Tips for Ammunition Storage

So you bought some ammunition (or you’re planning to) and now you need to store it. What’s the best way to do that? Does it go bad? When you find a good deal on ammo, you often want to save it for a rainy day in case prices continue to increase. Nearly everyone wants to have at least some ammunition on hand for their gun. After all, what good does it do to have a gun if you don’t have ammo? That brings us to the question of ammunition storage. What is the best way to preserve our ammo?

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

loose ammunition on tabletop
Ammunition can be stored in loaded magazines, factory boxes, or as bulk “loose” ammunition.

Can ammunition go bad?

When storing your ammunition, it’s good to have an understanding of what makes the ammunition go bad. In general, it does not expire (at least not for a long, long time) if stored properly. Manufacturers put expiration dates on some of their ammunition, but this is more for legal reasons, not because the ammunition will go bad at that date.

The worst enemy for your ammunition is moisture and humidity. Today’s ammunition is durable and can withstand some abuse, but exposure over time will start to degrade your ammo causing it to be less accurate, less reliable, and in some cases completely useless. I have shot some old ammunition that fired just fine. And, I have also fired ammo that was not stored correctly and had multiple misfires in each magazine. You always want to inspect your ammo before shooting it as old ammo could damage your gun if it has not been stored properly.

Choosing an Ammunition Storage Container

When storing your ammunition, you will need to use some type of good storage container or ammo can. There are tons of options out there depending on the amount of ammo you are storing. Plastic ammo cans are the cheapest and I use some of them for short-term storage for ammunition that I will be taking to the range.

For long-term storage, however, I would recommend using metal ammo cans that have a good seal still intact. This is my personal preference because this is what makes sense to me based on what I have seen with ammunition stored in containers for years.

Plastic ammo cans have a seal in them and are durable, but they are flimsy. If you close a plastic ammo can and push on the sides, you will find they bend and the seal breaks without much effort. You can also lift the edge of the lid while they are closed, and the side of the lid will break away from the seal easily. Because of this, I prefer to stick with military-spec ammo cans that were made for long-term ammo storage. They’re easily found in gun stores and online retailers, but they do cost a little more than plastic ammo cans.

plastic ammunition storage box
Plastic ammo cans can be great options for low-budget storage, but when moved around, they will break the seal allowing moisture into the can.

What size should you get?

You will want to choose a size that will hold the ammo you need it to without becoming too heavy. There are some nice big ammunition storage cans out there but when they are filled up with ammo they can be a chore to move around. When choosing the size, you also want to consider how your ammunition will be stored inside the ammo can. The most common sizes of metal ammo cans are 30 and 50 calibers. If you do want to use the cheaper plastic cans, just make sure you do not move them around very much as this is when they will “flex” and you can have leaks in your cans.

The metal ammo can in this photo has a durable and reliable closing latch that will keep the can sealed tight while moving around.

Organization Methods

There are several ways you can store ammo inside of an ammo can.

Loose Ammo

When buying ammo in bulk, it often comes already in an ammo can ready to store. When storing loose ammo, I would recommend leaving it in the can and just adding some silica packets to it. I like to store loose ammo in bulk and just take the whole container to the range when I’m shooting.

Boxed Ammo

I would recommend leaving boxed ammo in the original box when placing it in the ammo can. This will not change the effects of storing it compared to loose ammo but will make it easier when you need to take just some ammo out of the can, but this is just a personal preference.

Loaded Mags

Some people also like to store loaded magazines inside ammo cans so they’re ready to go. Storing ammo in magazines will not hurt the springs in your magazines, but some magazines are better than others when your plan is to store them loaded for long periods of time. We will talk about magazine durability and storage more in a different article.

ammunition storage in metal ammo can
Finding the right size of ammunition storage can helps minimize wasted space when storing boxed ammo. In this photo, 1,000 rounds of 9mm boxed ammo are placed in the can with just enough room to put some silica packets in it for moisture control.

Moisture Control

Once you have your ammo can picked out and the ammo to store in it, you will want something to absorb the moisture inside the can after you close it up. You can use sawdust for this or you can purchase Silica or desiccant packets to place in your ammo can. I use 10-to-40-gram silica packets in my ammo cans and place one in the bottom and one on top before I close it. If you open your ammo can at the range, it is a good idea to replace the packet before closing the can again. If your plan is to put the ammo can away and not touch it for years, packing it in sawdust is also a really good way to store it, although I would recommend only storing boxed ammo like this.

Silica packets for moisture control.
Loose ammunition is stored in a metal ammo can with Silica or desiccant packets for moisture control.

Find the Right Storage Area

Once your ammo is packed in your choice of ammo can, you want to find the best place possible to store it. Of course, you want to keep in mind that ammunition should not be stored in areas with appliances or items that are combustible like stoves, water heaters, and dryers. Find a place that maintains even temperatures (more on the cool side) and low humidity.

Attics can be extremely hot so I would avoid this area. Basements can be good for cooler temperatures but they tend to be damp. It will depend on the type of basement you have and your ability to be able to control the moisture and humidity. If you do store ammunition in a basement, keep in mind that basements can flood so you may want to keep the ammo cans off the floor a little. Taking just a little time when storing your ammo will help it last for years, and be ready to go when you are.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.


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