Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips


Editor’s note: This article on long-term ammo storage tips is excerpted from the Summer 2013 issue of Living Ready.

Tips for long-term ammo storage

Use these tips for long-term ammo storage to make the most of your investment. Success depends on how well you follow the three watchwords: cool, dry and dark.

Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips: The 3 Watchwords

Modern primers and gun powder, if properly stored, have a nearly infinite shelf life. These items need to be stored with the three watchwords of care; cool, dry and dark.

Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips: Cool

By cool we mean stable temperature in the 50 to 80 degree Fahrenheit range. Extreme high temperature can cause the deterioration of gun powders over long exposure; we’ve seen it time and again, ammo left on the dashboard and heated to extreme temperatures or frozen and re-heated.

Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips: Dry

“Keep your powder dry” is a phrase all shooters have heard and comes from the days when flintlock firearms ruled the field; it is just as important today as it was 200 years ago. Temperature swings from very low to high and back again cause condensation within modern brass-cased cartridges and renders ammunition inert. It doesn’t take much moisture to ruin a primer and this is one reason I usually don’t recommend the basement for ammo storage, unless some type of dehumidifier is present to balance the humidity.

Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips: Dark

While the sun is the engine that drives all life it can be the worst enemy of ammunition and gunpowder by virtue of its heating ability. I keep my ammunition in cabinets away from sun exposure for this reason.

For obvious reasons don’t leave your ammo on the dashboard of the truck. If you have a window in your handloading room make sure the sun doesn’t settle on your supply of powder and primers while you’re away.

Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips: Neoprene Seal Rings

If you are going to put your ammunition away for a period of time look into the military surplus ammo cans with the neoprene seal rings, these work great if they are kept in a dry environment and protected from sudden swings in temperature. The military powder cans that have the same rubber seal rings also work great, but don’t hold a heck of a lot.

I’m reminded of the Confederate command that stored a few hundred muskets for future use in caves in southwest Virginia, a damp and gunmetal-unfriendly environment, that were lost and later discovered in the early 1940s, still operational and indeed in wonderful condition.

The guns were heavily greased before storage, metal and wood, and stored in wooden barrels sealed with a mixture of wax and tallow. Gunpowder kegs had been stored within larger wooden barrels, also sealed with the wax/tallow, and the outside of the kegs themselves had been coated with the wax/tallow mixture.

The powder was just as good as the day it was stored.

Reloading: A Solution to Long-Term Ammo Storage Problems

How to Reload AmmunitionInstead of buying large amounts of ammunition, reload cartridges to guarantee a steady supply in the future.

Learn how to reload ammunition with The ABCs of Reloading by C. Rodney James. Click here to order The ABCs of Reloading book from the Living Ready Store for 25% off the cover price.

2 thoughts on “Long-Term Ammo Storage Tips

  1. holeshot308

    On the long term ammo storage thing the rubber seals tend to “shrink” with time. Plain old SILICONE (NOT WD-40 NEVER,NEVER,EVER!!) spray will cause the seals to swell after a couple of good coats are sprayed on. The silicone will also stop and prevent most rust spots that are common to USGI ammo cans AND don’t skimp on cheaper cans! What you want are “grade one” cans, only a couple of bucks higher that the crappy worn out grade two and cans that aren’t even fit to grade. Spray down the seals until they’re saturated ( usually two applications will swell the seals as much as they’re going to and wipe the inside and outside with a good shot of the silicone, this not only cleans up the cans but will help preserve the paint and stop and prevent any further rusting. Now you’ve got the can cleaned up and ready to stash away a buttload of ammo (and expensive ammo!) for a rainy day you’re still needing something else. Desiccant!! NOT those little 5 or 10 GRAM packages that will just absorb a bit of moisture and then have to be thrown away because you can’t really tell when they have gone South on you. Look around and find the Mil-Spec brown looking packages of clay desiccant that can be de-hydrated over and over again by throwing them in the oven at around 200* for 10 or 12 hours. These suckers will last forever as long as you follow the directions on the packages. Think you’re ready to load up the ammo now? NOPE, still one thing missing. How do you know when the big desiccant packages have sucked up all the moisture they’re going to and they need to be de-hydrated again? Now you’re going to need what’s referred to as “Indicator desiccant” that will change color when it has been hydrated, this lets you know it’s time to throw all the desiccant in the oven again. The good thing here is that you can find the indicator desiccant online at several places ( just do a search and you’ll find several places selling different types, just be sure you buy the good stuff that can be de-hydrated over and over). The good part is that you don’t need a couple of pounds of the stuff, and here’s where you get to be creative. I use 1/2 in. clear plastic flexible tubing around 3 inches long and seal one end by heating it then mashing it flat. Then all I do is drill several SMALL ( like 1/16th in) in the tube, fill it about half way up with the indicator desiccant and use a piece of plastic wrap and a small rubber band to close the open end. Before I started using the clear tubing I used water bottle caps with the small holes drilled in them then closed it off with the plastic wrap and a rubber band. You don’t have to use much of the indicator desiccant because you’re not actually using it to keep the moisture out of the can but rather to let you know that the big clay packs are still working and also to tell if the seals on the can are actually sealing properly. It’s more of a tattle-tale than anything else. A quick warning on the indicator stuff, if and when it gets totally hydrated and changes color ( mine is bright blue when dehydrated and turns to a pale pink when it gets hydrated) and needs to be de-hydrated all you need to do is sprinkle it out on a piece of foil on a cookie pan and heat it at around 100* until it turns back to the de-hydrated color then get it out of the oven. My stuff only takes 10 to 15 minutes to fully de-hydrate. If you use to much heat or heat it to long it’s going to break down and turn some color other that what it’s supposed to be and it just kind of turns to crap meaning it won’t do anything. Sounds long and drawn out but I lived in East Texas for over 20 years and humidity out there was horrible but I’ve still got ammo that I stashed away back then this way and every time I squeeze a trigger whatever it’s on the guns still go bang and I’ve chronoed a lot of the “old” stuff and it still matches what it did years ago so I must be doing something right. COOL, DRY and DARK actually does work and when I stash ammo at the prices it’s going for today the ammo cans and desiccant are really cheap insurance to keep your ammo fresh for decades if need be. Or you could just forego all this desiccant stuff and just buy a cheap vac. sealer and store your ammo the “easy way” but just be forewarned, sometimes those bags don’t stay sealed and the cheap way could cost you several hundreds of dollars by the time you notice the brass starting to turn green on you.

  2. bobnailer1950

    I know this will mean I won’t be able to get these anymore but…
    In regards to this: “The military powder cans that have the same rubber seal rings also work great, but don’t hold a heck of a lot.”

    there are a lot of ammo cans out there that hold a lot for very little money, think outside the .50 cal. box.