How to Store Bulk Ammunition

posted on December 7, 2020

In last month’s column, we discussed ammunition shortages, ammunition needs and the good sense that should propel each of us to not find ourselves out of ammunition. The first two basic human needs are security and sustenance, and ammunition will allow you to secure both. This means that short of a gun to shoot it in, ammunition might be the most critical of all survival tools.

Lesson Number One

Don’t Store Ammunition at Ground Level.
With the realization that you need ammunition to get you through bad times, and the acknowledgement that those bad times could potentially last a long while, some critical thinking needs to be devoted to how you should store the ammunition you need. 

Back when I was a police officer in a small West Virginia town, we stored the ammunition for our designated-marksman team on the floor of the armory. A flash flood hit—one of those 100-year floods—and the water was a foot deep in our armory for more than 24 hours. Because of that, we lost large quantities of high-end Federal ammunition.

Lesson Number Two

Store Ammunition Inside Where the Climate is Controlled.

Where I live the average annual humidity is 73 percent. I’ll sometimes store partially used boxes of ammunition in my shooting building, which has no climate control. Even though this ammunition is boxed, in as little as 30 days the brass cases will start to show signs of corrosion. This external corrosion will likely not keep the ammunition from going bang, but it can hinder the reliability of the ammunition, especially in semi-automatic firearms. The ammunition I keep inside, where the humidity never climbs higher than 70 percent, will go for years without showing any signs of external corrosion.

Lesson Number Three

Mark Every box of Ammunition with the Date of Purchase.

When you purchase ammunition in bulk and put it away for storage, it may live there for a long time. Obviously, the case and individual boxes are marked with the cartridge and bullet style, but they are also marked with the lot number. The lot number is significant to the manufacturer in that it identifies the date of manufacture and the exact components used.

Though it might be too slight for you to notice, there is always a ballistic difference between lot numbers. Since end users cannot glean any of this information from lot numbers, more important to you is the date of purchase. If you purchase two cases of the same .223 Rem. ammunition every year, 5 years from now how will you know how old each box is?

Also, you may have a particular rifle or handgun that likes a particular load. If you’re buying ammo for multiple firearms, it’s also a good idea to mark boxes with the firearm for which they’re intended.

Lesson Number Four

Finding a Great Deal on Ammo is Reason to Celebrate. 

For a long time, I had an AR-15 that I considered my primary home-defense firearm. I had it set up just the way I liked it, and it was quite reliable and accurate. Simply put, I trusted it. I had an opportunity to secure a large quantity of ammunition for it at a great price and jumped on the deal. For several years, I had those several thousand rounds of ammunition in storage.

For whatever reason—I cannot remember now—I decided to shoot some of that ammunition. With about 30 percent of it, I experienced pierced primers. This, of course, is not a good thing; the bulk of the ammo for my primary firearm was unreliable.

However, a great deal on a lot of ammo that will not work in your gun is a waste of money. Before you buy in bulk, make sure the ammo you are buying is compatible with the gun for which you are buying it.

Lesson Number Five

If You’re Buying a Serious Gun, Make a Serious Ammo Purchase With it.

During the first few months of the pandemic and civil unrest, several acquaintances of mine reached out asking if I had any ammo I would sell them. The weird thing about these requests was that they were coming from gun guys—folks who have a reasonably large and varied collection of firearms. These fellows had spent a lot of money on lots of guns. The problem was, they had not spent much money on ammunition; none of them had more than 1,000 rounds of ammo for a single firearm they owned.

Sure, it’s OK to own fun or specialty guns for which you might have a hundred rounds of ammo, but before you buy those fun or specialty guns, stock up on what you’ll need to feed your serious firearms in serious times.

To recap, you should store your ammunition somewhere that is cool and dry. You want to protect your ammunition from high heat, which can cause the propellant to break down. You want to avoid large temperature swings that can invite humidity, and always avoid storage locations where the humidity is naturally high, because humidity initiates external corrosion. Finally—and obviously—you want to keep your ammunition dry. Avoid storing ammo any place where water might reach it.

Metal ammunition cans are popular for all of these reasons. Have you ever wondered why there are stacks of metal ammo cans at gun shows? Well, they sell them by the stacks because smart folks buy them to store their ammunition. Another item popular for long-term ammo storage is silica-gel-dehumidifier desiccants. These little packets are affordable, absorb moisture and take up little room inside an ammo can.

Finally, I’m not going to try to tell you how much ammo you need, but I will tell you this: I’m not sure you can have too much, and the only way you will ever know you don’t have enough is if you run out. Remember, security and sustenance are the foundation of life, and both can be secured with ammunition and a gun to shoot it.


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