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SHERIFF'S CORNER

What to do with old, unwanted ammo

Posted: August 21, 2012 - 5:50pm

SHERIFF’S CORNER

What to do with old, unwanted ammo

By TOM BURCH

Cass County Sheriff

Especially in the summer months, we often receive calls and inquiries about the proper way to deal with old and unwanted ammunition and explosives; occasionally including blasting caps, old dynamite and old fireworks. Often these calls come from family members that are helping clean out an elderly relative’s home or farm and the items have been there for many years. Although there are no statutory requirements for disposing of these items, there are safe and responsible ways to deal with these unwanted and potentially unsafe items.

One question that often comes up is if old ammunition safe to shoot? We cannot answer that, even if we see the ammunition. While it may be a desirable collector item, it may be useless for the shooter. Primers can lose (or increase) their sensitivity, propellant charges can deteriorate and fail to burn or burn improperly. Cartridge cases may become brittle and split or rupture when fired. Bullets may become stuck in cases from reaction between different types of metals, or they may change physical dimensions from oxidation or chemical reactions. Age, storage conditions, temperature extremes, and original manufacturing practices may vary greatly and two similar cartridges stored under different conditions may or may not be equally suitable for use. It is better to spend a few dollars on new ammunition than to risk a misfire by using old ammunition of an unknown condition.

One common method of disposal of old ammunition is to contact a local gun shop or gun smith. They may be willing to take the ammo off your hands and use it in a collection, re-sell it or re-load it. Some old ammunition could be considered desirable to collectors and may have monetary value.

We ask that you do not bring these items directly to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office will come and help you determine what the old ammunition is and will assist you in disposal. We will collect the ammo and dispose of it or forward it to a neighboring county bomb squad for assistance. This can occur at no cost to the individual or the sheriff’s office.

If you do find old explosives such as dynamite or blasting caps, please leave it alone and stay away from the area. You should notify your local law enforcement agency. Law enforcement will likely come and inspect the items and more than likely obtain assistance from a professional bomb squad in collecting and dealing with the items. Do not attempt to move, remove or transport the items on your own. This could be very dangerous.

Some police and fire departments may accept fireworks and ensure they are properly disposed. If that option is not available, the next best way to dispose of fireworks is to remove the fuse and soak the fireworks in water until saturated. The wet fireworks should then be double-bagged in trash bags and placed in the trash. These procedures are intended for small quantities of fireworks from a household only. According to the National Council on Firework Safety, proper disposal of fireworks is important for safety and environmental reasons. They recommend the following steps:

• Soak fireworks in water for 15-20 minutes after use.

• Do not place used fireworks in garbage or recycling bin.

• Dispose of all fireworks, wrappers, used matches etc. Failure to do so could lead to contaminated water run off.

• All fireworks and related materials should be thrown away.

• Never attempt to relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and soak it in water

• Keep all fireworks in a fireproof container before disposal.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us, phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677 or by mail/in person at Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W. PO Box NO. 1119, Walker, MN 56484