A lot of people think stocking up on supplies is just about being a prepper. True enough, without creating stockpiles of essentials, you can’t be really prepared, but that’s just half the fight. You need to store it once you have it, and that’s a lot more difficult than just piling it in your basement and forgetting about it before the cooling unit is hit by the fertilizer.
Preppers think a lot, which makes sense, about food storage; food is important, but it’s also perishable, so you need to make sure it’s stored well enough that it won’t poison you when you need it. For the same purpose, water storage gets a lot of coverage too. However, there are some items that seem to get ignored, and one of them is almost as important as food and water – ammunition.
Ammo comes in a sealed box, and even though a ton of loose cartridges are stored in a paper bag, they won’t change much noticeably over time. The brass may have some discoloration, but this is ammunition, isn’t it? It’s not like food; if you leave it for too long on the oven, it doesn’t go moldy.
Maybe not, but if you are going to rely on it, ammunition always needs to be stored properly. Badly stored rounds might look perfect, but inside they might be rotting, and before you pull the trigger, you won’t know anything about it. Then you might find yourself with stoppages, bullets that don’t leave the barrel with a clear velocity or trajectory, even dangerous hang fires or breech explosions.
Your ammo stockpile is there to let you harvest game and protect yourself. If you can’t depend on it, it’s going to be a lot harder to live through the crisis and maybe impossible if there’s civil unrest in your country.
- Start with quality ammo. You can economize and save some money in some ways. Ammo is not one of them. Keep on pushing bargain bullets and old military surpluses; get the best ammunition for your stockpile you can afford. A bargain price may mean ammunition that has been or hasn’t been properly stored on the shelf for a long time. Also, quality management may have failed. That’s normally not a big problem, but can you afford misfires in a survival scenario? Buy ammunition less than ten years old, and avoid boxes that are broken or torn.
- Rotate your supply. For your food supply, you already have a rotation system, and you should have one for your ammunition, too. When you securely buy the ammunition pack, label it with the date of purchase and, if you know it, the date of manufacture and place it on the back of your ammo shelf. Take the oldest ammunition from the front of the shelf and use it to practice when you go to the range. That way, you can face it with the newest and most reliable ammunition in your weapons when a crisis hits.
- Pack it protectively. Ammo, with the exception of some of the old military surplus that you should not allocate to your stockpile, normally comes in a cardboard box. For most purposes, this is perfect, but for long-term storage, it is far from ideal. Cardboard does not provide a great deal of damp protection, which is one of the key enemies of stored ammunition, along with heat.
- Can it. Military ammunition cans with a rubber seal on the cover provide much more protection than a cardboard box. They’re immune to humidity, rugged and easy to bear. This is an ideal way to do it if you are storing boxed ammunition.
- Vacuum pack it. Moisture is the greatest enemy of stored ammunition, and the key cause of that is the air around it. The less air in the packaging, the less moisture your ammunition will get. If you can’t get military ammo cans, you can protect ammunition by storing it in plastic bags and extracting much of the air prior to sealing the bag. A vacuum cleaner is a decent way to do this; much, but not all, of the air can be eliminated. To get all the air out, you may be tempted to go the whole hog and use a proper vacuum sealer, but this is not as good an idea as it seems. Cartridges are almost, but not totally, airtight. The air within them will bleed out slowly if you store them in a high vacuum before the pressure equalizes. When you open the box, fresh air, bringing moisture with it, will seep back in. The odds of your survival shelter being drier are pretty poor than the factory where the ammunition was made, so do not tempt fate like this.
- Use desiccants. Whatever kind of packaging you use for your ammunition, throw some desiccant sachets in there to soak up any excess moisture that finds its way in. That’s what’s used in the famous Desi-Paks. Bentonite clays work well. Also, silica gel is safe.
- Keep it cool. Ammunition is designed to be as heat-resistant as possible – in addition to the fact that guns get hot, it is also intended to remain functional in the ammunition pouches of a soldier in desert conditions. It also uses the same fundamental technology as military ammunition, even though your ammo is civilian. It isn’t foolproof, however. Hot storage won’t cause short-term harm unless you reach temperatures far beyond 100°F (although that can be done by a poorly insulated store that gets direct sunlight), but even mild heat can degrade your ammo’s efficiency over months and years. Store it somewhere as cool as possible, while keeping the focus on moisture prevention.
- Check regularly. In order to protect your ammo, don’t just trust your store. Check it! If, for whatever reason, you find water leaking in, or temperatures rising, it will give you an opportunity to fix the issue before any real damage is done. If packaging begins to display signs of humidity or corrosion, you will recognize that the inside of the ammunition can no longer be relied on and needs replacing.
Related: Top 13 Survival Uses For Fired Ammo
It is important for you to know in a survival situation that when you pull the trigger, the round in the chamber will fire accurately and send the bullet flying true to the target. The only way to ensure that is to properly look after your ammunition. Follow these tips and after the SHTF, your weapons will be reliable, life-saving weapons. Have it wrong and they’ll all be clubs that are poorly balanced.