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Old 08-28-2004, 11:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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What is the shelf life of ammo?

well, the title says it all, i guess

i have ammo for a .22 long rifle, 357 magnum, 9mm and shotgun shells. All about 8-10 years old. that's about the last time i fired any weapon.

i can probably guess the answer but i would like to hear it from people in the know. thanks
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Old 08-29-2004, 12:36 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, there are people who shoot surplus ammo left over from WWII, so I don't think something 10 years old will give you much trouble. Keep in mind though, if you carry it for CCW or keep it for self defense, I would switch it out every year. No need to take chance with your life.
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Old 08-29-2004, 10:24 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I shoot 7.62x54R ammo that is 25 years old, but I inspect all the rounds for corrosion or any other defect (like loose lead) that may cause it to jam or otherwise malfunction in the gun. the most important thing is that there is little or no corrosion, especailly in a semi-auto gun, corrosion equals friction, possibly causing a jam or worse...
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Old 08-29-2004, 10:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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It depends on who made it. Military surplus ammo will last a VERY long time, cheap target ammo like winchester white box will probably last a few years. It really depends.
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Old 08-29-2004, 01:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If it doesn't work, your problem is going to be dud rounds, not stuff kb'ing on you, unless the casings are corroded. I have ammo from around 1900 that I've been told would still fire if I were to clean up the guns it goes with. I don't really want to take a chance with a 101-year-old rifle, though.
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Old 08-29-2004, 09:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I would say go ahead and give it a try. A lot depends on how it's been stored. If it was in damp conditions, it may be bad. If it was dry, then the grease on the 22LR bullets may have hardened up and may cause feeding problems.

I've had 22LR that's given me hell in semiauto pistols after only about 12 mos. in a basement in a cardboard box, because the grease dried up. Turns out it had been sitting near a dehumidifier. I probably could have relubricated them or something, but seeing as how it only costs a few cents a round, I donated them to the junior rifle team (where they use bolt action rifles so it doesn't matter) and bought new stuff.

Your 357 and 9mm ought to be okay, unless it was particularly damp and moisture got into the primers. As MrSelfDestruct said, the worst that will happen is a dud round. Just be careful clearing it.

Military surplus ammo generally has some sort of sealant around the edges of the primer, where it's seated into the pocket. This keeps out moisture, making them water resistant as well as stable in storage. Commercial ammunition rarely has this (well, not the plinking stuff anyway), so it can go bad.

If you test it and find that most of them are duds, the bullets and cases could still be reloaded, if you have the equipment and the time (and desire) to do so. Or just leave them in the dud box at your range, somebody will recycle them.

Good luck
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Old 08-30-2004, 02:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Your ammo should be fine. If you are concerned about it, you can take it to the local police station and give it to the bomb squad and they will destroy it for you.
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Old 08-30-2004, 07:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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great info guys. thanks
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Old 09-03-2004, 01:47 AM   #9 (permalink)
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If it stays dry and clean, age shouldn't be a problem. The problems come in using antiquated ammo in modern firearms. Casings might not be sized to exact tolerances, nor might the ammo fit properly. Less than 25-40 years shouldn't be a problem
 
Old 09-03-2004, 10:03 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I knew a guy that found some old 1889 shotgun cartridges and put them in an old junker shotgun of his! He put the gun in a vice and pulled the trigger with a 40 ft string. The gun fired, there was a lot of smoke (as was normal for powder back them) and the target was evenly sprayed with what appeared to be goose shot.

Mind you firing off old shotgun ammo is not wise, but pistol and rifle ammo from the 1930's onward should be fine.

p.s. some specially marked rounds from WWII were intentionally overloaded so that they would explode in the Germans/Russians/Allies faces. Never shoot off mixed ammo that you find unmarked in bags and boxes in gunshows unless you intend to weigh every single shell.
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Old 09-07-2004, 10:55 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Rifle and pistol loaded cartridges loaded by a factory will be good for many, many years if stored properly. Obviously avoid exposure to water and excess heat. Ammo likes the same conditions that you do, dry and cool-not hot. Shotgun ammo will last for years also, but can develop a problem if it is the older version loaded with nitro based powder. The nitro can settle to one side of the powder charge over a long period and cause unsafe firing condition. Modern shotgun ammo probably is quite safe for 5 years and maybe even 10 years if kept dry and cool. Military surplus ammo is usually good for years if loaded in the USA, Germany, Britain and Russia. Really old surplus ammo should be avoided.

Edit: I forgot to mention to avoid exposure to ammonia fumes. Brass will react with ammonia and becomes very brittle. In other words, the brass looses its elasticity. A rupture of the brass case within the chamber becomes much more likely if the brass cartridge has come into contact with ammonia in any form. Many years ago there was a case of a reputable manufacturer in Brazil purchasing the cardboard for their cartridge boxes from a new manufacturer. The new people were using a paper curing technique that used ammonia in the process. It was found after many of those cartridges burst within the firing chamber that the cardboard boxes had just enough residual of ammonia retained to create a problem for the brass.

Last edited by Big Cholla; 09-28-2004 at 09:27 PM..
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Old 09-14-2004, 12:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
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As long as it's kept dry and not frozen it should be fine if it is high quality ammo. The best bet however is to check for corrosion. Also, keep in mind that gun powder becomes more volatile with time. This isn't a problem with ammo 25-40 yrs old. However, when dealing with ammo 100+ years old take extreme caution. There was a cannon in storage at a museum here in America from the Revolutionary War. Unbeknownst to the museum workers it had a full black powder charge in it over 300 years old. They recently had to take several days of work to remove the powder. It turns out that it was so volatile that the cannon leaning foward and hitting the front of it's barrel with a hard surface would have set it off. Just be careful and don't do anything stupid. The last thing we need is another statistic.
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