Law Enforcement Ammunition – New Commercial Manufactured versus Reloaded Commercial Manufactured

Specific policies and protective regulations dictate the use of ammunition (whether it be rifle, pistol or shotgun ammunition) by law enforcement for a variety of reasons:

1. Safety to the user

2. Physical liability to both the user and the public

3. Target requirements and restrictions

4. Collateral damage

5. Legal liabilities

Looking at the few reasons described above, let us understand the real difference between commercially-manufactured new ammunition and reloaded ammunition (regardless if it is commercially manufactured as well).

The focus will be on pistol and rifle ammunition since shotgun ammunition follows different variations and requirements than rifle and pistol ammunition which we will address under a separate study.

New ammunition is manufactured to original, designated and designed specifications, the most crucial component being the casing.

The metal used is new and when produced, each casing is uniform.

Yes, quality control is there to assure the fact that this is the case (no pun intended), and there are some exceptionally-small variations, which if found, will reject the case from production.

The casing usually takes into account:

1. Thickness of the wall of the case

2. The neck and the step-down (or narrowing) of the case neck to accommodate the bullet

3. The primer pocket, which must properly accommodate the specific primer to a specific diameter and depth

4. The primer pocket hole, which must be a specific diameter

Then, there are the final components that are a consideration:

1. The bullet

2. The powder that will be used inside the casing

3. The primer

4. In specific cases, the sealing of the primer making it water resistant

5. In specific cases, the sealing of the bullet to make it water resistant

New, commercial ammunition is made in factories that mass produce the product and is designed to assemble all the components in a very expeditious manner.

Along each step, there are “mandatory” quality control step that checks, and double checks each step of the process of assembly including the final boxing of the product.

The steps can include, but not be limited to:

1. The checking of the diameter of the case and neck of the casing (inside and out) as well as looking for any deformities in the case itself

2. The diameter and depth of the primer pocket

3. The fitting of the primer in the primer pocket

3a. The sealing of the primer in the primer pocket for water resistance

4. The amount of powder placed inside the casing

5. The condition of the bullet to be used, including, but not limited to the measuring of the diameter of the base of the bullet and various measurements taken throughout the length of the bullet (especially that of what is pressed into the casing), and to look for deformities in the actual bullet to be used

6. The positioning and insertion depth of the bullet

6a. The sealing of the bullet around the case top of the casing for water resistance

7. Overall inspection for defects, proper depth of the seating of the bullet into the casing

Yes, there are various other steps, such as the casing should be polished, but it being new, and depending upon the metal used, new ammunition casings are usually polished after the primer pocket, primer pocket hole and neck-sizing of the case is performed.

These are the “basic” steps taken for production of ammunition that is new and commercially made, but what has “not” been mentioned is what the purpose of the ammunition is designed for.

1. Target practice

2. Live Fire Applications or “LFA” (conditions which require specific ammunition to be used)

We wish to address LFA ammunition since it is the one with the most exposure and liability since it will be used around the public under a variety of conditions:

1. To protect law enforcement personnel against armed individuals

2. To neutralize the risk of an armed individual who is a “risk” to other civilians and personnel

3. To neutralize the risk of an armed individual who has killed or wounded an officer and/or civilian

4. To neutralize the risk of an armed individual who is in the act of preparing to kill another individual (e.g. bank employee, government official, police officer)

We now could spend hours on the conditions and legal issues of when an officer or law enforcement personnel are to use “lethal force” (the use of a firearm to kill a person) which is not the focus of this specific article, which we will not; however we will define the specific scenarios where different ammunition is required:

1. Pistol ammunition is for close quarters applications, taking into account the speed of the round, penetration of the round (what the bullet will go through and how long the bullet will travel before coming to a stop) and the stopping power of the bullet.

2. Rifle ammunition can be used for close quarters to longer-range applications with many of the same considerations of pistol ammunition, but more of a focus on range, stopping power and what it will go through.

3. Sniper rifle ammunition is for long-range applications where range, accuracy and stopping power are all critical factors in the designated type of round to be used. This specific round is designed to neutralize (kill) the intended target because of exceptional risk and exposure to any other law enforcement officer who would require exposing themselves to an individual who has a major advantage in cover; has one or more hostages; or has created a scenario which allows no other option but the use of a long range solution.

All ammunition used by law enforcement and the military utilize exhaustive steps in the research, development and study of how ammunition works in various environments and on different types of physical materials, from wood to metal, from simulated human anatomy to building materials.

Ballistics and Ballistics Engineering are highly-skill sciences and those who design and re-design ammunition for specific scenarios is exhausting work; however this is where it all begins.

They also test new and re-manufactured ammunition as well. This is a major consideration in our own analysis of liabilities.

Again the above represents a very broad, short and simple explanations of new, commercially-made ammunition and the applications for what is produced, but the purpose of our focus is on the liability issues of new manufactured ammunition versus reloaded ammunition. Nothing more; however we have to understand the basics so as to better understand the decisions that are used by law enforcement when they address the acquisition of purchasing and using “any” type of rifle and pistol ammunition.

The first issue is liability. Liability, regarding ammunition can be defined as where a specific manufacturing liability is affected by a defective round. This is “not” to be confused with claims of the nature of the firepower (the firearm used) in relation to the specific scenario), but that of a “defect” in the actual ammunition itself.

Causes of defects in ammunition can include, but are not limited to:

1. Defective case diameters or defects in the consistency of the metal thickness (wall thickness)

2. Improper necking of the case

3. Improperly-made primer pocket (e.g. depth, angle)

4. Improperly-sized primer pocket hole (too big, too small, missing)

5. Defective casing

6. Defective primer

7. Too little powder used in the ammunition round

8. Too much powder used in the ammunition round

9. No powder used

10. Improper brand or type of powder used

11. Defective bullet

12. Improperly pressed bullet into the casing (e.g. too deep, too little, wrong angle, wrong size)

13. Finished product damage

There are numerous potential problems that exist with the possibilities of remanufactured ammunition that could potentially be dangerous (if not lethal) to the user, but could cause damage to the law enforcement officer and by other parties (some not even visible), especially under LFA conditions.

The possibilities of damage to the firearm or where the firearms’ integrity would be compromised by remanufactured ammunition used was “over-charged” (too much powder used) or “under-charged” (too little powder used) which are two common known examles.

Most important, is that the law enforcement agencies are counting on the fact that “if” lethal force has to be used, that the ammunition used “will” work, can be “counted to function (perform) consistently under non-compromising conditions every time.

When it comes to a sniper round, such ammunition used has “zero tolerance” for any kind of failure. Either it works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, a life, or lives will ultimately be affected and the entire scenario that required lethal force could be compromised.

This would result in massive lawsuits, pointing of fingers at who is responsible and why.

The decision of the use of “commercially” manufacturer NEW ammunition is because of the standards and quality control that it used to “maintain” consistent quality of each and every round. That each and every round is manufactured to the exact, identification specifications as required with zero-tolerance to anything else. There is no real leeway when it comes to new manufactured ammunition that law enforcement uses.

Remanufactured ammunition, no matter how good the quality of the cases are, and even using the same identical brand designated (specified) bullets, power and primer will not assure the same results as brand new commercially manufactured ammunition.

Even with the best quality control, there can be hidden or unknown case weaknesses (commonly referred to as “fatigue”) which cannot be identified until the failure. Even X-Raying of each and every case (which would be unbelievable cost, not to mention labor intensive) would not reflect “metal fatigue that is the common failure of reloaded (remanufactured) ammunition.

There are numerous additional steps that have to be taken into account with remanufactured ammunition. Just to name a few:

1. When a round is fired, the actual shape of the casing is changed. The neck of the casing, especially the top, has to be trimmed back to size, and the next itself has to be resized as well.

2. The old primer has to be removed, the primer pocket has to be cleaned and the primer casing hole has to be cleared.

3. The case itself is now changed in thickness, changing the dynamics of the strength and ultimate integrity has been changed. The question is “will it” stand up to the demands of what “new case” standards will?

The answers have been seriously mixed, but the tie-breaker all leads down to assurance of consistent performance. New manufactured ammunition will always prevail since the quality control is more confident of the results it comes up with, whereas the quality control standards with re-manufacture red (reloaded) ammunition will “always” carry the question of physical consistency.

This is not an option. It is a mandatory requirement.

Even on the range, practice rounds are, on the whole, brand new manufactured ammunition just because of the safety standards that “live field applications” would demand. The risks are too high to take just for cost savings.

1. Cost versus Safety

2. Cost versus Consistency

3. Cost versus Performance

4. Cost versus Outcome

5. Cost versus Liability Risks

These are just a few of the major factors that are taken into account when ammunition is purchased by law enforcement and government agencies.

It all will come down to “consistent performance” for the specific task required.

The consistent task has zero-tolerance for failure, which creates a liability.

The choice of ammunition, and how it is made, can result in a “live field operation” that is totally successful, or where a round hits an armed suspect which not only goes through the suspect but the wall behind them and into an apartment wounding an innocent civilian. It happens.

The blame cannot be just on new or remanufactured ammunition, but if the law enforcement agency can take just “one” negative factor out of the equation, they will do it.

The possibility for “over-charging” a round with new manufactured ammunition is much lower that re-manufactured.

The failure of the round to function as it was designed has a much lower failure rate with new manufactured ammunition that re-manufactured.

These are a few of the many facts and decisions based upon exhaustive testing and comparative analysis of the results.

When it comes down to cost, human life must be the number-one consideration, not cost.

When it comes to zero-tolerance to non-consistent performance, weighing something more expensive versus something cheaper is not an option.

Ammunition is a zero-tolerance device that is designed to do two things:

1. Perform as specifically designed

2. To perform each time it is used the exact same way

As an end note, to those who privately do reloading of their own ammunition, this is not to say it will not work, or that it is wrong. Consumer reloading is a major factor in the consumer firearm industry and there are numerous companies that do manufacture remanufactured ammunition; however, we are talking apples and oranges when comparing it to the requirements of law enforcement and agencies which depend on a zero-tolerance scenario that only new manufactured ammunition has the best, possible opportunity to provide.

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