Long Term Ammo Storage

I am often asked questions about long term ammo storage.  Do I have ammo storage?  And, if so, how much and how do I store it?  These are all good questions and certainly have their place in survival discussions.

While I don’t believe you should share the details of your personal storage efforts with anyone except your closest confidants, I can offer up some of the tips and tricks I use to store ammunition long term.  I’ll also get into what types of calibers I like to keep on hand just in case ammo ever becomes scarce or more expensive than it already is.

Ammo will be one of the first resources to dwindle if something major ever does happen.  Food, water (clean), ammo, and fuel are at the top of the list.  Below are a few reasons I keep some ammunition reserves in storage:

  • Just in case prices sky-rocket
  • Just in case  supplies become scarce
  • Potential bartering items
  • Long-term hunting
  • Long-term home and self defense
  • Any potential future bans

What exactly do I keep in storage?

Everyone has their own choice of survival guns and ammunition.  I’ve decided to go deep on the following rounds:

  • 12 Gauge (bird, 00 buck, slug)
  • .22 LR
  • .223
  • .357
  • Air rifle pellets (though they don’t need any special storage)
  • 50+ Carbon arrows with a variety of points for my Recurve Bow (again, no special storage)

I can successfully hunt anything in North America with my 12 Gauge shotgun or my Ruger 10/22 Rifle.  My Bushmaster .223 is the perfect varmint gun and I have trouble sleeping without my Teddy Bear (the nick-name for my Taurus .357 Revolver).  This post isn’t about debating what calibers are best for survival applications, but these are the ones I’ve chosen for various reasons.  I also keep about 5000 rounds of air rifle pellets on hand.  If you haven’t seen my post about the Survival Air Rifle you need to check it out.

Long Term Storage

As with long term storage of almost any item, your No. 1 concern with extended ammunition storage is moisture.  Remove the moisture and you pretty much remove your concerns for long term viability.   It’s not rocket science, but there are a few tips and tricks to live by when stashing your ammunition for 10+ years.

When the budget allows, I love to pick up cans of Fiocchi’s Canned Heat.  I picked up these .223 Bullets from www.LuckyGunner.com.  Fiocchi’s line of Canned Heat is hermetically sealed and packed with desiccants to prevent rust, deterioration and moisture.  They are a little pricey but make for a nice compact little stash of ammo.  They also stack perfectly in a 6″ PVC burial cache tube.  This can holds 50 rounds and measures 4″ in diameter by 2.5″ tall.  Pop the top like a can of tuna and you’re ready to rock and roll.  I’d give these babies 30 years easy.

.223 Canned Heat from LuckyGunner.com

.223 Canned Heat from LuckyGunner.com

With a little bit of time and effort you can pack your own ammo in such a way to ease your concerns about long term storage.  Most of my long term ammunition (meant for 10+ years of storage) is packed in surplus Military Ammo Cans.   I choose these because that is what they are meant for.  They are durable and have an air-tight and water-tight seal.  You can pick these up at most Army/Navy Surplus stores for $10 or so.  I do recommend buying them in person.  It is important to inspect the seals and integrity of the container.  

Be sure to Inspect the Rubber Seal in the Lid

Be sure to Inspect the Rubber Seal in the Lid

I meticulously inspect mine for flaws.  It is critical that they are still air tight.  If not you might as well use a shoe box.  I’ve also purchased many at local Gun & Knife Shows.

Surplus Military Ammo Cans - 2 Sizes

Surplus Military Ammo Cans - 2 Sizes

 You can also find bulk ammunition pre-packaged in Military Ammo Cans.  Here’s a cell phone pic I took at a local gun retailer. 
Pre-Packaged Retail Military Ammo Cans

Pre-Packaged Retail Military Ammo Cans

Just packing your ammo in an air tight container isn’t quite enough.  You need to throw in a few desiccant packs of silica gel.  These are designed specifically to absorb moisture and will do the trick just fine for keeping your ammo nice and dry.  You can normally find these packs for free.  Just look for them while opening anything new – they are everywhere!  I’ve collected these in the photo below from a few random purchases.  Send out an e-mail to your friends and family and have them save theirs for you.  Pretty soon, you’ll have more than you need.  I also sometimes double bag my loose ammo in zip lock bags.  You can fit more in the can by filling it with loose ammo versus keeping it in the factory boxes.

Silica Gel Packs

Silica Gel Packs


.22 Rounds Double Bagged w/ Silica Gel Packs before sealing can

.22 Rounds Double Bagged w/ Silica Gel Packs before sealing can

WHOA – not too soon!

So your Grandma mails you a handful of SILICA GEL packs and now you are ready to toss them in with your ammo and stow it away until the SHTF… not just yet.  If Silica Gel packs are just sitting around in the open air – the’ve probably already absorbed all the moisture that they can – in essence they are ‘used up’.  The great thing about these packs is they are reusable.  You just need to draw the moisture back out of them.  You can use a food dehydrator for a few hours if you have one.  Or, you can use my method.  I put them on a baking tray in the oven for 4 hours at 140 degrees.  Now they are ready to suck in moisture again.  Once you take them out put them IMMEDIATELY in with your ammo and make the seal.  I nomally put 2-4 little packs per ammo can.  That’s all there is to it.

Dehydrating Silica Gel Packs in Oven

Dehydrating Silica Gel Packs in Oven

I’ve never had a shortage of Silica Gel packs and I’ve never paid for them either.  I’ve also heard of guys making their own desiccant packs by using kitty litter or oil absorber (for garages) by putting a few tablespoons inside a womens nylon sock and knotting it off.  I suppose this would work, but I find it much easier to collect desiccant packs from friends and family and dehydrating them back to their peak absorbing state.  If you can’t fnd any, below are some great sources:



Can you use other containers besides Military Ammo Cans?  Of course.  They MUST be air tight, though.  I have several ammo burial caches packed in PVC tubes with glued caps.  I’ve also purchased several Dry Boxes from outdoor retailers such as Gander Mountain. 

Air tight Dry Box

Air tight Dry Box

They have an air-tight seal around the lid which makes them perfect for long term ammo storage. 

Dry Box With Ammo

Dry Box With Ammo

Amassing Your Stock-Pile

You’d be surprised at how fast you can build a descent ammo reserve by just picking up a few extra boxes of rounds here and there.  You know that crazy aunt or uncle that always get you something totally useless for Christmas – tell them you want a box of 12 Gauge shells.  It all adds up.  Look for cheap ammunition (cheap price not cheap quality) on sites such as www.luckygunner.com and www.cheaperthandirt.com and get on their list for specials or loyalty discounts.  Gun shows are also a great place to find some deals on ammunition.  You can wheel and deal at those shows – I always do.  You can buy ammo at Gun Shows with CASH – my favorite way.

 Just for fun, I’ve included a video below about Fiocchi’s Canned heat shotgun tracer shells.  They don’t come hermetically packed with desiccants like the other rounds but these tracer rounds are pretty dang cool.  Survival applications?  I can’t really think of any but I still think they are pretty cool.


 Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,





  1. Great article! I would to get you to write some quality articles for my site if you’re interested.



  2. ENIGMA6 says:

    I’d imagine some of these tracer rounds would work well as a night warning devices if removed from the casing and placed on hard/rocky ground, to be stepped on by an intruder, as long as someone was watching.

  3. David Whoolery says:

    Great article on survival methods………

  4. Donita Fulton says:

    Thanks for the info.

  5. I went to fiocchiusa.com and couldn't find where to purchase the 12 gauge tracer rounds

  6. I cannot find ammo cans with the rubber seals. Wouldn't window/door air seals (adhesive on one side)do just as well?

  7. Tracer rounds are good for taking down drones using a semi-auto.

  8. Ken Crouse says:

    Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese soldier to surrender in 1974 used coconut oil to store his 500 rounds of ammo. Something similar could be used.

    • Klem Heist says:

      The powder in ammo doesn’t last forever I’m afraid.
      I turn over my stash every 10 years.
      I recommend using ammo with single-based powders instead of double-based if possible. The US Army scraps munitions using double based after 20 years, and single-based, 45 years (rocket motors, ammunition, shells). The Arrhenius equation governs the speed of ammo deterioration and it starts the moment it is made. Bottom line, storage in cold is best, the colder the better. Heat speeds deterioration. Primers will outlast primers. If you handload your own ammo you can choose exactly the powder you need, for example Hogden4350 is made by ADI in Australia…it is a single-based powder. Double-based are slightly more energetic with the addition of nitroglycerine to nitrocellulose but it reacts over time and relative to the stabilizers manufacturers use. Military ammo tends to have more stabilizer added than powder sold for civilian use. Interestingly the early problems with the M16 in Vietnam was caused by too much calcium carbonate added to the powder as a preservative, gumming up the works, jamming in critical situations and causing a massive loss of confidence in an otherwise reliable platform…but that is another story.

      • I beg to differ, I’m shooting bulk Russian and Bulgarian ammunition from the ’70’s, in my Mosin Nagants. Corrosive yes, but that’s easy enough to combat with thorough cleaning. Keep the moisture out, and your ammo will probably outlast you.

  9. overunder27 says:

    “I’d give these babies 30 years easy.”

    I don’t get this comment. There’s surplus ammo from WW2 that’s still useable. M2 Ball 30-06 for example. That’s what… 60+ years old now? Ammo isn’t food, therefor it should last forever if kept dry.

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  11. Klem Heist says:

    Some good ideas here but also a couple I disagree with from experience.

    Have a military baclkground and seen the results of long term storage using ammo liners…they rust from the outside-in. Also the rectangular seals of the standard boxes in the photos are relatively large surface areas and the larger the surface area of seal the more chance of leakage through an area that has less mating pressure than the rest. Ammo liners are hit-and-miss even if the rubber looks sound and the box looks new. I would use them for short-term emergency storage only. This is my experience from ammo buried in shallow ‘graves’ from the mid 1980’s to now (30years). If you don’t seal it properly introduced humidity in the air or contents it will corrode eventually.

    Best approach is to use PVC plumbing tubes with inspection caps and rubber O rings. Use a scant, even film of silicone grease on the O rings as you would sealing dive torches and other underwater kit. The narrower the diameter the better (100mm max, unless you are also storing gun parts and need to go wider). Use dessicant bags like the author suggests, that’s good advice, but also displace as much air as possible inside by filling it right-up (either with ammo or something solid). When sealing, do it in a dry environment, summer if possible and use with a hairdryer on hot. PVC plumbing designed to be buried and away from UV light is actually the best environment for it. The temperature variations with seasonal changes is mitigated by the insulating effects of the surrounding soil.

    Oh, and remember where you buried it! Don’t rely on GPS as it may not be available when you need it, and watch out when using vegetation, even long-term trees to recognise the site. A fire going through the area, or changes over the years will confound your memory.

    Don’t wrap guns in GladWrap (rusts). Plastic bags have theor shape after 30 years but split as soon as you lift them with the weight of ammo in them. My point is plastic lunch bags slowly break down over the years. Cotton pillow cases or socks are better for ammo storage (plus they absorb moisture)…a few dollars at your local thrift store for second hand linen with the convenience of someone elses DNA on it.

    Last piece of advice, buy a metal detector (from bitter experience!)

    Well done to the Author and good luck to everyone.

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