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Old 04-10-2009, 04:07 PM
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Default Shotshell Shelf Life? Long Term Storage?



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Can anyone advise me on the shelf-life of 12ga shells, proper storage conditions, etc.?

Currently, I have 200 rounds, in their original boxes, in an ammo can that (i think) is water/air tight. I bought it from a surplus store, so I'm apt to think not so much. I also have 60 rounds in a shell bag, kept right next to the boom stick.

As far as long-term storage, can I do the Mylar bag, O2 absorber process, like I would with rice, beans, etc.?

Thanks for your help!
Old 04-10-2009, 08:23 PM
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I think that the "shelf life" of ammunition is highly underestimated. I have purchased and fired ammunition that dated from the 1940's without any problems. When it comes to shotgun ammo, I have some paper hulled buckshot rounds that a friend gave me several years ago. I have no idea of their exact age, but I am pretty sure that they are at least 40 years old if not much older. I can assure you that these were not stored in any airtight or protected condition (most likely rattled around in a dresser drawer). I took a couple of them out just for giggles and loaded them up in my sxs coach gun. A satisfying boom resulted from each trigger pull. Put it in an ammo can with a rubber seal, throw in some dessicant packs, and don't sweat it.
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Old 04-10-2009, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbarry201 View Post
I think that the "shelf life" of ammunition is highly underestimated. I have purchased and fired ammunition that dated from the 1940's without any problems. When it comes to shotgun ammo, I have some paper hulled buckshot rounds that a friend gave me several years ago. I have no idea of their exact age, but I am pretty sure that they are at least 40 years old if not much older. I can assure you that these were not stored in any airtight or protected condition (most likely rattled around in a dresser drawer). I took a couple of them out just for giggles and loaded them up in my sxs coach gun. A satisfying boom resulted from each trigger pull. Put it in an ammo can with a rubber seal, throw in some dessicant packs, and don't sweat it.
Agreed 100%. If they don't look comletely worn and broke down, I say they are good to go. The case of the shell will tell you a lot. If it looks like it has been to He11 and back, then you might reconsider, but for the most part, if stored decently, I would say fire away.
Old 04-10-2009, 08:33 PM
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I have rounds from the beginning of last century, look brand new, they've been sitting in a GI ammo can forever. Never shot them due to their collectors value, but I'd shoot them SHTF
Old 04-10-2009, 08:57 PM
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High humidity damages the outside surface of the ammunition. The corrosion causes feed and eject issues to an extent. The big one with ammo storage is cool and stable temps and low handling. The powder granules become smaller as their jerked around. The round still fires, but the powde burns faster and accuracy can be lost. The temp variations allow bits of air to get in and out of the casing area which transfers moisture from the air. Also, the temp variations promote condensation along the insides of the can.

I have heard non-corrosive is very reliable up to 20 years and corrosive primed cartridges are good up to 50 years. I have seen examples of much older ammo fired reliably though. I personally know someone who has WWI mauser ammo and has had no failures. OF course, bolt action have less issues than semi-autos. His accuracy is very good, I'd say excellent considering it's factory ammo and not handloaded to tailor the guns needs. I have shot late 1970's rimfire ammo and every round fired just fine out of a bolt action 22lr.

My storage is in 50 cal boxes. Long term storage boxes have dessicent bags in them and a small coating of RTV is on the gasket face to ensure a good seal. Mark the outside well so you know what's in there. The caliber, grain, bullet type, and amount.

IN some boxes I store spare parts for that caliber. In almost every box I store a spare cleaning mop, brush, and jag. Storing cleaning solvent and lubricant oil is a possibility. Recently I used to keep a bag of patches in the empty corners. I was concerned these patches may absorb and possibly release moisture. I removed all patched from my storage. In the empty small spaces I now store small 50 round boxes of 22lr or loose shells. I keep the ammo in the paper boxes they came in.

If storing ammo in a highly moisture prone area, putting them in a mylar bag isn't a bad idea. For whatever reason you'd be storing stuff like that in a moisture prone area.
Old 04-10-2009, 09:49 PM
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While brass ammo, like centerfire rifle, etc., has a very long storage life, especiallly under temperature and moisture controlled conditions, I'm not sure shot shells are the same. I had some 16 Ga. Federals that my Dad had had for about 15 years, stored in the closet in the house. They were all plastic hulls, all cracked lengthwise.. They did fire, but some were noticeably underpowered. Obviously, none were reloadable. I have old (+-25 years or more) paper hull 12 ga. shells that show no signs of damage, and work OK when I try them from time to time. My plastic hulls don't seem to last more than 8 or 10 years without getting brittle and cracking. I store them in .50 cal or 20mm ammo cans with dessicant in an area with stable temperatures.
Just my own experience. Hope it helps.
Old 04-11-2009, 08:25 AM
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Mbarry and Sailinghudson make some good points.
Humidity and mositure is the #1 enemy to longterm ammo storage.

The OP is in the LA area, so, assuming he is not right at the coastline, he is in a dry area. Ammo is probably going to last at least 1 lifetime in an arid area without a lot of extra effort.

In humid areas, more care is needed, but, it's still not a lot of trouble to protect ammo from corrosion. if in a humid area, and packing ammo for long term storage, take it somewhere that is air conditioned, wehre the humdity is lower, then pack it. This way you don't seal airborn moisture in with the ammo. Throw in a silica/dessicant pack and close it up in an airtight container.

Ammo can trivia: How to test a used ammo can for a good seal?
Take a dollar bill, half inside, half outside of the can and lock down the clamp on the ammo can. If you can pull the dollar bill out, it doesn't have an airtight seal. This test has to be performed several times along the seal for each can. A little silicon spray on the seal will help it survive.
Old 04-11-2009, 12:46 PM
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I have some shells that my great uncle loaded back in the 1950s that I'm using today still...They are a BP 10 bore for an old Winchester Lever Shotgun that seldom gets used now-a-days for fear of damaging the Damascus barrels even with very light smokeless loads...

I have some 5 packs of Remington buckshot that I bought in 1979/80 that is still fine to go...

If you get the green scale on it just wipe it down but check your ammo every six months or so as you don't want the scale to corrode the brass rims...

Keep away from heat and humidity and you'll be fine...

I have some pre-WW1 issue target loads in .303 British that are as fine as when they were made in 1912 and I've shot some of them a couple of years ago and they went boom like they were supposed to!
Old 04-11-2009, 01:52 PM
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brass cased ammo like rifle ammo will last a long time i have found shotgun ammo doesnt ,i have all the ammo stored in the same place but when useing the shot gun ammo that was stored around 10 yrs or less it just went pop and the bbs just cleared or rolled out the barrel after fireing where the rifle ammo still works from the 40s,maybe it was just a fluke but i dont trust shotgun ammo thats more then a couple of years old your findings may be differant then mine but thats what happened to me.
Old 04-11-2009, 02:33 PM
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Modern plastic shot shells are obviously much more stable than old paper shells.
And I shot some paper shells last summer that were around 50 years old - every one went bang.

- OS
Old 04-11-2009, 07:36 PM
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Only 200, that shouldn't last long. Take it to the range and rotate your stock. A shotgun isn't a miracle rifle, you need to practice. A quick repeat shot isn;'t easy with powerful cartridges. When you fire, you are farther away from your orginal aim than a lower powered round like a .223 remmington or handgun caliber.

Try shooting skeet and keep the gun at your hip when throwing the clay, it's not that easy. Also, take a empty plastic bottle and throw it infront of your with your shotgun in one hand. Try to push it out to 50 yards and keep the bottle moving. It's alot of fun. Or place 2 or 3 plastic bottles or target upright and shoot quickly. when you get decent at these, use a tigher choke (modified or full) and some heavier shot like #6 or #4 instead of the usual skeet 7.5 or 8 size shot.
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