“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Long Term Ammunition Storage

 I can't really remember a time when there wasn't concern about the government suddenly banning possession of small arms by civilians.  I didn't much care until 1986, because I wasn't a civilian between 1971 and 1986 and didn't pay much attention to the issue.

George Bush the First was no real friend of gun owners. He had a real dislike of the NRA, mainly because the NRA was no fan of the BATF, and George I considered the federal agencies like BATF and the FBI as his private police force.

Willaim the Bastard certainly was no friend of gun owners, and George Bush II , while a conservative, was all in favor of legalizing illegal immigrants and in some cases limiting the right to bear arms. We all know about Imperator Barrack Hussein, despite his promises to the contrary he's done all he could to grab the guns.

But picking them up is going to be problematic.  Unlike the unfortunate citizens of countries which allowed gun registration, and consequently had no chance when confiscation came, Americans won't automatically troop down to do the governments bidding. Vast numbers of arms would go underground in the event of an unconstitutional ban, and enthusiasm for enforcing it among the rank and file of law enforcement would be low.  Only the Federal Sicherheitsdienst  would put any real effort in going after gun owners per se.


What do to, then?  If you can't get the guns, how about ammo sources?  That's an easy way to put gun owners out of business, so it's reasonable to expect the Oligarchy to try that.



There's also the fact that in the event of a major disaster or civil disorder, the first thing the government does is ban the sale of firearms, ammunition, and liquor.  I can see the logic behind it if you live in Cloud Coo Coo Land.  You don't want rioters to get all fired up on popskull, and arm themselves. The problem is, banning the sale of anything during riots is pointless. Think back to the newscasts of Ferguson or New Orleans, or any other breakdown situation. Can you see those people stopping at the gun store door and saying "oh, damn. We can't loot this place because of the ban."

Finally, in the long term aftermath of a major breakdown, it's a  "come as you are" survival situation. If you don't have it stored, you aren't apt to have it at all.  Remember the protagonist in "The Road" and his little revolver with two rounds left? I still cringe when I think of him running away and leaving the young woman and her son to be eaten by the cannibals, but with 2 rounds and twenty cannibals, what were his options?




So, you could try to trade for ammo, which seems to me a pretty iffy proposition, particularly in the complete breakdown scenario.

If you can't trade for it, you can perhaps make it. I reload, and keep large quantities of components on hand. I know a good many people who come by here with the same intent. They will be able to produce their own ammunition in quantity , regardless of which of the above scenarios transpires.

In my mind, a combination of three options is best. I keep barter items ,  I can reload my own ammo, and I store ammunition.

Long term storage used to mean buying ammo by the case, and keeping it in a climate controlled environment. Of course, you have no way of knowing how it was stored before you got it. I bought several cases of Turkish 8mm Mauser ammo, headstamped in the late 30's to the mid 40's period. I am pretty sure it was sitting in a warehouse somewhere from the time it was made until I bought it in the late 1980's.  It came in the wooden crate, in spam cans, in bandoleers with stripper clips.


This was what most "survivalists" did.  Some of them bought ammunition, and stored it in PVC tubes sealed at both ends, with desiccant packs in the tube.  Since I had my own purpose built retreat by 1986, I stored the crates in a portion of my shop or the main house, where I could keep it dry and cool the year round. Most of those cases of ammo are still there, either on dunnage or stacked in purpose built racks.



For many , many years, and possibly to this day, the best internet information I ever found on long term ammo storage was written by an Army ammunition tech.  His spelling and grammar were not top flight, but he knew what he was talking about.  As far as I know, no one can say who this guy actually was, since he went by "Bird Dog."  Here's his article : (from a post a couple of years back). I cleaned up the spelling and grammar but it's his information.

There has been much debate on what is the best way for long term storage of ammo, and while I can’t say it’s wrong to place your ammo in a bucket and suck out all the air and replace it with nitrogen I can say it is a waste of valuable resources.
O.K. if you plan being cryogenically frozen for hundreds of years then maybe. The rest of us just need to know what is the best way to properly store ammo so that it doesn’t degrade over a period of time and that it functions as designed when put into use.
 Now. I need to give you some background on how and for what condition ammo is built. Military cartridges are designed so that they can withstand storage temperatures from minus 65 degrees F. to 122 F.   So as long as you don’t keep them in an oven you’re fine. They’re  made for soldiers to use in battlefield conditions under the most horrible conditions conceivable and still function.
The manufactures (OLIN, Winchester, Remington Etc.) know this and they also know they will lose a big fat Govt contract if they don’t pass this criteria. Here is one for you, the same folks that make 5.56mm make the exact same cartridge and call it a .223 ,change the label and sell it civilian.  (Just a note: there are actually some differences, primarily in terms of pressure. Most people don’t know or care about these.)
Same with 308 (7.62 NATO). (Same note above applies)

 So now you know that there is hardly any difference between civilian and military ammunition manufacturing. Let’s get down to storage.

Shelf life refers to how long an item can remain in storage and still be functional. Well, all military small arms have an indefinite shelf life. This means as long as it is properly stored it will never go bad. (I’ve fired military surplus from the 1930’s with no trouble. I have read of people firing ammo from the Spanish American War, with no ill effects.)
Service life refers to how long a item can remain in a operating configuration and still be functional. Small arms ammo should be good from anywhere from 6 months to 18 months before you need inspect it. If the ammo has some corrosion on it take some copper wool or steel wool and take it off then it’s good to go unless it is to the stage of pitting, then get rid of it.



Now, most ammo comes in a wooden outer container with metal inner packs that holds the ammo. We store it on at least two inches of dunnage to keep off the floor. It is inspected every five years and then only ten percent is checked for defects and then thrown back into storage for another 5 yrs. (if nothing is wrong). So now what can you do as a civilian to store your ammo?
Your number one enemy is moisture, as long as you have a waterproof container you are fine. I use empty 20mm ammunition containers that you can get from any surplus store although PVC pipe will do. Try and keep the cartridges in the original packing and try and keep away from metal to metal contact.
To ensure that the ammo has no moisture I throw in a couple of dehumidifier packages. This is strictly optional as we don’t even do that in the military. Whether it’s military ammo you got at a gun show or 22 shells from K-mart it’s all the same. Before you store it make sure its clean, dry( and wiped off if you touched it) and that’s it! Wow, almost too simple!

 You don’t need to vacuum seal it, and you don’t need to store it at any particular temperature just keep it dry and out of the elements and leave it alone. I have been working with munitions for over 11 years, and this how the Army have trained me. I hope this sheds some understanding on storage.


So, that's what Bird Dog had to say, and it sounds good to me.  There have been articles on long term storage in various gun magazines, over the years, and none of them have said anything much different.


However, the latest edition of American Survival Guide has an article on long term storage, and it had some new information. I did not know, for instance, that some of the powder companies are now developing powder specifically for long term storage purposes. You can use it to load your favorite chamberings and it's designed for long shelf life.

The magazine also has some notes on what specifically can make ammo go bad, which I found interesting. I don't intend to have my ammo at 125 degrees F, but then as they pointed out, it can get that hot inside your truck on a summer day.....

*Note the pictures from AIM are reprinted by permission. I buy a lot of stuff from them and they let me use their pictures, but it's not a quid pro quo.



22 comments:

  1. Places like yours will progbably be hit bya small army of agents. Therefore, anything not off-premises will be gone. Be sure you spread it out (but don't tell us about it).

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    1. Georges, if they take my personal property they'll have to settle my hash to do it so I won't be needing anything. I know enough about myself to be pretty sure of that.

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  2. This is informative. I know nothing about long term ammunition storage.

    CVS has a good deal on those DAK hams this week. Two for $5.

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    1. Lisa, I don't know much about your family's situation in that respect but as a general rule a few extra boxes of ammunition is a good idea.

      Thanks for letting me know about the DAK hams at CVS. I will certainly go check on that as that product is an important component of my food storage.

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  3. I have had good luck with the plastic ammo boxes from Cabelas. But hey are not cheap. I try to grab a few when they com up on sale. Home Depot 5 gallon buckets with the lid can be had for about 5 $ so for bulk storage be it ammo or other goods I would think that's a reasonable price. Still licking my wounds from the truck transmission repairs and not ready to jump on it just yet, but with my eye on a Mini-30 I was doing some ciphering today on 7.62x39 ammo. Around here best I have seen so far is about 27 cents a round. I was doing the math on cooking up my own and the figure was not much better. With the 30-30 I can cast my own and and that price is cut in half.

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    1. Michael, it's still a good investment on the ammo boxes. That article from American Survival Guide went into some detail about the different commercial ammo boxes and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

      I have heard good things about the mini thirty. Some say it is particular about ammo but I can't say from personal experience. I own a Mini-14 and I certainly like that.

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  4. May I link your article through my blog. I'd like for it to go under the getting started tab. Thanks.

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    1. Sure, K. I'd be honored. You don't have to ask.

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  5. I realize this is strictly anecdotal, but I have a couple boxes of 38 S&W that came with the pistol I inherited from my grandfather that were manufactured in the 60s. No special consideration taken to storage conditions, just been rattling around in the box in my nightstand for at least twenty years, and when i fired off a dozen rounds two summers ago just to see if it was still good, all twelve fired. Hopin' it lasts another fifty years, as .38 S&W is getting a little tough to find at the local gun stores.

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    1. Jon, I frequently see letters in Guns and Ammo where people have had very similar experiences. Yours supports the belief that ammo will last a very long time if not exposed to outrageous conditions.


      I think you can get the ammo you need from J&G Sales in Arizona.

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  6. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    Back in the 70's, my father was an archeologist and he worked on a dig in New Mexico and found several rounds of 45-70 that had been buried from the 19th century. My father took the ammo to a museum and they thought the ammo was
    a neat find and kept the ammo. Somewhere along the way someone got the idea to contact the U.S. Army to see if the ammo was still active, and well the Army representative came out and well, was very concerned to say the least.

    No one thought the 100 year old .45-70 ammo, that had been buried in sand in the desert would still be hot.

    I would have liked to set up a .45-70 rifle and test fired that ammo from a distance of course (in case the receiver blew up) just to see what would happen.

    I do know the smokeless powder used back then had a lot less power behind it and I guess it would be safe to use in modern guns. I would rather not try the ammo in any gun I own, unless it has been thoroughly tested.

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    1. It's strange we were both in Albuquerque at the same time so long ago. Wonder if we ever crossed paths?

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    2. Hey Harry,

      (captaincrunch)


      I was a kid in the 1970's. You were a college student in Albuqurque. I'm sure we have been within 20 miles of each other at some point.

      Its ironic too that we both served on the same ship, albeit five years apart I think and now I hang out on your blog.

      Things like this happen in the universe. There is no ryme or reason.
      It just happens.

      Hey Harry. I went target shooting at a large ranch in South Texas yesterday.
      I got some stories for you next time I leave a comment.

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    3. I'll be interested in hearing how it went at the range.

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  7. Wow, Harry, you've really done your homework. Very informative post. Great resource.

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    1. I've been doing this a long time, Leigh. Some things I know well and others I'm still trying to figure out.

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  8. We only own 1 gun. Travis has been to a shooting range to practice with it.

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    1. Tell your husband to save the brass, Alissa. He may want to reload it some day, it's a good hobby.

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  9. When bullets become money , I will be rich! Rich I say!

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  10. Informative post, but I'm glad if things ever go bad in the UK then they'll be a lot less guns in circulation! If you own one over here you're in the minority. And as much as I like your second picture I have to disagree with it! Now I just have to sit and wait for the backlash from my comment!
    As for the storage science it makes good sense, any I have is stored in the dry but no control on moisture, maybe something to look at although I don't store much.

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  11. Kev , it's OK. I don't think anyone will be ugly just because you have a different opinion. Everbody has to make their decisions and live with the results. You place your bets and roll the dice.

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