Last week I shared this photo with some friends and got several questions in response. So, I figured I’d offer a few words of advice on sanity-checking ammunition prior to hitting the range.
The two rounds shown in the picture are both 115-grain 9mm cartridges from Freedom Munitions. The one on the left is perfectly normal, while the round on the right has its bullet seated too deeply. This is a potentially dangerous condition, because the deeply-seated bullet will cause elevated chamber pressure if it’s fired. While this particular instance is likely not severe enough to cause damage or injury, the round is still defective and shouldn’t be used.
I caught this defect because I make it a habit to check my ammunition before loading it into magazines. Factory ammo is generally pretty reliable, but the extreme shortages of the past few years have caused some quality-control lapses. Manufacturers have been scrambling to keep up with demand, resulting in more defective rounds slipping past inspection. I’ve personally seen defects from Winchester, Remington/UMC, and several smaller manufacturers. It’s worth noting that I have *not* encountered any bad ammunition from the ATK brands (Federal, CCI and Speer); they seem to be doing better on the quality-control front.
So, how should you examine your ammo before going to the range? Here’s what I do:
Ammunition typically comes in a styrofoam or plastic tray inside a cardboard box. Flip the box upside down…
And slide the contents out onto a tabletop.
Take the tray off the top and your ammo is neatly arranged for a quick visual inspection:
Any rounds that are taller, shorter or crooked will be immediately apparent. Give the table a little nudge; any rounds that wobble probably have primers that aren’t fully seated.
if you shoot a lot, you might want to buy a chamber checker like this one from Evolution Gun Works; it’s basically a block of aluminum with chambers machined into it. Loaded ammunition should drop in freely, sit flush with the top surface of the chamber checker, and fall out freely. Any rounds that don’t pass the test should be examined carefully or discarded.
This round of reloaded ammo has a case that wasn’t completely resized, preventing it from dropping all the way into the chamber checker:
For pistols with removable barrels, you can use the barrel itself as a chamber checker. Field-strip the gun and drop individual rounds into the chamber of the barrel. Again, they should fall in and out freely, and the head of the cartridge should be flush with the rear edge of the barrel.
This kind of quick inspection adds less than 5 minutes to my prep time and I consider it time well spent. It won’t catch every possible defect, but it’s a sensible and effective way to spot cartridges that are obviously out of spec. Of course, if you have any reason to doubt the quality or safety of your ammunition, don’t shoot it!