamp isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are some years that you need to be careful of – hence the ugly.
TZ 80. TZ81, and TZ82 have acquired a singular reputation for issues, particularly if purchased loose packed – in other words, they’ve blown up guns. It’s been postulated that storage issues are the problem, pressure issues were the problem, or brass issues were the problem.
Whatever the problem was, think twice before you buy Israeli .308 with the above headstamps.
Corrosion – corrosion is a universal fact of life with surplus ammunition. There are sealed battle packs floating around out there with corroded rounds, and there are ammo cans rusted shut that don’t have a problem.
I’ve found, oddly enough, the biggest indicator of a possible corrosion problem is how the boxes are assembled. Ammo that is simply a cardboard box usually doesn’t present a problem – it’s ammo packed in boxes with metal fittings, like staples, that usually present an issue. This is caused by dissimilar metal corrosion, otherwise known as galvanic corrosion – essentially, the cartridge cases come into contact with the metal staples or fasteners that hold the box together, and create an electrochemical reaction that causes corrosion. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when purchasing sealed battlepacks – if you can have a look at the boxes inside the battlepack, you won’t be sorry.
Finally, I just want to say, look for the NATO cross on the cartridge – there’s 7.62×51 surplus out there that’s not NATO spec (I’m looking at you, CAVIM), and that alone is reason enough not to feed it to your mortgage payment sized battle rifle.
Keep those battle rifles barking!
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