Ammunition Essentials

“Buy it cheap! Stack it deep!”

-Savannah Arsenal-


Firearms Safety Rules:

  1. Always treat all guns as though they are loaded.

  2. Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.

  3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

  4. Always know your target and what is beyond.

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Ammunition Fundamentals:

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Ammunition Parts:

Bullet: The projectile that is shot by the rifle at the target. It is normally made of lead and may also have a jacket of hard metal such as copper. The bullet must match the chamber and bore of the rifle.

Cartridge: Fully assembled round of ammunition consisting of the case, primer, powder charge, and bullet (projectile).

Case: The container in which the ammunition parts are assemble. Usually made of brass or steel.

Powder: A chemical compound that when ignited serves as the propellant. When ignited by the primer, the power’s gases expand rapidly and produce a high pressure, providing the force needed to propel the bullet through the barrel and to the target.

Primer: Impact-sensitive chemical mixture that ignites when hit by the firing pin.

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How Ammunition Works:

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Ballistics and Bullet Trajectories:

Coming soon.

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Ammunition Malfunctions:


If handled correctly this will be a non-event.  The rare case of the priming compound not igniting immediately. It may ignite after a delay. Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction for at least 30 seconds before unloading the firearm.  If the round does fire while the weapon is pointed in a safe direction then there should not be any more problems unless you have a bad batch of ammunition.


If handled correctly this will be a non-event.  Happens when a cartridge does not fire when the firing pin hits the primer. When this happens, the shooter must keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and wait for at least 30 seconds before opening the bot. The misfire normally happens because the strike by the firing pin was too weak to fire the priming compound or because there was no priming compound where the fining pin hit the cartridge’s primer.


If not handled correctly, this can result in a catastrophic event.  The rare case where the primer ignites, but there are not enough gasses to force the bullet out of the barrel. If the round fired did not sound right, nor did it hit the target, stop and do not fire another round. A bullet may be lodged in the barrel and the firearm may burst if another round is fired as seen in the photos above. If possible, remove the bolt or open the action and inspect the barrel from the breech. If a bullet is in the breech, use a rod and push it out from the breech. Never push it back in from the muzzle. Clean the barrel before shooting again.


This will most likely result in a catastrophic event.  It is the result of an accidental over-charging of propellant during the manufacturing of the ammunition cartridge.


A slang term for when a firearm explodes (see photos above). This is usually due to an obstruction in the barrel, such as firing another round into a squib, or a double-charge of propellant (as discussed above).

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How To Clear A Stuck Case:

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Steel Case Ammunition:  Will It Damage Your Guns?:

Below are some YouTube videos that I’ve collected on the subject of whether steel case ammunition will damage the extractor in your AR-15:

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Will Bi-Metal Bullets Damage Your Barrel?

Below are some YouTube videos that I’ve collected on the subject of whether bi-metal bullets found in some of the Russian and Ukrainian ammunition will damage your barrel.

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Lucky Gunner Lab’s Epic Torture Test:

While these YouTube videos are insightful with just enough information to help you form your own opinion, I highly recommend that you check out:

8357889187_a011a00177_zThese guys use four identical AR-15 rifles and fire 10,000 rounds of Federal brass case ammo, 10,000 rounds of Wolf steel case ammo, 10,000 of Tula steel case ammo, and 10,000 rounds of Brown Bear steel case ammo. Throughout the 10,000 rounds of each type of ammo they test for accuracy, velocity, throat erosion, and chamber pressure. Their results may further challenge your opinions.

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Corrosive Ammunition: How To Clean Your Guns:

There are many methods, but they all involve this:

  1. Rinse salts out with water.
  2. Dry.
  3. Clean/lubricate as normal.
  4. Inspect the rifle 2-5 days after to ensure there is no rust.

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Related Savannah Arsenal Pages:

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