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Old Wads

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by WindsorDave, Oct 1, 2012.

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  1. WindsorDave

    WindsorDave TS Member

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    First, let me say this is not a poke at Winchester AA wads.

    Having just taken up trap shooting on a more or less regular basis, I rooted around in my reloading supplies and found some old Winchester AA wads. By "old" I'm estimating that they were purchased 30-35 years ago. Always operating on the FIFO (first in - first out) principle whether it's the refrigerator or the loading bench, I restarted my shotshell reloading by finding load recipes in which I could use old components already on hand.

    There were two containers of WAA12 wads, one a pasteboard box and the other a poly bag. They were both roughly the same age. I loaded and shot ammo using the wads from the pasteboard box with a pedestrian load of 17 gr Red Dot, WW209, STS hull, and 1.125 oz of 7.5 shot. They shot fine. Then I started using the wads from the poly bag. Loaded up 100 rounds and went to the range.

    The first thing I noticed was that I was missing birds a whole lot more than usual. Knowing that human nature would tend to blame the ammo I did not think too much about it. Then one of the squad members told me to check the barrel of my gun to make sure a wad was not stuck due to what he thought was a "soft" report. I did and there was no wad in the barrel. Following that I checked the barrel after each shot fired and there were no stuck wads.

    Later when I was dumping the empties something caught my eye and I looked into a hull and saw what looked like a piece of plastic fused to the inside wall of the hull. Sure enough. Wad plastic had partially melted and stuck to the hull.

    The pieces in the tray in the picture were recovered from about 20 of the fifty fired hulls. They were not too difficult to remove but they certainly did not just fall out. I squared off an end of a 5/8" steel rod and pushed the pieces off the interior hull walls.



    Upon seeing this I checked wads from the poly bag and found that the petals were fairly easy to break off. The implication here is that the wad material is decaying and weakening with age. Apparently the weakening also lowers the melting point allowing parts of the wad to melt and fuse to the hull wall.

    Again, this is not to criticize Winchester but to point out that some components do have a shelf life. I've no clue as to whether the container (box or bag) had a role in this. My sense it the containers were not a factor. They were probably made in different plants and/or by different subcontractors.

    It is something I found interesting and offer it for what it's worth. I doubt many people have 30-35 year old wads sitting on the shelf. That said, one fellow at the range said he'd seen some plastic wads that someone had purchased at a garage sale that were "sticky".

    Again, FWIW


    [​IMG]
     
  2. Tripod

    Tripod Well-Known Member

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    I had obtained some old plastic wads that simply crumbled when I tried to load them. I suspect that a portion of the bag had been exposed to sunlight as all the wads were not like this. I put them in the landfill. Some of the wads I had loaded seemed to work, but I think they were brittle and allowed gas to escape around them when shot as there were several "punky" sounding shots.
     
  3. miketmx

    miketmx Well-Known Member

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    A friend gave me some black AA Handicap hulls from an early era along with the XW wads that were made for those hulls. I tried my normal recipe and the shells kicked like a mule and the hulls were very brittle at the crimp mouth. I gave the remainder away.
     
  4. hmb

    hmb Well-Known Member

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    Sun light deteriorates the wads in the plastic bags. The ones in the card board box were protected from the sun light. HMB
     
  5. Unknown1

    Unknown1 Well-Known Member

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    They are still all recyclable, though!! All that's been lost is the plasticizers.

    Keller
     
  6. Perazzi_MX8

    Perazzi_MX8 Well-Known Member

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    I have had a similar experience earlier this year. I didn't shoot for over 20 years and am loading the stuff I still have. My old Federal Gold Medal ribbed hulls have deteriorated, I think. I've had a few separate, where the wad was, and everything goes out the barrel. A few times they were full length but half of the hull was missing lengthwise. I believe its because the shells have been wrinkled in the past, by the wad not being fully open when the shot went in. A lot of old wads were prone to having a petal folded over by the wad seating rod and then they wrinkle because the wad and shot are taking up too much room, not being seated correctly. Some of my old AA wads were sticky to the touch as well. Like science projects in the fridge, when in doubt throw it out.

    I have some kegs of RED DOT in the 12 lb. red metal cans that is still perfect. I used my chronograph and measured, 25 with the metal-keg powder, and 25 with brand new powder, only to find out there isn't any difference at all.

    Duane
     
  7. Jawhawker

    Jawhawker TS Member

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    Excessive heat (stored close to a heat source) could also be a factor.
     
  8. dead on 4

    dead on 4 Well-Known Member

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    Keller called it. The plasticizers, the synthetic oils the used to convert plastic resins from a riged state to pliable have leaced out. Heat, cold, humidity, ultraviolet rays, compound quality, age, molding processes all have an influence on shelf life and long term performance, it could be anyone or all of these that causeed degredation.

    Surfer
     
  9. BT-100dc

    BT-100dc Active Member

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    I have some boxed AA wads that were purchased in 1986 and sold to me in the mid 90's.; loaded as recent as last week and shot 50 out of the batch loaded with no problems. Off and on I've been shooting these and I've never had any petals breaking off or any other signs of deterioration. These shells were loaded with 16.3 gr. of Red Dot from the mid 90's mfg. from Hercules and shot out of a BT-100 with a fixed full choke. These wads were stored in my unheated garage subject to the northeast Ohio seasons. Hopefully I'll use these up by 2014 then I'll be ready to start on my 1995 Versalites. BT100dc
     
  10. wireguy

    wireguy TS Member

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    I have some WAA12R's that are crunchy. They still work fine as long as I don't break them prior to getting them into the hull.
     
  11. Ahab

    Ahab Well-Known Member

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    1st of all, wads do not have plasticizers!

    They are injection molded with polyethylene/polypropylene.

    Cheap wads are almost straight polyethylene, while the better wads are a blend of the two plastics!

    Ultraviolet light degrades these plastics, so sitting in sunlight or even under fluorescent lights, they become brittle.
     
  12. Barry C. Roach

    Barry C. Roach Well-Known Member

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    Polyethylene, or High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE) performance is enhanced by a variety of additives that are blended with the resin. Mixing of different types of plastic is not recommended for injection molded parts. Polyethylene is also graded by "melt factor". The lower the number the higher the quality.

    Molders are suppose to use the melt factor resin most appropriate for the job the part has to do. In the case of milk bottles, they are suppose to use virgin .67 melt factor resin. It is the highest density of all of the moldable polyethylene resins. Milk bottles are heavy when filled and the most dense polyethylene is the best as it is both food grade and very tough stuff (hard to puncture with general handling). In the case of wads, I would have to do some testing.

    I think you answered your own question though, when you said the wads in boxes performed fine but the ones in the plastic bags didn't. UV is the greatest enemy of unprotected polyethylene of any melt factor. Direct sunlight can completely destroy the molecular structure of unprotected polyethylene in as little as two weeks on the parts my company molded.........and the parts we made were made from .67 virgin resin and usually about 5/16 to 1/2" thick. UV is certainly the most logical culprit but other environmental factors may have some influence to a lesser extent. Heat, over time and depending how high, would certainly be one of those. ( .67 polyethylene begins to flow well enough to mold, at about 400 degrees F ).

    There are additives that, when mixed with polyethylene, will temporarily protect it from UV rays. One is carbon black ( unfortunately CB also makes the molded part much more brittle and probably not the best for recoil reducing properties polyethylene is known for ). There are other additives that fortify the performance of HDPE. The ones trapshooters like the most makes the virgin resin "hinge" many times before cracking. That's the resin additive that makes those premium target shells last so long for you reloaders. It is very expensive stuff, hence "premium" shells.

    I once asked a very well known wad manufacturer what plastic they used to make their wads. He said, "polyethylene". I asked if it was Low Density Polyethylene or HDPE and, if so, what was the melt factor. He turned white and changed the subject. I believe that they use virgin resin. By the look of the finished parts my guess is some grade of HDPE. A lot of molders will cheat to save costs sometimes. The higher the melt factor the greater the "residue" that will be left in and on your barrel. I doubt that wads need to be of the greatest quality HDPE. Hell, they may not even to be HDPE. I'd have to make some and test for the desired characteristics.

    Regardless, I would not use any plastic wads that "crumble" or easily "tears" if you are expecting top performance or a lot of chunky crap left in your barrel. Good luck.
     
  13. dead on 4

    dead on 4 Well-Known Member

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    Why do I think Winchester wads were made of nylon until recent years?

    Surfer
     
  14. Barry C. Roach

    Barry C. Roach Well-Known Member

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    If they were they'd cost about 7-10 times more to produce. Nylon is an "engineering" polymer and is extremely strong and more heat resistant than polyethylene. I've never heard of any shotshells being molded from nylon.

    Not impossible but very expensive.
     
  15. halfmile

    halfmile Well-Known Member

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    I have a dark closet for storage, and a few bags of unusual old rare wads. I do check them and so far no problems even with the 20 gauge Uniwads from Farme Brothers (Lage).

    This is not to say it won't happen but I watch for it.

    HM
     
  16. 1oldtimer

    1oldtimer TS Member

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    I ran into the same trouble with some of the old Federal 1 piece wads. Brittle,not usable.
    Clyde
     
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