Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
If you’re like most preppers, you’re already a stockpiling pro. You’ve got food, supplies, a bugout bag, the perfect weapons, and a great plan. Chances are high that you’ve also begun stockpiling ammunition like a reality TV hoarder.
Having a million rounds of ammo is great, but without proper storage, those potential projectiles will be nothing more than a heap of brass–or worse, an accident waiting to happen.
Over time, heat, moisture, and corrosion can wreak havoc on an ammunition supply. Cartridges can weaken and break, primers can lose their zing, and bullets can even corrode and lose mass, making them a safety hazard to fire.
Avoid all these potential risks by using these tips for storing your ammunition.
Want to save this post for later? Click Here to Pin It on Pinterest!
1. Buy Proper Ammunition
Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. This is certainly the case with proper ammunition storage. Starting out with the right ammo is essential to keeping up your long-term arsenal. There are quality versions and terrible versions of every type of ammunition possible.
Avoid buying extremely cheap ammo. You never know the history of the ammo you buy, and there’s a small chance that extremely cheap ammo is a production reject.
In addition, do not buy ammunition that is already old. Any ammo over 10 years old should be avoided, since you can’t guarantee it was stored properly the whole time.
Make sure any ammunition you purchase is completely intact, without any broken seals or ripped boxes. As always, don’t store any ammo that hasn’t been personally inspected by you.
2. Label and Rotate
Storing and using your ammo should be like storing and using any stockpiled perishable items. Label your cases of ammunition with the date you bought them and use the oldest dated rounds first. This will ensure that you never leave an old box of ammo in the back for a long time.
3. Cool Temperatures
The best way to store ammunition is in plastic bags inside ammunition boxes that have a rubber seal (to keep moisture out), and placed in a cool, dark area. Rounds that have been exposed to heat may be defective, and this is what you’re looking to avoid most.
While you probably don’t have to worry about wrecking your ammunition on one hot afternoon–that won’t start to happen until at least 150 degrees–but over time the heat degrades the performance of your rounds.
Be sure to find a cool dark place that isn’t also damp, as this defeats the purpose. Humidors are for cigars, dry boxes are for ammo.
4. The Clay Desiccant
The number one killer of ammunition is humidity. Storing your rounds in a damp environment is a surefire way to cause corrosion and powder damage. Fortunately, there are many options for avoiding this fate involving the use of desiccants.
A desiccant is anything that absorbs water. Some materials do this chemically, while others do this physically, like the clay desiccant.
Sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite are great clay desiccants that absorb moisture wonderfully. You can purchase these in the form of Desi-Paks, which are safe enough even to use with food. While not the most inexpensive option, clay desiccants are a great way to keep your ammo good to go.
5. Silica Gel Packets
Similar to clay desiccants, and usually even more effective, Silica gel packets also absorb moisture and can be used by dropping packets into your ammo canisters. Silica gel packets can be easily purchased online and are an inexpensive yet reliable way to keep your ammo safe.
Another perk of using Silica gel packets is that you can tell when they need to be switched out. You can get packets that change color when they’ve absorbed as much moisture as possible, letting you know when to replace each packet.
6. The Affordable Option
If you’re in a pinch or don’t have much time to prepare in a doomsday scenario, you can create a great homemade desiccant out of salt and rice. Uncooked rice will keep your ammo dry in the same way that it absorbs moisture in a jar of sugar.
Adding the salt will also keep the rice from spoiling as quickly. Simply mix some uncooked rice with some salt and tie it up in tissue or a fine mesh cloth.
7. Use Vacuum Sealed Bags
An additional tip for making the most out of your moisture defense is to use vacuum-sealed bags. While squeezing the air out of plastic bags will work decently, storing ammo in a vacuum-sealed bag is the best way to ensure no air–and therefore no moisture–makes it into the presence of your ammunition.
This is an especially useful tip if you want to store thousands of rounds in one bag. Simply vacuuming out any air is much easier than trying to squeeze air out of a trash bag-sized storage option.
8. Check for Signs of Corrosion Frequently
Be vigilant about your ammunition storage. After packaging up your ammo nicely in vacuum-sealed bags with moisture-wicking materials and placing it in a cool, dry place, don’t simply forget about it and hope it will last 40 years. Schedule ammunition checks to make sure your rounds aren’t corroding or becoming exposed to heat.
Using clear plastic in your vacuum sealing is ideal for this, as you don’t have to undo the hard work you did sealing your rounds off from the outside world.
9. Reload Your Ammunition
In reality, the best way to store your ammunition is to avoid it altogether. Using ammo is better than storing ammo, and if you have the know-how and the ability, reloading your ammo is a great way to make sure you always have fresh munitions. If you embark on this endeavor, spare no expense.
Learn the metallurgy involved; what makes bullets weak and strong, what makes them fly faster and slower, and the best methods to use for casting them. Purchase as precise a collection of instruments as possible, because even the smallest variations can impact your shooting experience.
10. Stick to the Original Boxes
Try to use the original boxes the ammunition was sold in. It indicates exactly how many rounds you have in the container, as well as the caliber and bullet weight. You can then store the boxes either in the vacuum-sealed bags, or another option is to…
11. Use Green Metal Army Cans
An alternative to vacuum-sealed bags is to use the green metal army cans like you can find at most sporting goods stores or online. These army cans are durable, cheap, waterproof, and well-sealed. Store the original boxes in the ammo cans and they will be well protected against the outside elements.
12. Don’t Keep All Your Eggs In One Basket
In other words, diversify where you choose to store your ammunition. You should never store all of your ammo in the same room or location for two very simple reasons: you don’t want your entire stockpile to become damaged or corroded in the event of moisture, and you also don’t want your stockpile to be stolen either in the event of a break-in.
13. Consider Investing in a Gun Safe or Vault
Besides storing your ammunition in vacuum-tight bags or metal ammo cans, you may want to take things a step further and store those bags or cans of ammo in a gun safe or vault dedicated to your ammunition.
This is beneficial because most quality gun safes have a temperature controlled environment. Taking the previous precautions of storing your ammo in either the vacuum sealed bags or in an ammo can and then placing everything in a safe with the silica gel packets is arguably the most effective technique for keeping your ammunition protected against moisture.
Additionally, a gun safe or vault offers far superior security against unauthorized entry versus simply storing your ammunition in an open room.
14. Be Strategic About Location
Last but not least, be very selective about where you choose to store your ammunition. As you should already gather from what you’ve read, protecting your ammunition from moisture and unauthorized access are the two most important considerations when it comes to ammo storage.
Think carefully about the best place(s) to keep your ammo stored that could accomplish both. An ideal location would be a small, dry room at normal room temperature with a door that you could lock (in addition to the other ideas suggested above).
Like this post? Don’t forget to Pin It on Pinterest!
Charlotte Fleet says
I like how you suggest only buying and storing ammunition for your firearm that you have personally inspected. My dad is hoping to purchase quality ammunition for his pistol soon. I’ll make sure that he inspects any ammunition he considers himself to ensure its quality. hyperionmunitions.com
NIGEL P DUNCAN ADAM says
Military Ammunition bunkers all over the world are not air conditioned the temp is whatever the temp outside is also the humidity the only thing that is important is the free flow of air and original packing check every six months for oxidation every month for liquid in, or approaching Ammo also after any bad weather.
Components of ammunition are all stable under extreme conditions or they would never be accepted the military of all nations can be moved from desert to artic in 24 hours and as such they would never accept ammo that could not be used because of the weather.
The sandbags of Lewis Gun ammo that were buried near Blackpool airport at the end of the war were recovered in the early 1990s the water damaged ammo had a lot of decay However there were hundreds of rounds that were still dangerous and the propellent which was stick propellant like straw was still very flammable VERY flammable.
The old adage applies KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY and that’s all you need to do also a good idea to avoid naked flames and allow airflow.
Jackie ow says
Cartridges found at the Little Bighorn Battle site had been out in the weather for 97 years or something when retrieved and many fired off OK despite nearly a century of being outdoors in the Montana winters and the Montana summers.
Greg Crawford says
That last comment directed to the gentleman using an old inuseable refrigerator to store ammo. Thanks again!!
Greg Crawford says
I live on S.E. Missouri! Cape Girardeau. Thanks for the idea on ammo storage!! Excellent idea!!
Kieran Roberts says
I can’t afford guns and ammunition, so I’m going to have to come up with other ways of defending myself. Some of which I may end up using poison as a defense.
In other words, look like a lamb, appear harmless but get close enough and I’ll strike like a snake, and make sure the bite is deep enough to kill.
This is very good information for those who are gun officianadoes, and those who can afford to buy and keep a gun,
NIGEL P DUNCAN ADAM says
It would cost you maybe $400 for a cap and ball revolver it is not considered a firearm and so doesn’t require all the paperwork finding the caps nowadays is a problem but the balls are available and the black powder is abundant in stores.
WARNING! do not use smokeless powder in a cap and ball musket or pistol it burns way to fast and could result in a major malfunction causing massive damage even death.
As for effectiveness excellent look at the casualties of the civil war a 44 caliber ball will do far more damage than a modern bullet and up to 100yds it is very accurate and even has a smooth recoil.
CAUTIONARY NOTE, after loading each chamber put Bore Butter / Lard / Cresco / a cloth wad covered in fat on top of the ball / bullet to ensure no sparks can enter that cylinder and cause a chain fire i.e. all cylinders fire at once.
after each shot you will see flash even sparks, you will see lots of smoke they are so much fun and used safely they can even be stored loaded BUT without the caps like this the pistol cannot be fired even in the hands of a child.
With no cap the gun is a paper weight with a cap on each nipple it is a lethal weapon.
Matt R says
A cheap alternative to silica gel packets is crystal gel kitty litter. It’s just bulk silica gel. Put it in a shallow pan or cookie sheet and bake it out at ~250 degrees for a few hours. Then pour it into a cloth bag or old sock and put it in your ammo can or storage container.
Big Tee says
Holy smokes. Thanks!
Tom Jackson says
I had my ammo in the basement of my cabin. My sump pump failed due to power outage and I had nearly 16 inches of water. Ammo that was in military spec steel cans did fine. The plastic ammo cans leaked however and many rounds, especially shotgun rounds, were corroded beyond use. Note to self: use metal mil spec cans and store then higher on the shelf.
Big Tee says
Which brand plastics did you use? I know that the Harbor Freight stuff has failed every water test I’ve seen or read about. I wish I could afford Pelican cases for everything!
John Totten says
During my service in the USAF at Misawa Japan our ammo for air base defense was stored in trailers behind the Air Police Headquarters with no protection except for rain. Once a year the oldest trailer was taken to the Sea of Japan (now that China has built a base there Sea of China) and all of it was shot off with no problems that were apparent. Every caliber that we used. Thirty caliber, 50 caliber etc. The trailer was then packed again and the next year the then oldest trailer load was used up. That way none of our ammo was older than three years but no special care was taken to protect it from heat or humidity except that it was in the typical medal ammo cans that seemed to take care of any possible problems. Any miss fires would have been apparent especially with quad 50’s.
Bemused Berseker says
Keep it cool, keep it dry. A couple of years back, when my Grandfather passed away, along with his guns, I inherited his ammo too. Most of what he had, was a lot of .22LR, a portion of which, upon researching, was nearing 60 years of age. Boxes of Remington, Western, and a few I’d never heard of. All had been stored in a cool and dry enviornment, and there was no signs of corrosion. Except for a couple of the rarer boxes I set aside as collectibles, most of it has been fired as I write this. Shooting this ammo, I decided to fire it only through my .22 revolver and single shot bolt action, and avoided running it in any of my semi-autos. I was very surprised to have only a handfull (about 20 – 30) of Failure to Fires out of 1400-1500 rounds. About half, fired upon a 2nd strike.
So 60 year old rimfire ammo, was still capable of being used, in what most of us would agree, as way past its “Use By” date.
It serves to illustrate that no special handling or storage, was required other than it was kept cool and dry for 60 odd years. Would I recommend keeping or using ammo that old? Not on a regular basis, but in this case, I knew how Grandpa had stored his ammo, as he kept it in the same closet since my earliest recollections. Why he never rotated when he bought more ammo, will remain a question for the ages.
As for adding salt into hand made dessicant packets, obviously the author didn’t think that through. Salt or anything containing salt, along with any of the halites, sulfates and borates should NEVER be in close proximity to any metal. That’s Chem 101.
victor Castle says
I agree with the first post Ram, I believe. He said, what I have noticed , in my 75 years and 60 years of hunting and shooting.
Once again, nearly “all” the 9 points of advice above are total bunk. I don’t know where this information comes from but, obviously it’s not from real life research. I’ve been using the cheapest ammo I can find for over 30 years and never had a misfire. I keep my ammo in the original boxes and just keep it in a room temperature location. “NEVER, NEVER” vacuum pack your ammo. The comment above explains that point. Also, I often use ammo that is 10 or more years old stored on a shelf in my gun room and had no problems. As to checking for corrosion….. absolutely but, that is just common sense. I could go on but, just realize that most of the 9 points are just wrong or misleading. By the way, I do reload a lot of ammo and I keep plenty of components on hand. I just finished up a pound of Unique that was over 15 years old and the rounds didn’t miss a beat. “Nuff said.
Michael Nelson says
Yep……Yep….Yep!!! How we didn’t vac Pac…….in the monsoon season. Nam to the frinking middle east. Nobody was concerned with the elements effect on ammo. Just the ones whizzing around your ears!!!
Greg Crawford says
Yep, have self loaded 44 mag. Rounds stored in a closed container with desiccant packs that I change out occasionally for 15 years or so. Still continue to pack that 44 mag. punch, and still no misfires.
Greg Crawford says
Ever get the idea that some misleading info might just intentionally make your ammo less accessible, or intentionally raise our doubts about using it??!! Would make one more vulnerable, would it not??!!
God bless and thank you for your service you’re one of the Forgotten servicemembers , and this country should be ashamed for the way they have treated you
I don’t like the idea of using desiccants if they draw moister don’t you think it is a bad idea to place them in sealed containers they will become wet with the moister they collect and transfer it to your Ammo.
I find it better to use a dehumidifier in a closed room for several days with the ammo and the containers open then get the humidity down to 30% or less. Then when you close and seal the container you basically have no moister trapped in the storage container.
You should keep the ammo in the same area that you use your dehumidifier and keep the room at 70deg. And 40-45 % relative humidity.
90% of my ammo are handloads and have ben stored this way with no problems. This past summer I used 12ga ammo that was loaded in the 1970s and 80s. without a failer to fire and the broke targets as well as new Ammo.
Ed K says
I use an old side by side fridge with good seals. I put several moisture eliminators with charcoal, in it. Dollar store has them for a $1.00 a piece. I rotate them about every 3 months. You can see the water absorbed in the bottom of the container. They’ve worked great, also keep a heavy cable lock on the doors. And, I don’t plug it in, cut the cord. Seems to work well for me, I live the central Arkansas.
Greg Crawford says
I live on S.E. Missouri! Cape Girardeau. Thanks for the idea on ammo storage!! Excellent idea!!
Good idea. No mention about fire proof containers. Would be a drag for the firemen if rounds started shootings off while fighting a fire.
I believe it was in one of the Lee Childs books where it was mentioned that you should never store loaded magazines. Apparently, the spring will eventually falter (we’re talking years here, not months), and if/when you go to use it in a crisis situation, the ammo won’t load.
Can anyone verify this info?
I read that book and remember thinking it made sense. Later I read something saying it was a myth and that springs wear out from use, not compressed storage. Sorry, no source.
If you are concerned that leaving a spring under pressure as it was designed and manufactured to be then don’t forget to Jack up your Car as your families lives depend on those springs lol.
Joe Genoa City WI says
I served 8 years in the US Army and 27 as a civilian policeman and trainer… i keep two loaded AR 15 mags in our squads rifles for the last ten years. Have never had a malfunction due to a magazine spring loosing its ability to feed the mag properly… i have magazines that i used on active duty and still use now and they work fine. When i clean my equipment i inspect the magazines for functionality. I have had cheap brand new mags not feed properly and cause malfunction…
Big Tee says
Experts have been consulted. Now, storing loaded magazines DOES wear on the spring. The AMOUNT of wear is so small as to be nearly immeasurable. Like, a fraction of a percent of performance loss over decades.
Compression/decompression cycles place much greater stress on the springs. Just leave them loaded, or unloaded. I load mine. Empty magazines are useless on that one really bad day. And my house is small, so storing ammo IN the mags saves a little space. The only mags I keep empty are a few rifle mags in my range bag, because my range doesn’t allow rifle magazines to be loaded until customers are in the lanes.
I’m not an engineer. I just read fast and often.
Note that magazines that were loaded for years, even decades, have been used with no issues.
You could always hedge your bets. Load enough for defense or what have you, and leave the rest empty.
Jackie ow says
Baloney on how to store magazines. You can store ammo for years in magazines, and if you are scared of wrecking the springs then store the magazines loaded only 3/4 of the way. What wears out springs is flexing back and forth, not one compression in 30 years. Think of paper clips– they break with flexing back and forth but not the first flex (ordinarily). Spring steel is the same. What wears out a spring is flexing back and forth thousands of times. Storing compressed (withing normal usage range) is harmless. For more info, google the topic on YouTube in the Paul Harrell series.
Hi l worked at a Ammo depot for 35 years the ammo rounds are in metal containers. And they are put in a building with the heat on most of the year at a temperature of 90 degrees or more all winter long . The heat is usually off for 2 or 3 months Daniel of the year when the humidity is so high you feel wet when working in the building . We do a test on the rounds that are stored in these conditions . With little or no negative effect on the rounds .
JOE S. says
I WAS A COMBAT VET. IN KOREAN WAR, USING AN MI RIFLE FOR THREE YEARS AND A 45 PISTOL,AN 03 SPRING FIELD ON SNIPER DUTY,AND ALSO USED MANY HAND GRENADES, MY POINT IS ALL OUR AMMO WAS LEFT OVER FROM WW 2 , AND I NEVER HAD A MISFIRE ,THE ONLY PROBLEM WAS THE GRENADES HAD A SHORT FUSE AND EXPLODED A FEW SECONDS TOO SOON,I FOUND THAT OUT THE HARD WAY WHEN THE CHINKS STARTED CUTTING THE BARBED WIRE IN FRONT OF ME IT WAS ABOUT THREE AM ,I WAS ALL ALONE IN THE OUTPOST BUNKER , I HAVE TO ADMIT I WAS MORE AFRAID OF A GRENADE GOING OFF IN MY HAND , SO I THREW THEM AS FAST AS I COULD PULL THE PIN,WE ALWAYS PULLED THE PINS HALF WAY OUT
Nice list! Many gun owners fail to realize that their ammunition is susceptible to the elements, but anything with metal must be kept away from moisture and sunlight in order to remain usable. Thanks for sharing!
Ernest London says
I like that you mentioned to make sure you label your ammo boxes with the dates on them. That way, you can make sure you don’t leave old ammo unused for too long. That is a really cool idea. I am planning on buying a few guns soon, and I want to make sure I know how to store everything properly. I will keep this in mind, thanks.
Luke Smith says
I can see the value in ensuring that the ammunition you’re buying really is the right stuff. I can think of fewer things that would make a bad situation worse than realizing that you can’t shoot the bullets you had in storage. It would make sense to me to check out a suppliers reliability before deciding to buy from them so you could know that you were likely to get quality ammo and service from them.
Jackie ow says
I have done everyday carry with the same cartridges for 3 years, and everything fired off OK on the range when I went there for the first time in 3 years. That’s all with name brand factory ammunition.
Jenna Hunter says
We went to go shoot clay ducks with my uncle last evening and my husband’s shotgun almost exploded. It was so handy to understand that storing ammo in a vacuum sealed bag is the best way to ensure no air–and therefore no moisture–makes it into the presence of your ammunition. When we go to buy more ammo for next week’s outing!
Old Ammo Depot worker says
Most of these ideas are useless or even destructive.
Humidity will not harm modern gunpowder. The nitrocellulose is in fact BOILED IN WATER for at least 24 hours during the manufacturing process. It can cause corrosion of bullets and cases, but unless you’re packing your ammo into a sealed container in the middle of a Mississippi summer thunderstorm, there is no need to be sticking desiccant packs, let alone putting (corrosive!) salt, into the ammo can.
Do what the military does: start with good quality recent-manufacture ammunition, put it in a sealed container (in reasonably dry weather) and then LEAVE IT ALONE UNTIL YOU NEED IT. Constantly opening the cans just lets in air that may be full of moisture. Sure, test a sample now and then — every 3 or 5 years is sufficient.
Most importantly, keep it COOL. Heat is the real threat to modern ammunition. Heat causes residual acid in the nitrocellulose to break down the gunpowder. It causes primers to degrade. It speeds up the chemical reactions that cause corrosion. NEVER keep your ammo in the attic or the garage. A basement — even a damp one — that remains cool or even cold year ’round is far better for ammo storage than a garage or attic that bakes your ammo by day for months on end in the summer.
Let the experts do it,buy battle packs or cans (nitrogen purged?). Store it like you use it (stripper clips, or magazine quantity, also makes inventory simple ).
30 round mags make 30 round packages. Date them seal them in seal a meal plastic. Works great.
If using #6, add bay leaves to the rice, not salt. Salt is a corrosive
Patriot Believer says
On #7, do not place your ammo under vacuum. Only draw the air out. I use a food saver and only operate the vacuum until the air is evacuated.
Over time, that vacuum will draw air out of the rounds. When opened, the ammo will slowly draw air back into the cartridge to equalize. This is fine if that air is dry but if you’re in a damp environment or have solvents present, it’s not good.
Load it dry, keep it dry and cool and do not place under vacuum. I even put dessicant in my powder containers and my powder measure hopper during loading.