How Often Do You Replace Your Carry Rounds?

How Often Do You Replace Your Carry Rounds

How Often Do You Replace Your Carry RoundsHow often do you replace the rounds in your CCW? A lot of people probably say, “Only after I need to shoot them.”

The problem is, a lot of people probably do not shoot their carry rounds often enough.

Ammo carried in your CCW is not the same as ammo stored in boxes in your house. The critical components are the primers and the powder. With proper storage, they last for years.

“Primer shelf life is highly dependent on storage conditions. When stored within SAAMI guidelines, primer shelf life is indefinite. Heat and moisture are the most detrimental factors in primer deterioration,” says Jared Hinton, a spokesman for Federal Premium Ammunition.

Packing a CCW every day through extremes of heat and cold, humid and dry weather are not ideal conditions. It can and it will affect ammunition performance.

Here is a brief rundown of the things that happen to your CCW and the ammo you carry.

The Problems with Ammo in Your CCW

How Sweat Affects Your Carry Ammo

Items held close to your body, especially in hot weather, are going come into contact with the sweat from your body. If you carry in a holster, you can easily see how your body affects your CCW. After a really hot day, take it out the holster and give a deep sniff. You are smelling the body oils and sweat that soaked into the holster. The same is getting into your carry rounds. My holster is well-stained from years of carry.

How Water Affects Your Carry Ammo

If you get caught in the rain, the ammo can get wet. If you ankle-carry, splashed water that soaks your pants also gets into the gun.

For those of us who CCW while hunting and fishing, fall into the water one time and that’s enough to ruin the ammo in your gun.

Smokeless powder and primers that get moisture into them are not reliable.

How Heat Affects Your Carry Ammo

If you pack, you also know there are some places where you are not allowed to take your carry piece. If you have to leave your carry piece in your vehicle, it is going to get hot. Heat Kills has an article showing how hot it can get inside a vehicle. The article is aimed at pet owners, but high heat is still a problem for primers and powder.

Mr. Hinton agreed, “Yes. Vehicle interiors can reach temperatures that may potentially cause damage to primers. Carry ammo should be discharged and replaced on a regular basis if exposed to excessive heat and/or moisture heavy conditions.”

Tournament shooters can testify to this as well. Joseph von Benedikt describes a problem he had with temperature variations as extreme as those in a hot car.


If you are looking for solutions to these problems you have two.


Some people put a primer sealant on the primers and the bullet. The sealant is only as good as your application and the sealant. Done right, the sealant should protect your ammo from water.

Does it hold up under sweat?

“Our skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface, referred to as the acid mantle. This acid mantle is made up of sebum (free fatty acids) excreted from the skin’s sebaceous glands, which mixes with lactic and amino acids from sweat to create the skin’s pH, which ideally should be slightly acidic – at about 5.5,” says a skin care article.

A pH level of 7 is considered neutral. So how bad is 5.5? Don’t wipe down your guns after handling them and you will see.

“It is generally agreed upon that any food or beverage at a pH of 5.5 or lower has the potential to promote enamel erosion in people whose teeth are highly susceptible to decay,” said Dr. Martha Rich.

How well a sealant holds up under long term heat, like being in your car, is another matter. The sealant won’t protect the primer and powder from the heat in any case.

Ask this question. Your carry ammo has gone through heat, cold, sweat, water and bounced around by being on your person for many days. Are you willing to trust your life to a primer sealant?

Shoot It

If you go to a range and shoot your carry rounds you accomplish two things.

1. You must now replace the spent ammo. Fresh ammunition, stored properly, does not suffer from the potential misfires and non-fires. You can carry in confidence.

2. You get in range time and practice.

“Any time ammo is exposed to excessive heat, or wet conditions, the ammo should be replaced,” Mr. Hinton said.

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Ben Baker is a newspaper publisher and syndicated columnist in South Georgia. His favorite guns are his .45-70 Marlin, .50 BMG State Arms and the Stevens double-barrel 16 gauge that belonged to his dad. His CCW is a .38 snubbie.
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A different round in the chamber every week. After that it goes to the bottom of the backup magazine. After all rounds in both mags have cycled through the chamber they get shot and new ones loaded in.


I shoot my carry ammo every time I go to the range.

Frank Tucker

I got to the range at least twice a month and at $25.00 a box for 20 rounds this is very expensive to replace at the rate you recommend. What I do for training is to use the same bullet weight for my practice ammo as my carry ammo.


My carry ammo is Speer Gold Dot LE 9mm. I get it online for .50/round. And I only shoot what’s in the mags. I practice with Speer Lawman in the same weight.

Frank Tucker

I live in Arizona where the temperature in the summer averages over 100 degrees for months. It is not possible (financially) to replace my ammo after every exposure to heat. After many years of experience with ammunition and weather in AZ I replace my ammo with new about twice a year, Once at the beginning of the hot season and again after the temperatures drop below 100 degrees. As most people know we only have two seasons here in AZ. Hot and not. I have not once had a misfire from my carry ammo when shooting it up to replace with new. I cannot guarantee that you will experience the same level of reliability but that is my experience using Federal defensive hollowpoints for over 15 years.

Fred Miller

I wipe my gun, mags and ammo constantly. I do fire my carry ammo off every couple of months. It’s only two mags, so it’s not a big deal


In Fl it is not uncommon for the trunk of your car to get to 140 degrees f if parked in the sun. Our company moved last year to a new building where there is no shade to park in, and of course guns are not allowed in the building (big liberal area). I now put my two carry mags in my lunch box and leave the gun in a lock box. Just as an experiment I took my 6 month carry ammo and stuck it in the trunk and left it there for another 6 months. I shot up the ammo at my last qualification (HR218). All the ammo functioned and groups were normal. I would like too see some more scientific testing of long term vehicle storage but it may not be as bad as we think. In the meantime I will still keep taking the mags indoors if the car has to left in the sun.

Gerald Jackson

I have 5 magazines for my carry pistols and sealed container filled with ammo and moisture absorbent packets. I rotate magazines and ammo every Sunday after church.

Fred Miller

I’m never bored long as I’m shootin’ for the Lord?


I still have some Argentine “semi-blindado” 9mm rounds that are close to 40 years old and that I include once in a while in a range session. It still functions perfectly. I should note that it has a red lacquer coating over the primer that was probably applied at the factory. I also have some .38 +P from FBI range sessions in the ’70s that still work just fine. If rounds are in a steel magazine in a pistol’s mag well or in a revolver’s cylinder in a holster, I don’t see how sweat can get onto them. Of course, if you go swimming with your firearm, all bets are off.

Jim Lagnese

I remember a girlfriend’s father had a P-38 from WWII and I shot it in 1981. With 40 year old ammo, it shot like a champ. Couldn’t believe how accurate it was.


Got a .22 tube-fed rifle from my wife’s grandpa decades ago. It is probably 60-70 years old. The box of shells was old as well (likely 1940s-1950s vintage). Anyway, it shot fine.


I “shoot what I carry” on a regular basis (monthly if not weekly) and I make sure to rotate magazines too. Bonded, jacketed hollow points with lacquered primers from the manufacturer.