Firearms

How Long Does Ammunition Last?

How Long Does Ammunition Last?

Have you been in this scenario before — you were rummaging through your attic or basement, and when rifling through your belongings, you found some old boxes of ammo? If so, you’ve probably asked yourself the question “does ammo go bad?”

Not only do we have the answer to that question, but we also have answers to all your other questions related to ammunition longevity, including how it can go bad, how to extend the life of your ammo, and some other frequently asked questions. Let’s get into it!

Can Ammo Go Bad?

In terms of shelf life, ammunition generally doesn’t expire or go bad. Many manufacturers will list an expiration date of ten years past the manufacturer date, but that’s more for legal reasons than it is for safety reasons. If it’s stored correctly, then there’s no real known limit to how long you can keep ammunition.

However, that’s not to say that an old bullet is just as effective as a fresh bullet. As time goes on, the gunpowder in the ammunition tends to lose its power — it takes a long time for this to happen, but it happens nonetheless. The less power that the gunpowder has, the less effective your bullet will be. It can be slowed down, its flight path could be changed, or it could potentially cause errors in other ways.

It’s highly recommended that if you find ammunition, you take it to a practice range and fire a few rounds to ensure safety and effectiveness before you take it out into the field. Listen to your gun, smell the smells and take a close look at the target. If everything seems normal, you should be good to go.

How Ammunition CAN Go Bad (and what happens when it does)

Although time itself cannot end the life of ammunition, moisture and humidity can do it. If ammunition gets noticeably wet or is exposed to enough humidity that moisture enters the primer, then it can be deactivated. It takes a good amount of moisture and humidity to do so, and it usually happens in the case of repeat exposure — but it is certainly possible.

If this does happen, the primer will be deactivated as well as the propellant charge, which makes the ammunition completely useless. A tell-tale sign of any propellant charge or primer deactivation is to find rust or discoloration on the primer or the rim of the ammunition case. When you see discoloration or rust, you can be confident that the ammunition has lost its function and is unusable.

Best Practices for Extending the Life of Your Ammo

There are a few things you can do to extend the life of your ammo and guarantee that it will last for years (or decades) to come. If you implement these variables within your storage space, then you can get the most out of your ammunition no matter how long you hold onto it.

Keep it Cool

In warmer temperatures, the effects of moisture and oxygen are more prevalent and the threat to your ammunition stock is greatly increased. Because of this, you’ll want to store your ammunition in an air-conditioned climate, especially if you live somewhere warmer. It doesn’t need to be cold — just cool. If you store it somewhere cold, you risk condensation forming on the ammo when you bring it out into the hot outdoors.

Lower Humidity

Moisture is the worst enemy to your ammunition. If you store your ammunition in a humid environment, there’s going to be more moisture in the air, which can damage your ammunition. You’ll want to store your ammo in ammo cans or sealed storage containers with an air conditioner in order to keep the moisture away. It can also help to pack some sawdust into these containers to keep the ammo dry.

Limit Oxygen

Oxygen can be damaging to the metal found in cartridges, no matter how high of quality your ammunition is. If the ammo is placed in unfavorable storage spaces, then the lead and primer will eventually degrade. This is why it’s so important to invest in some tightly sealed containers if you want to keep your ammo usable for long periods of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions about your ammunition? Here are some frequently asked questions and our answers about the lifespan of ammunition:

What happens when ammo goes bad?

When ammunition goes bad, the metal on the lead starts to degrade. This leads to the primer and propellant charge of the ammunition being defused and deactivated, which renders a bullet useless.

How long can you store ammo in a magazine?

It’s recommended that you don’t store ammo in a magazine for more than six months. When a bullet is in a magazine, it’s more at risk of humidity and oxygen, both of which are damaging to a bullet. They can usually last in most moderate climates for 3-6 months, but it’s best not to risk anything longer than that.

Can old ammo damage your gun?

Yes, it can. If a cartridge is old, it’s possible it may not fire out of your gun correctly. This could lead to debris in the barrel of your gun, which in turn can cause problems later on down the line. If you think you fired some ammunition that was bad, take some time to stick a rod down the barrel and clean the firearm. As is the case with most firearm-related issues, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Make Your Ammo Count (with some help!)

Now that you understand what you can do to make your ammunition last, you can start to look into ways to make your ammunition count. The best way to do that is to take fewer shots when you’re out in the field, and one way you can make that happen is to use a suppressor. A suppressor can help you with your accuracy, reduce recoil and help protect your hearing. Get in touch to learn more about our selection of silencers today!

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