Technical question re: old load handgun kept in storage

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by Cyn71, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. Cyn71

    Cyn71 New Member

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    I've been trying to research the answer to my question but it's been hard to find. I stumbled across this forum in the course of my research and thought maybe I could acquire some help here.

    I'm trying to find out whether an old loaded handgun (say, from around the 1940s/late 1930s or something) that has been kept in storage would still be able to fire those bullets (let's say, about 40-45 years later).

    If one tried to fire such a gun, what would happen if the bullets or gun were to fail? Would it just click? Would it jam? Or would it make some sort of noise? Would it eventually - after a couple/few tries - be able to successfully shoot one of the bullets? Or none of the above?

    These questions undoubtedly seem strange - it's probably why I couldn't find the answer to my question with a simple Google. At any rate, the reason for these questions is because I've written a novel and I've gotten to the point in my 2nd draft where I want to use a scenario like what I described above. However, since I don't know much about how effectively handguns kept in storage for decades can actually work, I was hoping some more knowledgeable folks could give me a few tips or at least point me in a direction where I can find some answers.

    ETA: I apologize in advance if I've posted this in the wrong location on the forum. This seemed like the relevant place; it it's not, I'll put it elsewhere.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2012
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Depends on the conditions the gun was stored in.

    One of four things will happen.

    The gun got wet and rusted tight, and the dang thing won't do anything. Trigger won't pull, cylinder won't turn, slide won't move, magazine won't come out, safety won't move. It be broke. Sucks - but no danger.

    The ammo, because of oil contamination or extremes of heat and/or cold will not work, and it will go "click". Again, no danger.

    The ammo was semi-degraded because of (see above) and it gives a kinda weak "pop". This is the dangerous one. The bullet might have gone into the barrel, but not made it all the way out of the barrel. If you, without checking for a plugged barrel, and removing the plug if there is one, and try again, and round two goes BANG, and round one HAD plugged the barrel, you can have what is referred to as a "KABOOM". That's when the gun explodes in your hand. NOT FUN.

    The fourth possibility is both the gun and the ammo work fine, and it goes BANG BANG BANG BANG like it's supposed to.
  3. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Pictures of plugged barrels and KABOOMS.

    We got a Smith and Wesson that the numb-nuts shot 9 "pop"s before wondering why it did not kick.

    We got a Webley where the second good one coming behind the first "pop" one blew the barrel.

    Then we got a Glock.

    And to show that it just don't happen to pistols, an M14 military rifle.

    Attached Files:

  4. Tmergen24

    Tmergen24 New Member

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    With my curiosity I would have to fire it but firs I would chec the ammo cases for crack or any other suspicious looking defects, make sure the barell is clear, not to terribly rusty, check for cracks or loose fits in the gun. And if all pass have at it
  5. Cyn71

    Cyn71 New Member

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    Interesting, thank you so much!

    This is quite helpful; it gives me a lot to mull over ... and probably some changes to make (unless, for the purposes of my story, the reason it 'clicks' at first but doesn't fire isn't because there's anything wrong with it but just because it isn't fully loaded). Or maybe I could incorporate a plugged-barrel scenario in some way.

    By being wet/rusted - do you mean because of humidity? The location of my novel is Poughkeepsie, NY ... so, I guess more research into weather conditions is in order to determine if humidity would play a factor as well.
  6. Cyn71

    Cyn71 New Member

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    The scene I'm researching for occurs at the climax of the story, so not much time for the protagonist to check for defects or other problems. I just didn't want to go off writing about something I had no clue about and it ending up being really lame.

    But the info here definitely gives me something to work with.
  7. Tmergen24

    Tmergen24 New Member

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    I'm sorry I think I read though the ? A lil to quickly I thought you actually had the gun my bad well good luck with your novel
  8. Cyn71

    Cyn71 New Member

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    That's OK - no, I'm just asking for the novel, as I know this is something I need outside help with. LOL I'm generally clueless about many of the particulars related to guns but I don't want it to be *too* obvious in the book. :p

    I will also browse through the forums for any additional info that might prove useful.
  9. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    It could be humidity, or it could just be the roof leaks, and the drip happens to fall on the old T-shirt the gun is wrapped in.

    If you want it to go click, and then work, the easiest thing would be to make it a revolver. Assuming you know nothing about guns. See the round thing above the trigger in the top picture? That the cylinder. It holds the cartridges (from five to upwards of 20, depending on the gun), and as the hammer goes back the cylinder rotates, bringing a loaded chamber in line with the barrel. The hammer falls, the gun goes bang, when the hammer is cocked again the cylinder rotates once more, moving that chamber out of the way and bringing another (hopefully loaded) chamber in line with the barrel. You could either have some of the ammo be contaminated, so the first round or two just went click - dead shells - but then try #3 went bang. Or, you could have the ammo stored with the gun, but not in it, and not have enough to fully load it. If your hero is not thoroughly up on guns he could maybe not realize that S&W rotates counterclockwise while Colts rotate clockwise. If, for example, there were only 4 shells, he might load the gun so the first four, going counterclockwise, would fire, but the gun, being a Colt, turns clockwise, and the first trigger pull would result in a click, on the empty chamber.
  10. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    I have fired a lot of 40-60 year old ammo and most of it fired just fine. If the gun and ammunition were kept in a cool, dry place (say a bedroom closet), I would expect it to fire with no problems, even if it were a self-loading pistol and the magazine was kept loaded all that time. (Magazine springs can take a "set" and fail, but most springs made in the U.S., Germany or England should have no problem.) With a revolver there would be (IMHO) of it not firing.

    Now if it were stored down a well, or in a damp basement, or on a boat in salt water, things would likely be a lot different.

    Jim
  11. old semperfi

    old semperfi New Member

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    i live in southern indiana,old country boy at hear
    i agree with jim,if the gun was stored properly even with the ammo in it,it should fire no problem.if the outside of the gun looked good then if it had good ammo to start with it will fire.to further the plot i would mention it had round or ball ammo.this older ammo was all that was available back then and not the expanding type hollow points or soft points like today.it may take more than one hit to stop a perp. old semperfi
  12. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

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    Cyn71 a linseed soaked chamois cloth or durrum canvas ( no longer made except for Australian Dry as a bone coats ) wrapped around the gun will give a logical explanation for a gun to be in good condition

    linseed soaked chamois is just about air proof and so no moisture gets in

    axle grease and durrum canvas where used in a few caches in real history

    durrum canvas is a waxed fine weave canvas

    no-one would be able to validly argue against such a gun from surviving even in very good condition as they have been found in exactly such condition

    heck look up the IRA from the 1820's arms cache they found when excavating , now all collectors peices and bringing top dollar, they are all as they where stolen from the dunwish armoury in 1819 and put away , they hung the guy who buried them and where only found in 2004 or 5

    they where greased with axle grease and wrapped in oilcloth and put in a crude lead box and sat there the whole time
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2012
  13. Cyn71

    Cyn71 New Member

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    It was going to be a revolver (Smith & Wesson), so it sounds like I was sort of on the right track.

    Yes, that's kind of where it was being stored (behind a wall - presumably where it wouldn't be exposed to humidity, not counting the climate of the area).

    Does this mean that the ammo itself (from back in the 30s/40s) would have less of a chance to go bad then? So my "click", "click", "click", BOOM scenario definitely wouldn't be as feasible with this type of ammo?

    Except if the cylinder was only partially loaded ...
  14. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    No, it just means that back in the day, most of the ammo available looked like this.
    [​IMG]

    It must kinda went through, pushing its way, without really causing a whole lot of damage.

    Instead of, like now, with the huge honkin' hollow points, and Glassers, and things of that nature, that upset and tear up big chunks of meat.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  15. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    It's quite feasible that you could have a "click, click, bang". Even with brand new stuff, you occasionally get a bad one. Dead primer. Primer seated upside down. If it's Remington 22s, a whole lot of 'em don't work.
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