Bad ammunition warning

Friend, blogger and photographer Oleg Volk (who also does the covers for my books) has put out a very valuable video warning of the dangers of bad ammunition.  You’ll find the details on his blog.  I highly recommend clicking over there and watching the video.  It’s worth your time.

I second his warning enthusiastically.  I’ve often been surprised by people who never test the ammunition they plan to rely on for their defense, if worse comes to worst.  That can be as dangerous as having no ammunition at all.  To illustrate, here are a few examples:

  • Feeding problems have been reported with the US Army’s new M855A1 service round. has an informative thread about it, with pictures of how the round feeds through various magazines.
  • Some guns run fine with ammunition from one manufacturer, but not with ammo from another.  Here’s just one example.  Another, from my own experience:  I have several boxes of Cor-Bon 9mm. 115gr. JHP +P ammunition (their original production rounds).  It feeds and functions just fine through my Glock and Ruger pistols;  but when a friend tried a box through a CZ pistol, he reported misfeed after misfeed.
  • For legal liability reasons, I can’t name it here:  but I know of several law enforcement agencies that have stopped buying ammo from one major manufacturer because of what they describe as unacceptable variation in the velocity of its rounds.  They’ve reported handgun rounds varying as much as 150 feet per second from each other, indicating inconsistent propellant loadings.  This affects accuracy and terminal performance.  They’ve decided (and I agree with them) that this is unacceptable in terms of officer safety, so they’re now buying from other manufacturers.  (I have older stocks of the ammunition they now distrust, bought some years ago, and they appear to perform as advertised;  but I won’t be buying any newer-production ammo from that company, either.)  Interestingly, that same company’s .22LR ammunition – previously well regarded – is now also gaining a reputation as a poor performer in terms of reliability.  Perhaps they need to take a good, hard look at their production facilities and practices . . .

Massad Ayoob and others have long recommended a simple test:  fire 200 rounds of your chosen defensive ammunition, through your chosen defensive handgun, using the magazines or reloading tools (e.g. speedloaders, etc.) that you’re actually going to use to defend yourself, without a single malfunction, before you trust that combination with your life.  I wholeheartedly endorse that test, and use it myself.  (For guns that don’t rely on semi-automatic function, such as revolvers or pump-action shotguns, I cut the round count down to 100.)

If you haven’t performed that test with your defensive firearm(s) yet, I strongly recommend that you do so as quickly as possible.  You might be surprised by the results . . . perhaps unpleasantly.  If your gun can’t do 200 trouble-free rounds with your chosen ammunition, try a different brand of ammunition.  If it can’t do 200 trouble-free rounds with two or more different brands of ammunition, get a better gun!



  1. It's long been known particularly with .22 rimfire guns that a particular firearm "likes" one brand of ammo over another, and will consistently group tighter with it than other choices. So conventional wisdom says that with a new gun once it's been broken in you plunk yourself down at the range with a variety of brands and types of ammo and shoot groups to see what works best in that specific gun.
    In a somewhat similar vein, the move back to 9mm in many LEO and military realms is often justified by claims of the superior performance of modern 9mm hollowpoint ammunition. But then of course the chosen firearms are function tested with ball ammo. I have adjusted a number of semi auto handguns to function properly with HP, but it can be quite a job including but not limited to selecting just the right magazines, altering the angle of the feed ramp, and giving the surface of that ramp a mirror polish.

  2. Off Topic, but I received "Brings the Lightning" for Christmas and read straight through in one sitting. More Please. As far as the mystery manufacturer, if it begins with the letter "F" , I have little experience with them as my (.22)firearms prefer the manufacturer that begins with "R". No squibs or other major issues over the course the last 500-600 rounds fired, just the occasional bad primer. Also looking forward to your foray(s) into the fantasy genre.


  3. A co-worker asked me about some factory centerfire rifle ammo he had purchased last month, a major brand, something about it just didn't seem correct. The primer was recessed about 1/16th below level with the pocket. I advised him about squib rounds et al, he took the ammo back for a refund.

  4. @Jeremy: Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I'm working on the sequel as we speak (or, rather, write). Look for it in the second quarter of next year.

    As for the ammo manufacturer, it's not 'F'. On the other hand, one beginning with 'R' might not be far off the mark . . .

  5. In an apparent attempt to deal with inflation, EVERY manufacturer of ANY type of product is cutting corners, and QC/QA is a stupidly popular dept to slash.

    The quality of products here in the US started to drop a couple years after Obama took office, and have continued to head for the basement ever since. Most of what is on the shelf now is second class crap, compared to 10 years ago.
    With inflation, the price has to rise, or the quality has to drop, barring innovative production changes. That, or their suppliers are doing things different to help control costs.

  6. I like the manufacturer with an 'F', but not the domestic one. Really happy with their JHP using the toppings made by the manufacturer with an 'H'. The mouse gun likes the 32acp. Will be great for zombie mouse infestation.

    Hey, that game is fun.

    Never know if domestic is really domestic, or foreign actually not. Much DNA swapping in the industry.

  7. I'm guessing that some of the qc issues with ammunition recently has been due to manufacturers running flat out 24/7 to keep up with demand. My experience in other industries is that when you run like that, everything from machine maintenance to quality testing on raw materials to qc on product going out the door begins to slip. Employees get tired. Machines get tired. I notice that the people I know tend to shoot more than they did 20 years ago or when I was a kid. We also keep a far, far larger safety stockpile of ammunition than even our parents did. Many guys I know have case after case of ammo for their defensive weapons. As an avid trap shooter, hunter and rifle competitor my dad kept what at the time might be considered a lot of ammo around but he'd be shocked at what I keep around and be utterly astounded by what some of my friends have stashed away.

  8. Spent years "walking the line" as an RSO, and whenever someone was experiencing problems that appeared to be ammunition-related I inquired as to what brand they were using. Frequently it was "brand (redacted), bought at (redacted)." With .22LR ammunition in particular there was a high incidence of misfires from bulk boxes of one particular brand from one particular place. Certainly not a statistically valid sample, but I found it interesting.

    I suspect – but have no data to support – that these shooters were experiencing some of what Anon @ 10:43PM (above) mentioned as QC issues. As example, a number of years ago (he's long since gone now) during an ammunition-related conversation with a gun shop owner of long experience he mentioned that at the start of World War II he was drafted and because of his experience served the entire war stateside as an Army firearms instructor; under his tutelage thousands of soldiers were taught to shoot, and having met a few, they were taught well.

    He remarked that all their training ammunition was made available by the carload from lots that failed Quality Control; extremely high performance standards were required for ammuntion going to troops in the field, and anything not meeting that standard was routed to the training facilities. Four of his comments struck me as interesting: first, it was all one caliber, the goal was to produce as much of that one caliber as possible, the QC-rejected lots sent to training facilities were still very, very high quality, and they received a lot more of it than they could use.

    Which leads to my point: Having been involved to a degree the QC biz, I suspect what we may be seeing is ammunition lots that don't meet the quality standard for "first tier" but still function reliably in guns, and this "second tier' stuff is being packaged and shipped, possibly to sellers who are both clamoring for product and are in price-competitive segments of the retail markets. Building an ammunition plant is expensive, making good ammunition isn't cheap, and the finished product is completely dependent upon the quality of the components which very often come from a myriad of suppliers, and they have their own QC issues; in manufacturing it's called "stacking tolerances". More than once I've gotten good deals on bullets and brass because while dimensionally perfect, the alloy in the jacket material wouldn't "polish up" to the shiny standard consumers expect to see in the box, and cases that had the same "shiny finish" problem.

    I could write pages, heck, chapters, on QC and the value of manufacturing to a zero variance standard instead of tolerances and that QC cannot be "inspected in" (if you're interested, begin with W. Edwards Deming's experience in the U.S. 1941-1945, then in Japan from about 1950-1965, and follow the bibliography trail from there).

    As Anon @ 10:43PM points out, ammo manufacturers are running flat out to meet demand, that demand is not going to subside – ever – because of the number of guns being sold and the amount of shooting those gun owners are doing, not to mention shortages of any commodity lead to stockpiling. Until another 25-50% of ammunition manufacturing capacity throughout the component lines is added we'll be dealing with this.

    As Peter pointed out, "test, test, test" and owning a chronograph and good sandbag rests for some of that testing would not at all be a bad choice. Especially for self defense use in your daily carry handgun, when you find a lot number that performs well, make note of it and buy more of that lot.

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