Ammunition Storage…...How, Where, and Why
USMC, Amphibious Assault-1990-1994
1 deployment to Somalia.
2nd Ranger BN, 75th Ranger Regiment
8 deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Horn of Africa.
“Put your trust in God boys but mind to keep your powder dry.” Colonel Oliver Cromwell is believed to have coined the phrase in a speech to his troop in 1642 at the battle of Edgehill during the English Civil War. But what does it mean? It can and frankly has been used, throughout history. It is a simple reference to remain faithful in emergency situations, however, always be prepared for the worst and if needed, maintain the ability to act accordingly. It’s more modern usage, mainly post 1800s, has been just “keep your powder dry”, but it still holds the same meaning. It is a basic and to the point phrase which can be applied to many facets of life but today we will focus on the simplicity of its origins……Ammunition storage.
There are many reasons to store ammunition and to store it in bulk. It must be stored reliably, safely, and efficiently; it must always be at the ready in a manner that allows it to perform as intended. Before we dive into the how, where, and why of ammunition storage lets dissect what we are storing. The ammunition we are referring to is made up of four distinct items. They are simple as stand-alone items but when manufactured, they provide us with a tool that when used with our beloved firearms, afford opportunity ranging from sport to hunting and even personal protection.
- Primer – The primer acts as a small explosive charge which ignites the powder. This is the part of the ammunition that the firing pin of your weapon strikes to initiate the explosive charge which sends the projectile to its intended target.
- Case (shell) – The case holds everything together. Usually made of brass or steel, most are reloadable, some are not.
- Propellant (gunpowder) – The powder is the main combustible which, once ignited by the primer, provides the acceleration of the projectile.
- Projectile - The projectile is the “all business” portion of the ammunition. It is what is propelled when the gunpowder is ignited and what strikes the intended target.
Now, armed with a basic understanding of the anatomy of ammunition, we can have a greater appreciation of how to store it, and store it properly. While there is no definite timetable for the appropriate length of time that ammunition can be stored, it is safe to say that under ideal conditions, it should safely store for many years. While ammunition will not deteriorate like perishable food and rot, there are many conditions which can negatively affect the outcome and degrade the performance of your ammunition. Let’s dive into some of the most common environmental conditions which can negatively affect your ammunition and how it performs:
- Moisture – Each of the four components of ammunition do not play well with moisture. Whether the types of metal used in ammunition or the fact that two of the components involve small explosions, bottom line is moisture and ammunition do not mix well. Storing ammunition off the ground, on an elevated surface, inside, not in an area prone to flooding, and not against walls which contain plumbing is best. If the area you intend to store ammunition is musty, contains mildew or is excessively humid, you should try to find a better storage area. Remember, the dryer the better.
- Heat – Heat can also negatively affect ammunition. While ammunition will perform well in hot conditions (See the Iraq and Afghanistan wars), it is possible to store ammunition in areas which rise well beyond the ambient temperature. Think how hot your car or trunk is on a 100 plus day after you are done shooting some of the great Project War Path ammunition you recently purchased. Garages, storage sheds, etc., just like your car, can yield temperatures much greater than ambient. Excessive heat degrades ammunition at a faster rate and should be avoided. Bottom line the closer to a cool, dry, and dark place the better for all your ammunition storage needs.
- Light – Just like heat, light in excess can lead to premature ammunition degradation. It should be avoided, and ammunition storage areas should be cool, dark, and dry. Whether it is faded paint on automobiles, a cracked dashboard, or excessively dry and cracked leather seats in your car, most everyone has seen examples of what excessive light especially when combined with excessive heat can do. Avoid it, and remember a cool, dark, and dry place is best for ammunition storage.
So now that we have discussed the anatomy of ammunition and how environmental conditions can negatively affect ammunition, we can get on to recommendations. We recommend a two-part process for ammunition storage.
- Location - Store it in a cool, dry, and dark location. A location like an interior closet, in a locked safe, in a climate-controlled environment would be ideal. This is the easier consideration regarding ammunition storage.
- Amounts - In today’s political environment you must consider the unfortunate reality that ammunition may become quite expensive or a lot harder to purchase with nothing more than the stroke of an overzealous politician’s pen. Considering that fact, we feel it is ideal to purchase larger amounts of ammunition. Having a large amount of on hand ammunition affords you the comfort of knowing you have enough if it becomes harder to acquire and, most importantly, not feeling like you don’t have enough to train consistently; shooting is a very perishable skill, never forget that fact.
Considering location and amounts, we recommend that you store whatever amount of ammunition you have in areas described above and maintain an on-hand amount which is high. This allows you to train enough to hone your skillset and feel comfortable in knowing you can do so if pending legislation makes acquiring more ammunition more difficult. We recommend that using your older stock for training and replenishing it with newer stock is best. Your ammunition never sits long enough to degrade, and you continually train and perfect your skill. These methods adhere to Colonel Cromwell’s advice “Put your trust in God boys but mind to keep your powder dry.”