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Threats to your Ammo storage, and what YOU can do about it!

ammo, ammo storageIn these uncertain times, when our fundamental gun rights are under attack, the availability of ammunition seemingly fluctuates daily. If you are like me, you tend to buy extra when the availability is normal and prices are reasonable.

Then, when some event happens that kicks off another gun scare; where ammo prices sky rocket while availability plummets, you are not one of the “panicked herd” that rushes into to scope up the last few boxes of overpriced .22 or 9mm.

By buying a box here, a “brick” there, over time, your ammo supply will grow. Then you won’t have that fear when the panic hits and ammo is hard to find.

However, growing your ammo supply might lead to other issues in the future, namely, how to properly care for and store it. An ammo stockpile represents a sizeable investment, and you want to make sure it is not damaged or destroyed.

There are a few issues that you need to prevent to ensure your ammo remains functional and reliable. Failure to do so could lead to your ammo not being:

  •    As accurate,
  •    Unusable,
  •    Damage or destroy your firearm. This leads to the possibility of potential injury to the shooter.


Mistreatment of your ammo can, over time, cause issues to the powder within the cartridge. Ammo and powder manufactures make the powder cartridges with very tight tolerances. This is because the shape of those cartridges is a factor in how the powder burns. This means the burn rate of the powder can be adversely affected if the cartridge has been degraded.

So you want to try to prevent your cartridges from being dinged or dented, even slightly.

I’m not saying you need to treat your ammo like fine china. But if you consistently throw it around and bang it against things, you might have some problems later on. So for those of you who keep some in the back of your truck when you go off-roading, you might re-think that.

bullet problem

Guess which round is the “problem child”?

The lead point of the bullet is also prone to being bent or flattened if the rounds are handled roughly. A flattened tip, for example, will be more susceptible to drift from the wind and will have less velocity. In rare cases, the bullet could be driven back into the cartridge. This will also cause problems with the pressure in the chamber.

It is NEVER a good idea to shoot a round that has the bullet pushed back into the cartridge.


Nitroglycerin is one of the main components used in the powder today. Temperature swings, especially high heat, can adversely affect the nitroglycerin in the powder. This is turn adversely affect the cartridge and how it performs when fired.

Ammo manufacturers conducted tests to see how heat affects ammo. This was done because US combat troops were being stationed in high heat areas like the Middle East, and the US government wanted to know the effects of that heat on their ammo.

What the tests found was that at a temperatures of 125 F and higher, the nitroglycerin would begin to change into a gas form. This would cause the bullets to “sweat” as the nitroglycerin gas would seep out from the cartridge.

This of course leads to an imbalance in the cartridge, and would affect the pressure in the chamber when the round was fired.

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In addition, when rounds were exposed to higher temperatures and then dropped back down to normal levels, the nitroglycerin did not always change back from a gaseous state. This also caused the imbalance in the cartridge and potential problems and hazards.

In many cases, the ammo was just fine. But at times the temperature would affect the rounds enough that accuracy began to be an issue. And in some cases, the rounds were affected significantly enough that it caused the pressure in the chamber to build up to dangerous levels. Levels high enough that it could damage your firearm, and in the worst case scenario possibly injure the shooter.

In the interior of automobiles and their trunks, temperatures can reach well in excess of 125 F degrees. So that box of shells sitting in your glove box? They could be susceptible to those problems I mentioned.

So if where you live it reaches over 100 F in the summer and 30 F in the winter, long term storage in your garage, outside shed, or a lake cabin may not be a good idea. A place where the temperature is rather consistent and well below 125 F degrees is best.


Humidity and moisture can damage and possibly ruin your ammo stores, especially long term. Those two elements can play hell on your ammo.

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The humidity can begin to corrode the brass on the casing, weakening it. This can cause the casing shape to alter ever so slightly, and can cause failure to feed issues as the cartridge won’t seat properly.

Moisture, or household chemicals like paint thinner or ammonia can over time seep into the ammo through the seals at the ammo’s seams. (The seams are at the primer and where the bullet meets the cartridge.)

Many ammo manufacturers try to prevent this by sealing those areas. But this is not always 100% fool proof, and over the years that sealer will begin to degrade a little. So never store your ammo where there is a chance for moisture or humidity to play havoc with it.

Damp basements, for example, are not the place you want to store your ammo. Also, don’t store your ammo by solvents such as oil, ammonia, or things like paint thinner. When it comes to long term storage, the drier the better.

If you see signs of corrosion on your rounds (be it the bullet or the cartridge), discard the ammo as it could be unsafe to shoot.

Long Term Storage

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When it comes to long term ammo storage, there is no single, right way to store it properly. As long as you keep it in a cool, dry place, you should be ok. But there are some additional tips I want to share with you to ensure that your ammo will last for years and years to come.

  • Keep the ammo in its original container. This helps to keep the cartridge and point from being unnecessarily knocked or pumped around.
  • Don’t store your ammo on the floor. I’d keep them up at least on wooden pallets. This prevents leaks and other contaminates that might fall on the floor from seeping into your rounds.
  • If you have additional containers, such as ammo cans or ammo boxes, I would store them in those. This provides an extra layer of protection.
  • Use silicone gel packs in these containers to help soak up excess oxygen and moisture.

Some ammo manufacturers have started offering ammo in sealed cans specifically for long term storage. Companies like Federal now have cans (called Fresh Fire Packs) that are vacuum sealed to help prevent corrosion.

And of course military surplus has the large ammo tins which are sealed as well. But these, like the Fresh Fire Packs, are still prone to extreme temps.

My Storage

So how do I store my ammo? Well for starters, I purchased several military ammo cans (30 cal.) I checked the cans thoroughly to ensure there was no rust on or in them, and that the rubber seals on the inside were in good condition.

For the most part, I give each caliber its own can(s). I leave the ammo in its original container. When the can is full, I put a silicone gel pack in the can to absorb some of the oxygen, close the can, zip tie it shut, and then put a piece of duct tape on top. I write the ammo type and the quantity on the tape. The zip tie lets me know that the contents are accurate and have not been tampered with.

I then place the ammo cans in an old refrigerator….unplugged of course. This is stored in one of our barns at my homestead. Now the barns are not climate controlled, but that is ok. The old fridge keeps the moisture out, and keeps the ammo cool all year long. I was a bit worried this past summer, when temperatures reached over 100 F. But in the hot August afternoon, I would open the fridge and the cans still felt slightly cool to the touch.


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18 Responses to Threats to your Ammo storage, and what YOU can do about it!

  • I like that you included a comparison picture of a good bullet vs. a damaged one – there’s definitely a huge difference between bullets that are stored properly and those that have seen better days.Thanks for sharing!

  • Silica gel absorbs moisture, not oxygen… You need oxygen absorbers for that… They are usually based on iron powder and some form of salt in a clay or vermiculite base… They absorb oxygen by causing qxidation of the iron powder

  • I’ve done the same with all of my ammo (gel packs in labeled metal 30 & 50 cal ammo cans (I knew those things would come in useful some time!). I’ve been told the ammo I REALLY have to consider protecting is the rimfire stuff because it’s not made as well as 45/243 etc. higher end ammo – so I’m going to use my vacumn bag sealer and throw in a gel pack or two for several hundred rounds at a time. You can go by your local drugstore and ask them to save you a pile of gel packs – for free – they throw out hundreds of them a week! I would think you could also use the Home Depot plastic buckets for storage – like the piles of shotgun shells also.

  • I’ve bought 80’s surplus 5.56 in bandoliers & put them in vacuum sealed packs, then in 50 cal can. I’ve shot about 100 out of 1000 & best stuff ever. Won’t ever go bad. No air or extreme heat or cold & it’s good as long as I’m here!

  • This just a little help even though this blog is long time ago. On your ammo box seal maybe just a little food grade vasiline jelly or silicone spray will help the rubber.

  • This is true for some old or foreign ammo but today’s quality ammo comes sealed at the bullet and primer and is good for 30+ years or 3 months submerged in water and modern powder does not degrade with age.

  • I use cedar chests….3 of them

  • Abuse: don’t let the tips get bent or damaged, because once the center of mass is different than the center of the bore, you will never hit what you are aiming at. In the old days, cast lead bullets were never pointed because the tips bent so easily and caused inaccuracy.

    Humidity: If you have some ready ammunition stored in clips or magazines, you risk corrosion of both the clip and the brass case. Any time dis-similar metals are in contact, there is an galvanic reaction, minute electrical currents flow, and you get tarnish or corrosion, sometimes even enough to get a case failure.

    Ammo cans: not only protect from humidity and temperature swings, but also from plumbing leaks (don’t ask) and from floods.

    I suppose you could also use your vac-n-seal from the kitchen to get a little more protection from humidity, but I haven’t tried it.

  • Single minded info for who? Newbies Are US………..

  • In 1963 I bought 1,000 rounds of Match-Grade 45 ACP FMJ and a used Colt Commander; I had accepted a contract engineer job in ‘Nam with RCA Corporation after surviving a hitch with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, and needed to provide my own protection.

    The job fell through and I landed another job in Turkey – which didn’t allow foreigners to “carry”. I put the ammo and the Commander (full cock, round in chamber, full magazine) in a cardboard box in my Mom’s attic in rural upstate NY, and forgot it.

    In 2005 – forty-two years later – Mom died and I inherited the house. Found the box in the attic – been there for forty-two years untouched ; took the Commander – “as is”, no special lubrication – up to a nearby sandpit, aimed at a tin can sitting atop a standing railroad tie, and started pulling the trigger.

    Seven rounds went downrange – no jamming, no squibs – just standard .45 ACP performance.

    I still have about 400 of those Match Grade rounds – shot up 600 between 2005 and now. Never had a single failure!

  • what’s better than a freezer/frig for storing ammo and other critical items is a gutted soda can dispensing machine …. ever try to break into one of those suckers?

    • No I haven’t, but I know they are not easy to get into.

      The difference is I had a few old fridges laying around. My supply of coke machines was pretty low. 🙂

  • Been looking for an article like this. My stock is finally getting to the point I need bulk storage. All I need is an old freezer/fridge for the barn. Thanks.

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