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Amongst the many things that preppers stockpile, ammunition is second to only food and water. While it might be possible to survive many short-term scenarios without the need to fire a shot, the longer the survival situation lasts, the more likely we are to need to use firearms, both for hunting and for defending home and family.
You can find plenty of articles out in the prepping-sphere that will tell you that you need to have 10,000 rounds of ammunition or that say you need 1,000 rounds for each caliber of firearm you own; but in reality, those are arbitrary numbers and there’s not a whole lot of thought that goes into them.
I have nothing against stockpiling plenty of ammo and I would hate to cut myself short; but I also recognize that there are practical limitations to what I could possibly use.
One of those practical limitations is the storage of that ammo. While ammo is fairly robust, in reality it begins to degrade the moment it leaves the factory. That process is slow and is measured in years, rather than the degradation of food, which can take days or weeks. But it is there nonetheless. Proper storage of ammo will help maintain its life, so that you can count on it when the time comes.
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In the early days of World War II, much of the ammo that was issued for training and combat operations had been manufactured for use in World War I. Back then, the year of manufacture was included in the headstamp and savvy soldiers would check the headstamp for that date when they opened a new case of ammunition.
Considering that the ammo had been stored for more than two decades and had them been shipped overseas, there were some very real concerns about whether the rounds would fire. That’s a situation we don’t want to find ourselves in.
Properly stored, ammunition will last that two decades and even more. But there are many people who make simple mistakes in the storage of their ammo, which could lower the life expectancy of that ammo considerably. The dangerous part is that the loss of life may not even be visible.
1. Storing it All Together
Maybe this is a minor point to you, but you should never store all of one type of supplies together. Having it all in the same place means that it is all subject to the same potential problems, including theft.
At least some of your ammo should be well-hidden enough that home invaders can’t find it, especially during a post-disaster time.
2. Wrong Storage Containers
The storage containers you choose are the single most important part of how you store your ammo. Never store your ammo in the boxes you buy it in, unless that happens to be good ammo cans.
While military-grade ammo cans are metal, there are some decent plastic ones out there too. The main thing, is that the cans need a good rubber seal to keep moisture out.
3. Storing it in too Much Heat
The idea of ammo cooking off in too much heat isn’t really much of an issue. While it can cook off in an actual fire, the amount of pressure that needs to build up inside the cartridge case is so low, that the bullet will be pushed out at a very low velocity.
Nevertheless, temperature is still an issue, as any temperature over 150°F will cause gunpowder to degrade. Storing ammunition in the attic or the trunk of a car is not a good idea.
4. Storing it in too Much Humidity
Humidity is the biggest danger for ammunition, as it can cause corrosion, as well as seeping into the rounds, making the powder damp. Damp powder doesn’t burn. Theoretically, ammo cans with a rubber seal and using silica desiccant should help alleviate that problem; but why take a chance? Better to keep the ammo cans in a dry part of the home.
If you’re going to keep your ammo in the basement, keep it as high as possible, as that will help protect the ammo from moisture if your basement floods. While the ammo cans should protect it, you don’t want to take any chances.
5. Exposure to Ultraviolet Light
It’s doubtful that ultraviolet (UV) light will do much to damage the actual rounds of ammunition, even though UV is destructive to most things. One of those things is plastics.
If you are using plastic ammo cans, you definitely want to keep them out of direct sunlight, as that can break down the plastic, making it weak. A handle could come off, the latch break, or the can itself could crack because of being weakened like that.
6. Not Using Silica Desiccant
Most people don’t think of it, but it’s a good idea to put a packet of silica desiccant or two inside ammo cans, to absorb any moisture that happens to get inside or that is inside when you first seal the cans. You can save these from pill bottles and packaging of items you buy, saving the money of having to buy them.
7. Failure to Organize
Some people just throw their ammo together in ammo cans and call it good. But if you are even in a situation where you need a particular caliber of ammo quickly. You’ll want to be able to find it quickly. For that, it’s best to store each caliber in its own ammo can, labeling the can, so that you know the contents.
8. Storing Near Household Chemicals
Household chemicals, of the type we keep under the sink, can evaporate, leaking out of their containers. When this happens the gases can get into some pretty tight places, like inside a cartridge case, through the crimp.
While the chance is slight, it is still there and if it does, some of those chemicals don’t mix well with gunpowder. They can either reduce its effectiveness or can cause a chemical reaction. Either way, it’s not something to be desired.
9. Opening the Cans too Often
With moisture being the biggest concern we need to watch our for, opening ammo cans on a regular basis is something to be avoided. Granted, there are times when it is necessary to open them, such as to get ammo out to go to the range or to add more ammo to the can.
But there really is no reason to open an ammo can, just to make sure the ammo is still there, unless you have a suspicion that a family member is stealing your ammo.
10. Failure to Shellac Primers
Military-grade ammo comes with the primers shellacked over, as a protection against moisture. But civilian ammo doesn’t have this extra step. That’s not an issue in most cases, as none of us are likely to be island hopping, fighting enemies, like the Marines did during World War II.
However, if you carry concealed, your gun and ammo are right up against your body, all day long. If you perspire, they are exposed to that perspiration, which can cause corrosion and even leak into the cartridge, making the primer and powder damp. Shellacking over the primers could help protect them in this case.
If you’re going to shellac your primers, don’t overdo it. Use a small artists paint brush, so that you can apply a thin line of shellack around the primer, where the primer comes into contact with the cartridge case. That’s all that’s needed, to seal the rounds and keep your rounds dry.
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