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Thread: Does brass become brittle with age just sitting in a box?

  1. #1
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    Does brass become brittle with age just sitting in a box?

    I have a friend who asked me to load some bullets for a rifle that he is giving to his son. This rifle is a 25/06 AI and is 40 years old and in very good shape. This rifle was used for hunting only so it was not shot a lot. He gave me 73 pieces of Winchester brass marked 30/06 in 5 boxes. The boxes were marked 20 Center Fire Rifle Cartridge Cases and priced at $3.20 each so they were probably as old as the rifle. I loaded them with his load that was marked on his boxes. This load was modest.

    I fired eleven rounds at 100 yards with a group of about 5/8" for the first three that was about 1.5 inches low. I adjusted the sights and fired several more rounds that were not as accurate. There were fliers. When I inspected the fired cases I found three out of the eleven with split necks. I don't think he had reloaded them too many times. These case were tarnished so I had cleaned them up in my case tumbler with walnut hulls before I reloaded them. I don't believe these cases had been reloaded many times.

    Question: Does brass harden and become brittle with age?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wynne View Post
    I have a friend who asked me to load some bullets for a rifle that he is giving to his son. This rifle is a 25/06 AI and is 40 years old and in very good shape. This rifle was used for hunting only so it was not shot a lot. He gave me 73 pieces of Winchester brass marked 30/06 in 5 boxes. The boxes were marked 20 Center Fire Rifle Cartridge Cases and priced at $3.20 each so they were probably as old as the rifle. I loaded them with his load that was marked on his boxes. This load was modest.

    I fired eleven rounds at 100 yards with a group of about 5/8" for the first three that was about 1.5 inches low. I adjusted the sights and fired several more rounds that were not as accurate. There were fliers. When I inspected the fired cases I found three out of the eleven with split necks. I don't think he had reloaded them too many times. These case were tarnished so I had cleaned them up in my case tumbler with walnut hulls before I reloaded them. I don't believe these cases had been reloaded many times.

    Question: Does brass harden and become brittle with age?
    Smart people will say no but experience says that yes, it will.

  3. #3
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    Something makes em split. Doug

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Casner View Post
    Something makes em split. Doug
    I agree Doug. Let me add that these boxes of brass were so old that they had no bar code on them. I have learned to approach a problem like this with an open mind. It could be other factors.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wynne View Post
    I agree Doug. Let me add that these boxes of brass were so old that they had no bar code on them. I have learned to approach a problem like this with an open mind. It could be other factors.
    I've seen the very same thing several times with old brass. Old once fired brass that was stored for many years split necks on most every case, for example. I know that the experts will say that the only way for brass to harden is by working it. I can't tell you the reason, but experience tells me this is just wrong. Same goes for copper. Ever tried working with old copper wire or tubing? Same thing..and it's not by a little bit, but a lot. I had an old roll of copper tubing that had been stored for probably 20 years on top of a parts bin. When new, it worked like butter but 20 years later it was impossible to work with without kinking and was just plain ol' tough to do anything with. Again, I can't explain it but I totally agree that it hardens with age.

  6. #6
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    I can't comment on the "experts" but experience has taught me that brass/copper generally get (brittle? Less ductile?) with age.

    IMO smokeless powder ages better than the brass case!



    I used to "collect" old ammo found at garage sales and flea markets until I found out that "Collecting" and "buying somebody's old crap ammo" were two different things...... so I've shot up a lot of old ammunition, mainly shotgun and rifle. I haven't found it to be dangerous, just unsuitable for reloading. And, I haven't annealed it because I'm infused with Redneck Logic I figger "whatever went out of the stuff, heat ain't gonna' put it back in" LOL

    I have NO CLUE, just have experienced it also....

  7. #7
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    Have a ,222 Rem Mag and was happy to find new 250 ct Nosler Brass.

    The old R-P brass was strange.

    Anyone want to comment on "cold welding" as in bullet to brass?

  8. #8
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    I have never had a problem with old brass splitting. By old, I mean 20 years or more.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBecigneul View Post
    I have never had a problem with old brass splitting. By old, I mean 20 years or more.
    I probably should have added..YMMV, especially for Francis.

  10. #10
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    Hey Mike
    That brass had never been fired before either and therein may lie the difference.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBecigneul View Post
    Hey Mike
    That brass had never been fired before either and therein may lie the difference.
    It very well may.

  12. #12
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    Back in the days if my youth when we'd file the tip of military .303 brass & hunt with that with our sportrised SMLEs, we'd inevitably find that the necks would split in firing in more than 50% of the brass. That stuff was 20-50 years old.

  13. #13
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    30-06 brass fire formed to 25/06 AI?
    Fired and put away dirty?

    Chemicals left from firing may attack the brass over years, if not cleaned before storage?

  14. #14
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    Smile What ever happened, there is a physical reason.

    I spoke with an "Expert" at Sierra and his answer was, "Yes, Brass hardens with age". He suggestion was to anneal the brass or throw it away and get some more. So There you have it.

    A friend of mine gave me a reasonable explanation as to a reason that I will accept. If the brass was stored in a garage, here in Texas, for several decades, It would become work hardened due to expansion and contraction due to hot days and cold nights. This makes sense to me. Many days in the summers down here it will reach over 120 in a garage and in the winters it will often be in the 20s or below. The cycles would be in the thousands over 40 or 50 years.

    It is a proven fact that this brass acts like it is work hardened. This is as good an answer as I can find.

    So There!

  15. #15
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    Was it really necessary/expedient even then to form .25-06 AI cases from .30-06 cases?

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