The ammo box that made me cry…


December 14, 2012 by jervin2012

Do you remember being 15? It was a while back for me… but not too long ago to remember clearly. Anyways, when I was 15 I was sure that I wanted to be like that man in the Heckler and Koch catalog:


My Dad, having spent a year with the US Army in Vietnam, knew reality all too well and would do anything to keep me from experiencing similar things. His solution? Give that young punk of his a chance to experience full-up handguns… much the same as the oh-so-hilarious trick of giving a new shooter the Magnum shell mixed in with the birdshot.

So … we went to Gateway Rifle and Pistol Club in Jacksonville, Florida: ( with my Dad’s Ruger Security-Six and this evil little yellow box of ammunition:

Top cover of the box that took me down 10 notches

Top cover of the box that took me down 10 notches

I don’t know what it was but all of the experienced shooters I’ve known agree that ammunition from the pre-1990s era was loaded ‘hotter’ than most ammunition brands today. Maybe this is simply a response to increased incidences of product liability lawsuits in recent years? Turn down the heat on the rounds and you reduce the risk of damage to an inadequate gun/shooter combination.

In any event, my interest was in learning to shoot handguns, specifically whatever a “tactical” handgun happened to be defined as at the time. Since he didn’t have any “tactical handguns”, we settled on his blued Ruger Security-Six in 357 Magnum. Off to the 7 yard handgun range we go…

Maybe I thought I was too tough for “practice” ammo, so that is why we were shooting up his 158gr JHP rounds from the 1970s… to give the 357 Magnum that extra fire “so I would know if I had fired the gun or not”… …

It’s very likely that I pasted some kind of “tactical scowl” on my face that I had seen in an advertisement somewhere. What I am certain of is that the scowl was wiped off my face with the first round fired. Maybe it’s hard to describe emotions via the keyboard, but it went a little something like this: a cross between being kicked in the balls and inhaling wasabi at the Japanese restaurant.

Our male readers can relate to what taking a shot in the rocks feels like… for everyone else, trust me: It Hurts. The Wasabi is a kind of pain equal and opposite to the sensation one gets when they smell a fresh Christmas tree at the beginning of the season. Anyways, back to the story and time for Shot Two.

I have no idea where Shot One impacted… but I was a terrible shot with handguns at the time, so maybe it’s still traveling through the air somewhere. Shot Two was a little bit easier to deal with, since I knew what to expect: lots of pain. By the time I had fired Shot Three, my eyes were welling up with water like I was about to cry. Out of the corner of my eye, I did the “Old Man check” … to see if my Dad was watching me or watching the target. Of course, he was watching me and grinning.

Shot Four presented an interesting challenge: how to focus on sight alignment and proper trigger squeeze when all that you want to do is to set the gun down and sit yourself in a corner. All while still trying to look macho and in control of things.

Shots Five and Six must have gone fairly smoothly because I don’t remember what happened after Shot Four. Anyways, that was enough for me… for about 2 years until I discovered 9x19mm handguns and then it was game on from there.

If anyone has experience shooting this ‘evil box of Yellow ammunition’ please share your experience. Looking back on the situation, now with the benefit of having been an ammunition engineer for 4 years, I think what happened is that the propellant bed became embrittled, which resulted in abnormally fast burn rates/pressure rises. This resulted in a concentration of solid recoil-generating evil by the time we fired it in 1995. Either that, or CCI loaded it hot at the factory and the propellant was stable all of these years, for which they should be commended.

2 thoughts on “The ammo box that made me cry…

  1. John S says:

    The year was 1980. The place was Mtn. Home, ID. I was serving year three of a four year enlistment in the United States Air Force, stationed at Mtn. Home AFB. I turned 21, and bought my first handgun: A Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum 4 in. barrel, chambered in .357 magnum.

    At that time, ammunition selection was limited, so I shot a lot of CCI Blazer aluminum cased LRN, and a lot of that very box of ammunition you show – CCI “Lawman” in .357 mag, plinking in the high deserts surrounding the Air Force base.

    The recoil from the .357 mag Lawman was very noticable. So much so that I tried a new CCI Lawman offering – .38 spl “+P”. More recoil than the Blazer ammunition, but much more shootable than the .357.

    I think your 1995 experience would have been about the same had you performed it in the 1970s when the ammunition was fresh. That Lawman was pretty hot ammo.

    Thanks for reminding me of old memories.

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