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Old November 26, 2004, 10:25 PM   #1
REV JASON
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ammo shelf life

what is the average shelf life of semi-auto hollowpoint handgun ammo? does heat and cold effect the shelf life?
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Old November 26, 2004, 10:55 PM   #2
Jim Watson
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Well, some of the WW II stuff is getting stale and erratic. Some is ok.
I have some GI .45 of 1965 that is as good as anything on the store shelves.

Heat is bad, cold is not harmful, but I would not store ammo where it was a damp cold where temperature variations might theoretically pump moisture into the load.
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Old November 27, 2004, 06:11 AM   #3
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If kept cool and dry I would guess it would out last the purchaser.
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Old November 27, 2004, 06:52 AM   #4
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You don't want a lot of temp extremes. A couple of years ago a friend gave me a case of 9mm that was headstamped 1952 and they all fired.
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Old November 27, 2004, 08:04 AM   #5
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To add one additional point, for foreign or old US manufacture ammunition, you may want to ensure it is NON-CORROSIVE before using it.

Beyond that and as others have indicated, decades old ammunition is normally perfectly good. I have recently shot a lot of GI ball .45 ACP produced in the mid-'60s (a long-retired Marine friend passed away and his wife give me two cases) and it was indistinguishable from MilSpec FMJs produced in the last few years.
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Old December 1, 2004, 01:26 PM   #6
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Cool and dry. Left undisturbed it will outlast you.
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Old December 2, 2004, 09:41 AM   #7
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Shooting buddy has some 50's vintage USGI .45 ball ammo. Goes BANG! just as well as new production commercial stuff.
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Old December 2, 2004, 11:12 AM   #8
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Does it make sense to put some small moisture absorbing packets in the ammo containers? Can't be too dry can it?
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Old December 2, 2004, 08:09 PM   #9
BillCA
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Keeping ammo cool and dry is the key.
Why do you think the military designed ammo cans with airtight seals?

Best to seal your ammo cans on a cool, dry day and leave 'em shut as much as possible if you want it to last a long time.

Safety Note:
From another site, ammo makers say that their ammo is designed to be fed through an auto only twice. 2 times. Thus, if you have ammo that you're constantly stripping off the top of your mag to load the round you run the risk of pushing the bullet back into the case (read: higher pressures, more likelihood of a KaBoom). Yeah, you might get away with it more often, but don't ever depend on it.
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Old December 4, 2004, 10:46 AM   #10
Jake 98c/11b
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This is a lot like discussing the shelf life of twinkies, more a matter of the life of the shelf than the twinkie.
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Old December 4, 2004, 09:30 PM   #11
James K
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1950's?? Guys, that is practically new.

About a year ago I fired some .45-70 ammo made in 1890. Four out of five rounds went off. WWI GI stuff goes off OK. The old Frankford 70 primer was corrosive as he*l but it was stable for decades, maybe centuries.

The fact is that, given proper storage, no one knows how long primers will last, as no one can say positively that there has ever been a primer deteriorate because of age alone. Powder is also stable, black powder in particular will last at least 100 years, although some smokeless powder made in WWII wartime conditions has deteriorated. On the other hand, Alliant has some powder samples from old powder companies (Lafflin & Rand, etc.) which is still fine. Like the primers, no one knows how long it will last; there hasn't been enough time.

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Old December 5, 2004, 07:45 PM   #12
BillCA
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Ammo Deterioration

Actually, this does bring up a good question.

For some people who have a "car gun" and spare ammo, I wonder if the vibration of travelling can break down the ammo. For example, if your ammo is loaded with a flake powder the size and shape of the flake help dictate it's burn rate. If the ammo is subjected to daily vibrations as your car travels, sometimes over rough roads, could the powder be shaken enough to change its burn characteristics or produce higher pressures?

Has anyone asked any of the powder companies this question?

Just curious.
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Old December 11, 2004, 05:32 AM   #13
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ammo in car

Your car would fall apart and your bones would break before you bounced around enough to damage or alter the ammo in your car. As far as ammo longevity, I have fired hundreds of rounds of quality centerfire ammo (mostly military surplus) that was 20-50 years old and it all worked perfectly. Some had corrosive primers which meant the gun had to be thouroughly cleaned asap after firing.

As a law enforcement officer, I replace the ammo in my duty and off duty weapons every year. We shoot up our old duty ammo during training and qualification and then load up with new ammo. Some people and or departments change out their ammo every six months but just to be on the far side of safe.

The only time I have seen a problem with ammo was a long time ago. There was a reserve officer who worked on the Texas coast. In the days before stainless and tennefier weapons, he sprayed his blued revolver with WD 40 everyday when he got off duty to protect the finish. He didn't unload it, he just opened the cylinder and spayed ammo and all. One day he went to a fight call in a bar. There had been a stabbing. He and his lead officer ordered the suspect to drop the knife. The suspect did not and kept saying that he acted in self defense and he was not going to jail. They kept telling him to drop the knife (they were too close when they entered the bar, 10-12 feet). The suspect took a step towards the reserve and the reserve pulled the trigger. The revolver did not fire. The suspect turned a whiter shade of pale, dropped the knife and surrendered. When they went to the range and tried out the ammo that had been in the officers gun, not one round fired. All the ammo on his belt worked fine.
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Old December 22, 2004, 10:27 AM   #14
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I did send an email to several ammo manufacturers and even to Hodgdon and Alliant/Hercules asking if carrying ammo could cause any problems with the powder due to vibration (i.e. flakes breaking down and causing a change in burn rate).

Both powder companies, plus Hornady and Federal replied. None of them knew of any tests or studies on the matter. The powder companies thought that the powder should be fine, however suggested if it was a concern, go ahead and rotate your ammo stocks (sure, more sales for them!).

Gut instinct says that if your ammo is subject to any extremes such as vibration, heat, moisture, etc. that you should make a habit of rotating your ammo (or using it) before it can be degraded.
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Old December 24, 2004, 11:56 AM   #15
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I just shot up some 1930's 38/44 high speed ammo. It looked great on the outside, but performed "poorly" at best. It is just hard to maintain the quality of storage for 75 years and not get some deterioration. I think today with AC's etc you might do better, but frankly I would say somewhere between 25 and 50 years is a good number.

By the way if you are curious about the 38/44 results hit the reloading tab below and go back a couple of days.
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Old December 26, 2004, 02:56 AM   #16
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Boy I bet that deputy felt stupid and lucky. Should have better sense. Putting that much of any oil on ammo is bound to kill it.

I just have to say that his problem was NOT caused by wd40 as many would claim. It was user error.
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