Skip to comments.Old Ammunition Poses Problem in Afghanistan
Posted on 06/01/2010 5:17:42 PM PDT by SandRat
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2010 Some homes have attics, basements or garages full of extra things that simply dont get thrown away. International forces in Afghanistan have found that such a hoarding mentality applies to ammunition, regardless of its quality.
During a May 28 "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable, Army Col. Ronald L. Green, logistics director for Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, discussed the dangers surrounding old ammunition stockpiles and the challenges the NATO training mission faces in getting rid of them.
Over the past three years, the training command has identified 6,325 metric tons of unsafe and surplus ammunition, Green said, but its removal and destruction requires approval from the Afghan defense ministry and an OK from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. New reports of ammunition stockpiles, some nearly 40 years old, continue to come in, the colonel added.
The latest one was at an airfield supply port, where we found another 380 metric tons, he said.
Green said its common for armies to destroy expired ammo, as its use, even in training situations, could put soldiers lives in danger. Quite frankly, we destroy a lot of [our] ammo, because it just goes bad, he said. And our hands are tied right now, because we cannot destroy one ounce of [this expired Afghan] ammo.
Though he has tried to influence the defense ministry officials to destroy the old ammo, Green said, the cultural affinity toward hoarding in Afghanistan tends to override his suggestions.
They don't want to be the one that destroyed it, and it could be used against them later on, because [the stockpiles are] a national treasure in their eyes.
While the hoarding of old ammunition mostly amounts to a waste of storage space that could be better used, Green said, some in the Afghan defense ministry think the ammunition is suitable for use. If you can clean off a 40-year-old round and buff it down, to a point where it looks like new brass, they believe it's good, he said.
International forces in Afghanistan will have spent about $1.2 billion for ammunition, factoring in the next four years, Green estimated, for both NATO forces and for the Afghan army. Because they cant remove old ammunition, he said, theyre running out of space quickly.
About 1.3 million pounds of ammonite, an explosive compound, is being stored in Herat. It was placed there by the Indian government to help with the construction of a dam -- a very good reason to have that type of commercial-grade explosives, Green said.
However, Green said, the material has degraded over the year or two its been there, and it could be used for nefarious purposes. He noted that the April 19, 1995, bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City was accomplished with 3,000 pounds of low-grade explosives.
This is commercial-grade, he said of the explosive material being stored in Herat. And we're talking 1.3 to 1.5 million pounds. So this is what keeps me up at night.
Fortunately, we’ve only 3K or so rounds, not counting reloads, kicking around the house...
We generally cycle them through the barrels, but that’s just our method.
I seem to remember reading that when WWII broke out, the Marines in the Pacific were all using ammo left over from WWI.
Some misfired, but most worked fine.
Unless the ammo is heavily tarnished or the cases are/were submerged, I don’t understand where the problem is. Ammo doesn’t get an expiration date on it because it can last a very long time if stored in a reasonable manner.
This is not to say these guys don’t have piles of crap ammo, but I don’t get where they can say it’s expired. Unfit perhaps...expired though? I was at a Milsurp shoot recently and guys were shooting ammo from the 40s...packed during WWII based on the headstamps.
I finally fired it all but for years I used some 7.65 Argentine Mauser ammo dated 1933 and 1934. It was made by FN in Belgium. It would very rarely hang fire but only for an instant. Not really dangerous in a bolt action as long as you are willing to keep the rifle pointed downrange until it fires or until you are certain it will not.
Very old ammo would be a possible danger in automatic weapons due to hang fires but it really has to be old or stored in bad conditions to be dangerous.
..if stored in a reasonable manner.
That’s the crux of the problem.
And I have visions of EOD guys just standing around waiting to blow all this old ComBloc ammo to Kingdom Come....
Give it to the CMP
What the hell is he talking about? People use decades old ammo all the time.
I read a something similar about the Army in the Philippines in 41. They were told to throw 3 grenades, and one should go off.
I had some Ecuadorian Army Mauser ammo that was about 1/2 duds.
It’s not a good feeling cycling those rounds out after the primer has been hit with a firing pin.
I suspect that they are mainly talking about artillery, mortars, land mines, and explosives, not small arms ammunition.
We think of “ammo” as small arms stuff, and stored well, it lasts for many decades. Explosives can have more problems.
Still, I can understand the Afghani reluctance. This stuff is very expensive and can be hard to get.
It obviously varies. I had some Argentine made .45 auto which looked beautiful and was not that old, but had about 95% failure to fire.
I also had some 9mm Luger made in Italy which would take a second strike to fire about half the time. This was with a Browning Hi-Power which was perfect otherwise. The really odd thing is it would fire every time with the second strike and was also 100% with a Beretta model 92. I could tell the Beretta had a stronger hammer spring. I am pretty sure the ammo was sub-machine gun ammo.
About 10 years ago I bought 6000 rds of WW2 corrosive 30-06 still in the WW2 wooden crates from the CMP during the matches at Camp Perry. 1942-43 headstamps. I am still shooting some from the one case that had already been opened, and I get about 2 or 3 complete duds per 100 rounds. Fine for practice, but wouldn’t want that if if things got serious.
Small arms ammo such as discussed here has to be burned vs demolition ............WW1 surplus ammo was properly sealed an stored...........this crap was in a mud hut open to the elements per se.
keep yer powder dry is not a myth to be ignored as you well know.
We destroy 10 times as much as we use over time IMO and experience.
Sad, but its just that way...........
Search youtube for afghan EOD videos......there is one there that is a sumbich of a shot. All abandoned bad ammo.
we destroy a lot of [our] ammo, because it just goes bad,
I’m still shooting ammo I bought in 1970! Only the .22 seems to degrade over time, and it takes a long time!
Only some .32 commercial ammo made about 1945 seems to have gone bad.
I inherited all the ammo at Long Binh Depot in 1972. We destroyed 100’s of tons of it.