If you are like most preparedness minded people, then you probably remember how hard it was to find ammo a couple of years back. With each newly introduced piece of gun-control legislation, panic buying sweeps through the gun market and ammo prices either quickly skyrocket, or in some cases ammunition become impossible to find.
If you’re trying to build a stockpile of ammunition, either for long-term emergency preparedness or simply to protect yourself from the wild market swings that happen every time people start to get a little fidgety, then you need to know how to correctly store your ammunition for long-term survival.
Does Ammo have a shelf life?
Most manufacturers recommend that ammunition should not be stored for longer than ten years, but these recommendations are in large part written by corporate lawyers trying to protect the company from lawsuits. With the proper storage techniques you should be able to safely store your ammo for much longer than that — probably decades.
In the Pacific region, some armed groups are still using old .303 and .50 Browning Machine Gun (BMG) cartridges that date back to the Second World War. With proper storage (i.e. stable temperature and low humidity combined with properly sealed packaging), small arms ammunition can last 50 years or more without significant deterioration.
If you plan on storing ammunition for an extended period of time, you need to take environmental conditions like temperature and humidity into account. Improperly stored ammunition can and will deteriorate. In some cases, that could make your stockpile of ammunition unreliable, or worse yet dangerous to fire.
Improper storage can cause a whole host of problems.
- Primers can lose their sensitivity
- Excessive and frequent variations in temperature can be damaging to powder
- Charges can deteriorate over time
- Cartridges can weaken and even rupture when fired.
- You also have to watch out for corrosion problems that can change the size or characteristics of the ammunition, making it dangerous to fire.
Tips for Protecting Your Ammunition Stockpile
Storing Ammo in the Original Boxes
In most cases, the paper boxes that your ammunition was sold with are going to be more than adequate when storing ammo in your house. In fact, it’s my preferred method for a couple of reasons.
- I know exactly what type of ammunition is in the box and how many rounds are in the container.
- I write the date directly on the packaging so I know when I bought it, and I can then use an oldest bought, first out method of rotation.
- There is less chance of the cartridges becoming banged up by dumping them into another container.
Storing ammo in military-style storage cans
If you are looking for something that is designed for long-term storage, then look no further than the military-style containers that are now sold in most outdoor gear shops. These things are designed to sit out in a warzone, often sitting for weeks at a time in extreme heat, torrential downpours, and a host of other weather conditions that your ammo will likely never encounter while stored inside your home.
One word of caution: If you are buying used ammo cans then you need to thoroughly inspect the rubber gaskets on the lids. These gaskets are what keeps the moisture out, so if they are old and cracked they need to be replaced.
Ammunition taken into the field should not be returned to your stockpile.
Rounds that have been taken into the field, exposed to moisture, of left in extreme conditions should not be stored with your long-term supplies. Once a box had been removed from your stockpile for use, it should be quickly used or stored separately so an not to introduce moisture or compromised rounds into your stock.
If you plan on storing your rounds for longer than a couple years, or plan on burying it underground, you need to take a couple of precautions.
- Vacuum Seal – Vacuum sealing your ammunition can help protect it from water, rust, and even burying it underground.
- Rotation – Just like long term food storage, the key to successfully storing ammo is to rotate your ammunition as often as possible. Make sure you mark purchase dates on your ammo cans, so you use the oldest ammo first.
- Humidity Kills – Humidity is probably one of the biggest things you need to worry about. Try to keep your ammo in a low humidity location, or use some sort of dehumidifying equipment in your storage area.
- Periodic Checks – If you’re not regularly firing your ammo, it’s a good idea to check your supplies at least once every six months for signs of corrosion. Doing periodic checks will help ensure your stocks are ready to fire when you need them.
- Silica Packets – Those little silica gel packets that come in just about everything these days, are a great way to keep your ammo in top notch condition. Silica Gel, or desiccant packets, should be placed in your ammo cans to help get rid of moisture.