How Long is Ammo Good for? A Comprehensive Guide to Ammunition Shelf Life

Close-up 9mm bullet on white

When it comes to ammunition, one question that arises is how long it remains viable for use.

Ammunition shelf life is an important factor for gun owners, as they need to ensure that their stored ammo is still functional when needed.

The shelf life of ammo largely depends on the storage conditions and manufacturing practices in place.

Most manufacturers guarantee their ammunition for at least a decade, but it’s not uncommon for ammo to last much longer under ideal conditions.

In fact, quality ammunition stored correctly can potentially last a century or more without any significant issues.

However, it’s important to regularly check stored ammunition and practice proper storage techniques to maintain its effectiveness over time.

Proper Storage Conditions

Proper storage conditions play a significant role in determining the shelf life of ammunition.

By maintaining optimal humidity levels, temperature, and using airtight containers, you can prolong your ammo’s reliability and performance.

Humidity Control

Keeping your ammunition in a cool, dry place helps prevent the buildup of rust and corrosion over time, which can affect the brass casings and other metallic components.

According to the American Gun Association, it’s essential to store your ammo and any related powder in a cool, dry spot, as humid and warm air can cause damage.

To control humidity, consider using moisture-absorbing desiccants or a dehumidifier to maintain optimal conditions.

Temperature Control

Extreme temperature fluctuations can wear on the primers, casings, and other components of your ammo.

A general rule of thumb for ideal storage temperatures is between 55°F and 85°F, as mentioned by AmmunitionToGo.

Consistent indoor temperatures can help ensure the longevity and performance of your stored ammunition.

Avoid exposing your ammo to direct sunlight, heat sources, or freezing conditions.

Airtight Containers

Using airtight containers can prevent moisture from entering and affecting your ammunition., adds that moisture is detrimental to the shelf life of ammo.

Invest in quality, airtight storage containers or sealed ammo cans to protect your investment from humidity and other environmental factors.

By following these proper storage conditions, you can maintain the quality and reliability of your ammunition for an extended period.

Shelf Life of Different Ammo Types

Rimfire Ammunition

Rimfire ammunition, including popular calibers like .22 LR, generally has a shorter shelf life compared to centerfire ammo.

This is due to the more fragile nature of the rimfire primer compound.

However, when stored properly, rimfire ammo can still last for decades.

Proper storage involves keeping the ammunition in a cool, dry, and dark environment.

Maintaining consistent temperature and humidity levels can help prolong the shelf life of rimfire ammunition.

Investing in quality storage containers, such as ammo cans with rubber seals, can also improve storage conditions.

Centerfire Ammunition

Centerfire ammunition, which includes most handgun and rifle calibers, generally has a longer shelf life than rimfire ammo.

This type of ammunition can last for a minimum of 10 years and may last indefinitely, especially when stored correctly.

To maximize the shelf life of centerfire ammo, follow the same storage recommendations as for rimfire ammunition.

Keep it in a cool, dry, and dark environment, maintaining consistent temperature and humidity levels.

Quality storage containers can also enhance the longevity of centerfire ammo.

Shotgun Ammunition

Shotgun ammunition, which uses shotshells instead of cartridges, has a shelf life that is comparable to centerfire ammo.

When stored in ideal conditions, shotgun ammo can last for many years.

Following the same storage guidelines for rimfire and centerfire ammo will help ensure the longevity of shotgun ammunition.

In conclusion, the shelf life of different ammo types varies, but with proper storage, most ammunition can last for decades.

Remember to always follow safety guidelines and inspect your ammo before use, regardless of its age.

Expiration Indicators

Many factors can influence the longevity of ammunition, and several indicators can help determine if your ammo is still good to use.

Two key physical aspects to examine are corrosion or rust and the condition of the casings.

Corrosion or Rust

Corrosion on the surface of your ammunition can significantly impact its effectiveness.

This usually occurs when ammo is exposed to humidity and moisture over an extended period, which can cause the metal components to deteriorate.

To identify corrosion or rust, carefully inspect the following parts of the ammo:

  • Projectile tips
  • Shell casings
  • Primer area

If you notice any signs of corrosion or rust, it is advisable to discard the affected ammo to avoid potential issues during use.

Hard or Cracked Casings

Another sign that your ammunition may have expired is the condition of the casings.

Ammo stored in unfavorable conditions, like extreme heat or cold, can cause the casings to become brittle and crack.

Inspect the casings of your ammo for the following signs:

  • Cracks or splits
  • Discoloration
  • Deformities or bulging

Damaged casings are likely to compromise the performance and reliability of your ammunition, and it’s best to dispose of any affected rounds.

Regular checks for these expiration indicators can help ensure that your ammo remains in good condition for an extended period.

Proper storage is key to preserving the longevity of your ammunition and can help keep it functional even beyond the manufacturer’s estimated lifespan.

Ammunition Disposal

When it’s time to dispose of old, damaged, or unwanted ammunition, it’s essential to acknowledge the precautions and legal guidelines necessary to ensure safety.

Safe Handling

Before disposing of any ammunition, make sure to handle it with care, as mishandling can lead to accidents or injuries.

One popular method to neutralize ammunition is soaking it in water or motor oil for a few days, rendering the powder and primer inactive.

However, this method might not be entirely foolproof, according to

Another approach involves pulling the bullet, dumping the powder, and spraying the inside of the casing with a substance like WD-40 to deactivate the primer.

Regardless of the method chosen, wearing protective gear, like gloves and safety glasses, is crucial when handling ammunition.

Legal Guidelines

It’s essential to comply with legal guidelines when disposing of ammunition.

Various jurisdictions may have specific rules, so it’s wise to check with local law enforcement agencies for the proper disposal procedures.

Some areas might have designated drop-off locations or collection events for people to safely dispose of old or unwanted ammunition.

Avoid simply throwing ammunition in the trash or recycling bin, as doing so can pose a risk to sanitation workers and the environment.

In summary, the key to proper ammunition disposal involves practicing safe handling methods and adhering to legal guidelines.

By taking these precautions, you can minimize the risks associated with ammunition and contribute to a safer environment for everyone.


In summary, ammunition can last for an extended period, typically around 10 years or more, depending on various factors such as manufacturing quality, storage conditions, and maintenance practices.

Some sources suggest that quality ammunition stored properly may even work after a hundred years.

It is crucial to store your ammunition in a cool, dry place to maximize its shelf life and ensure its optimal performance when needed.

Regular inspection and rotation of ammunition stocks can be a good practice, especially for self-defense or concealed carry purposes.

Replacing and shooting older rounds every three to five years can help maintain the reliability and effectiveness of your ammunition, offering you peace of mind and better preparation for potential emergencies.

To maintain the longevity and effectiveness of your ammunition stockpile, consider the following storage tips:

  • Store ammunition in airtight containers with desiccant packets to control moisture.
  • Keep ammunition away from direct heat sources and fluctuating temperatures.
  • Regularly inspect your ammunition for signs of corrosion, discoloration, or damage.

By following these best practices, you can ensure the shelf life and performance of your ammunition while providing a reliable and safe shooting experience when needed.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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