Cheap Ammunition is no Bargain – Cheap Ammo Safety Issues

Cheap Ammo is No Bargain

Cheap Ammo is No Bargain

Cheap ammunition is no bargain. The safety issues of using cheap ammunition can be catastrophic. When I first got interested in guns and shooting in 2009, I purchased a shotgun for home defense. Next I purchased a Glock 17. Being new to the gun experience and new to shooting I had a lot to learn including learning about ammunition. In the beginning I was shooting a lot. My first weekend at the range cost me $70.00 in ammunition. I was going to the range every weekend so I started shooting cheaper priced ammo. I was shooting a Glock 17 and it seemed to be happy with whatever I fed it. This led me to purchase a lot of Russian steel cased Wolf ammo, and other cheap ammo made by Tulammo, Sellier & Bellot ammo, and Herters ammo. It wasn’t until I started purchasing more guns, especially the small 3 inch barrel subcompacts, that I started to learn that there is indeed a difference between quality ammunition and cheap ammunition.

I learned even more about ammunition when I got interested in shooting .22 cal. The .22 cal weapons can be particular about the .22 cal ammo they shoot. I further learned that accuracy is definitely affected by the quality of the ammunition you shoot.

At this point I had accumulated about 6,000 rounds of cheap 9mm ammo, 4,500 rounds of .45 ACP ammo, over 1,000 rounds of 12GA shotgun shells in slugs, 00 buck shot, and bird shot, and about 15,000 rounds of .22 cal long rifle ammunition. Most of the 9mm Luger ammo and .45 ACP ammunition was cheap ammunition, the cheap 9mm ammo, and 45 ACP ammunition with steel case such as Wolf ammo, Tullammo, and Herters ammo.

I recently purchased a Beretta PX4 in .45 ACP and took it to the range for the first time. I took several hundred rounds of Herters ammo in .45ACP and some 45 caliber Federal ammunition. The first magazine through the PX4 was flawless, the second magazine had a malfunction. The gun jammed and the case wasn’t extracted. Racking the slide ejected the spent case.

I was shooting in a noisy inside range so I didn’t hear any sound from the PX4 going off.  I thought it was just a jam, a failure to eject. What really happened was that the round had no powder in it. The primer was powerful enough to push the bullet out of the case so it lodged in the barrel.

What happened next saved me from a catastrophic incident and was sheer luck. I racked the slide to load the next round but the slide wouldn’t close all the way. I racked the slide several times and each time the slide would not close all the way. My first thought was, “Great! My new Beretta PX4 is broken and I’ll have to return it to Beretta for service!”

Being an inexperienced shooter I had never had this happen before, that is getting a bullet lodged in the barrel.

What saved me was that the bullet had not travelled far enough to let the next round fully seat in the chamber.

How lucky I was. If the next round had indeed chambered then the gun would have blown up in my hands because the barrel was blocked. This experience did more than scare me. Each time I think about what might have happened and how close I was to firing that new 45 with a blocked barrel it is unsettling.

I tried the same Herters ammo in my Smith & Wesson CS45 and had another misfire but this time I heard it. It was just a slight pop and there was hardly any recoil. The bullet was lodged in the barrel.

An important lesson I learned from this is that cheap ammunition is no bargain and can be dangerous.

I’m getting rid of the cheap steel cased stuff. I never had a problem using steel cased Wolf ammunition or the Tulammo. The only problem I had was with the Herters ammunition and that incident was enough for me to change my ammo buying habits. Now I have 1600 rounds of cheap Herters .45 ACP ammo to get rid of.

From now on I will only buy brass cased ammunition and preferably American made ammunition manufactured by companies like Federal. I like the Federal Premium and Federal Classic ammunition, and the less expensive American Eagle ammunition.

I stopped using the cheap Wal-Mart Federal and the Winchester White Box. I now prefer American Eagle made by Federal for everyday shooting and practice and I like Federal Classic Hi-Shok JHP for self defense. I also like Blazer brass which is made by CCI. Blazer .22 caliber is pretty good ammo for the price.

So an important lesson learned. Cheap ammo is no bargain and can be a safety issue.

Here is an incident report about using Cheap Ammo that I just found on the Romeo Tango Bravo blog that describes exactly the situation I had. The only difference was that my squib would not allow the next round to be fully chambered. Read the original article along with pictures of the damage. This sends shivers through me to think how close I was.

“The shooter was using Winchester ‘White Box’ 95gr FMJ. He says during a string of fire he thought he experienced a misfire so he racked the slide inserting a new round. Not knowing that the previous round had gone off with enough energy to propel the bullet only halfway through the barrel and not enough to cycle the pistol. He then pressed the trigger on the fresh round which sent another bullet careening into the back of the stuck round…KABOOM!”

Will keep a lookout for more articles about this safety issue caused by using low quality ammunition.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chuck Burns Mar 1, 2014, 6:52 pm

    I’m glad to hear that you checked and cleared the barrel. That is interesting that you also had a problem with Herter. That stuff is dangerous. I have shot several thousand rounds of Tulammo and Wolf with never an issue. Tulammo and Wolf are good quality for cheap ammo.

  • P Diddy Mar 1, 2014, 6:43 pm

    I had a similar incident today on the range with the Herters 7.62x39mm HP ammo….When the SKS I was shooting misfired, I pulled back the slide to find an empty shell and bits of powder. I attempted to visually check the barrel but I couldn’t see through. I proceeded to run the rod through the top of the barrel, and sure enough, I popped the unfired bullet through.

    Herters is stamped with the Tulammo , but I’ve never had this issue firing Tula branded ammo, Brown Bear,Wolf or any other steel cased, Russian ammo. Anyone have any idea if Herters acquires the Tulammo rejects and resells it?

  • cebur19 Dec 22, 2012, 12:44 am

    I started reloading my own. I find I enjoy it and it adds another dimension to my guns and shooting hobby. I still use quality brand name self defense ammo in my carry weapon. The only squibs I have ever had so far was with Herter brand in 45ACP. I shot 2000 rounds of 9mm Herters previously and never had any issues. It worked so well that I bought the 2000 rounds of Herters in 45ACP. The very first box of that had 3 squib rounds. Cabelas treated me right and refunded my purchase price. I have also had good experience with Federal American Eagle ammo. Thanks for your comment.

  • Mr.machinist Dec 21, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Look around and you’ll find squib issues with CCI blazer too. Walmart has carried Win., blazer, and Fed all at one time or another, the store selling it has no affect on ammo quality. I hate to tell you, but you will find ammo squib issues with every level of every brand of ammo if you spend enough time reading internet stories. Win. white box is the only “generic” ammo I know of that is of high enough quality for some police depts to have issued it for duty use, some retired cops still use it for self defense.

    You’ll find yourself practicing less and going broke if you limit yourself to high end elite brand duty ammo.