Storing and Accounting for Your Ammunition



Battery_Rodgers_magazineMany people are storing large quantities of ammunition for various purposes. Some shoot a lot like I do and stock up when they find a good deal. Others store large quantities for long-term purposes. There are some things to consider when storing large quantities of ammunition.

Storing quantities of ammunition isn’t rocket science, but there are some things you need to consider when doing so. One of the first things you might want to do, if you are planning on storing large quantities in your home or apartment, is to check your local ordinances to see if there are any requirements involved. Being prepared to the max for SHTF does you no good if you are sharing a jail cell with Bubba. The biggest perceived safety issue with large quantities of ammunition would be fire. The reality is that SAAMI has done extensive tests on burning ammunition and it doesn’t “explode” but instead replicates pop corn. That doesn’t mean it is entirely safe to be around when burning, but it does mean that it doesn’t replicate a Vietnam firefight.

Now that the legalities are out-of-the-way, there are certain basic things to remember when storing your ammunition. You want to keep it in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. You also want to keep it away from direct heat sources and open flame. There are some characteristics about modern small arms ammunition that you need to be aware of.

Modern ammunition is loaded with smokeless powder, which was invented by the French for their 1886 Lebel rifle. This development actually set off an arms race just as important back then as anything today. Smokeless powder is not an explosive. It is a propellant. It does not explode. It burns. Very fast. Black powder on the other hand is an explosive and can be made to explode.

Humidity, heat, oil and solvents are the enemy of ammunition. Long exposure to excessive heat, such as direct sunlight, can have an adverse effect on the chemicals in both the propellant and the primer. Moisture, solvents and oil can degrade the powder by entering the case mouth and the primer through the primer pocket. Military ammunition is usually coated with some sort of sealant around the case mouth and primer, but commercial ammunition often isn’t. Any cartridges you handle need to be wiped with a clean dry cloth. Never put oil on ammunition!


You are generally better off leaving your ammunition in the original cartons unless it is necessary to remove it. There are a number of storage containers that are useful. The G.I. ammo can in .30 cal, .50cal and 20mm sizes makes excellent choices. After all, that is what the military uses. If used however, you need to

G. I. Ammo Can

G. I. Ammo Can

inspect them carefully to insure they are rust free and that the rubber seals on the lid are good. If they are slightly dry, a light coat of Vaseline will usually bring them back in order. You can also order these brand new.

MTM makes an excellent and very popular ammo storage can. These are

MTM ammo can

MTM ammo can

lighter than the military cans and are also waterproof. They are also a very good deal price wise.

Storing your ammunition in waterproof cans is only part of the equation. You need to deal with the moisture in the air in the can. Placing a desiccant pack in each can will keep moisture off of the ammunition. You can buy them new, or you can get them from furniture stores who throw them away from unpacked merchandise. However, if you get used ones, remember that they already have moisture in them and need to be dried in the oven.

Keep in mind that if you have to bug out, you probably will have to leave a lot of your ammo behind. Have your bug out load separated and ready to grab.

Ammunition that is properly stored and cared for will last decades. When I was a kid I was shooting German WW2 7.92 Mauser in my 98K that was 30-35 years old without a misfire. It had been properly stored.


If you are storing large quantities of ammunition for defensive purposes, and you are training as regularly as you should for proficiency, then you need to rotate your ammo by shooting the older first and replenishing it with fresh purchase. Your individual situation will determine how you do this, but I will describe my system as an example. First, my firearms are divided into two groups. My military collectibles for which I will usually keep 100 rounds of each caliber on hand for those days when I just feel like grabbing one and going to the range. Then there are those guns that are my survival battery for which I have a basic load for each firearm. I use two AK’s as my primary defense rifles, one in 7.62×39 and one in 5.45×39. Each rifle has its basic load already loaded in magazines and this is the first ammo I shoot for training. Each caliber has additional ammo stored in dated cans. I have enough stripper clips loaded so that I can reload all my magazine when depleted, and the rest of the ammo is in the original cartons. I shoot the magazines first, then reload them from the stripper clips, then reload the stripper clips from the boxed ammo, always going from oldest to newest based on purchase date. I keep track of quantities on an Excel spreadsheet. It is listed by quantity, manufacturer , bullet type, and whether it is corrosive or not. I update the list when I shoot or when I purchase.

Keeping your ammunition supply safe, clean and organized should be a critical part of your overall emergency preparation plans.

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7 thoughts on “Storing and Accounting for Your Ammunition

  1. Pingback: Storing and accounting for your ammo | SHTF Prepper

  2. Acquired some excess ammo, that had all of them with Primer strikes with no firing, the story I got was a not named Police agency (for obvious reasons) had their Officers spray their weapons with WD-40. There was mostly 9mm, some .40, and some .45.Broke them all down and saved the bullets and cases for future reloading. Every single one I had there was a primer strike with no detonation, hope no officers lost their lives because of this. Even the Powder which I used for fertilizer on my yard was contaminated.


  3. On a hot day, storing ammo (7.62 x 51) in the back of a landy (temp 60 degrees Celsius), the difference in shot fall at 900 yards was 18 inches down. You would have thought that by the evening the shot fall would have returned to normal. It didn’t. The ammo had been well and truly cooked.

    Yet, a winters shoot same Landy minus 20 Celsius, 30 with wind chill?
    9 inches lower and the elevation came back when keeping the rounds in our pockets.

    Then on whistle blow someone put 3 boxes of warm ammo back in the tin.
    Next morning we found condensate in the tin.
    First shots erratic. Everything else went into the foot well with the heater fan on full blast to dry it out BUT NOT TO COOK IT.
    Afternoon shoot, normal service resumed.

    Conclusions? Heat Bad, Cold OK, Humidity is a bitch.
    As for oil?
    Some nutter thought spraying his ammo with WD40 was the cure all.
    Enough to say that BOTH barn doors were damage free at the end of his day.


  4. Pingback: Storing and Accounting for Your Ammunition | Azweaponcraftprepper

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