Ammo Shelf Life


September 11, 2006, 06:43 PM
Two long can I keep ammo, and if there is a shelf life, is there a difference between handgun and shotgun shells?

And a bonus question, should I be worried about handling lead too often, or do the bullets or shells keep the lead contained?

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Car Knocker
September 11, 2006, 07:49 PM
In a cool ,dry location, rifle and pistol ammo will outlast you. WWII surplus ammo still is being shot today bu some people. Can't help on the shotgun ammo.

Elemental lead is not normally absorbed through the skin - wash your hands after handling and before eating, etc., and you'll be fine.

September 11, 2006, 07:49 PM
I have shot properly stored ammo from WWII without any issues. Store your ammo in a dry cool place. I use 50 cal. ammo cans and it will be good well after your are gone.

Lead, Most ammo is jacket and not an issue but don't put in your mouth. Wash up after you are done shooting and prior to eating. Most lead problems occur from indoor ranges and folks that mark their own bullets by melting lead

September 11, 2006, 07:51 PM
I have heard of people shooting blackpowder cartridges 100 years old. I have fired .30 Carbine ammo made in 1944-5. If stored properly it can last a long time. If the cartridges look OK they may be just fine.
Shotgun shells may be a different matter, as I don't think they'd be as well sealed against the environment as a rifle round or handgun round.
I don't get your question about 'what keeps the lead in.' If you're handling a round and it's a FMJ, you're not touching lead, if it's a soft nose or hollowpoint you can touch it. So what?
I load and fire repro cap'n'ball revolvers, which entails handling lead balls.
It won't hurt you....just don't eat them!:D

September 11, 2006, 08:21 PM
My wife's been known to fire off some surplus ammo in her 303 Brit. I think the headstamp indicated it was made in 03..... As in 1903. Scary thing is, about 90% of it still goes bang.

I'd never seen cordite till I pulled a couple of the dud rounds. The problem wasnt the cordite, it lit fine when I tossed a match to it. The problem seems to have been in the primer.

Semper Fi

September 12, 2006, 05:26 PM
Well shoot...I can stock up without any worries.:rolleyes:

September 12, 2006, 05:47 PM
I found an old box of .22 ammo the other day that was 26 years old(don't ask how I knew the age). I went out to shoot it up and not very much of it would fire. It could be the firing pin in the rifle but it always shoots new ammo.
Center fire ammo might age differently from rimfire.

September 12, 2006, 07:37 PM
My uncle has .22 LR ammo at least that old and it still shoots. It's been stored in the original boxes in a closet under the basement stairs.


September 12, 2006, 08:24 PM
Bravo11, was it stored in a place that's mostly cool&dry?

High moisture content can take out the priming given enough time.

Sheldon J
September 12, 2006, 09:04 PM
I cannot match the 100 year old mark but I regularly shoot .22's I bought over 35 years ago, and some of it shoots better than the new stuff I buy in bulk packs.

September 12, 2006, 09:08 PM
Years ago i shot some old old russian 22 ammo, felt like it was covered in something, maybe cosmo, gunked up the gun horribly, but it fired like it was new.

September 12, 2006, 10:32 PM
best 8mm I've shot is 1943 turkish ball. It's more consistent over the chronograph than new factory stuff. A friend got interested in cars and stopped reloading in 1964. every year or so we check the zero on his winchester mod 70 with 300 win mags loaded with Military surplus H 4831. Last week, we shot three over the chronograph and averaged about 3200 fps (165 grain bullet) with about 30 fps spread. His old .357 loads have worked 100 percent too. All of this was in plastic boxes in Military ammo cans and kept in moderate temperatures.
on the other hand, I had some black powder 44 specials loaded between 1913-16 storage conditions unknown All the primers were dead but I replaced them and the powder worked fine.

true believer
September 12, 2006, 10:35 PM

September 13, 2006, 01:37 AM
I would shoot up or rotate your carry loads every 3/4 months depending on conditions. I've heard rounds you use for duty weapons/CCW should be "factory fresh" and not worn old or dirty/dusty. Ammo may fire in these conditions but it would be a good idea to check it on a regular basis. ;)


September 13, 2006, 01:40 AM
I still use ammunation from WW1 and don't have much problems with it, apart from one or two hangfires.

Phil DeGraves
September 13, 2006, 09:28 AM
I bought some WW1 45 ACP ammo (loosies) 1918 stamped on the cases. Had about a 10% failure rate. Of course, it was corrosive primers so I had to scrub my guns afterward. I have heard from a reliable source that Lead Free primers (NT) will NOT have the same shelf life as standard primers, but since they haven't been around for forty years yet, what the shelf life is, is not known.

September 13, 2006, 09:41 AM
Shot 2 boxes of OLD .22 Shorts that were from a 1967 lot. Most went Bang!, and a few sort of went pooof. 8 ftf out of 100. Not bad for 39 year old rimfire ammo.

September 13, 2006, 10:03 AM
Shot 2 boxes of OLD .22 Shorts that were from a 1967 lot. Most went Bang!, and a few sort of went pooof. 8 ftf out of 100.
Heck, that's better than new Remington .22lr!

September 13, 2006, 10:04 AM
the ammo for my mosin is 40 year old surplus. I've fired off about 300 rounds of it, and not a problem yet.

September 13, 2006, 10:29 AM
Shotgun ammo: In the open, one year. Properly sealed, many years - Probaly 5 or 6 on the lower bound, god only knows on the upper. I know oldsters who are still lighting off shotgun shells they've had since the 70's.

Centerfire rifle or handgun ammo: In the open, approximately forever. Properly sealed with dessicant &c., approximately double forever.

September 13, 2006, 01:18 PM
Make sure you keep it dry, and most factory ammo. should last for decades on the shelf. I've personally shot hundreds of rounds of rimfire & centerfire that were at least 30 years old when i used them, and this included shotgun shells. Not one round failed to go bang. There were nothing 'special' about the storage conditions, 2/3 of that time was spent on a closet shelf at standard room temp. & humidity, and about 1/3 of the time it was in an attic that often gets to well over 100* in the summer time. I can't vouch for any brands other than remington, winchester or federal, but that was nearly all there was around to buy back in those days, and the only brands i will consider using today. YMMV.

September 13, 2006, 03:46 PM
I have fired 50+ year old surplus military ammo that went bang every time.

I shot a box of 22s a couple months ago that were 1980s vintage. Had 1 in 50 FTF. Not a whole lot different than what brand new cheap 22 promo ammo does.

September 15, 2006, 10:59 AM
Sorry for the late reply Firethorn. Yes it was stored in a cool dry place.

September 15, 2006, 01:51 PM
Well, I expect that my 3200 rounds of 7.62mm Port in cases/battlepacks will outlast me, as it's my deep storage ammo.

All the rest lives in ammo cans, and I expect it to do the same.

It all lives in a climate controlled area, too. -FNR.

September 15, 2006, 08:12 PM
Regularly shoot some 1938 mfg stuff, no problems. Some of the best 6.5 Swede I shot last year was made in 1924. I thinK that if ammo is stored in a cool dry environment the shelf life could be almost unlimited.

February 17, 2010, 11:16 AM
What is the self life of ammunition?

February 17, 2010, 09:10 PM
That will be - How long it stays on the shelf before it dies and falls off.:D

I have some that is 100+ years old and all has gone bang. I will not shoot anymore as it is now collectible. I will shoot newer stuff however.

February 17, 2010, 09:24 PM
Oldest I've ever shot, was some 1903 32 S&W short, that was 95 years old at the time.

Shot all but 5 rounds of a 50 round box (kept 5 to keep in my 1898 S&W .32 revolver), and every round fired.

February 17, 2010, 10:01 PM
Wow. Another one that goes back to 2006! And it lost a "h" in the transition.

Rock Island
February 18, 2010, 09:05 AM
French military ammo was loaded with berdan non corrosive primers it's shelf life is 40 years, but other military surplus ammo should be good for at least 100 if stored in a cool dry place preferably in air tight steel containers. I have shot some 1907 Krag 30-40 with no trouble, and thousands of rounds of British .303, and Turk 8mm from the late 1930's with no trouble either. If you open a container of very old smokeless ammo and you get a strong acid smell this will indicate the powder is turning bad, with a smaller batch pull a bullet, if you see brown crud were there should be powder, or anything that does not look like gunpowder it's bad. This will not detect dead primers of course, you will have to fire it for that. Black powder is good forever, you can even dry it out if it gets wet and use it, BP cartridges can last a long time and still fire.

Average Joe
February 18, 2010, 05:27 PM
If you leave it on a shelf in a cool dry place, your great grand kids will enjoy shooting it....

February 18, 2010, 06:44 PM
I have personally shot 12 ga shotguns shells over 25 years old. They were stored in a cool dry closet and had no apparent corrosion. They worked just fine.

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