Since the election of President Obama and the financial economic collapse of 2008, the ammunition stockpiles held by the average American have spiked. You have likely personally experienced the increased cost and scarcity when it comes to certain calibers – scarcity which has carried forward until today.
If you are the owner of such a stockpile and you haven’t properly cared for your ammunition, though, then you’re in for a rude awakening should the time come to use it.
You see, lots of that stockpiled ammo – the stuff acquired at the peak of the 2008 crisis – is now 18 to 24 months old. If it hasn’t been properly stored & cared for, then that stockpile could unfortunately fail you when you need it the most. And that’s important, because without good ammo, your firearm might as well be a paperweight. If it doesn’t go bang when you pull the trigger, it is just a waste of time, money, and false hope for you and your family.
You see, ammo even more so than firearms is a lot like insurance – you expect it to be there in case of an emergency, but there are times when the fine print can come back to haunt you. So let’s talk about that fine print because if ammunition is a lot like insurance, then ammo storage is your insurance policy’s fine print. You need to read it and be aware of it.
That’s why there are three key principles you should know for keeping your ammunition stockpile – aka your insurance policy – in proper working order:
Keep it Dry: Moisture is your ammo’s enemy. Whether you live in a high dry desert or a humid coastal area, consider the moisture in the air. Simply put, ammo needs to be kept as dry as possible. There are three ways to accomplish this:
a. Use Ammo Cans: If you store your ammo in an HVAC, air-conditioned home and shoot it within 12 months, you honestly don’t need to use an ammo can. However, if you plan to store your ammo for more than 12 months then for Heaven’s sake please store it in a new or used ammo can with a rubber seal. The military learned this a long time ago, which is why they started making the things!
b. Use “Moisture Packs”: Whether you end up keeping your ammo in an ammo can, in plastic Ziploc bags in your crawlspace – not recommended since it’s hard to get to quickly – or tucked away in your gun safe, consider tossing one or two of the handy moisture absorbing packs (also called desiccant or silica-gel packs) into the container. Don’t be stingy. These $0.25-$0.50 packs can protect hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of ammo.
c. Location, Location, Location: Don’t store your ammo in a laundry room, beside a shower, or in your custom steam room – seriously. Also try to keep it off the ground. Haven’t you heard the term “high and dry?”
Keep it Cool: High temperatures and wild temperature swings are also enemies of your ammo. While most commercially made ammunition is *very* hardy and has a wide range of temperature tolerances, why test your luck? Three key scenarios to avoid:
d. Excessive, Prolonged Heat: Don’t leave your ammo directly exposed to sunlight or other heat sources (like on a car dashboard, near a space heater, or in your microwave – bad idea). This can have negative (and even dangerous) effects on the chemical properties of the powder in each cartridge (and therefore the chamber pressure). I don’t know of a “magic” temperature for storage, but I wouldn’t store my ammo in an environment above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (and would aim for something much, much lower).
e. Wild Temperature Swings: Similar to the effects of prolonged and excessive heat, wild temperature swings (even within an otherwise acceptable temperature range) can mess with your powder’s stability. This is especially applicable to your carry ammo. Think of it this way: If you keep the same ammo in your firearm and spare magazine for 12 months, how many wild swings in temperature are you exposing it to?
f. Excessive, Prolonged Cold: As tempting as it may be to store your ammunition out back in your storage shed during a long, cold Minnesota winter, don’t do it. Doing so could also inhibit some ignition characteristics in the powder or primers…and no one likes “squibs”, especially in a time of emergency.
Keep it Fresh: Think of your ammo stockpile more like a 2010 Corvette, not the old beater you drove back in high school. You don’t want to push the limits to see how bad you can treat it and still have it perform flawlessly. On the contrary, you want to do the following:
g. Label It Well: Go ahead and splurge on a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie to label each ammo can with both the description of the contents and the date you bought/sealed it. This does two things: 1. Prevents you from needing to open it every 30 days to figure out what is inside, which is important because every time you re-open the sealed can it restarts the moisture clock, so to speak (and if/when you do reopen it, toss in another moisture absorber packet). 2. It makes the next suggestion super easy to follow!
h. Practice FIFO (First In, First Out): Treat your ammo like most publicly-traded companies treat their inventory. Shooting your oldest ammo first is a guaranteed way to make sure your remaining rounds are the freshest.
All in all, the devil really is in the details when it comes to both insurance and ammo storage. You need to know the limitations around both beforehand.
That’s why if you follow the suggestions above, you’ll have a reliable, trustworthy supply of the rounds you need when you need them the most. If you haven’t and you’ve got an old ammunition stockpile that you think might be suspect, it’s best to go out and burn through those rounds at your favorite range. You’ll likely find out that the stockpile you thought you could rely on when disaster strikes was really as reliable as that old jalopy you used to knock over trash cans with, not the Corvette you thought you had sitting in the garage!
From the Editor:
Thanks to Brian at Luckygunner.com for writing this article. Please visit http://www.luckygunner.com for ammo.