Citizens! Store Your Ammo Properly

Citizens! Store Your Ammo Properly

Most of us store ammo, for any number of reasons. Buying ammunition in bulk is cheaper, of course. Fears of bans or restrictions are ever-present in the Second Amendment community. Some of us want to get off-grid or ensure our long-term survivability in the event something goes horribly wrong. So whether you’re pinching pennies or dealing with the uncertain times in which we live, you’ve got a stack of ammunition and you’d like to store it with both safety and viability in mind.

So how to best go about that, particularly in an average home?

As with so much else, recommendations and suggestions abound online. Evaluating which ones are factual and applying them to your unique situation is a bit more difficult, however. So in researching this article, I turned to a source that rarely lets me down: the bounteous field manuals of the United States Army. In particular, Department of the Army Pamphlet 385-64: Ammunition and Explosives Safety Standards has a lot of good tips and guidelines that are easily applied to the civilian shooter. With the caveat that I’m neither a physicist nor a munitions expert (trust-yet-verify, people), I’ll do my best to condense the key points into this article as well as throwing in some outside ideas that might work better for civilians.

Moisture is to be avoided at all costs.

385-64 is adamant about this. All containers are to be clean, dry, and water resistant. Storage facilities are to be dry—and if dry facilities aren’t available, you’d better find or make some fast, solider. Design your personal ammo dump with that it mind, as it supersedes all other concerns.

Temperature is a factor.

But not in the way you might think. I can’t find any rules on low temperatures and ammo storage. While cold might affect performance in the immediate sense (frozen things don’t often burn well) it doesn’t seem to have a long-term impact in and of itself. Hight temperatures are extremely detrimental; even leaving a box of 9mm in your car on a hot afternoon causes loss of performance. 385-64 suggest that temperatures inside the storage site will be above 100F/37.8C for more than 24 hours, steps be taken to cool things down. These include increased ventilation and air flow or even wetting down the outside of the building.

Keep things organized.

Aspiring to the Army ideal of precision and organization, 385-64 councils that ammo stores be well-ordered and well-tended. While their specifics may not apply to us civilians, I think the principles behind them do. Keep your ammo organized into groups or containers of the same caliber/cartridge/etc. Keep them clearly labeled. Track conditions carefully– a cheap humidity sensor and thermometer go a long way. Inspect your stores regularly. You’ve made an investment, now take care of it.

First in, First Out.

Cycle through your ammo by using up the oldest or most at-risk stocks first and then moving on to newer or more stable stuff. This ensures that you’re rotating your supply appropriately and (hopefully) keeps you out on the range training and practicing. Stacking ammo and ignoring it does no good. Keep both your ammunition and your skills sharp and fresh.

These are again general guidelines, and the specifics used to accomplish them will vary depending on circumstances. If you’ve got ideas that have worked for you, share them in the comments section—you could help out a lot of folks. And as always, I welcome feedback, so feel free to send an email!


  • True story. I have a rifle that I’ve had for over thirty years and hadn’t shot it in seventeen years when I took it to the range with seventeen year old handloads. First shot hit the 10x at 100 yards. I love that rifle.

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  • Mikial

    Store your ammo in good quality and good condition cans that seal. Keep it out of humid or wet locations, use desiccant packs in the cans, and rotate it. Pretty simple, really.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    Shot some 35+ year old 22LR Remington my brother owned. Out of a couple hundred rounds, there were like two duds. It was like $7.25 for a brick of 500!

  • bjensen

    Barring any manufacturing defects ammo isn’t effected by moisture as much as it used to be and that includes hand-loads. Not saying one should store ammo in a bucket of water or even a really damp basement, but it isn’t the concern it once was.

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  • TexasJester

    I have an FFL gunsmith friend who uses camphor to keep things dry. It’s easily found on the internet. He takes some and puts it in a small jar with holes punched in the metal lid.

    He puts a small container in anything that has metal stuff stored – guns, tools, ammo, etc. He has no issues with rust!

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