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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Cleaning dug up rounds


Richard Matlock
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Hello everyone long time off the forum, I have some inert dug up rounds and want to know the best way to clean them , has anyone tried an ultrasound bath that's used to clean jewellery or some form of electrolysis? Or am I down to brasso and elbow grease 

these are just for me so any advice greatly received

Thanks Rich M 

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Heavily oxidised brass cartridge cases can be cleaned back to bare metal by a dip in citric acid, vinegar, coke, etc. The problem is that they will come out a pink colour due to the oxidation process leaving a layer of copper on the surface. This would have to be ground off to get to the brass underneath and the metal may not be strong enough. You may wish to just give them a careful wash and leave it at that.

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1 hour ago, PhilB said:

How do they come to be inert and dug up?:unsure:

My immediate thought too.

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Inert rounds normally consist of a spent cartridge to which a new dummy bullet has been added and are intended for display purposes. They don't usually have any great value or significance and would therefore normally not be worth trying to clean up if badly corroded. 


 

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1 hour ago, awjdthumper said:

Inert rounds normally consist of a spent cartridge to which a new dummy bullet has been added and are intended for display purposes. They don't usually have any great value or significance and would therefore normally not be worth trying to clean up if badly corroded. 


 

There are also many inert SAA ammunition collectors who specialise in, say, 303 head stamps and marks. For them ‘inert’ means propellant removed, primer chemically inerted, bb inserted and original bullet reseated - any cleaning would be totally out of the question. Prior to lockdown, I visited a militaria fair in Birmingham (UK) - inert 1918 dated Mk VIIz 303 rounds were on sale at £15 each. 
But in answer to Rich’s question, rounds that have been in the ground for such a long time are almost impossible to clean up to anything like a presentable condition. Ultra sound and case tumblers won’t do it and while acid based cleaners will remove the worst of the tarnish, they generally only reveal fine pitting and corrosion underneath - it’s a lot of work for mediocre results. In my opinion they look better left in the state they were picked up on the battlefield. That said, if you do attempt it Rich, I’d be very interested to see the results.

Pete

Edited by Pete_C
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It therefore probably comes down to whether these 'inert' rounds have tell tale firing pin depressions in the primer or not. If they have firing pin marks then they are probably not worth doing much with and have very little collector value. If the rounds do not have firing pin marks then, unfortunately, it will put you in a very difficult position because you will not know whether they have been made 'inert' as described above, are live rounds or are specifically manufactured dummy rounds. In the unlikely event that they do not have firing pin marks, the safest option might well be to dig a deep hole and to re-bury them. Or you can hand them over to the police!

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It all depends on the kind of soil in which the rounds were found. I have seen things being dug up that had no corrosion, even after almost 100 years undergound. But anyway, cleaning rounds is very difficult and often doesn't give a good result.

Jan

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Dug up pulled and primers struck and also heated ! I also have a licence to have 303 so please calm down ! 

I don't seem to have got very far with cleaning them ! Has anyone tried electrolysis? 

Rich M 

 

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It's the same problem as cleaning up old brass shell cases - if the corrosion is fairly deep then the only effective way of cleaning them up is by using a proper polishing mop - Brasso ,Autosol and the like are only good for removing light tarnishing.  I do a lot of polishing of metals of all kinds but, even I, would need a very big reason for wanting to try to polish up corroded old rifle cartridge cases!

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There are electrolysis processes on youtube for removing rust on car parts; not sure these are OK for non-ferrous parts.

The old way to remove rust was diluted treacle (50:50) and leave immersed for a week, inspecting frequently.  Worth a try on one?  If you do, please take "before" and "after" photos and post them - love to see the results.

Good luck.

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Probably impractical, but could you try sandblasting or waterblasting? Iceblasting with ice crystals made from water (i.e. not dry ice) is also very effective at removing rust without damaging objects, but those machines are vanishingly rare.

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I assume you know this but reloaders often "tumble" cartridges with a slightly abrasive medium (I am not sure what they use) prior to loading.

This is done in the same way some people polish rocks/gems in a motorized canister into which the medium and the items to be cleaned are loaded and it then tumbles them together for the required length of time - some version of this approach might work if you are prepared to purchase or borrow a tumbler.

A quick google/search on major online retailers and/or south American Rivers shows a range of options and prices.

Chris

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