If you are a gun owner, ammunition is essential. You should always have on hand at least a one-year normal training supply on hand as a minimum. For a minimum, this should be enough to make four trips to the range. Of course, larger quantities are recommended and safe long-term storage is essential.
The main enemy of long-term storage of ammunition is moisture. With that in mind, let us look at some ways to avoid moisture in your ballistic larder.
Surplus ammunition cans, available online, at your local Army-Navy surplus, or in bulk through Government GSA and DRMO auctions, are a cheap and easy means to store your ammunition. These durable metal boxes were literally made for the task. When purchasing and using these, it's good to check the seal to make sure they are still up to the task.
A good pre-purchase guideline is to make sure first that the box closes tightly and the lid makes good contact. If you look closely, you will see a rubber gasket inside the lid. If it's broken, split, or missing, keep looking. Once you have bought your good looking cans, pressure test them for leaks. This is easy. Put something heavy inside (like a Chicago Red Brick) along with some newspaper, close it up, and submerge it in a barrel, bathtub, or swimming pool overnight. Fish it back out and see if the newspaper is waterlogged. If not, odds are the seal is good.
Once you store your ammunition, be sure the box, ammunition, and everything associated with it is bone dry, clean, and bright. Be sure to include silica gel or other desiccant pants to absorb random moisture that is shut up with it. The first use of silica gel packets is mentioned to be in World War II to keep the penicillin dry; this proved that it is a great drying agent. Inspect and rotate periodically to keep your freshest stuff in storage and your oldest stuff at the range.
While not perfect, recycling old water, juice and other beverage bottles can be a cheap and efficient means of storing loose ammunition. Of course, you will want to make sure the ammunition itself as well as the bottle is clean and dry before use. With the flimsy nature of these containers you will also want to make sure, you check these more often than other containers.
Vacuum-sealed storage system are often sold on late night info commercials by showing how great they are at sealing and storing old clothes, comforters, and other bulky items. You can find them listed as Food Savers and other brands for less than $100. The key to these systems is that they reduce volume and compress the given item to its minimum space. When it comes to ammunition, the volume isn't the issue; it is preserving the cartridges themselves from the harmful environment. By vacuum sealing your ammunition, you cut it off from moisture and slow the deterioration process. This is similar to military 'battle packs' of sealed ammunition that are designed to protect rounds under field conditions until needed.
Some wizened reloaders will quickly point out that by doing this; however, you will strip the moisture from your propellant and primer and ruin it. What they don't point out however is that modern powder creates its own moisture when burning. If you are concerned about your primers deteriorating over time (20-30 years), you may want to stick to military grade ammunition. One tip for these is to use heavy (2-mil at least) HDPE, MDPE, or LDPE plastic bags and check them periodically for leaks.
Include a desiccant pack for additional insurance. This concept can also be used for smaller amount of ammunition, say 10-15 rounds, to leave at a hunting camp, inside a tackle box, or a glove compartment for future needs. In addition, when preparing a Bug Out Bag, what can be easier than having a vacuum-sealed box or two stowed away for a rainy day. A vacuum sealer may be one of the best investments you have ever made.
No matter what works for you, safe and efficient long-term storage of ammunition could be one of the most important tasks on your plate as a gun owner.
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