Having been in the ammo business for over six years now, we’ve seen a lot of… interesting products come through the doors at Lucky Gunner. Most of the ammo we sell is newly manufactured, but sometimes we’ll have a chance to pick up some military surplus or new old stock ammo. Usually, this stuff has been sitting around in a climate controlled warehouse for a number of years, and is just fine to shoot. Ammo doesn’t have an expiration date, so as long as its been stored properly, it’ll function as it was originally intended.

But every once and a while, we’ll run across something special. And not necessarily the good kind of special. One of our supply chain guys recently saw an unusual looking box of .22LR on the shelf at a local gun shop. The dude behind the counter showed him that it was Russian steel-cased ammo from the 1990s. The ammo, marked “Junior” in big letters on the front of the box bears the LVE logo, a Russian ammo plant that we’re familiar with.

LVE Steel Cased .22LR box
An unusual specimen – Russian steel cased .22LR.

While the supply of .22LR ammo has been generally improving lately, we’re always looking for new sources wherever we can, so our guy bought a box of the vintage plinking ammo. If it turned out to be decent stuff, we’d send our purchasing detectives out into the wild to try to track down more.

Initial Inspection

Steel cased .22LR is a rare sight in the US, although it is supposedly common in Russia and elsewhere around the globe. In general, steel cased ammo gets a lot of criticism, but not all of it is deserved. All other factors being equal, steel cased ammo will function just as well as brass cased ammo 99% of the time. The problem is that “all other factors” are usually not equal. The problems sometimes experienced by users of steel cased ammo can often be attributed to the bullets, propellant, or load recipe used by the manufacturer, but not the steel case itself (see our epic steel vs. brass cased ammo test over at Lucky Gunner Labs for more).

In theory, if steel cased ammo can be loaded to the same specs as brass cased ammo, it should work in most firearms. But the only way to find out if that’s the case with the LVE “Junior” ammo, was to try it.

LVE steel cased 22LR
Is that a squirrel or a rabbit? Maybe a Russian mutant hybrid.
LVE Steel Cased .22LR ammo box
Wondering what to do with your .22LR ammo? Fear not, LVE has some helpful suggestions right on the box!

So, the 50 round box was passed along to me for testing. It does have a unique appearance, even before opening the box to examine its contents. The graphics looked like something from an American hardware store in the 1960s, but instead it was Russian and stamped “02-94” on the inside (a date stamp?). The box itself was in immaculate condition, but the ammo inside had seen better days.

LVE Steel Cased .22LR stamp
Is 02-94 a date stamp? I tried to get Google to translate the Russian letters, but then found there is no Russian letter “I”, so I have no idea what that means. Leave a comment if you read Russian and can help us out with that.

EDIT: Mystery solved by Oleg Volk. The stamp reads “E 10-02-94″ or Feb. 10, 1994. Thanks, Oleg!

Despite the waxy coating on the lead round nose bullets (a common lubricant for .22LR ammo), several of them showed a white residue, an indication that the ammo may have been stored in a less than ideal location . However, the steel cases didn’t seem to be in bad shape, though they did look a bit dirty.

LVE Steel cased .22LR ammo
Each round has a “V” headstamp. From this perspective, the cartridges look pretty good.
LVE steel cased .22LR ammo cartridges
Some mild corrosion on the bullets wasn’t a huge concern at first glance, but may have been an indication that this batch of LVE was stored in a less than ideal environment.

We’ve sold and shot LVE ammo before, with very few complaints. It’s not exactly Hornady Match or anything, but certainly usable plinking ammo. So despite being in less than perfect condition, the Russian 22 looked promising, and came from known origins. I’ve been working on an upcoming review of the Ruger LCR-22 revolver, so I grabbed the box of Junior on my way out the door to a filming session at the range.

The Eight-Shot Ammo Test with Steel Cased .22 LR Ammo

One of the great things about .22LR revolvers is that they’ll run just about any kind of ammo you can get your hands on. There’s no slide or bolt for the ammo to cycle, no feeding issues to consider, and even the most anemic .22 loads will usually find their way out of the short barrels, leaving very little chance of squibs. I brought along a few other .22LR rifles and pistols to try with the Russian ammo, but decided the LCR-22 would be the first guinea pig.

After I finished filming what I needed for the LCR-22 review, I left the camera running and loaded up 8 rounds of the LVE Junior steel cased .22LR. I could describe what happened next, but the video tells the story much better (make sure your sound is on for this one):


Yep, you heard right. It was musical ammo. The charge in each round varied enough so that there was an audible difference in the sound from one shot to the next. Of course, an intelligent person would have stopped firing after the first odd-sounding shot, but my love for our customers’ education outweighs my common sense, and I kept on firing… just for you, friends.

But after the last shot, I decided the test was over. That “pok” you heard instead of a “bang” was the sound of the primer going off, but failing to ignite the powder. Because the LCR-22 barrel is a mere 2 inches long, the bullet didn’t get stuck, and flew on to strike the target… two feet low. I’m surprised it even had that much force behind it, but it still wasn’t enough for the bullet to make it all the way through the cardboard.

IDPA Target
The hits in the center and top of this IDPA target are from using brass cased ammo with the LCR-22. Most of the LVE rounds struck somewhere in the center with those other holes, but the last shot was under-powered. It hit the target two feet low and didn’t penetrate all the way through the cardboard.

When I proceeded to eject the shells from the chamber, only four of the eight fell out. The other four were stuck, and it took some extra “encouragement” on the ejector rod to get them to pop out. Congratulations, Crappy Old Ammo, you nearly managed to break one of the most reliable .22LR firearms in current production!

LCR-22 revolver w/ LVE .22LR cases
Half of the LVE cases fired in the LCR-22 didn’t want to move without some help.

Because I value my health and really like my other guns, I decided not to press my luck and ended the test right then. Eight rounds was enough to tell me everything I needed to know about this ammo. I’m sure that at one time, LVE made perfectly sound steel cased .22LR ammo, but whatever warehouse this stuff has been stored in for the last 20 years must have lacked an adequate dehumidifier, because it’s obvious the integrity of the propellant in this ammo has been seriously compromised.

Will Lucky Gunner ever sell steel-cased .22LR ammo? We certainly won’t rule out the possibility if we find a good batch somewhere, but it won’t be from this one.


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51 Responses to “Steel Cased .22LR & the Shortest Ammo Test Ever”

  1. Brad West

    Interesting article. Stamp probably refers to lot number, factory code and year of manufacture.

    Reply
  2. Mitch Summey

    pretty funny. bang!!!!. pop!! pop! pop plink fizz…..

    Reply
  3. Brian Lane Stringfellow

    It's not a "I", it appears to be a one. It foreign countries, it's usual that they put the date in a format different than ours. 10-02-94 is likely February 10th, 1994. Just my guess.

    Reply
  4. Mark Calvin

    Do you mean "dehumidifier"?

    Reply
  5. James P Irvine

    I used it in the 90's a lot of stuck cases

    Reply
  6. Paul Dragotto

    THE UPSIDE DOWN LOOKING "N" IS THE WORD , OR ABBREVIATION FOR "LOT" DATE. NEVER EVER HAD GOOD RESULTS WITH STEAL CASE 22LR. HAD SOME BACK IN THE 90'S. WOULD JAM IN THE CHAMBER AFTER A ROUND HAD BEEN FIRED. VERY BAD ACCURACY.

    Reply
  7. James Wesley Klink

    I read it the same way.

    Reply
  8. Harry Gage

    I do believe it says JUL 02 94 The IO is missing the little -that connects them and that is short for JULY

    Reply
  9. Richard Gregor

    Thank you for testing it first!

    Reply
  10. Edwin Kloster

    not a surprise glad you and gun are okay

    Reply
  11. Brian K. Charles

    My guess is that the letters are "ию," and is short for "июнь," the month of June. Could be the first two letters for "юниор (Junior)," too.

    Reply
  12. John Smey

    Thank you grate information!

    Reply
  13. Spencer Alan Reiter

    The question should really be is why you are gouging folks. I recently bought some really high end too of the line ammo for $550.00 per five thousands rounds.That works out to $5.50 per fifty used to buy lots of ammo from you Gus but now I view you like Cheaper than dirt selling PMAGS for $60.00 dollars each your pricing on 22 LR really does suck !

    Reply
  14. Jesus Goodwin

    N 10-2-94
    Lot Feb 2 1994

    Reply
  15. Will Sparks

    Put some Junior through my wife's SR22 and it ran fine….

    Reply
  16. Markius Fox

    I'm thinking the "i" is actually just a 1, and the И is just a Lot prefix or something. Remember, they write dates down as DD-MM-YY or DD-MM-YYYY.

    Reply
  17. Richard Lally

    That's why I love a wheel gun. I'm not afraid to shoot any factory load from any where. Some hand loads not so much. My nagant ammo, surplus, the same way. Bang, blam, pow, K-blamm.

    Reply
  18. LG Chris

    I did, thanks. It's been corrected.

    Reply
  19. Mark Calvin

    Use it in an old single shot and kill rats with it.

    Reply
  20. Mark Calvin

    If you have any .38 pistols with .22LR adapters, use it in them.

    Reply
  21. Mark Calvin

    Or any flare-guns with .22 adapters.

    Reply
  22. Ryan Johnson

    Shot a couple boxes of this back in the 90s when it was cheap and common. It would routinely jam in the chamber of a bolt-action JW15 (also contemporary to the early 90's, great rifle). Cycled perfectly in my Ruger Mark II. Never had any soft shots or squibs. This stuff used to come in a LVE marked sealed spam can of like 2900 rounds or something like that. Wasn't particularly accurate, about on par with cheap US bulk ammo, but was reliable plinking ammo in firearms that would feed it. I think your sample was stored someplace damp. You'll have the same result with any .22 ammo stored in a leaky garage. I did love the box with the picture of the mutant Eurasion squirrel with the big ears. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  23. Chuck Stearns

    Junior is a bust

    Reply
  24. Rodney Sainer

    Thanks for testing what you sell!

    Reply
  25. Socom Reddog

    video cant work

    Reply
  26. Regan White

    Wise decision not to sell. The thought of the following round colliding with a stuck round in the barrel is not pleasant.

    Reply
  27. William Phillips

    Mutant Squirrel/Rabbit mascot, substandard powder loads, questionable storage…any chance it came from the Chernobyl area?

    Reply
  28. Le Van

    I cant believe this shit is being sold in USA. Man you have some hard times there….

    Reply
  29. Le Van

    V symbol stands for low voltage equipment plant in Novosibirsk russia. Back in the days of col war those morons used to name plants producing military hardware with names which do not affiliate the facility with defense industry. Strange that they still use this practice occasionally

    Reply
  30. Rich Onlyinname

    maybe that's 10-02-1994, a date, not an I but the number 1

    Reply
  31. LG Chris

    A plausible theory.

    Reply
  32. Matthew Travis

    Изготавливается 10-02-94 (manufactured February 10, 1994). At least, I think. Oh and I think the V's are Lambda's, Л for LVE.

    Reply
  33. Lucy Tabino

    I bought the exact same ammo from Sportsman's Guide in the 90's who probably imported the stuff as I have not seen it since. My 1000 rnd sample order performed in the same way and I sold much of it @ .50 a BX, still have a few BXs. The lube was messy and the cases would not seal in the chamber creating rearward gas flow into my face.

    Reply
  34. Gene R Swank

    no one with a brain would buy a hammerless revolver, double action only is for idiots

    Reply
  35. LG Chris

    Guess that makes me an idiot. And you wouldn't want to keep reading a blog that's run by an idiot, would you?

    Reply
  36. Matt Edwards

    Who still imports 7.62x39is is partly what annoys me about all everybody stockpiling back .22lr now. You have a lot of people who have never kept the large amount of ammo around before. Throw in that It is the most susceptible to damage when stored incorrectly and you are going to have a lot of relatively expensive duds. If you aren't keeping your massive new stockpile in good condition they will go bad.

    I'm glad people are trying to get what they feel the need in .22, I'm hoarder too (I'm feeling itchy right now since I'm down to about 3500 rounds since I haven't bought more than 500 total since 12/2012). I just hope there isn't a flood of bad .22 due to bad storage on the secondary market as people start to decide maybe they bought more than they really need.

    Did you pull the bullets on the rest of the box? It would be interesting to see what the powder looks like. I'm not really sure what powder that has got wet looks like. But I assume it would have about the same weight/volume.

    My dad got a case of the 90s Junior from Sportman's Guide back in the 90s too. I shot lots of it out of my Marlin bolt action. I can't tell you how it would run in a semi but it brings back memories of my early days shooting. I still have a box but it is a different color green and has more of what looks to be a rooster on it. Also says it was made at the Klimovsk plant who still imports 7.62×39.

    Reply
  37. Oleg Volk

    Date stamp reads "E" February 10 1994

    Reply
  38. Tom Farmer

    I've got two boxes of this stuff. I never intended to fire it in the first place, but now…

    Reply
  39. Weston Moss

    Oh man, I keep thinking I was gonna see a squib shot followed by a kaboom. Glad I was disappointed.

    Reply
  40. George Bennett

    did not eject from my Ruger single-six,not good for a day at the range.Never use in a match grade barrel.

    Reply
  41. Mary Ann Casserly Hill

    Sponsored by Obamacare, for obvious reasons.

    Reply
  42. Steve Thomas

    Tom Farmer Sell it online – you can probably get $0.50 a round for it…

    Reply
  43. Jay Maryniak

    Is this same George Bennett that use to work at John Jay High School, because if it is, I would to really like to talk to you, it's bean a long time !!

    Reply
  44. Steel Cased .22LR Ammo - 22 Ammunition

    […] Lucky Gunner to read the FULL REVIEW of this Steel Cased .22LR […]

    Reply
  45. Noel Ignacio

    thanks for the update, glad I still have plenty on hand, not the Russian stuff, lol

    Reply
  46. David Austin

    I bought a brick 2 years ago. It is only good for trigger release practice. I shoot it out of a Chipmunk. 22lr bolt action pistol. Never stuck a bullet in the barrel but like you said, the load is inconsistant.

    Reply
  47. George Bennett

    the same,only older.

    Reply
  48. Stephen Rector

    Educational and glad it wasn't my pistol.

    Reply
  49. Bruce Sneathen

    i also have this ammo. I have around 10,000 rounds i know where mine has been since i received it in the mail from Cheaper Than Dirt. the ammo has a waxy film on it and before firing i clean every single round off before firing it. The ammo seemed to be made to store long term. i use it for target practice. i have used it in my match rifle and have only had 1 problem. every now and then a round sticks in the chamber. i then put a rod in the end and knock the empty out then bore snake the gun and it will work for a while longer between 20 and 30 rounds if i remember correctly. if you have the time and want to plink and do not mind the cleaning it is accurate .(mine was stored in a metal ammo box at 65 degrees with a moisture pack in the box i replaced the pack about once a year.

    Reply

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