First keep your ammunition in a location that is DRY, COOL & DARK.  There is a right and wrong way to store ammunition?  Some people may put their ammo in a car trunk or garage, this can lead to reliability and performance issues.  If your ammo is intended for personal or home protection, you most certainly want it to fire and function 100% of the time.  By following the proper storage procedures, it will help insure your ammo functions reliably.  Following are steps regarding the dos and don’ts of storing ammo.  If you deem it necessary to have loaded firearms for personal protection around it is best to fire and replace this ammo at reasonable intervals, not over a year being ideal.  After all, periodic practice will keep you proficient & improve marksmanship.  

Place It in a Secure Container

Safe ammunition home storage is every gun owner responsibility.  Some military surplus ammo is available in vacuum packed sealed steel cans which open like a sardine can.  Ammo stored like this in reasonable climatical conditions can last for many years.  Even second world war ammo will fire if it has been stored properly.  There are many convenient U.S. military surplus ammo cans available.  Typically, these have a rubber gasket seal and camming lever which securely compress the seal when closed.  Common sizes are 5.56mm, 7.62. (.30 Cal), .50 cal. plus some larger ones for mortar rounds etc.  These U.S. surplus ammo cans provide a durable, moisture resistant barrier that helps to keep your ammo safe and protected from the elements.  These U.S. cans are great storage receptacle, if kept in reasonable climatic conditions.  There are some cheap Chinese knock off ammo cans on the market, far too much China stuff is not quality, let the buyer beware, you get what you pay for.  If small children have access to areas of ammo storage it is best to have the containers locked up or at least un-accessible.  Obviously unless ammo cans are under lock and key, they aren’t burglar proof.  You must determine convenient access and security measures for your situation.   

There are quite a few commercial plastic ammo boxes available, used often by those reloading ammo.  Typically, these are available to hold 20, 50 and even 100 rounds.  While these are excellent for organization, they are not air tight.  In most climates this won’t affect ammo performance for reasonable periods.  That said if you live in a high humidity area opt for the steel U.S. Ammo cans for the outer container and if desired the plastic boxes inside.  If factory ammo, the heavy card stock boxes as purchased are good just put them inside the steel ammo cans.  Also have some form of desiccant inside the metal box.  Those storing guns in a safe may also want some or most of their ammo secured inside, desiccants will benefit both firearms and ammo.   

As previously stated excessive humidity can cause ammunition corrosion, or misfires.  If humidity over time migrates inside the ammo it can cause the powder to become clumpy resulting in squib or misfires.  It is best to maintain a reasonably consistent humidity level when storing ammunition.  Low humidity helps prevent corrosion of the bullets, casing or shell.  Properly stored you can be sure ammo will be in optimal condition when needed.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Ammunition is sensitive to extreme temperature variations.  Heat can cause nitrocellulose &/or nitroglycerine, the bang agent(s), in ammo to deteriorate, possibly result in squib or misfires.  Keeping your ammunition away from extreme temperatures will help to prolong its shelf life.   Avoid storing ammo in an area that experiences extreme heat, high humidity, or widely fluctuating temperature, these conditions cause deterioration.  The ideal temperature for ammo storage is between 55-60° F. this perfect temperature is not feasible for most.  In storing ammo inside the house, year around climate control HVAC will certainly be a benefit.

Keeping your ammo near a consistent temperature will certainly help prevent degradation of the powder & primer. If you must ever use your ammo for self-defense, you want it to perform as it should without issues. 


The above will KILL ammo.  “Sam” spent a good sum to go on a big game hunt.  Fortunately, his hunting partner, “Bill” was a gun guy, they met up at the hunting camp.  “Sam” opened the trunk of his car, scoured around for his ammo.  To “Bills” horror “Sam’s” ammo was scattered about & covered with spilled motor oil.  “Bill” wiped it clean as best he could and informed “Sam” the bad news “this stuff might or might not go bang”.  No one would want to risk their hunt on ammo that might not fire.  Just think, you have a good Elk in your sights for a fine trophy, good meat and hear, CLICK.  This followed by rapid hoof beats on the turf.  The following was relayed to me by my friend Luther an officer & firearms instructor with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety (State Police).  Years back Luther saw many officers vigorously spraying their issued .357 Mag. revolvers with WD-40, they didn’t want them to rust and thought this was good gun care.  WD-40 is a degreaser and penetrant, it’s terrific for proper applications, but it’s an ammo KILLER.  Luther took some factory ammo, boxed it with some bullet up, some primer up.  He sprayed them vigorously once daily for a week, when tested not one would fire.  Consider for a moment some troopers were betting their life on this ammo!  The conclusion is oil, or a penetrant spray is most certainly the wrong thing to apply onto ammo. 



Those of us who reload ammunition have a few extra safety & storage procedures to follow.  All ammo storage procedures apply to powder and primers.  Always store these in the original packaging/container as received.  Primers are very powerful and must be kept in the small tray packages provided.  Only have one variety of primers on your bench at a time.  If pistol primers are accidentally loaded into rifle cases this is hazardous.  Pistol primers are made with weaker cups than the same size rifle primers.  Pistol firing pin strikes may not have the same striking power as a rifle.  Also pistol primers are normally subject to much lower pressure than rifle primers, therefore they are of a different design.  If pistol primers are used in rifle cases, they can blow out releasing high pressure gas damage rifle and possibly the shooter.  Powder must be kept in the original container for correct identification.  A critical safety practice is to have only ONE powder container on your reloading bench at a time, this can’t be stated strongly enough.  If two or more powder container are present it’s inviting disaster.  Unfortunately, in the past, a fellow new to reloading was observed with two different cans of powder on his bench while reloading, this is very dangerous.  If you have any questions call us, 479-629-5566 from 9am to 9pm Mon-Sat.  If we are out, or the line is busy, leave a message, we will call back.  

Tom Wilson  Enterprise Services, LLC        Fort Smith, AR ©      10-3-23 ©

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