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Restoring WWI .30-06 ammunition


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A friend of mine hit me up on a project. He had two cloth bandoleers of 1913 dated Frankford Arsenal .30-06 ammunition that had begun corroding and coming apart. The deal, restore it and I could keep one of the bandoleers. I originally thought this would be a quick job, three months later, I finally finished it. I got 35 rounds of ammunition ith this batch, I was only able to save 30 because of shoulder seperation.

 

I thought I would document my work in case someone else wanted to try this. The first two pictures are of the product defect cards that were supplied to show lot and inspectors names.

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The card had a cut half way through it that looks like it was done during manufacture, but the tear was completed while removing it from the bandoleer by the owner. I used a elmer's glue and water mix to repair the tag. This side shows Lot, date of manufacture, and who worked on it.

 

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This side is the description side.

 

The first problem that I ran into was the ammunition had corroded and many of the bullets simply fell out. Many of the case necks were split. The bullets that didn't fall out had to be pulled free. This wasn't an easy task as the corrosion was holding tight and three of the shoulders seperated. The powder inside the cases had chemicallly changed so that it was all clumped together and was a aqua green color. I don't know if it was the brass from inside the case reacting with the powder or the mercuric primer material causing a reaction. I got all the powder cleaned out and used a bore solvent to clean the last of it out. I wore a mask through this wole process because I didn't know what kind of toxic chemicals I was stirring up.

The next process was to remove the corrosion inside and out. On the outside, I tried a plastic bristle brush, but that did very little. I didn't want to use abrasive cloth because it left circular marks in the brass. I tried brass brush, but it was harder than the case brass, so I ended up uing a razor blade and doing a real light back and forth motion and it really took the corrosion off. When the outside was done, I used a copper brush on the inside to get what I could, then used an epoxy resin to fill the case so that hopefully I could seal off the oxygen that would cause further inside corrosion. I had to put the epoxy in a little bit at a time because the first few that I tried to fill all at once never cured and stayed wet internally. Once the case was full up to the case mouth, I then put the bullet in and let the epoxy set. When all cases were done, I did another cleaning of the outside and then put the 30 rounds into the tumbler. I used some Frankford Arsenal brass polish (how appropriate) to do a tumble. About 45 minutes later, the rounds were removed while wearing gloves so as to not get body oils on the clean brass. All of the scrap marks were gone from the tumbling process.

I then used a plastic bullet holder to put the rounds in upside down. Using a satin finish clear spray laquer, sprayed the case heads. When dried, I turned them over and gave a coat on the other ends. I did the same to the stripper clips. After dried, I then put the rounds back in the stripper clips, into the carboard boxes and then into the bandoleers.

I learned alot on this exercise. Once stained with corrosion, it is nearly impossible to remove the discoloration, so you have to live with that. It was tough to demill ammunition, inert'ing it, but if something wasn't done, it wouldn't have survived another 10 years. Once corrosion starts on brass, it really weakens the brass, so much so that I was afraid to put much pressure on any heavy corrosion spots.

 

Here is the finished product.

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I had thought about that, but in the weakened state this brass was in, I was afraid that the acid would eat the brass or make it more brittle. That is why I used the FA cleaning solution, it doesn't contain anything to hurt the brass. Ammonia that is found in many brass cleaners weakens brass and shouldn't be used.

In your article, you give it an acid bath that you have to use baking soda (base) to neutralize the acid. That leads me to believe that it is eating the brass. I might find some old range brass that is corroded and do some experiments on it.


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If you read the web page, it mentions that the acid cleaning process actually STRENGTHENS the brass. ;)

 

I had thought about that, but in the weakened state this brass was in, I was afraid that the acid would eat the brass or make it more brittle. That is why I used the FA cleaning solution, it doesn't contain anything to hurt the brass. Ammonia that is found in many brass cleaners weakens brass and shouldn't be used.

In your article, you give it an acid bath that you have to use baking soda (base) to neutralize the acid. That leads me to believe that it is eating the brass. I might find some old range brass that is corroded and do some experiments on it.

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My WW1 ammo had corrosion plus the dreaded bronze disease (see photo) which in time will totally devour the brass. I solved that problem by soaking the brass in sodium sesquicarbonate. That solution is easily made with two teaspoons of baking soda, two teaspoon of "Oxyclean" or such detergents, and 1/3 cup of water. Soak the brass about 10-14 days then let them sit in distilled water for another two weeks. After then, coat the brass with wax or some other protection.

 

Note: There is nothing scary/mad scientist about making the solution - many household laundry detergents contain the exact same thing - just not in strength to cure bronze disease.

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Hawk - You can see where the "disease" was removed, but that could be easily buffed out. I'm leaving it as-is because my sole intent was to stop the corrosion and preserve the brass. I had the same problem - corrosion, cracked necks. I pulled the bullets, emptied the powder, etc. Before I coated them with sealing wax, I put the brass & bullets in the tumbler and got a nice natural patina to them.

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PS. These cartridges are in an ammo belt my great-grandfather picked up on the Argonne battlefield in 1918. The name on the belt and canteen is Sgt. Frank Gaynor and he was KIA. You can see where a shot, perhaps the fatal one, went through an ammo pouch which detonated a round or two out the bottom. (I moved some ammo in there for reference)

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I use a wax by Renaissance - it seals and polishes all kinds of things from furniture to ammunition. I buy it at a local woodworkers supply.

 

Renaissance wax puts on a good finish and a great protective coating.

 

I'll second that on the Renaissance wax. I'll post some pictures of a couple silver items I used it on and how long ago I used it on.

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We used Renwax on some of the older blades and armor to protect it.. The sodium sesquicarbonate to stop the bronze disease is a great thing. It's used with Roman artifacts for preservation.

 

Fins.

That wasn't friendly fire.. If I was being 'friendly', I wouldn't have fired at them!!!

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