Proper Ammunition Storage

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If you are hoarding or only keeping what you need on hand don’t let your investment rust away. READ MORE

ammo storage
Fiocchi’s 80 rounds in a can is possibly the best combination of 12 gauge buckshot and easy storage.

Heyward Williams

Storing ammunition is at least as important as properly storing your firearms. After all, the firearm is no better than a stick or a club without ammunition. While many of us like to have an adequate supply of ammunition for a SHTF situation this isn’t my primary motivation. I am more concerned with an adequate supply of ammunition for training and recreation than for possible use in a societal break down. I have had to curtail my personal training and firearms classes during shortages because I simply could not obtain enough ammunition. There was considerable price gouging at times and I no longer patronize those outlets. Finding twenty nine boxes of ammunition when you really need fifty is discouraging. (Fifty students, fifty rounds each, every class for months is a lot ammunition.) Conversely I walked into Academy Sports a few months ago and saw several pallets of Winchester 9mm ball for $6.99 per fifty cartridges. I estimated 20,000 rounds on the floor. The shortage, it appeared, was over. Now it is back. These things run in cycles — even if the current shortage is short lived, we may see another shortage, particularly around election time.

ammo storage
These boxes are arranged in order of caliber — .45 Colt, .45 ACP.

What are your needs?
I don’t hoard things for their own sake. I like to have a few months supply of the ammunition I really need on hand. When I taught handgun marksmanship and tactical movement students seemed never to bring enough ammunition and others brought gun and ammunition combinations that were not proofed and they malfunctioned. I have learned quite a bit about ammunition storage. As an example I have handloaded my handgun ammunition for more than forty years and cannot recall a misfire cartridge due to storage issues. Ammunition isn’t quite in the category with silver and gold but may be more precious and useful if you need it. It is expensive enough that you should respect the investment and take steps to store it properly. This is more important the greater the amount of ammunition you store. Some like to burn up their ammunition on the weekend and call on Monday and replace it. That’s fine, a minimal inventory works for some of us. I am not comfortable with that program. Buying in bulk and keeping ahead on the ammunition supply is important.

ammo storage
Some ammunition is stored in the original box, and others for more long term storage in the original bulk packing box.

I don’t know if we will face a societal upheaval and you will need that ammunition. I certainly hope not. But if you are in a bad situation the ammunition you have expended in training is the single greatest predictor of survival. My goal for ammunition storage is have a good supply for practice, hunting, and personal defense use as well as training family members. This demands the ammunition be stored properly. I store ammunition in the original box. Sometimes I simply put it on the shelf in the shipping box it arrived in. (Online is so easy!) Unless I am certain I am going to the range the next day or so I never open the boxes and pour the contents into a metal can. Sure, having those 500 9mms in an ammo can is cool enough but they are far more subject to damage from handling and the elements. Also, in the event that you trade one firearm and caliber for another, it isn’t usually possible to trade ammunition as well unless it is in the original box. For most of us, purchasing large quantities of ammunition — a case of five hundred to one thousand cartridges — and storing it properly is important.

ammo storage
Handloads should be plainly marked when in storage.

Ammunition Longevity
I have fired ammunition more than one hundred years old with good results. During my police career I saw ammunition improperly stored in cruiser trunks and in the basement of the PD that became corroded and useless in a few months. Storage is everything for shelf life. Ammunition manufactured since World War One or so was designed to last for centuries. Winchester was given a military contract in 1916 based on one bad primer in 100,000 — and the standard is higher today. I would never purchase older ammunition save as a lark or to feed some non critical use antique. I don’t trust surplus ammunition — there are too many storage and quality issues. Not to mention corrosive primers. Purchasing good quality ammunition means it will last much longer. Quality case mouth seal and primer seal is important for both storage and critical use. My handloads do not have this seal but as I mentioned I have not had misfires, because I store ammo properly. The keys are cool, dry and dark. Cool not cold. A closet in the home is ideal. Stack the original boxes on shelves, on the floor, or in a large MTM plastic box. Heat itself isn’t that destructive in normal ranges but it may cause humidity and condensation. We have all had our glasses or cameras fog up when moving from an air conditioned home to a hot back yard. You don’t want your ammunition supply to be subjected to these highs and lows. Moisture will attack gun powder. In my experience far more failures to fire are related to powder contamination than primer failure. (Don’t store solvents and cleaning compounds with ammunition!) In some instances the cartridge case may even become corroded. This is dangerous as they may lose some of their integrity. Just remember that moisture and humidity are the enemy. Normal fluctuations in household temperatures are okay. I would avoid extremes such as basement storage or storage in the attic. This is especially important with lead bullet loads. Many of them — and some jacketed loads — feature a lubricant on the bullet, in grease grooves. This grease will melt out of the grooves into the powder if the ammunition becomes too hot.

ammo storage
Don’t store ammunition in close proximity with chemicals or cleaning supplies.

Get in Order
Getting the ammunition in the proper order is important. I fire mostly 9mm and .45 ACP handguns. I also use the .223 and .308 rifle. The 12 gauge shotgun is my to go gun. We all need a .22 — then there is the .357 Magnum and the .45 Auto Rim and .45 Colt — so organization is important. Two thousand .45 ACP cartridges are on hand tonight and one hundred .45 Auto Rim, and that’s plenty. I keep handgun ammunition separated by training and service loads. Shotgun shells are more difficult to store and I do not have nearly as many. They are in one corner of the designated closet. My home is one hundred fifteen years old the ammunition storage was once a food larder. Works for me.

ammo storage
This MTM case guard carrier is a good option for smaller quantities of ammunition. MTM also offers much larger boxes that have much utility.

Other points — I keep firearms in a safe. While a couple may be loaded for various reasons I do not normally store ammunition in the safe. Some like to have an ammunition supply in loaded magazines. That’s okay if they are stored properly. Take these magazines, fire them in practice, and rotate the supply. If loaded down from 30 to 26 or 20 to 18 rounds quality AR 15 magazines will run forever. Pistol magazines from MecGar are much the same. Glock magazines loaded to full capacity never give trouble. If you need a stack of magazines loaded at the ready for emergency your zip code is probably written in Cyrillic or located abound Bosnia. These tips, points and cautions will work well for most of us and keep the ammunition supply fresh and uncontaminated.

ammo storage
The author doesn’t store loaded magazines unless a range trip is immediate.
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15 thoughts on “Proper Ammunition Storage”

  1. I love to see pictures of other peoples gun safes and ammo vaults. It’s fun to figure out what they have and why. How it is stacked up and accessible confers the relative importance of it all.
    For instance, I would like to hear more about the two boxes of 6.5 PRC in the picture and the rifle it belongs with…

  2. i am a retired gunsmith and have been reloading since the late 60s.
    i just dont understand the hoarding of ammo that goes on. i have friends that have stashes of 1000s of rounds of ammo and rifles hidden underground that will more than likely never be seen again much less shot.
    i recently went with a friend of mine with a borrowed metal detector to try and find a buried 55 gallon drum full of 45 auto and 223. he had been digging holes like on Gods little acre for 2 weeks and couldnt find it and thought someone else might have dug it up. it took us about 6 hours with the metal detector to find it and several hours more getting the ammo out of the barrel as there was no way to get it out of the ground.
    who would have time for this in a shtf situation?
    i try to keep 20 rounds of the most accurate rifle load and 100 rounds of pistol for each firearm i have.
    if you are a reloader there is no need to preload all of this ammo as you can load as needed. if you have a modern progressive press you can knock out considerable amount of ammo in a few hours

    1. One man’s ‘hoarding’ is another man’s ‘stocking up’. Depends upon whose ox is being gored.

    2. I would agree with you about burying guns and ammo as they will likely be “lost” before they are needed but to bury an SKS and 200 rounds is not a great loss.
      I will call you a fudd however on your 20 and 100 round “stockpile” for reloaders. A full 300 round load out is a minimum number for anyone regardless of whether or not you reload.
      Crazy gunsmith is an accurate name for anyone who would suggest that if you needed more ammo you could just call timeout and load a couple more rounds. Have you ever really thought about just how retarded you sound?!
      Being retired (old) may make your life less valuable to you but those you may be defending will no doubt feel differently. I normally would not call out an oldtimer as a fudd but because you chose to not only say such stupid shit, you wrote it down, I do! I pray I’ll never need it and I pray you may never post another comment this retarded!

      1. I have to agree. If you can just plink and relax, a box of 50 might get you through the day. If you had to defend yourself and perhaps others during a social crisis, or if all the sporting goods stores closed were sold out for an extended period and it were necessary to be supplied for defense, hunting, or whatever, just a few boxes of ammo might prove to be a serious lack of preparation. Obama taught me plenty about only having a full 50 cal can or two packed full, at a time when replacement was difficult or expensive — it simply was not enough to get through the shortage. And, as for the idea that reloaders can simply reload at will (if they happen to be able to obtain the components), that seems a little silly, I have concluded. If you have components for reloading, then take the plunge and get a bit more brass to go with them. Then, go ahead and put the ammo together in fine, finished form in the comfort of your normal reloading environment. It makes no sense to think that reloading equipment belongs in your “bug-out bag,” and that you should plan to be reloading ammunition when you really need ammunition, somewhere out on the road, with shops ready to sell you primers and powder to refill your empty shells. Be sure to already stock as much finished ammunition as you will need to get you comfortably, and all the way, through critical periods, no matter how you may decide to calculate such periods. If some people think that too much ammo is a problem, just try substituting too little ammo, and see how well that works!

      2. I suppose if you don’t go to a range and train very often, 500 rounds of each caliber might be enough, but if you train once or twice a month, I’d suggest at least 1000 rounds ; always on hand. The calibers I shoot more often, I generally keep about 2-3000 on hand. I prefer to buy when it’s at a low point in price; and pricing seems to go in cycles. As another mentioned. an election is looming, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with ammo pricing and availability?

      3. Some of you clowns must have come over from Ammoland. I buy from MS, and see why I steer clear of theirs and others blogs. You pie-hole trolls wait in your dark little corners for just the right time. Even though it is a waist of my time, every now and then I like to bear my teeth.

  3. A good way to store ammo in original boxes is to use a vacuum sealer, like the ones to seal food. The vacuum sucks the air and moisture out and the ammo should last forever under those conditions. Also, using storage boxes with a rubber seal and several packages of desiccant inside will preserve the ammo.

    1. The vacuum sealing is one of my tricks also. As well as the original boxes in airtight storage boxes with desiccant. I live in a very high humidity area so I use these tricks combined with indoor storage to keep ammo viable. Thank you, LTC.

  4. Store ammo in the gun safe in metal ammo cans, if there is a fire it will contain them and not ruin the guns and other items in the safe.
    My powder storage is now an old freezer (sealed and insulated) with a safe heater for winter and desiccant bags for summer.

    1. “Bearing arms” includes ammunition without it, the “arms” would be useless. Even back then, a supply of powder and “shot” (round balls or a conical projectile ) were “mandatory” and a necessity to “keep and bear” your arms in “working order” to protect and defend your home, family, (or country) in a moments notice if called upon. My how things have changed.

  5. First of all I live in the Arizona desert in a rural area. Good point #1 for long term ammo storage.

    Secondly, all of my ammo, even the rounds I am going to be firing soon, are stored in airtight steel ammo cans. Good point @2.

    Ammo I have for long term storage, such as mil spec 5.54, 5.56, 7.62×39 & 7.62×51 are in spam cans sealed at one armory or another. Good point #3.

    About twice a year I inspect them all on the outside and the ammo cans go through the ammo inside also. Like any valuable equipment or supplies, good PM goes a long way in making sure things work when you need them

  6. Shoot by the hundred …. buy by the thousand. Some for now … some for later … some for much later.

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