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Ammo Shelf Life: How Long Are Bullets Good For?

1817 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Refitter
Ammunition Bullet Brass Metal Gun accessory

One might wonder if there is such a thing as ammunition shelf life. It's a good concern to have, as ammunition should only be used if one can rely on it to be safe.

Granted, one might opine that if a person keeping sufficient ammunition to worry about expiring is probably not doing enough point shooting!.

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Properly stored in a sealed container in a temperature controlled environment: at least 100 years if not longer. Consider one of the longest continuous firearm experiments is the Lafflin & Rand Unique powder experiment. Some Unique powder (similar to the Unique powder sold today) has been stored under water since 1899. Samples are taken and fired every year, with no apparent loss of potency.
Last year I fired some .45 acp that my dad had bought in the 60's no failures. That said, I shoot my edc ammo up every year and replace it but that's because that ammo is out and about with me and not properly stored.
How long are bullets good for? Most bullets are just a chunk of lead, maybe with a copper cladding. So the answer is both easy and obvious...

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My Dad brought some .45 ACP back from Europe in 1945.
Since then it has been stored in one house, or another, in:
New Jersey,
upstate New York,
Nevada, and now
some with air conditioning, some not (more without).

I still have some - and, the last time any was taken to the range (maybe 5-6 years ago) - it worked just fine.

When I was in the army in the early 60's I acquired some .45 blanks that we used for training our dogs. I gave those to my Dad since he had the pistol at that time - it, too, still works just as good as ever. Again, no particular consideration given to storage conditions, just kept in one house or another and protected from unusual conditions. It could have, upon occasion, seen temperatures below freezing or up to (or, even slightly above) 120+ degrees - but, without any exposure to water, fire, etc. Not in sealed containers, not climate controlled (other than in house, garage, or trailer).

I'm not one to be too concerned about ammo storage conditions. That said, I also don't use any of that ammo for self-defense purposes.

I also have some period correct ammo (in its original packaging) for a 1922 vintage Winchester Model '92 in .25-20. That ammo, like the remainder of the WWII .45 ACP, is not kept for use; but for collectible and/or display purposes with the appropriate firearms. Similarly, I have some old J.C. Higgins, Western Auto, and other manufacturer's, .22 LR ammo for an old Marlin Model 80C, bolt action, that is old enough that it doesn't have a serial number. That was my 'learn to shoot and hunt' rifle that I grew up carrying almost everyday during the summer (no school) months.
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I have British .303 ammo that is marked 1917, I have never had a missfire, hangfire or squib load with any of it.......The Answer is forever if it is kept in a cool dry place. Ammo when it is going to become a serious problem will normally show signs. Brass seriously tarnished, serious color change, oxidization, corrosion or a white/gray powder coating..........Don't use it.
Corrosive Primer?

To fans of the 9mm largo (or 9mm Bergmann),

Bought a crate of 9mm largo from Long Mountain Outfitters some years ago - said to be non-corrosive Primer.
1969 year of manufacture.

Unfortunately on this ammo the primers blow out on every 2nd or third round, eventually fouling the firing-pin hole with bits of brass to the point of rendering the strike ineffective. I'd have to guess that the primers on this lot were corrosive after all, weakening the brass on the back of the primers. Sitting on 500 rounds of that stuff with no use other than running some at the end of a range day, just to slowly whittle it away. Later Empresa Nacional Santa Barbara from 1977 seems to run just fine.

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