Ammo Storage: How To Avoid Common Amateur Mistakes

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: April 6, 2023

Long Term Ammo Storage Is Not Complicated, But It’s Also Not Optional

Ammo Storage

Are you treating it like the critical survival investment it is?

I sure hope so because…

If you can afford to stockpile ammo, you owe it to yourself to store it properly.

You should treat your ammunition like precious metals.

Both investments require good storage practices to maintain them for the long haul.

If you don’t properly maintain your ammo (and neglect it), your ammo’s shelf life will be cut short.

And this would be a travesty because ammo is a critical supply when SHTF.

Remember, in a long-term emergency, he who has the most firepower; wins.

That’s why, ammo is arguably THE most important item you can stockpile.

It provides the ability to hunt, barter, defend your home and family, intimidate others, etc.

But to rely on these survival tactics, you must:

  1. Purchasing large quantities of ammo
  2. Store it properly

It’s obvious, but worth saying,

“Firearms a just poorly designed baseball bats without ammunition.”

At this point, you’re probably asking a simple question –

“How fast can poorly stored ammo become compromised?”

Today, I’ll be using my Engineering Degree & decades+ in Survival & Preparedness to cover the following:


Does Ammo Have A Shelf Life?

Old Ammo Vs. New Ammo

How To Store Ammo The Right Way

Best Ammo Cans For Sale

Humidity Control and Desiccants

Your Long-Term Storage Plan

Is There An Ammunition Shelf Life?

Let me start by saying ammo DOES have a shelf life.

But unlike food, which has a shelf life measured in days or weeks, ammo’s shelf life is measured in years and decades.

It all depends on how you store it.

If you store it right, ammo will outlive you.

Heck, it may even outlive your kids and possibly your grandkids.

If in good condition, modern ammo can last centuries.

But if you store your ammo improperly, degradation starts on day one.

Slowly at first, but you may find your ammo useless over a few years.

And even if it still fires, accuracy will be jeopardized.

↓ Does Ammunition Expire? ↓

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Old Ammo Vs. New Ammo

Modern materials, design improvements, and automated manufacturing have helped improve today’s ammo’s shelf life.

And that’s great news for those who stockpile ammunition.

When we talk about “older ammo,” I’m primarily referencing ammo manufactured after the 1930s.

Back when smokeless powder was introduced.

↓ Black Powder Vs. Smokeless Powder – Education! ↓

Older bullets had a much shorter shelf life unless meticulously stored.

Today, the risk vs. reward of shooting older ammo may not be worth it.

And the risk vs. reward equation keeps getting worse as each year passes.

↓ Will These 90-Year-Old .22 Rounds Still Function? ↓

The bottom line is:

Your ammo stockpile is an investment in your future.

You want to protect this investment as long as humanly possible.

So let’s learn how to do just that:

How To Store Ammo The Right Way

Proper storage of your ammunition is not complicated.

You only need to follow some simple storage principles and take meaningful action.

Yes, that’s it.

Here’s the first primary storage principle:

Store your ammunition in a cool, dry, dark location.

Let’s break that down; if you keep your ammo in a:

  • Cool
  • Dry
  • Dark

place, you win.

Follow this, and you’ll extend your ammunition stockpile from decades to centuries.

Once we begin analyzing these principles, we discover there’s a bit more to it.

So let’s deep dive into each of these ammo storage principles.

↓ How To Store Ammunition – Long Term Ammo Storage ↓

Keeping Your Ammo Cool

You want to keep your ammunition cool. Not cold but cool.

You also want to avoid warm or hot storage locations.

Constant warm temps or consistently cool temps are not the main concern.

It’s the extreme temperature swings that are the real problem.

The integrity of ammo is compromised if it’s subjected to extreme temperature cycles.

It’s hard on ammo to go from 100 degrees to 0 degrees and back to 100 degrees, year after year.

Why is this bad?

These temperature swings tend to invite humidity.

And as we’ll discuss shortly, humid environments are a serious threat to ammunition.

That’s why garages, attics, unheated cabins, and vehicles are poor locations.

Now, it’s highly dependent on your local climate.

But these storage locations are susceptible to seasonal temperature swings for most of us.

In winter, overnight temps can reach sub-zero degrees in garages, attics, etc.

And in the summer, north of 100 F.

Ammo stored in such locations will seem fine for the first few years…

But if left in these locations over several decades, the temperature swings will begin taking a toll on your ammunition’s shelf life.

So, where should your ammo be stored?

Basements are popular locations.

Why? Because basements are located below ground level.

Ground temperatures change much less than air temperatures.

So while air temps will change from 0 degrees to 100 degrees seasonally, ground temps 10 feet below the surface tend to stay in a range of 20 degrees.

So, for example:

If soil temps 10 feet underground average 50 degrees, it may rise to 60 degrees in the summer and drop to 40 degrees in winter.

This is significantly less variation than air temps.

And at 30 feet below the surface, temperature swings become negligible.

At this depth, ground temps stay constant regardless of the air temps.

So we can take advantage of the earth and support the “constant cool” principle of ammunition storage.

That’s why basements tend to be popular ammo storage locations but also have downsides.

Which we’ll cover next…

Caching Ammo-Small 2

Keeping your Ammo Dry

Moisture (a.k.a. humidity) is even more dangerous to your ammunition than temperature swings.

Moisture is corrosive to metal. And the ammo is made of metal (casings, primers, and bullets).

Hence, moisture exposure will eventually rust your ammo.

It will begin with small amounts of surface rust, which you can sand off, and your ammo will still fire, but even this may affect your ammo’s accuracy.

And if this rust is allowed to fester, it will eventually (over several decades) render your ammunition useless.

So we need to control moisture exposure to our ammunition.

But guess which part of our homes tends to have the highest humidity levels?

You’ve probably guessed it, basements.

Rain soaks into the ground. Ground contacts your home’s foundation.

This ground moisture is dangerous to foundations if allowed to accumulate.

That’s why ensuring your gutters and downspouts are working properly is important to avoid foundation problems (i.e., cracking, settling heaving, etc.)

Many homes have sump pumps to help manage basement moisture issues.

Basements and humidity are a big concern for your ammo.

When massive flooding occurs, which area will get wet first?

Your basement.

So from a moisture standpoint, basements present a bit of a problem.

However, there are solutions to help manage these risks.

First, if you store your ammo in a basement, don’t set it on the floor.

Keep it in cabinets or racks. The higher, the better.

If your basement floods, your ammo will likely remain above the water level.

Another way to manage the increased humidity in the basement air is to get a good dehumidifier.

Dehumidifier For Your Basement

This dehumidifier unit will continuously pull moisture out of a damp basement.

Keeping Your Ammo “In the Dark”

UV light is also a destructive force.

Over long periods of exposure, the sun’s harmful UV rays will break down nearly everything.

You’ve seen this process with vehicles.

Leaving a vehicle in the sun for years deteriorates its exterior.

Compare THAT vehicle to one stored in a garage.

Over long periods, UV rays will take a similar toll on your ammo.

The good news is:

Most indoor storage areas work just fine.

A closet, pantry, and basement are all protected from UV rays.

Plus, the inside of your ammo cans will be dark as well.

So if you store your ammo cans in a windowless location, UV rays become a non-issue.

Organization Matters…A Lot

Good ammo storage takes organization and discipline.

Remember, you’re stockpiling ammo for decades.

So it’s important to stay organized and maintain control of the inventory.

It’s not ‘set and forget.’

You must maintain a process.

↓ How I Organize My Ammo Cans | MTM Ammo Can Organizers ↓

First, you should label your ammo cans.

You want to be able to identify what’s in your ammo can without opening it.

Labels allow you to inventory your stockpile and save time in an emergency.

If you need ammo for your 22 survival rifle, you want to avoid dumping out several ammo cans just to find which one has your 22 LRs.

Essential Tool For Keeping Ammo Stockpile Organized

So get yourself a quality labeler.

A labeler is one of my favorite prepping tools.

It comes in handy for more than just your ammo.

It’s also a perfect tool for food stockpiles and rotation practices.

It also helps keep my gear and survival supplies organized.

I also label key areas of my home for emergencies.

I’ve labeled the main water and natural gas shut-off valves.

As the head of the household, I know how to find and shut these components off in emergencies.

But for my family, it’s less intuitive.

But by adding labels, it’s easier to walk them through the process and find them in an emergency.

I can’t assume I’ll be available when emergencies happen.

Worth every penny for my peace of mind.

Next, create a desiccant check schedule.

Every few months, open up each ammo can and check your desiccants.

Create an email reminder, write it on a calendar, and check your ammo stockpile regularly.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Firearms Survival Guide.Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Best Ammo Cans On The Market Today

The third way to manage humidity is storing your ammo in cans.

Check the rubber gaskets.

Make sure they’re in good shape and create an airtight seal when latched.

That’s why I steer clear of used ammo cans.

I don’t trust used seals.

They are often dried out and cracked.

It’s not worth the risk.

Fresh seals ensure an airtight seal.

Quality ammo cans will completely isolate the internal air from the external air.

I also tend to steer clear of plastic ammo cans as well:

↓ Ammom Box Plastic Vs. Steel…What Should You Buy ↓

Ok, let’s review a few of the best ammo cans on the market:

1. Our Top Recommendation
Solid Tactical 50 Cal or 30 Cal Metal Ammo Can

This excellent ammo can is both air and watertight, and you can be confident because each is individually tested before being sold.

The Solid Tactical Ammo Can also come with 3 desiccant packs. That way, you can add your ammo immediately, and the desiccant packs will remove all moisture from inside the can.

This can is tough as hell since it's made of steel and comes with a money-back guarantee!

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↓ Unboxing – Solid Tactical 50 Caliber and 30 Caliber Ammo Can ↓

2. Budget Option
Generic Budget-Friendly Metal Ammo Can

If price is your biggest concern, and you're looking for the "cheapest" metal ammo box, here it is.

This ammo box serves its purpose.

The paint job is solid in and out, and the overall material build is good, too.

Thos some folks mention a few minor QA issues. But overall recommended IF you're on a strict budget.

Way better than doing nothing!

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Redneck Convent Metal Ammo Case Can

This metal ammo can feature a “WORRY-FREE SEAL” that's considered air and watertight.

It comes with a hinged lid with a locking latch and a flat-folding handle.

It’s built to last since it’s made of heavy gauge solid steel. The lid includes a rubber gasket that ensures a tight fit to keep water and air out.

It comes in classic camo green color (.30 caliber or .50 caliber), tan color (.50 caliber only), or black color (.50 caliber only).

Here’s a helpful comment from one reviewer to consider:

"Here's what I consider the biggest advantage of this container. I stored loose ammunition in this can, and also in plastic ammo cans made by Plano and MTM. The plastic cans had rubber seals around the inside of the lid. So I assumed they would keep out moisture from humid air. I placed desiccant packs in all the containers.... the kind of desiccants that have beads that go from blue (when dry) to pink (when saturated). The desiccants in the plastic ammo boxes turned pink in less than two weeks. However, the desiccants in this metal can were still blue in the same period. For this reason alone, not to mention the superior strength of the Redneck can... I’m buying more metal cans to store all my ammo."

One concern is the stackability of these.

The carry handle creates a small “void” on the bottom of each can that’s slightly off-center. This causes a very high stack of them to slant…

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And just for fun, here are 25 survival uses for ammo cans!

↓ Why Buy Ammo Cans? 25 Survival Uses ↓

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

More About Desiccants

Good ammo cans keep the air inside the can from co-mingling with outside air.

This allows for complete control over the air inside the can.

That way, you have humidity control.

How so? Using something called a desiccant.

Toss a few desiccants into each air-controlled ammo can, and they’ll remove the moisture.

Silica Gel Desiccants use particle physics (osmosis) to attract moisture particles.

By trapping the moisture in the desiccant, the remaining air inside the ammo can remain dry.

So the surrounding ammo can air that touches your precious ammo will be arid with little to no moisture.

And as we discussed earlier, moisture is what causes metals to corrode.

So by removing moisture, you eliminate corrosion.

It’s simple math:

  • No moisture equals no rust.
  • No rust equals no corrosion.
  • And eliminating corrosion extends your ammo’s shelf life, reliability, and accuracy.

In this process, you’ll occasionally need to recharge your desiccants.

My Recommended Rechargeable Desiccant

I like these desiccants for four reasons.

1. First, they’re designed for up to a 3-square-foot area.

Three square feet is more than enough for a regular-sized ammo can.

I can standardize on one desiccant style and size for all my ammo cans.

I prefer to use universal parts and components whenever possible.

It’s always a headache to use several styles of desiccants and keep track of them all.

No thanks.

2. Second, they include a color code.

If you see an orange, they are still doing their job.

If it’s clear, it’s time to recharge them.

This color coding makes it simple.

Open your ammo can, look at the desiccant color, note the ones with clear color, and replace them.

Easy peasy.

3. Third, they are rechargeable.

They pull moisture from the air continuously until they “fill up.”

At some point, the desiccant can no longer draw more moisture from the air.

Why? Because it’s reached its moisture capacity.

That’s when the color turns clear.

But they are not ‘one and done.’

You get to reuse them over and over again.

Just put these desiccants in an oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours to reset them.

So these desiccants are a wise choice and worth every penny.

4. Fourth, they don’t use cancer-causing chemicals.

They don’t use the nasty chemical Cobalt Chloride.

This chemical has become classified as Group 2B, which states Cobalt Chloride is possibly carcinogenic.

No way I’m handling a carcinogen and putting them in my oven.

With these desiccants, you never have to worry about that.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Action Plan

Action Plan

1. Decide on a cool, dry, dark, and safe location.

Put some thought into your ammo storage location.

The best advice is where NOT to store your ammo.

Don’t store your ammo in an:

  • An unheated/cooled garage
  • An unheated/cooled attic
  • Your vehicle

2. Purchase high-quality ammo cans and keep your ammo in them.

I recommend you dedicate each caliber to its own can.

Don’t mix and match.

Then label each ammo can so you know what’s inside without having to open it.

↓ How Much 9mm Fits Into An Ammo Can? Surprisingly HEAVY ↓

3. Add fresh desiccants to each ammo can.

4. Create a master schedule to check your desiccants.

Then replace and recharge as necessary.

See, that wasn’t so hard!

Here’s a short video overview of your ammo storage plan:

↓ Ammunition Storage 101 ↓

And finally, keeping your ammo cans in a large gun safe is a good idea.

Everything is double secure from intruders, fires, or curious kids.


You’re now well on your way to protecting your investment correctly.

A system that will maintain your ammo investment for years, decades, and centuries to come.

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