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What is Remanufactured Ammo?

09.01.2023

Remanufactured ammunition essentially refers to ammunition that has been rebuilt from fired brass

casings by a commercial reloader or ammunition manufacturer. After a cartridge has been fired, the spent brass is collected and then cleaned, inspected, de-primed, resized, loaded and usually polished or tumbled before sale. 

9mm ammunition on a white background

The quality of remanufactured ammunition can range from so-called “Gun Show Reloads” that may or may not work to ammo made so well it is indistinguishable from factory new ammunition.

On the other hand, there can be bad actors at work in the world of reman ammo. If the manufacturer is local, check out their product. Are the cases polished and shiny or are they dull and tarnished? Are the finished rounds free of blemishes, splits, or cracks? Are the bullets seated to the proper depth and crimped correctly? 

Another tip to look for is if the cartridge cases are uniform. A key to finding good Quality Control with regard to factory reloaded ammunition is seeing if the manufacturer sorted the previously fired brass by brand (Federal, Remington, Winchester, Starline, etc.) or by whether the brass was a literal brass case as opposed to one that was nickel plated. If it all looks uniform under these criteria; the ammunition is most likely safe, stable and reliable because the QC is optimal.

Always ask your fellow shooters if they have had experience with the manufacturer’s ammunition. Are their failures associated with it? Is it good and consistent for range use? Word travels fast in local gun shop and shooting range circles.

If the manufacturer is not local and you are buying over the internet, the same applies. Research the manufacturer on social media, firearm forums, Reddit, etc. See if there are complaints or is it all praise. What is the shipping experience or cost like? Customer service often comes into play here as well.

Why would you use Reman Ammo?

The main appeal of remanufactured ammunition is that it is typically much cheaper than brand new factory ammunition. In certain instances, it may be the only available source of ammunition for a particularly unique, obsolete or rare caliber. 

If your favorite round for Cowboy Action Shooting happens to be 44-40 Winchester (44 WCF) and you don’t reload your own rounds, an ammunition manufacturer or commercial loader may be more likely to have the ammo on hand than your local gun shop or big box retail store.

Rarity is not confined to obscure cartridges, either. Due to a political situation or rumors of impending ammunition or component shortages can leave shelves bare when you’re looking for something typically common like 9mm in 2020. Reman may be all you can find.

As with anything else firearms related, conduct your own research into the particular manufacturer of the ammunition in question. 

When would you use Reman Ammo?

Remanufactured ammunition is often the key to success for many shooters because the lower price tag allows them to shoot more often. Shooting more often is how most shooters literally turn money into skill.

We are talking for the most part about fodder for the firing range, when we speak of when you would use remanufactured ammunition. In certain cases, it may be suitable for hunting, competition or self-defense but those instances are rare when looking at remanufactured ammo as a whole throughout the firearms industry.

There are notable exceptions in this regard, particularly for rifle ammunition and specialty pistol ammunition where a particular re-manufacturer puts more effort into the ammo to improve accuracy or reliability.

Is Remanufactured Ammo Safe for your Firearm? 

In most instances, reman ammo is safe for use in modern firearms. The majority of commercial loaders in the US inspect once fired cases before reloading them. These cases are scrutinized for cracks, bulges, corrosion and other flaws. This also ensures that aluminum cases, steel cases or cases with Berdan primers are not processed where they could potentially damage the sorting, processing or loading equipment. If the case is not within specified dimensions or has a split or crack, etc. it is typically recycled as scrap metal and not used for loading a new round.

Some firearm manufacturers say that firing hand-loaded ammo, reloaded ammo or remanufactured ammo will void the factory warranty. It is recommended that you consult the owner’s manual of your exact firearm for language of this type.

This warning most often refers to a catastrophic failure of the firearm due to the ammunition being used. It has its roots in a few historical failures in the past on a widespread scale primarily affecting polymer framed striker fired pistols and the 40 S&W or 9mm Parabellum rounds.

Thankfully these failures in the past helped improve both the safe manufacture of firearms and improvements in the ammunition remanufacturing process.

Certain types of remanufactured ammunition reflect short cuts such as too light of a crimp. There are a few firearms out there that do not work well with this type of ammunition such as the Boberg 9mm pistol where the loading of the pistol could actually pull the bullet from the case mouth.

Reloaded Ammo & Reman Ammo: What’s the Difference? 

When describing remanufactured ammo, it probably does not sound far from the description of reloaded ammo, but remanufactured rounds are actually quite a bit different.

The inspection process is critical with regard to remanufactured cartridges. If the once fired cases do not fit the criteria for a safe and suitable case, they are discarded. Likewise at the end of the loading process, the rounds are inspected again to ensure there is a primer seated perfectly in the primer pocket, that the bullet is seated to an appropriate depth and that the finished round did not split or crack while being remanufactured.

This does not mean that home reloaders do not go through the same process. Many home reloaders can turn out better ammo than the factories, however there are some who do not by either ignoring these signs or they simply do not know what to look for.

Another major difference is the type of equipment used by a commercial ammunition manufacturer. Most of the more successful types run automated loading presses that turn out thousands of rounds in an hour as long as the machine is fed with spent brass casings, powder, bullets and of course primers. This is a far cry from a single stage or even a progressive loader used by hobbyist reloaders.

Whether the machine processes the brass for reloading or is the actual press that completes the manufacturing process of the ammunition; there are many fail safes built into the equipment to ensure that each round is being carefully constructed. 

Commercial loading machines have sensors to detect if the powder throw is correct, that primers are being seated, case necks resized or in some instances full length resized. Most of these machines will come to a screeching halt if a round is loaded out of spec.

The same cannot be said for a hobbyist cranking out rounds one at a time on a single stage press or even on most progressive hand-loading equipment unless the individual reloader invests in better quality machinery or new technology.

Reman Ammo vs. Factory New Ammunition 

In most instances, if you were to compare a remanufactured round to a factory new round, they would be indistinguishable from each other. This has to do with the majority of re-manufacturers improving their craft and investing in better ammunition components and machines as they go along.

However, there are the occasional manufacturers who perform the bare minimum and do not respect their own craft. These operations should be avoided as the consequences can literally be fatal when taken to the extreme.

Be wary of so-called factories who are “losing their license” or already “lost their license” and selling at a huge discount. The ammunition manufacturing industry is heavily regulated and re-manufacturers are inspected regularly and held to the same work and safety practices as the major manufacturers. 

There are federal manufacturing licenses that need to be obtained and maintained. Liability insurance is required, and OSHA standards must be met or exceeded, particularly if the manufacturer is self-sourcing one or more of their reloading components such as lead bullets or copper jacketing or plating their bullets. These materials often have state or federal environmental groups monitoring disposal or transport. Additionally, local police or fire departments may have to monitor certain re-manufacturing plants based on local ordinances regarding storage of large quantities of primers or powder.

If someone is “losing their license”, they probably did something wrong along the way and are unable to produce to bare minimum standards of safety and reliability.

In theory, there is little difference between a small ammo loading or re-manufacturing shop and a major plant outside of the level of equipment, number of employees or name recognition.