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Old June 24, 2013, 10:24 AM   #1
gargus
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Ammo storage questions.

I want to store some ammo. Id like to at least have a standard size ammo can of 9mm, 7.62 and 12 gauge stored.

If I have a ammo can in good condition with the rubber strip in good shape, put the ammo inside of ziplock bags is that enough to keep them stored in like a basement storage room that is dry and cool? Or should I be doing something different in order to insure their longevity?

Also curious how long you can store ammo before it starts to lose its potency?

Basically I am just wanting to keep a small stock of ammo for 3 primary types of ammo for my guns as a "just incase everything goes tits up" backup.

Thanks.
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Old June 24, 2013, 10:31 AM   #2
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You might want to add one of those moisture-absorbing packs to each can just to be sure, but other than that you're good to go unless its prone to something like flooding.

Ammo doesn't "lose potency" as such, ever, but storage conditons can lead to powders breaking down & so can other chemicals present. I was given some 25+ year old powder that had been kept in its original cardboard tube containers, stored right next to the mothballs in a closet. It reeked of mothballs, but worked fine as long as you coud handle the stench!
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Old June 24, 2013, 10:36 AM   #3
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I still have some reloaded shotgun hunting loads from 1991 and 1994 that are perfect and they are stored in a cardboard box in my garage, so placing them in a cool dry location in a sealed can with a desiccant pack should let them survive until your grandkids need them
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Old June 24, 2013, 10:37 AM   #4
gargus
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Ah I thought the powder lost potency over time. Goes to show I don't know a great deal about it.

So if I put the boxes the ammo comes in into ziplock bags and close them up in the ammo cans it should be fine then with the moisture absorbing things?

I just want to make sure if need be in 10 or even 20 years if I break this stuff open I can load it and it will fire like it should.

And no I don't have floods or whatnot. Ill keep the cans on a shelf up off the floor as well.
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Old June 24, 2013, 11:43 AM   #5
oldpapps
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Gargus,

I don't know your area but in my area we have higher humidity in the summer months. With this in mind for my area and I would say yours also try these steps.

Seal you 'selected to be stored ammunition' in the winter/lowest humidity time of the year. Heat it 'all' before sealing it in (set on a forced air vent while the heat is on) to force more humidity out. Use one of those sealing bag machines over 'zip' tops for a better seal. When setting your ammo cans (plastic or metal GI), place them with good air flow and not in contact with concrete/brick to limit moisture transfer. This should take care of moisture.

Temperatures, both higher and swings, should be avoided.

As far as ammunition longevity goes. I would think that the propellant would be the weak point as it is made with various acids. Way back when 'smokeless powder' was first being used by the government, great quantities was made for used during 'The War to End All Wars' and in 10 to 15 years the stored bags of powder were trash and disposed of. Yet, I have fired 1917 and 1918 vintage 30.06 ammunition and it was fine. At the time it was only 65 or so years old. This indicates to me that storage plays a big part in how long the powder will last. In a sealed brass tube must be a good storage system.

With the 'new' powder production methods (and government requirements), I don't think you and I will need to be concerned with the weak component getting too old.

Be safe.

Enjoy,
OSOK
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Old June 24, 2013, 11:59 AM   #6
g.willikers
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Plastic bags probably are no improvement on the cartridge case.
As been said, loaded ammo will outlive us.
Even flooding doesn't seem to harm it.
Our basement got flooded up to my calves, one time.
Some pistol ammo was completely immersed.
Yet it fired just fine, as have the reloaded rounds that wound up in the washing machine, in pants pockets.
Don't sweat it.
Even shotgun shells loaded in plastic hulls hold up well.
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Old June 24, 2013, 12:15 PM   #7
Garycw
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Ammo storage questions.

Plastic bags could actually trap moisture/ humidity IMO. Wether you use or don't use plastic bags I think a desiccant is a good idea, even in ammo cans. If you want to make your own they sell Dri Splender at hobby lobby. I made a bunch of them with #6 coffee filters. I cut a clear strip in them and sealed with clear packing tape. This leaves a small window to see if the indicating crystals change from blue to pink. If pink, they've adsorbed as much as possible and can recharge them in microwave or low temp oven a few minutes. Good as new!
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Old June 24, 2013, 02:25 PM   #8
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Oldpapps has it right: The storage conditions tell the tale. The way powder stabilizer deterioration has been studied is to keep the powder at 140°F and analyze samples taken from, it over about 80 weeks, at which point it is consumed and deterioration becomes rapid.

The military uses storage limits of 20 years for spherical propellants and 45 years for stick powders, IIRC. This would be in bunkers dug into the ground and at basement temperatures most of the year. At that point it's still working, but they replace it, surplusing out the ammo it is in.

If you were to stick the sealed rounds into a sealed bag with a desiccant and then into the ammo can and put it into a chest freezer with the steaks, and keep it there except when you had to replace the freezer, you could probably haul them out two or three centuries later without concern for their integrity. Just let them sit a day or two to equalize their temperature with the outside world, or you'll wind up with condensation all over.
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Old June 24, 2013, 04:13 PM   #9
wogpotter
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Quote:
So if I put the boxes the ammo comes in into ziplock bags and close them up in the ammo cans it should be fine then with the moisture absorbing things?
Depends on what the boxes are made of. Cardboard is bad news for long time storage. I've opened sealed "spam can type" containers & heat-sealed battle packs, & the brass has been effected by the cardboard & tarnished, sometimes quite badly. I guess the cardboard was moist when packed maybe?

I'd swap to either plastic amo boxes or just labelled ziplocks to ID what was what. Other than that yep, I'd say baggies with dessicant packs in an ammo can & your grandkids will be able to shot the stuff.
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Old June 24, 2013, 04:17 PM   #10
BigJimP
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Putting them inside plastic bags is a bad idea....whatever temp the air is at when you close the bag --- when the air in the can you put the baggie in, cools off....the air inside the bag will release its moisture in the form of condensation...

cardboard, moisture absorbing materials, etc ....will all collect moisture .../ and they'll also release moisture back into the air ...

dry and cool ....especially if its consistent year round....will be just fine ...especially if you mean dry in terms of very little humidity.

stored properly ....ammo can easily go 50+ yrs..../ stored improperly, it'll be corroded in 6 months...
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Old June 24, 2013, 04:39 PM   #11
KnotRight
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I have some reloads that I did in 1980 and they still fire. The only issue that I have is if the rounds were stored with the power sitting on top the wad cutter the grease did turn smokeless powder into what looked like shooting a black powder gun.

The rounds that were loaded with a jacketed bullet I did not have a problem with.
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Old June 24, 2013, 05:00 PM   #12
dewcrew8
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Just put it in a can! I've been shooting loads that my dad made back in the 60-70's and all have gone off and they were stored in a barn that had rain,snow comming in the sides of it.the cans showed wear before he brass did. I keep mine off the ground and inside!
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Old June 26, 2013, 12:10 AM   #13
Tomas
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I'm still shooting 7.62x51 Lake City ammo with stamps in the late 60s...still good stuff.

I haven't seen sealing the primers mentioned but it's the main way moisture will get in and ruin the powder. It rarely happens, but that's the weak point.

Raid your wife or daughter's bathroom for nail polish and go seal 'em up. But tell them WHY you need their nail polish, lest suspicions will fester.
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Old June 26, 2013, 12:57 AM   #14
wet
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A few years ago my dad died, I cleaned out the attic and found my old ammo belt from the 60's full of 30-30 rounds. They had turned green from the lether but shot just fine.
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Old June 26, 2013, 04:33 AM   #15
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Basement should be fine. In a cardboard box or ammo can they'll survive. But how ever their stored. Keep in mind they will indeed tarnish over time. What I've done in the past to alleviate the tarnishing. I took a flannel cotton shirt rag with Breakfree clp on it and gave each bullet a nice rub & coating years ago. Top to bottom. Doing so helped hold the tarnishing effect from happening at all. I've got 9mm here I reloaded in the early eighty's (81-82) that look like the day they were reloaded. Bright & shinny. Stored in large popcorn cans of all things with no packet desiccant driers involved. In fact I just shot up 2-boxes a couple weeks back and they functioned just fine for my CCP class. You would think that CLP would seep or creep into their cartridge brass somehow/someway. But it didn't.

S/S
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Old June 26, 2013, 09:59 AM   #16
nglayton
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Quote:
Just put it in a can! I've been shooting loads that my dad made back in the 60-70's and all have gone off and they were stored in a barn that had rain, snow coming in the sides of it.
Ditto!!

I had about 500 pieces of 9mm brass that I had sized and primed back in 2000. I had stored them in an open top metal coffee can for the last 13 years. No lid, no plastic cover, nothing. Just dumped in the can, open to the world for 13 years. (I forgot I had them!) They were in the garage that was open most of the time to the rain, snow, fog and general elements of the Pacific Northwest. It freezes at least 3-4 times a year, then in the summer we usually have a stretch of 100+ temps for a week or so.

Fast forward to March 2013....I loaded them up and they all fired just fine. Not a single primer failed.
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Old June 26, 2013, 10:10 AM   #17
Jeff2131
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I purchase those silica gel packs from ebay and put one in every 100 round plastic storage box i use for my reloads. I have 2k .223, 500 .308's, and 750 .40s&w's....ive seen some slight dulling of the copper jacketed bullets but other then that they seem to store fine. Those silica gel packs are cheap on ebay or you can save them when you buy something and they come in the box.
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Old June 26, 2013, 12:03 PM   #18
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BigJimP

Desiccants work by adsorption, a molecular adhesion to the desiccant surface, not absorption, where the water is merely filling the volume between strands or particles, as in capillary action of a towel. This means water does not as easily come out of a desiccant the way it does from a towel by simple drying at room temperature. If you let it get saturated at it's maximum capacity temperature, then some portion will come out if the temperature changes, but not nearly as much as it took up. The solution to that is simple: just use an excess of the desiccant so it never reaches its full capacity, then you won't have moisture released as the temperature outside the bag changes.

Because of the molecular surface adhesion, a desiccant will not fully release its moisture until a minimum required amount of heat energy is put in. This normally requires baking in an oven. There is often more than one molecular adhesion level involved, so you may find you can drive one percentage of water off at one temperature, but have to get to a higher temperature to get then next portion released. For the smectite clays (Montmorillonite, Bentonite) used in mil-spec desiccant, it will not normally start releasing adsorbed moisture until you heat it to about 120°F, and you have to get it really hot (1600°F) to completely get moisture out. Silica gel won't start releasing much adsorbed moisture until you heat it to about 220°F, so it's better from that standpoint. You normally are instructed to heat desiccant pouches to 245°F for 12-24 hours to drive enough moisture out to reuse them. That low temperature and long time are because of not wanting to melt the Tyvek bags the stuff usually is packaged in. But if you put some of the clay out loose on a baking sheet you can heat it at 550°F in a home oven for an hour and to do that. Bag it in paper when it's cool enough not to burn the paper, and there you have a homemade desiccant pouch.

The bottom line is, if you put a desiccant in the plastic pouch with your ammo, it will take up water by adsorption up to its capacity at the temperature and relative humidity, and will hold that, so you don't need to worry about trapping moisture inside the plastic. It will gradually pick up moisture from cardboard or anything else inside. The clay will swell visibly if it gets to capacity, and gels with color indicator of that state can be had. However, unless you have the special mil-spec treated cardboard or have acid-free cardboard stock, the advice to avoid cardboard is good.

Note that no plastic has a zero water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) specification. At some time in the future enough water eventually will saturate the desiccant. With luck that will take years. If you also put it in an ammo can, it should easily last a long time like that, as WVTR through the rubber seal will be much lower than a high surface area plastic bag.
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Old June 27, 2013, 10:24 AM   #19
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As far as ammunition longevity goes. I would think that the propellant would be the weak point as it is made with various acids. Way back when 'smokeless powder' was first being used by the government, great quantities was made for used during 'The War to End All Wars' and in 10 to 15 years the stored bags of powder were trash and disposed of. Yet, I have fired 1917 and 1918 vintage 30.06 ammunition and it was fine. At the time it was only 65 or so years old. This indicates to me that storage plays a big part in how long the powder will last. In a sealed brass tube must be a good storage system.

Powder is deteriorating the day it leaves the factory. Gunpowder is a high energy molecule breaking down to a low energy molecule. Heat accelerates this breakdown, and the break down accelerates exponentially the hotter it gets.


I enjoy pounding on gunwriters. These are the guys who put into print the idea that ammunition becomes benign with age. Given that these gents don’t have technical degrees, indeed the best of them are Journalism Professors, there can be only one source for this bee in their bonnets, and that is their Corporate puppet masters. Corporations have no reason to educate the public on the hazards of old ammunition. Educating consumers makes them picky, they may leave old product on the shelf, maybe they will demand expiration dates, either way, it will cost profit to the company. So the corporate puppetmaster simply reaches up the large colon of the gunwriter and flaps its jaw, and wah lah!, in print we read how gunpowder lasts forever, and if it ever goes bad, it duds out safely. All wrong.

A rule of thumb, given no other information, is that a safe storage life for double based powders is 20 years and single based 45 years. Cold will increase that life, heat will dramatically reduce it. Contact with water or any ionic or polar ionic molecule is bad.

Shooting old ammunition is risky for a number reasons. Firstly is that the burn rate is irregular with old powders and once in a while, burn rate instability leads to a pressure spike, which will blow up the firearm. If this was a discussion of old gasoline and lawn mowers there would be no disbelievers. Everyone has almost blown the head gasket on a lawn mower juiced with old gas. If the gunpowder physically breaks down to a dust, the surface area is huge compared to before, and of course, all that surface area igniting at once will cause a huge pressure spike. Another risk is that the NOx which escapes from old gunpowder, attacks the brass case weakening it, sometimes causing holes or brass splits. A case head split, or even a pin hole burn through in the case head will blow up some mechanisms. A case head rupture in most semi autos will blow out the magazine and split wooden stocks .


I conducted a search for surplus ammunition Kabooms and found all sorts of accounts. Since the shooting community is largely unaware of the hazards of old ammunition, there were all sorts of explanations, that sound comical if you understand the phenomena. Sort of like reading in pre Civil War books about how “vapors” cause yellow fever. However, people are trying their best to explain something with the tools that they have, and they were told by gunwriters that aging powder become benign and avenue of thought is discarded. But if you understand that old gunpowder will occasionally pressure spike you will see patterns to the Kabooms.

The predominate pattern is that gunpowder/ammunition does not get better with time.

For large amounts of propellant, the stuff is typically put in a 150 F oven and if it fumes red nitric acid gas, either it is scrapped, or they test it for confirmation of condition. If the propellant is tested for stability, it is scrapped when the stabilizer is less than 20%.



Another thing about gunpowders is that in big containers, old gunpowder is a risk of auto combustion. As powder breaks down it produces heat and it does auto combust. That is a good reason not to empty your gunpowder into 5 gallon buckets and leave it in the attic for 25 years.


So, in my opinion, for storage, Cold is good, cold is great, cold, cold, cold. I am not so worried about humidity in the air for fixed ammunition, but humidity is never good. So, cold and dry, that is what you want. If you live in the arctic where the weather is unchanging cold and so dry that 14 million year old plants still exist in the ice, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/n...ntarctica.html that would be a great place to store your ammunition.
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Last edited by Slamfire; June 27, 2013 at 07:34 PM.
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