Wet Ammunition

wet ammunition

This is a guest post by Andrew Betts

We recently ran an article about whether Glock pistols function underwater. In keeping with that theme, what do you suppose would happen to your ammunition if it were submerged for a prolonged period of time? Say a pipe burst or a levee broke and your ammunition was submerged under several feet of water. Could you still rely on it to defend your family until you could purchase more?

Every single round in that test fired and, except for the first two shots, there were no anomalous chronograph readings. Those first two shots were almost certainly errors caused by shooting too closely to the chronograph. The readings were 300-400 fps but the recoil felt normal and the slide cycled the next round. Had the velocity actually been this low, it could not have cycled correctly.

Wet Ammunitionwet ammunition

Bear in mind that this was not simply wet. This ammunition was submerged under four feet of water for a full 24 hours. It is certainly possible that a longer duration or deeper water could have caused a failure, but this is certainly encouraging. It is not particularly surprising that the M193, M855, and M67 survived. Military ammunition is specifically designed to survive inclement conditions. That the civilian ammo survived as well is quite a bit more interesting. Civilian ammunition doesn’t always include sealant (though the S&B pistol ammo and HPR rifle ammo did) and civilian ammo rarely has a crimp on the case mouth except for revolver ammunition and almost never has a crimped primer. Military ammunition typically has a crimp and sealant at both the case mouth and primer pocket. While not conclusive, the results for the civilian ammunition certainly let us breathe a little easier.

One factor that stands out in stark contrast is that the steel cased ammunition started showing some rust after only 24 hours. Lacquer coated steel cased ammunition is somewhat more corrosion resistant than the polymer coated ammo used in this test, but steel is easily corroded and will rust quickly with exposure to water. Depending on temperature, exposure to oxygen, and salt content of the water, steel cased ammunition could corrode too badly to function in less than a week. It is not a bad idea to take a few extra steps to protect your ammunition investment by packing it in plastic bags inside sealed containers such as surplus ammo cans or the dry boxes sold by various sporting goods stores. Those extra steps are doubly recommended for steel case ammunition, but even brass cased ammunition will corrode if exposed to moisture for a long enough time.

On the whole, though, the ammunition fared surprisingly well and there is every reason to believe that ammo that has been underwater will still work. Does this mean that if a pipe bursts and your ammo stock sits under water overnight that you do not need to replace it? You will have to decide that for yourself, but it would be wise for you to at least replace your defense ammunition. It is a small price to pay to fill a few magazines with fresh ammunition for peace of mind.


Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.

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