Powder Ammo Primers Storage in a Safe

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Jan 28, 2007
Lubbock Texas
Would it be safe to store primers,ammo and powder in a gun safe or would the fire hazard and explosion factor be to great? I liked having them in my old safe to keep grandkids and whoever out of them.This safe is not usedfor firearms at all only ammo,powder and primers and tools.
Thanks for info
Disclaimer: I don't reload, and have no professional basis.
A bomb is basically an explosive (powder), ignition source (primers/heat), and a container to keep the materials together during reaction to build pressure (safe). I'd think that you'd have a decent bomb right there in the case of a hot fire. I've always heard that you are supposed to store powder and primers in different places. If I were you I'd get something like an old locker from a school that you could lock up, but wouldn't hold the pressure. I'm sure that someone with better knowledge will be along....
I am hard pressed to think of a BETTER place for them. I use an Old (and I mean REALLY OLD) refrigerator with a cross latch lock. Damn thing is built like a tank and the seals on it are in perfect shape. Aids in moisture control and such.
No harm if powders are kept on separate shelves from primers. Make certain you have some means of controlling moisture.

My primers are stored in the basement in .50 cal ammo cans with no problems.I have a few desiccant packs in there,not really sure if I need them but figure it couldn't hurt.Just make sure the powders have a good sealed lid and they should be fine anywhere you store them.
Shotgunjoel - Smokeless powder isn't an explosive - it's an accellerant. As such, it won't cause the sort of explosion you're thinking of. It will burn energetically, for sure - but not explode.
If there is enough of it in a locked safe, it can be a bomb. How much would be unsafe? I don't know.

They make special containers for powder with a weak side to keep it from becoming a bomb.
to be honest.....unless you have your safe packed to the brim with black powder.....you have VERY VERY little chance of having a 'Bomb' on your hands.....

the volume of most gun safes will allow the gas to expand and most safes are built strong enough to endure the little amount of pressure that would be generated.....

and as stated before....if you are using smokeless powder, you have nothing to worry about.
kingpin008 said:
Shotgunjoel - Smokeless powder isn't an explosive - it's an accellerant. As such, it won't cause the sort of explosion you're thinking of. It will burn energetically, for sure - but not explode.

Smokeless powder certainly will explode if confined. Depending on the size of the container and the amount of powder, you will get a pressure buildup until the container lets go. If the pressure is high enough at that point you will get a mechanical explosion. While it might not be as energetic as a chemical explosion, you will have pieces of metal flying about which can severely injure or kill anyone in the vicinity. That's how pipe bombs work.

For this reason powder should be stored in containers that are designed to vent before a dangerous pressure build up.
Thanks i my put the powder on the shelf in the closet and leave the ammo and primers in the safe.That may not be a good idea either. Maybe just the ammo in the safe.
I think it's more important to keep the stuff locked up to prevent curious little fingers from messing with them, and to prevent accidently mixing up powders or primers. When I'm loading, I'll only have the primers and powder that I need out on the bench. Keeps me from making mistakes. And we all know how kiddies like to play with fire, and hit caps with little hammers. Sure wouldn't want the youngun's experimenting with setting gunpowder on fire, or smacking primers with hammers.

Not that I ever did such things when I was young, oh no no no. :rolleyes:
You should look at this from the perspective of the physics you can readily observe. There are several places to make observation and these do not include the internet.

Where is ammo and components stored at the local retail?

Best bet is in the back room so make friends and get a look. You will find a large open wooden cased box system if they value their insurance. The room may have special blow-out panels in either the ceiling or a nearby wall if the inventory is extensive. There will probably be at least one layer of chain link fencing and lots of locks.

Where is ammo stored in the military? I recall a bunker with spaced shelves low to the floor and made of hardwood and in certain areas a mesh walled room with open mesh steel shelving.

What does the National Fire Code say about residential storage?

After they make a specific warning about enclosed spaces/containers/SAFES they start with small amounts separate from primers in sturdy wooden boxes with lots of empty space surrounding...

What does your 'well stocked' safe most resemble? Let see... Ummm. I know! A cartridge in a gun with a blocked barrel. Having seen such 'storage' I can honestly say that any propellant if contained well enough and ignited, sounds and looks very much like an explosion.
Thanks again.I had rethought the situation and am going to keep only ammo in the safe,hopefully it will be ok. Any thoughts or is that just as bad seeing that it has powder and primers in it?
roc1 - loaded ammo is incredibly stable stuff. There's a reason that the military keeps pallets of it in shipping containers in the Middle Eastern desert heat, ya know?

Of all the items you listed (loaded ammo, smokeless powder, and primers) the primers are the most fragile of the bunch. That doesn't mean that you need to handle them with kid gloves and find some elaborate storage system for them - just that you may be overthinking your storage needs just a bit.

For instance, many shooters here keep their powder in the factory containers, on shelves in their workrooms. Many also keep the primers alongside. Some choose to buy or make special cabinets, and while that's great, it's not 100% necessary. And many, many of us just toss our loaded ammo into ammo cans, and forget about it. We (my wife & I) keep ours in a closet in our bedroom.
I just tell my wife that if the garage catches fire, to go at least two blocks down the street........Due to the price of ammo lately, I have my eye on a safe but I am waiting for it to go on sale.....chris3
Even worse is the path of least resistance on a solid safe is likely around the door.

This means a buildup of pressure would probably vent in that direction, perhaps sending the heavy door with it.
Where is the door of a safe pointing on many safes? Out into the room,
where the people would be.

The most likely cause of problems would be fire or movement of the safe such as an earthquake or if the safe was in a non stationary location (vehicle, motorhome, trailer etc).
A home next to railroad tracks or a military training location (train/bomb vibrations) could likewise pose a risk if the vibrations eventually lead to items shifting and eventually a primer being detonated.
It is possible if a gun or other heavy item falls onto or is jolted into or on top of primers as a result of the vibrations or earthquake.
The force of some detonating primers would propel other primers against hard items (and possibly even through soft things like nearby plastic powder containers) and surfaces detonating those not directly detonated from the initial explosion some distance away.
The accompanying increase in pressure in the small space and sparks would not be something you would want around stored powder.

So the risk is minimal but you asked and it is there, and the safe would become a bomb that would in most cases vent its energy in the direction of the safe's door. Which is typically into the living spaces of a room.
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The only reason I would keep ammo in the safe would be to add weight. But there's no room for it. I'd need to buy a bunch more safes. It's perfectly fine sitting on the basement shelves.
How many times have I heard or read about a house or safe blowing up in a fire due to reloading components.....let's see.... for me, that count would be zero.
How many times have I heard or read about a house or safe blowing up in a fire due to reloading components.....let's see.... for me, that count would be zero.

I have never heard of it either, but that doesn't mean that it isn't possible.

Keep in mind that even a real fire rated safe will allow the interior temperatures to reach 350 degrees. I have opened many gun safes after a fire, and can tell you that I think many of these manufacturers oversell the ability of their safes to withstand real life fires.

They make cabinets for storing explosive and/or flamable materials. Proper tool for the job.
I just keep my powder in the original factory jugs under my reloading table, my primers, bullets and brass are in plastic storage bins under my reloading table. Most of my loaded ammo is in plastic ammo cans, guess where - under my reloading table!
Call 913-362-9455

I have a novel idea.... why don't you contact one of the powder manufacturers? They would have a definitive answer, not speculation by a bunch of (very smart) internet "experts". :scrutiny:

This is from the Hodgdon Powder website---

"If you have a safety problem or concern - DO NOT EMAIL - CALL US DIRECTLY 7:00am to 5:30pm Central Monday-Thursday : 913-362-9455"

Then let us know what they say.
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I described this to our EOD tech (retired SEAL). He just looked at me and said nice bomb and walked away. I keep mine on top of the safe and on a shelf separate.

Rapid expanding of gas in an enclosed container seeks the path of least resistance, which is how shape charges are made. A blast can be directed with something as light as a Tupperware bowl. Just food for thought.

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An interesting question is what are the insurance implications? If you had a house fire that was helped along by burning propellants or (even worse) black powder, I think you would quickly see most companies weazeling out of any claim.
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