Ammunition shelf life


March 5, 2009, 04:08 PM
Wasn't sure where to put this so I'll just ask it here.

I'm kindof looking to buy bulk ammo and start an "end of the world cache" and I was wondering what the estimated shelf life was on ammunition. Stuff like .308 made within the last 15-20 years. Surplus 7.62x51 made in the US or Britain, that kind of thing. I mean if I buy a thousand rounds and stick it in a closet is there any point at which I would have to toss it out or does ammo made more recently have a longer shelf life?

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March 5, 2009, 04:19 PM
Kept dry, will last pretty much forever. Most recent old ammo I have fired was 1942 milsurp 50bmg. Has gone bad every time. The cases were bady tarnished, but polish up beautifully.

March 5, 2009, 04:32 PM
Has gone bad every time.

What exactly do you mean?

I'm using Yugo M67 ball from the mid 70's and I'm on my second case. No problems except that it's corrosive.


March 5, 2009, 05:32 PM
I'm sure he meant "Has gone bang." That's a phrase you'll hear a lot.

March 5, 2009, 05:49 PM
I've got close to 3000 rounds of 50's Yugo 8mm that works quite well. Occasionally one doesn't go bang on the first try, but recocking and trying again works. Tough primers on that stuff.

March 5, 2009, 05:54 PM
Thanks, I appreciate it. :)

March 5, 2009, 06:46 PM
Properly stored ... "As long as the winds blow and the rivers flow."

March 5, 2009, 09:27 PM
I store my 22 ammunition in the house so it is climate controlled. I think RF rounds are more sensetive to temp changes. I also wrap the bulk boxes with Suran Wrap for a little more protection along with the purchase date on the box.

The oldest ammo I have is some 7x57 loaded in 1938. Most works but enough of it has a delay and so I have been pulling the steel jacked bullets. I think the primers are going bad. I have no idea how it was stored. The jacket is soft enough that you can bite it and dent it. It is about .001 smaller than the normal .284 diameter size. It takes a little extra work to reload.

On centerfire ammo if properly stored it should last at least 50 years. That is for new made ammo with new primers. Properly stored means it doesn't get very warm and not frozen. But things can cause sweating in the case and kill the powder and primer over time.

Find out how the US military stores their ammo and do the same for yours.

The good thing about any ammo you buy now is it should be really fresh unless you buy surplus.

March 5, 2009, 09:53 PM
I don't even worry about it freezing much. I am pretty sure the warehouses over in the eastern com-bloc countries weren't climate controlled. All the ammo I have from over there still function despite some of it being close to 60 yrs old.

I have a case of 8mm out in the garage which gets quite cold in here in SD. No worries as I know the garage doesn't get below about 20 degrees even on the coldest days.

March 5, 2009, 09:56 PM
Billions and billions of years---

Carl S.

March 5, 2009, 11:04 PM
If it's really the "End of the world" what do you need the ammo for?

March 5, 2009, 11:16 PM
so he can go out with a bang

Hostile Amish
March 5, 2009, 11:22 PM
As a rule I do not like to keep unfired ammo for more than 10 years

March 5, 2009, 11:29 PM
I actually had some Russian .22 match ammo go bad that I bought about 10 years ago. It's been stored at room temperature but only about 50% of it will go BANG when the trigger is pulled, regardless what rifle it's in. Other than that, I've never had ammo go stale.

March 6, 2009, 12:04 AM
As a rule I do not like to keep unfired ammo for more than 10 years

Unless you store your ammo is salt, I would like to know when you are throwing it out!

March 6, 2009, 12:28 AM
I've shot early 40's 8mm mauser. All of it went off with no problems. I currently have almost 2K rounds of surplus 7.62x54R, most of which is dated 1970. Also have cases of 5.45x39 dated 1990. Ammo from both of those have gone off. The roughest looking ammo I ever shot though was a couple boxes of 16 ga. ammo. It sat in a cabinet on a covered porch for atleast 20 years. There were 50 rounds and I shot every single round out of a SxS. It didn't sound quite the same, but it certainly went off.

As a rule I do not like to keep unfired ammo for more than 10 years If stored properly, there is no need to throw out or shoot all ammo that 10 yrs old.

Mr. Bojangles
March 6, 2009, 07:26 AM
I wish I could keep ammo around for longer than a couple of months :neener:

March 6, 2009, 07:31 AM
As a rule I do not like to keep unfired ammo for more than 10 years

Please call me the next time you feel like getting rid of good ammo. I'll give it a good home. :)

March 6, 2009, 08:16 AM
i recently fired some Lake City .30-06 from 1961. It went bang, and very strongly at that.

Keep it cool and dry, and it'll outlive you (if you don't shoot it first!)


Art Eatman
March 6, 2009, 01:10 PM
I"m still getting sub-MOA groups with ammo that my father loaded in the 1970s, as well as with my own reloads from back then.

There are known incidents of old black powder guns that had ADs after having remained loaded for over a hundred years. Family heirloom stuff.

March 6, 2009, 02:55 PM
There is a post at rimfirecentral right now in the 22 ammunition forum and the posted said a federal rep told him 10 years on 22 ammo.

Several wrote that their fed 22 ammo that was over 10 years old was splitting the cases.

So i don't know. Maybe the federal powder makes the brass weak. Then it may be nothing at all.

Claude Clay
March 6, 2009, 03:00 PM
""Hostile Amish
As a rule I do not like to keep unfired ammo for more than 10 years""

and how long do you like to keep fired ammo?:rolleyes:

March 6, 2009, 03:40 PM
I was one of the people posting about problems w/ older Federal .22 ammo on RFC. I recently inherited a couple thousand rounds of 22 caliber. I took a box out of each brick today and shot it ... I would estimate that most of the bricks are between 20 and 30 years old ... yesterday, the shells from one brick of Federal split at least 20% of the time but another brick, same stuff, different lot number, worked fine ... in fact the older stuff worked better than some new 'Winchester Wildcat' that I just picked up ... The new stuff wouldn't reliably cycle my Model 60 whereas the older stuff did just fine ... also the POI was about 6" lower at 100 yards on the new stuff ... I used both a Model 60 and a Henry 001 ... yesterday I had several of the rounds from the 'bad brick' go off in the tube magazine of the Henry ... first time for that ... :what:


March 6, 2009, 04:03 PM
Keep it cool, dry and dark and it should be good to go for at least as long as you are....

Don't store in PVC containers, use polythene, steel, wood etc.

PVC (particularly the cheaper stuff) has a nasty habit of outgassing a little chlorine over time and that, in a sealed unit is corrosive and will not be good for ammunition or firearms.

March 6, 2009, 04:37 PM
I keep all of my stocked ammo in military surplus ammo cans with packs of desiccant silica to absorb moisture. These are nice because they are water proof, fire resistant, and air tight to keep humidity out. They are easy to grab in a hurry, cheap to purchase, and have tons of other uses. If you are looking for long-term ammo storage, that is the way to go.

March 6, 2009, 04:54 PM
i'm with Kbin, i've got two 6"x12"x7" ammo cans full of 5.56mm and a guy at an army navy store gave me a small box full of silicone packets. i expect the ammunition will last till the day i kill it, expect that to be in the distant future, these thousand rounds i keep as my zombie invasion stock lmao....


March 6, 2009, 06:27 PM
I guess the answer is pretty obvious but I will add that the 7.62 Nato that I have been shooting is from 1966. Over 1200 rounds without a misfire. I'm not sure who would worry about ammo after only 10 years. Most all of my ammo is under 10 years old. I store all ammo that are not in sealed packs in ammo cans with desiccant packs I have collected over the years from packaging, just heat in the oven or microwave to renew.

Float Pilot
March 6, 2009, 06:31 PM
I have some handloads I loaded back in the 1970s. They still work great.

March 6, 2009, 07:56 PM
It depends on a lot of conditions, such as whether sealant was applied, where and how it was stored, and, to a lesser extent, when it was made.

For example, World War II .45 ammunition tended to be more problematic than most cartridges from that era. A while back, numerous people on this very forum questioned whether hangfires exceeding 1 second were possible with modern ammo. There are several documented cases with old WW2 .45 ammo with hangfires exceeding 5 seconds. I am not aware of this problem existing with any other type of WW2 ammo, but the .45 ammo, in particular, aged poorly.

Additionally, the first generation of non-corrosive primers tended to be less reliable and have a shorter shelf life than current production ones. They eventually stabilized them and they now last as long as the old corrosive ones ever did. Same goes for the first-generation lead-free primers.

Aside from flukes, though, most modern factory ammunition should last forever if stored correctly. I live in Arizona. My father has stored ammo in the garage for decades. We've pulled it out and shot it. It all went bang. We've never had a problem with any of this older ammo. If we used a dry box (not much benefit over a garage in central Arizona, though), it would last even longer.

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