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I bought a tin of surplus GI 45 ACP ball ammo in back in 2001. It was sold as 45 US GI, 756 round tin for $89.95 that I got from the "Ammunition Store."

I intended it to go along with the 1943 US GI Colt M1911-A1 I'd just recently purchased. When I opened the tin with the can opener provided, there were multiple cheap-pulp cardboard boxes of unlabeled ammo of about 50 rounds separated by a serpentine piece of pull paper that snaked through the box.

About all of the ammo I've used so far is dated 1942 from three predominant manufacturers: Remington Arms (RA), Western Case Cartridge Company ( WCC), and Winchester Repeating Arms (WRA). The ammo is 72 years old, and I have about 500+ rounds left. I keep it in my basement with all my other gun stuff with a fully drained humidifier running most of the time to keep the humidity at about 50%.

Over the years, I've often wondered about the danger of storing it, shooting it, etc. Outside of the need to clean the weapon immediately after firing (corrosive), and more smoke than today's usual 45 Auto rounds, nothing spectacular. I'll add that the 250+ rounds I've shot since I bought it all fired correctly with no misfires, no real outward signs of dangerous deterioration, but I have had that nagging curiosity about "just what the heck are these things made of and how are they put together?"

So I decided to get a cheap Lee Reloading Press, an RCBS bullet puller die, and an RCBS bullet puller collet and find out it all was under $100 for a basic setup I could add to if I wanted to try reloading at some point (see Figure 1) . I did some research online and looked at a bunch of YouTube videos about pulling bullets and it all seemed kind of simple and rote. Just put the bullet in the holder, position it up to the collet, tighten a bit and give it a pull. It all seemed kind of simple and the bullets were hardly marred at all.

I wondered about the unfired primers and searched some on that, too. A lot of old timers said, "just be gentle, careful and slow" and you can de-prime those rounds no problem! Others said to fire them in a weapon, and then de-prime them in the unloader a more cautious approach. I ended up thinking it was a matter of just how fixed were those pressed-in primers and whether they were sealed in any way
or perhaps bulged. It deserves a lot more thought for later when I get the bullets pulled and the propellant handled safely.

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Figure 1. Lee Reloading Press with bullet puller, case holders and 45 CAL collet (not shown)


The first cartridge selected at random was the RA-42. I put in in the shell holder, positioned the ram up to the point where the face of the 45 CAL collet touched the rim of the case, and then I tightened down on the RCBS Standard Bullet Puller until the pressure seemed reasonable. It slipped right off tighten some more, slipped off again. More tightening slipped off. I repeated this process until the bullet finally came out. As you can see in Figure 2, top picture, the pressure I had to apply pretty well made this bullet useless for any reloading considerations. If the picture is inspected closely, one can see that the bullet has a black substance where it mated with the case when pressed in. I have to conclude this was some sort of sealant at this point and the reason why it was so hard to pull. In fact, later pictures (Figure 3) will show just how clean and bright the inside of the case is for this particular round.

As can be seen for the middle and bottom pictures for the WCC-42 and the WRA 45 A.C. cartridges, there was still bullet deformation due to the collet pressure required, but there was noticeably less pressure required to pull the bullets. Inspection of the inside case rims shows evidence of some kind of sealer, but not as much as apparently used for the RA-42 cartridge.

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Figure 2. RA-42 (top) WCC-42 (middle) WRA-45 A.C. (bottom)


Figure 3 shows the inside of the RA-42 case that was so hard to remove the bullet from two focus points case top and case bottom. Bright, new looking high quality brass! The only place where you can't see it is where the bullet seats with the case, and that black material is present undoubtedly some kind of sealer. Judging from the look of the case inside, the sealer worked very well. Just looking at this makes me think that the primer is also sealed very well, too.


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Figure 3. RA-42 Case Rim (L) & Case Bottom (R)


Figure 4 shows the same configuration for the WCC-42 cartridge. The rim of the case and parts of the bottom have some of the powder still clinging to it sticky remnants of a sealer here, too? Looking at the brass, it is plainly evident that either the quality of the brass, or some oxidation has been occurring here.

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Finally, Figure 5 shows the cartridge that required the least amount of force necessary to remove the bullet and which left the least damage to the bullet. There appears to be some faint traces of something used to seat the bullet perhaps a lubricant? One thing that is evident about the brass is that this is the only cartridge of the three disassembled that shows obvious signs of corrosion in the bottom of the case.. Perhaps, it wasn't sealed as tightly.

Auto part Brass Automotive wheel system Wheel Metal

Figure 5. WRA 45 A.C. Case Rim (L) & Case Bottom (R)

So, there was some earlier discussion of primers and the potential of "gently pushing them out" by some of the old timers I've seen on various blogs. Figure 6 shows the three cartridges dismantled thus far. Both the RA-42 and the WCC-42 primers have been sealed. The WRA 45 A.C. cartridge shows no clear evidence, but the pocket would have been coated prior to primer insertion. Without any more detailed testing, it is difficult to determine. One thing that is evident is there is slight rounding/expansion of the primers for the WCC-42 and the WRA 45 A.C. primers. The primer is nearly completely flat for the RA-42 the one cartridge that seems to be sealed the tightest based on a number of inspection factors.

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Frankly, given what I've seen here through this exercise, I am not enthusiastic about trying what those "old timers" suggest gently depriming a live primer. Probably the next thing I'll do is shoot some of these primers I have in a moon clip in my S&W Governor and see just how big a bang is produced before I think any more about depriming.

I haven't said anything much here about the propellant that I took out from these cartridges. Figure 7 shows what came out of the three cases. From left to right, they are the RA-42, the WCC-42, and the WRA 45 A.C. Two things: The RA granular propellant is noticeably larger pieces, and the other two look very similar in consistency. Inspection of the middle picture shows a little blue piece of something that was in the case that I can only surmised was an unintended contaminant.

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Figure 7. WWII 45 ACP Ball Ammo Propellants Removed

I really need to do some more background investigation on the propellants before I make any more conclusions and before I pull any more bullets and start creating a larger quantity of loose powder. So for now, this is it. For now, each propellant sample is stored in an airtight container (separately) under controlled humidity and temperature. On a separate note, just reflecting on what I've seen and what the components look like after 72 odd years, I'd say that the lot of Remington Arms ammo took a licking and kept on ticking, but as I've said, I've run over 250 rounds of the whole lot through the range with no problems at all. I just wonder if today's manufacturing ability could last as long.

[NOTE: All the pictures contained herein are original and of items that I own. The larger perspective pictures were taken with a NIKON D3100 digital camera, and the close-up case and propellant pictures were taken with a Celestron Lighted Digital Microscope camera.]
 

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Another test of old .45 ACP ammo which I found interesting is here: http://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharris/articles/How%20Good%20is%20Old%2045%20Ammo.htm The old pre-WW2 arsenal ammo used a smaller 0.206" diameter primer and if you want to use the brass, it will need to be reamed to accept modern 0.210" large pistol primers. With the shortage of components I have been reloading the old brass and most of it has been OK.
 

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Also FYI, the H&G blog has this article on testing WW2 German 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP) ammo, which I found facinating! http://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharris/articles/Test%20of%20Old.htm And a couple other articles from Ed Harris on loading the .32 ACP: http://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharris/articles/32ACP_Pocket.htm http://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharris/articles/32popguns.htm http://www.hensleygibbs.com/edharris/articles/32ACP.htm
 

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@OldBoffin75, I went back and micro-gauged the RA 42 case, and a new Winchester 45 Auto case. Both read about 0.206-7". I confess I don't know squat about reamers, though. Do you have a recommendation on a nice correctly-sized reamer that could be used to be sure if one wanted to use the old brass?
 

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Have you tried an inertial bullet puller yet? you put the round in the collet which grabs the rim or extraction grove as the case may be, tighten the cap and it a block of wood like a hammer with it... they are typically under 20 bucks. I'm curious if this would break the sealant loose, or at least loose enough to salvage the bullets. Also don't try to salvage the powder for reuse. That is a very dangerous proposition, since you risk an overload. many powders look the same but have completely different burn rates. About the best thing I've ever found to do with powder from mixed rounds like this is to mix it with petroleum jelly and make a hot burning nonextinguishable fire starting paste. And if you do decide to reload this brass, due to the sealant you will need to invest in some type of case cleaner. If you go with the liquid ultrasonic, and do it before decapping (removing the primers) it should disable them as the fluid is worked through the flash hole by the ultrasonic pressure, barring Murphy's law...
 

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@ScottEsse Actually, I have three of them (inertia deloaders). They are mainly for uncrimped rounds, IMO. I tried it on some of these and they just laughed at me like "What are you thinking?". These slugs have been secured in the cases for 70+ years, sealed very well - some of them with a sealer applied before pressing. I'm not interested in reuse of anything with respect to them, actually. More as a DEWAT action, really.
 
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