How Long Does Ammo Last and How to Store it For Max Shelf Life
Two commonly asked questions among new gun owners are, "How long does ammo last?" and "How should I store my ammunition?" This article will focus on providing detailed answers to these questions and more while covering the basics of ammunition storage.
How Long Does Ammo Last?
Ammunition's shelf life is largely predicated on the the conditions under which it is stored. Most manufacturers guarantee that their ammunition will last for at least a decade. That said, ammunition can easily last beyond 10 years if it is stored under ideal conditions. There are countless tales of military surplus ammo being used many decades after it was manufactured.
Do Different Types of Ammunition Have Different Shelf Lives?
Modern ammunition of all types is designed to outlast the person who bought it. In the past, ammunition relied on black powder to act as the propellant for the shell. However, most ammunition today is made with smokeless powder, capable of lasting considerably longer.
As we covered in our steel vs brass ammo comparison, steel case ammunition is more susceptible to corrosion than brass, though steel can last very long if stored properly.
Some modern ammunition comes sealed to protect against corrosion and moisture. Previously opened packages can be easily vacuum sealed if necessary. Full metal jackets and brass-lined ammunition aren’t susceptible to lead degradation in the same way as hollow points. However, as long as it isn't exposed to extreme conditions, modern ammunition of all types could last a lifetime.
How to Store Ammo
Whether new or old, there are some unifying factors to consider when storing ammunition to ensure nothing goes to waste. The basic rule for ammunition storage is to keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place with limited air exposure, as extreme temperatures, humidity/moisture, and air exposure are the three primary causes for ammunition degradation. Failing to follow this rule can lead to your ammunition becoming defective due to lead degradation, which is the primary cause of ammunition becoming defective. Humidity/moisture, in particular, is the most common culprit when it comes to ammo becoming unusable.
Waterproof military-style ammunition storage boxes are your best option for protecting against excess air flow and humidity. These products are built with air-tight seals, secure holds, and are built to last. Heavy-duty plastic ammo cans are also viable options.
Temperature is another factor to consider when storing ammunition, as humidity levels are in part due to the warmth of the surrounding environment. Extreme heat causes increased intensity of interaction between ammunition and the air, and should therefore be avoided.
Regardless of humidity or temperature, limiting ammunition's exposure to open air is key. Considering these factors, a cool and dry storage location with limited air access is ideal. Sunlight can also play a factor in gradual degradation, so keep your storage container somewhere dark.
It's important to note that any exposure to the elements speeds up the clock on ammunition's shelf life. Given that hunters and outdoorsmen are more likely to expose their ammunition to suboptimal conditions, ammunition taken out into the field should be used as soon as possible. This isn't anything to get overly neurotic about, but just remember that degradation begins anytime ammunition is brought out of storage.
Ammo for Concealed Carry
While it isn't difficult to effectively preserve ammunition in a storage container for a lifetime, those who own a concealed carry firearm should take some special precautions. It's recommended that ammunition held in a concealed carry be rotated out at least a few times a year, as regular exposure to the elements, indentations from the feed ramp, and excess lubrication can all potentially cause issues down the line. Routinely rotating ammunition of a concealed carry can be complemented by a trip to the range, as it’s always recommended to regularly practice with your concealed carry firearm.