Does Ammo Go Bad?

With the ammo shortages happening right now we have all been stockpiling extra ammo in the event that we need it. But does ammo have a shelf life? Will the ammo we have stashed away for a rainy day eventually expire?

Over time lots of things can expire or go bad. We all probably have that one can of soup in the back of our pantry that is a few years old. If all of these other things go bad, does ammo go bad too? Yes, it absolutely can if you don’t store it properly. And we don’t mean keeping it refrigerated. In some environments, your ammo can go bad more quickly than in others.

As a new or experienced gun owner, you may not typically think that ammo would fall into the category of items that can go bad. But just like your silverware can eventually rust or become bent so can ammo. So, how should you be storing your ammo?

How Should You Store Ammo?

If you want to prolong the life of your ammo we have a few tips on how to best store it. One way to store your extra ammo is in a magazine. Some people believe that storing your ammo in a magazine will damage the springs but in reality that is a myth. The springs on your magazine will be just as effective with or without ammo stored in them.

Ideally, you want to keep your ammo somewhere dry with low humidity and a reasonable temperature. This could be in a closet or near your safe, even a drawer will suffice. The bathroom is probably not the best place because of the moisture created by the shower. If you don’t want to keep your extra ammo in a magazine another option is an ammo can. These containers can keep your ammo sealed and protected. Additionally, if you place silica gel packets in the can with your ammo they can help reduce any moisture that may be inside.

These are just a few ways to store your ammo that will help prolong its life. It’s great to know how to store your ammo now, but what if you already have a stockpile, how do you know if your ammo is bad?

How Do You Know if Ammo is Bad?

Maybe you already have some ammo tucked away for a rainy day or even if your ammo is stored properly you want to know how to tell if it is bad. Well, there are a few indicators that your ammo has gone bad. First, if it is tarnished beyond recognition. It's natural for ammo to tarnish over time so if you see a little discoloration don’t freak out just yet. If your ammo is severely tarnished where you can see the corrosion on the bullet it is bad.

Another tell tale sign that your ammo is bad is if the gunpowder smells. If you were to remove the bullet from the casing you would be able to smell the gunpowder. When gun powder goes bad it has a very strong sulfur like smell. The last way to know your ammo is bad is if it’s damaged. For example, if the bullet or casing is dented.

Properly storing your ammo can reduce the chance of your ammo going bad or becoming damaged. But what happens if your ammo goes bad? Can you still use it?

Can You Still Use Bad Ammo?

Do you eat your expired cheese from the fridge after it has a few green spots on it? Most likely you don’t because it could make you sick. Well, you shouldn’t use bad ammo because it can damage your gun.

When you feed bad ammo into the barrel of your gun not only does it have a chance of misfiring it also may not have enough momentum to exit the barrel. This can cause more issues than it just not firing at all. If a bullet is trapped in the barrel you will have to safely remove it or have it removed before you can fire another bullet.

Having bad ammo could be the difference between life and death. If you are in a situation where you need to use your gun to protect yourself, your family, or someone else and your ammo is bad you may not be able to fire a shot in time. So, it is better safe than sorry when it comes to bad ammo.

What Should You Do With Your Bad Ammo?

You now know how to determine if your ammo is bad, how to properly store your ammo, and if you can still use ammo that has gone bad. So, if you have bad ammo and can’t use it what do you do with it? You’ll need to safely dispose of the ammo. One way to do this is to take it to your local gun store or range.

Improperly disposing of ammo can be dangerous. Something could ignite the primer and some ammo contains lead which isn’t something you want to just throw away. A local range has the ability to safely dispose of ammo and will typically do this free of charge. If you live near a waste facility some have a hazardous waste dropoff that may accept the ammo. The last option we will mention is calling your local law enforcement. Some departments will accept the bad ammo and properly dispose of it for you.

So, before you just throw your bad ammo in the garbage, use one of these disposal methods to safely get rid of any ammo you don’t want or can’t use anymore.

How Much Ammo Do You Need?

The ever daunting question of how much ammo do you actually need. Some people may tell you to have a stockpile while others may say enough for each of your guns.

Ultimately, this is a personal preference. At a minimum, you will most likely want enough to have each of your self-defense weapons fully loaded. Some of our customers prefer to have enough ammo for an additional magazine for each of their guns. You may also want additional rounds for using at the range when practicing.

We recommend cycling a magazine or two of your chosen ammo through your gun initially just to make sure there aren't any problems.


Ammo like many other things can indeed go bad. If it is extremely tarnished beyond recognition, damaged, or the gunpowder smells your ammo has gone bad and you will need to safely dispose of it. Using bad ammo can damage your gun and you can’t accurately predict how the bullet will behave.

To safely dispose of your bad ammo take it to a gun store, range, waste facility, or to your local law enforcement. At any given time how much ammo you have is up to you but you will most likely want enough to have each gun you own fully loaded and some additional rounds for practice.

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