It could be tempting to store ammunition in bulk, especially if you got them at an affordable deal. But what makes you certain that it will remain in good shape after a couple of years? This begs the question – how long does ammunition last? For how long can you store ammo at home?
Not knowing how ammo shelf life works can cost new gun owners a fortune. This article aims to educate readers on their longevity and the best practices in storing ammunition.
Table of Contents
How Long Will Your Ammo Last?
Ammo can have a minimum of 10 years and may last indefinitely, but several factors affect its overall shelf life. These include the ammunition storage conditions and the manufacturing practices present.
Quality ammunition that is stored correctly in your gun cabinet may work even after a hundred years. Indeed, you have heard of gun owner stories talking about how flawless it is to fire World War era ammo despite its age.
Our advice is, treat your ammunition like wine. A bad wine will always be bad, but good wine, when stored properly, will still taste delectable no matter how long. The same applies to your ammunition.
Does Various Ammo Have Different Shelf Lives?
Modern ammunition is designed to have a considerably longer shelf life. This can be attributed to the propellant used in modern ammunition, a smokeless powder that can last for an indefinite length of time, as opposed to black powder in old bullets.
Proper sealing of bullets against moisture and corrosion observed in modern ammunition also plays a significant role in their better storage potential.
Contrary to popular belief, non-corrosive ammunition has a shorter shelf life than its corrosive counterparts. Speculations are suggesting that newer ammunition with lead-free primer type has an expiration date of 25 years. However, no studies have proven such claims to be valid.
Full Metal Jackets
Full metal jackets and brass-lined ammunition are both highly resistant to lead degradation. The copper or brass metal cartridges enclosing the soft lead core offer an added layer of protection against humidity.
However, the same cannot be said of their self-defense counterpart, the jacketed hollow points. The concave lead core is exposed and can be susceptible to high humidity and drastic temperature changes.
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Steel Case Ammo
On the other hand, steel case ammunition is more prone to corrosion than its contemporaries like brass, for instance. The former, although cheaper, is less malleable, thereby creating a more flawed seal against atmospheric fumes, which may pose problems for the entry of moisture and corrosion.
On top of this, firing with steel case rounds may affect your machine guns in the long run as residues can remain along the barrel.
Concealed Carry Ammo
Storing ammunition in a designated area will protect your ammo better from degradation than keeping them loaded in your concealed carry firearm. Regular exposure to the elements, excess lubrication, and the indentations of the feed ramp will undoubtedly affect their integrity.
The best practice is to rotate the round in your firearm every once in a while. This is the only way to prevent stagnancy and counteract degradation.
What Makes It Go Bad?
The longevity of ammunition is minimized when they begin to corrode. The chemical reaction occurring between metal and moisture leads to rust that makes ammunition unusable.
This degradation is amplified when the ammo is exposed to extreme heat. A natural disaster like a typhoon can also accelerate the degradation when the rounds get soaked in water.
Corrosive ammunition is rendered moot and may no longer serve its purpose for personal defense or sport.
Nonetheless, if you are faced with such a dilemma, you may always ask your local police department if they wish to relieve you of your unusable ammo.
You may also contact the hazardous waste managers in your locality for proper disposal.
Tips On How To Extend Shelf Life
The basic rule to make your ammunition last is to store them in a cool, dark, and dry place, but there is more to this than meets the eye.
Here are other practices to keep your ammunition in peak conditions:
- Do not expose your ammunition to the atmosphere when not in use.
- Refrain from placing oils or solvents near your rounds to prevent cartridge penetration.
- Vacuum seal your ammunition.
- Avoid jostling your storage box often.
- Use a silica gel to absorb excess moisture.
- Rotate the rounds loaded within your firearms from time to time.
Yes. 25-year old ammo may still be useful if kept properly. However, the propellant and the primer will eventually degrade, but you can sustain their shelf lives through proper storage.
Ammunition does not necessarily expire with age, but the potency of the propellant may diminish over time. This can cause your ammo to get stuck in the barrel if you shoot your gun with it. Keeping ammo safe from moisture and degradation will help maintain their viability for shooting.
The shelf life of your ammunition is mainly dependent on its state of safekeeping. On average, ammunition can last for at least ten years. However, your gun may still be able to shoot with the same ammo even beyond the decade, provided that they are stored under ideal conditions.
Corroded and unused ammunition can be recycled, but the process is not extensively available. Unused slugs that no longer fire in the range can be disassembled through proprietary technology. The powder will serve as fertilizer, and the cartridges may be refilled with new components.
Recycling shells empty of its bullet is a commonly conducted practice to remanufacture new sets of ammunition. 
Yes, old ammunition is still worth the money. A Bullet is fine as long as it can be shot in the range and not pose any problems to the barrel of your rifle. However, there is better value in investing in a newer and tightly sealed ammo box. You can be confident that shooting it will not cause any harm or worry.
So, How Long Does Ammo Last?
To answer the question “how long does ammo last?” ammunition may potentially last from 10 to 25 years and may even surpass that point, as observed from fully-functioning hundred-year-old bullets from ages past.
The length of time that your ammunition remains viable is significantly affected by your storage practice. Improperly stored ammo will result in degradation and shorter shelf life. When ammunition is handled correctly, vacuum sealed, and kept in a cool and dry place, your ammo’s shelf life can be prolonged.
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