I recently purchased a full, sealed, case of Lake City, M-118, MATCH, 7.62MM NATO ammunition for my brand new Savage 12 VLP DBM. This ammo has 77, LC, and "MATCH" as a headstamp. Lot # is 60-17. 173gr. boat-tail bullet and a listed velocity of 2550fps. My problem is that the bolt of my new Savage does NOT want to close on these cartridges. It will, but only with force. Upon measurement, I find these cartridges .020" longer than ANY listed COL in any of my reloading manuals. I blued one up and, sure enough, the bullet was engaging the rifling upon bolt closure. I set a couple back .012" and found the bolt closed easily, BUT after pulling a bullet or two found that I already had a compressed charge of an unknown powder before setting them back. This constitutes a "red flag" situation in my feeble mind. I, personally, have never found a need for a bolt between my head-lites and surmise that would be most un-comfortable at best. ANY of you knowledgable folks out there have any suggestions ? I have pulled the bullets and dumped the powder from about a hundred of these, but this seems a waste of ammo. I assume I simply have a relatively "short-throated" Savage...but it WILL easily chamber standard .308win.ammo. Any input from you folks would be appreciated. I'd rather sell the stuff than waste it, if I can't make it work.
Couple of quick questions here; first, you're sure that the stuff is original milsurp, and not some that has been remanufactured? Sorry, just had to ask right up front. If so, and you've got genuine M118 Match ammo, it's pretty good stuff in most guns. We used to break the asphalt seal on these by seating the bullets another .020"-.025" or so, which generally helped accuracy just a bit. It may also address the interference issue with a short throat, if that's the problem. A word of caution goes along with this, as deeper seating and a short throat both are potential factors in increasing pressures. Still, there's no reason that this ammunition shouldn't be compatible with your rifle. I'd suggest a call to Savage, just to clarify anything different about how they do the chambers or throats in their factory guns.
Kevin, Thanks so much for the prompt reply! This ammo is packaged; two .50cal ammo cans in a wooden crate with wire loop fasteners. A lead seal on two of the three wires affixed safety wire. 920 rounds to the crate, 460 to the can. Boxed in white cardboard, 20 rnds. to the box. Eagle superimposed on 2-1/2" hi "match" in red and blue with "Lake City Army Ammunition Plant" at the bottom. On the top, "disposal of fired cases shall be as prescribed by army regulations". On the backside; 20 cartridges, 7.62mm Nato, m 118, lot LC 60-17, (60-17 stamped, black ink), MATCH, bullet 173 grains, velocity 2550 FPS, Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. I think this stuff is the "real deal". Yes, Kevin as I pulled the bullets out of about 80 of them, there was an "asphalt" seal where the bullet fit in the brass neck. I had never seen that before, and assumed it was either a sealing compound or a lubricating compound that had dried up over the years. I pulled the bullets using only a shell-holder in my press and a pair of vise-grips on the bullet. The bullets weighed in @ 173 gr. boat-tail, fmj, exposed lead base. The powder was an extruded type, the charge is 42.0 gr. and it IS somewhat compressed by the bullet and WILL NOT dump out of the case without physical agitation. Some kernals of the powder need "scraped" off the inside of the brass with a nylon probe. The COL for these cartriges is 2.825", (somewhat long according to all my manuals) and the brass is 2.014" base to neck. I apologize for this lengthy description, but if there IS something here that waves a red flag to you, at least you have enough to work with. I will place a call to Savage, and see what their technician might have to say concerning this situation. THANK YOU for the assistance!
No, what you've described is textbook Lake City packaging of their M118 Match ammo of that vintage. Went through tons of this stuff while I was in the army, as well as converting a great deal of it to "Mexcian Match." This is the factory ammo that has had the 173 FMJBT pulled and replaced by a 168 SMK, with no other changes. NATO specs for this stuff allowed OALs out to about 2.850", so that's nothing unusual. At a 2.014" case length, that's at the high end (2.015" maximum) but still within the window. The asphalt sealant is a typical feature in military ammo, intended to waterproof it and provide better long-term viability of the ammo. Believe it or not, it actually doesn't hurt accuracy as you'd think it would. Breaking the seal immediately before firing seems to help a bit, but nothing really significant. I think as much as anything, we did it because the old timers told us that's always the way they'd done it. Anyway, you might try changing the bullet and making Mexican Match, as I'd described. We used to have details assigined to do this in our loading rooms; one press set up with a collet type bullet puller, and the one next to it set up with a seating die. The first guy would pull the bullet and hand the still charged case off to the guy beside him, who would then seat a 168 right back on the same powder charge. Significant accuracy improvement, right then and there with no other work. Lake City eventually adopted this practice and began loading the 168s, dubbing the finished product as their M852 National Match ammunition. The M118 became M118 Special Ball, and was from that point on packaged in a plain brown box with a very simple white label pasted on describing the ammo. It remained in the inventory for many years afterwards as the Combat round for snipers, until it was finally supersceeded by the current M118LR, which replaced both the M852 and the M118 Special Ball. Yours, in the fancy NM "White Box" predates all that and gets you a few "cool points" as well.
The powder should be IMR4895, as this was the standard load used during the years that Remington ran the Lake City operation. They switched to a ball powder (WC-750) when Olin won the contract, and then to RL-15 when ATK got the bid in later years. Point being, there's a number of different powders that they've used over the years, depending on who was running the operation at the time. For this period, however, it's almost certainly IMR4895. Most of this stuff shot right at MOA or maybe a bit better, which was no mean feat with a FMJ style bullet. If you try making Mexican Match, as I've described, that should tighten that up a bit. Seated down to 2.800", it may well also solve the chambering issue, if it is an interference problem with the ogive of the FMJs. Might be worth a try if you want to use the ammo and don't mind the work, but I'm sure you can also find a buyer for it if you choose to go that route. Shame the case is already opened and unsealed, as that would have commanded a premium.
Kevin, Thanks, again, sir for the reply. And you, too, Icanhithim. For "some" reason I assumed I would have to re-size the necks of this brass before attempting to seat a new bullet, thusly I dumped the powder, fired the primer, and tumbled the stuff....but only eighty. You would cringe to find out I only paid 200 bucks for the case, sealed. But, I bought it to shoot, not make money on. (or fight with) There ARE a couple cases left where this came from, though, and if your Mexican Match works out in my model 12...we'll see. Haven't had a chance to call Savage, went to work at three this morn and just now draggin' my tail back in. Funny how that "makin' a living" gets in the way. I've got an old Lyman turret I use for my handgun stuff, so I'll meerly invest in another shell-holder and a collet puller. Thank You!