Steel Ammo and Protectants Vs. A Texas Month

When you go to an outdoor range and look down, you can’t help but notice that caked into the ground lays hundreds of cases of rusted steel cased 7.62×39, 5.56×45, and whatever else companies like Tula and Wolf sell in lieu of brass cases. First of all, I have never really had a problem with shooting steel cased ammo in most of my firearms, and for just blasting away and turning money into noise I have always felt steel is the way to go. But every time I buy it that little image of the rusty case coated range tells me that it just wouldn’t be good for long term open-air storage, especially in the hot and humid climate of Texas. To put my mind at ease and hopefully learn something I devised a little test to see if a month of open air exposure effected unfired Tula 7.62×39 on SKS stripper clips. The parameters for the test are as follows:

  • 5 Stipper clips containing ten rounds of ammunition would be placed outside
  • Each clip (sans for a control clip) and its contents would receive a generous coating of lubricant via paint brush (no hand contact)
  • The ammo would be shielded from direct rainfall by placing it under an extended section of roof
  • The ammo would not be shielded from dirt/dust/etc. flying around in the air
  • Every 3 days a set of photos would be taken for a month starting June 1st

So pretty simple set of rules here, now lets move on.


Entrants to the competition include Rem Oil, Mobil 1 10W-30, Hoppe’s Gun Oil, and a generic CLP product I bought at a gun range called “Safari Charlie”.

Anyways I coated the combatants with some of these spongy brushes I got from a hardware store. I used a new one for each clip:




And I was left with a row of nicely lubricated ammunition and a porch stained by 10W-30 that will forever serve as a reminder that I performed this test:


The previous photos were all taken on June 1st, 2013 and I was looking forward to seeing the progression of the test (which you folks get to see all at once).


No noticeable changes.



The ammunition begins to collect dust and other debris. The control is less effected.





Starting to notice that the jacket on the Rem Oil soaked rounds are starting to change color. Other rounds remain the same.





Rem Oil rounds continue to degrade. More debris gets stuck to the other ammunition.





Mid month status check. The Rem Oil jackets are still getting worse but none of the cases are rusting or corroding. The control now begins to show some spotting on the jacket. Mobil 1 stripper clip seems to attracts all the dirt in my lawn.







Photo of each clip individually.


Rem Oil


Mobil 1












Left to right:







Rem Oil jacket looks bad.




Test almost over. Control looks pretty dusty.




End of test!



Results (dirty):

Rem Oil:


Motor Oil:








Results after being wiped off with a towel:

Rem Oil:


Mobil 1:









So there you have it. The test more or less showed that a month of leaving lacquer coated steel ammo outside will yield you nothing but some light jacket corrosion, shootable ammo, and an oil stained porch. The most interesting thing I found about this was how the chemicals in the Rem Oil seemed to mess with the jacket more rather than protect it when compared with the control. I do intend to shoot all of this through an SKS too as it is all in perfect shootable condition, so at least I am not out any ammo after performing this test!

Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • bbmg

    Remember that once the cartridge is shot, the lacquer coating is completely compromised, hence the corrosion you would see on spent cartridges at the range.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Do you have a WWII Japanese Machinegun rechambered in 7.62×39?
    I know of NO other weapon that used ammo lubrication.
    In any other weapon lubrication of the rounds would result in pressure problems!
    Geoff Who thinks this a very strange thing to do…?

    • bbmg

      I think the point of the lubrication was to preserve the rounds when exposed to the elements, with the idea to wipe it off before firing.

    • orly?

      I believe miniguns require lubrication for each round. Dispensed by vibration.

      • jcitizen


  • Julio

    I’m glad you had fun doing this. Could someone please coat a rifle or something next and take photos of the paint drying? Sadly, it’s still better than working. 😉

    • Leoon

      your a whiny little fellow

      • Julio

        Ah, but you seem to be the one complaining.
        P.S. Did you mean to write “you’re”?

        • Leoon

          wait wasnt your coment ment to suggest this article was boring, using the “like watching paint dry” platitude?

    • If you want to supply the rifle I’m game:-)

  • Pete Sheppard

    Hurry up and shoot! Whether or not it goes ‘Bang!’ like it should is what it’s all about.

  • gunslinger

    i was going to ask for a range report.

  • Roger

    Your rifles may work just fine with steel cased ammo, but on the range that I work at, (a large municipal range) one of the most common problem seen on the line with AR type rifles is a stuck steel cased fired round. It usually takes a steel rod down the bore to get them out. Seen more commonly on higher end rifles with tighter chambers.
    The other common problem is with gun show reloads, but they are another story.

    • Very true. An AR must be lubed or they will certainly fail to eject. I’ve seen this happen on the range a fair number of times after say 200 rounds fired.

      • BryanS

        This is usually because of a brass round in the mix after steel. Steel does not expand as much, makes for a dirty chamber. That dirt tehn glues the brass round in, which expanded against that carbon, and then requires a good bit of force to remove.

        • In this case it was all steel cased ammo with a steel case getting stuck. On one we had to use the cleaning rod and a small hammer to get the thing out.

          • jcitizen

            I seem to remember reading that there was a problem in the shift from lacquer to polymer, and that in the transition, a lot of armies and civilians were getting stuck steel cases. Since then, I’ve always read the problem was solved. Personally I’ve had few problems, but in the mid 90s we had a few stuck rounds when the Wolf ammo we were buying used polymer. Not too bad of a problem as we were very abusive to the firearms and shot whole cases of ammo through them; so it seemed like a minor problem, that a good chamber brushing could solve.

  • Geo

    The Mobil 1 has the least amount of corrosion. Maybe this is why my uncle uses carburetor cleaner on his 1911.

  • LT

    My storage scheme is to put ammo in cans with dessicant…even here in Kansas we’ve got more heat and humidity than seems possible sometimes.
    I can’t imagine wiping off every round before use–if this is “turning money into noise” ammo, that’s a lot of wiping!

    • jcitizen

      Hopefully the lesson we learn is to avoid the conditions that lead to wiping as a necessary evil. I have ran live ammo in a vibratory tumbler for a short period and then blown it off with compressed air, and done very well. But then, it was not my fault this old 7 mm Mauser ammo got spots on it either. It was worth the recovery efforts, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Ripley

    So, on a side note, wouldn’t it be possible to use an electromagnet to clean up the range from steel casings?

  • cmblake6

    Keeping your strippers in a cloth bandoleer helps too. Or in a can. It wasn’t the necessarily most intelligent thing I ever did, but once upon a time I put some ancient 7mm Mauser in my vibrating case cleaner so it would be usable. Had brass corrosion and big green splotches all over it. Put it in the spare room and turned it on. 8 hours later, clean ammo and no explosions. Did the same with some 6.5 Swede. Worked fine.

    • neoconfection

      I keep all of my surplus ammo stored in the Plano ammo cans and they work really well. I never thought of the cloth bandoleer, though…that’s pretty clever.

  • Ian

    Perhaps this should be tried in a state with weather?

    • Blake

      Anybody got a North Carolina swamp handy?

      Actually it’s probably harder to find ammo than to find someone that owns swampland at the moment…

    • jcitizen

      I lived in Texas for three years, and it was some of the worst weather I’ve ever been exposed to. That is why I don’t live there!

  • Lew

    It would be interesting to see the effects on different coatings as well, if lacquer (mil-spec) is any better than commercial polymer coating.

  • Lance

    Very interesting. Should tell this to Russia for long term ammo storage in the field LOL!

  • Leoon

    I am surprised steve let you use MOBIL ONE on anything gun related and then post it on his website. I am all using the best but he seems to hold a contempt for those who suggest MOBIL 1 as a gun lubricant 🙂

    • michael

      I only use this as a lubricant and for storage in NJ and have had zero issues with it. it stays put, my rifles cycle properly, and it’s cheap.

    • Steve has a companion in the opinion on using motor oil as a lube. Contempt no way guy! Use whatever you want to.

      • Leoon

        it was a joke not a critisism

  • Fretless Bass

    Wolf ammo was left in salt water for a long time and still fired. No other ammo brand would fire when subjected to the same conditions.

    • Leoon

      based on your comprehensive study of all ammo ever?

  • jamezb

    I was once given a tin of .45 ACP mixed maker ammo some of which dated to WWI and was turning green. I polished each round briefly with brass cleaner, put it in half-moons and fed it through my beloved Webley Mk1 with only three failures to fire out of 100 rounds.

    • jcitizen

      I had some perfectly clean WW2 dated .50 cal that I got two to three failures per 100 rd belt. That wasn’t to bad for being in the mid 70’s! I was just a kid and didn’t know you had to use water to clean the barrel out, and ruined a perfectly good heavy barrel with a stellite liner! I’ll never live that down!

  • Jay Dee

    A couple doses of Simple Green over a couple weeks will clean up the oil stains.

    • Leoon

      hmm simple green good for everything gun related 🙂
      I wonder how its creators feel about that? the name would suggest they are greenies so you never know.

      • Anders Albertsson

        Simple Green is BAD for aluminum parts including lower receivers!

        • Leoon

          well so are all other amonia based cleaners

  • Blake

    Cosmoline! Try again with cosmoline 🙂

    • Leoon

      And WD-40 and a variety of other things including wheel bearing grease and the like. Ultimately he should have consulted the readers before going into a three month long test but his results where interesting. If he were to do a fall and winter edition of this I would suggest that he use a wider variety of spray lubricant and other water displacing and preservative agents available in aerosol cans and then test in a more exposed environment.

      • “He should have consulted the readers” That’s a first. Anyway WD-40 isn’t a lube or protective coating. It has a lot of general purpose uses but never on a gun or ammunition.

        • Leoon

          wait people dont normally ask to consulted on stuff like this? or are you being sarcastic

      • Cymond

        Considering the lack of corrosion on even the untreated control ammo, I don’t see how testing any other lubricants would have been relative at all. The results can be summarized as almost no results at all.

  • Cymond

    Alex, could you do a simple, extended test for us? Just leave a few unprotected rounds outside and check them monthly. It may be a long time before they’re unusable.

    • I do shoot a good deal of steel ammo or I should say I did. I let some lay where it feel and checked on it when I went back to the range. The cases were covered in fairly thick rust within a month. Of course when I fired the coating was probably melted.

  • Egregious Charles

    I had the impression the problem with putting any kind of oil, or oil-containing thing like wax, on stored ammo was that over time it tends to penetrate to the primer and deactivate it.

  • joedeats

    Mobil 1 is good for all things firearm. I’ve used it for years in all kinds of weather conditions to help clean and lube my rifles. It never let me down and made everything seem smoother and more efficient.

  • Ex Tester

    I would have liked to see manual camera settings for comparison shots. Too much variation in color temp and exposure to really make any serious argument which is better.

  • heb macman

    Purple Power degreaser (sold in every NAPA store) will clean the oil stains from the concrete… Spray directly onto the stain, let work for a few minutes (but don’t let it dry up), brush with a stiff type of floor brush (you can add a little water) and then rinse with plenty of water… Repeat if required…

    Disclaimer, I have absolutely nothing to do with the product or the vendor except for being a satisfied customer of both…

  • Szilard Kiss

    Try ballistol 🙂