Ammo Storage
Travis Smola

Ammo Storage Tips and Solutions That Will Extend Shelf Life

People are stocking up on ammunition. That is no secret. Hunters and shooters have been hoarding whatever calibers they can find ever since the world was turned upside down in 2020. We are still feeling the after-effects of what was arguably the worst ammo shortage this country has ever seen. While my area of Michigan no longer has a shortage, I know some areas still have difficulty finding common hunting calibers such as .35 Remington or .22LR. So we can't blame anyone for wanting to stock up and keep a supply of their favorite cartridges and shotshells in long-term storage. We just never know what new disruptions may happen to supply chains. And you do not want to be scrambling to try to find ammo for your favorite hunting rifle in the days before a season starts.

The good news is, if properly stored, ammo has an extremely long shelf life and can basically be stored indefinitely. The proof of that is the fact we are still going through military surplus ammunition from both world wars. That ammo might not be as sophisticated as today's modern bullet designs, powders, and primers; but properly stored, it will still go bang more than 70 years after it was originally manufactured. Today, we will go over the optimal storage containers and methods to keep your ammo in top shape. Once you have a proper storage solution in place, you will be able to rest a little easier knowing you have a supply of ammo ready in case of another major shortage.

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Where Is the Best Place to Store Ammo?

Ammo Storage

Travis Smola

If you have been a hunter for any length of time, odds are you have heard the best place to store ammo is in a cool, dry place. To further elaborate on that, the Sporting Arms and Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) recommends keeping all ammo away from heat sources, open flames, solvents, and other chemicals.

According to SAAMI, heat accelerates powder deterioration. That is why it advises against storing ammo inside a vehicle, especially if it is exposed to direct sunlight. Cooler temperatures make for optimal storage conditions. Many people use a basement or garage for their storage. These locations can work if the temperatures are constant. I wouldn't worry too much about the normal changes you might make to the thermostat in the winter months. However, you need to be extra cautious about moisture in those locations. If your basement or garage floods regularly, it is not the place to store ammunition.

I've been storing my ammo, centerfire and rimfire rifle, handgun, and shotgun shells, in a basement closet for the last three years and have had no issues. However, the basement is also extremely dry. A good dehumidifier will keep the moisture out of the air and your ammo in excellent condition. You can also desiccant silica gel packs in the storage boxes to help regulate humidity. Inspect the ammo regularly for signs of water damage, and discard anything you feel may be suspect.

SAAMI and many other firearms manufacturers and organizations recommend keeping your ammunition stored in a location separate from where your firearms are stored. That means not in your gun safe. The idea here is to reduce the risk of injury if a child or some other unauthorized person somehow gets into your cabinet. There are specialty ammo safes now that function just like gun safes. Some manufacturers have even taken to adding small dehumidifying units to these safes for a perfect, climate-controlled environment for your ammo.

Wherever you store your ammo, make sure to inspect the ammo regularly to look for signs of trouble. If the case appears water-damaged or corroded, do not use it. If you're using polymer-tipped ammo, inspect the tip to make sure it hasn't deformed. Discard of it properly and rethink your storage methods. Sometimes, it is as simple as switching up the type of dry box you use to ensure the best shelf life. Almost every major manufacturer these days puts the shelf life of their ammo at about 10 years.

What Is the Best Thing to Store Ammo In?

Ammo Storage

While metal is best, I've found plastic ammo cans are more than adequate for most shooters. Photo by Travis Smola

The militaries of the world are the masters of ammunition storage techniques, and one only needs to emulate their methods to get the most out of their home stockpile. That is why a metal ammo can is by far our favorite method for storage. The ones produced by the U.S. military are ruggedly made and have a fine rubber gasket on them that makes them air- and moisture-proof. These are often packed into larger wooden ammo crates for transport; but for the average gun owner, the can alone is a good storage solution.

It used to be easy to get military surplus ammunition cans. I can still recall .30- and .50-caliber ammo cans being for sale for as little as $3 or $4 each back in 2005 and 2006. I noticed supplies started to dwindle around 2007 and 2008. My suspicion is many of the extra ammo boxes instead found their way into overseas conflicts and that is where they remain. It would make sense for them to be left behind if the costs of shipping the extras back home was more than what the cans were worth, I suppose. This is all speculation on my part as to the fate of all the extras we had in the early 2000s, though. In any case, the fact remains that these days, it is hard to find a used military surplus one for under $10.

The good news is that many manufacturers saw the need for a fresh supply and started making their own, brand-new metal ammunition boxes that are of the same or even better quality than the military stuff. The downside is that a standard .30-caliber ammo storage box runs around $15 new. But you can feel confident your expensive premium hunting rounds or turkey loads are properly protected from moisture.

While metal ammo cans are best for storage, I have personally found the newer, plastic ammo cans or field boxes function quite well for the average shooter. These boxes usually also come with a gasket of some kind that helps keep them air- and watertight. They are also cheaper, usually around $6.99 to $9.99 for a standard .30-caliber size. I tend to keep most of my ammo in the manufacturer's box until I go to use it. And most of the boxes fit nicely inside any ammo can. I do have some Federal Premium BYOB bulk ammo that comes in a plastic box a bit too large for a standard can. However, I have found such plastic boxes are more than adequate for storage on a shelf in my climate-controlled basement.

1. The Best Larger Storage Solution

Ammo Storage

The Plano Field Box is a great indoor storage solution for the average hunter. Photo by Travis Smola

Plano Magnum Field Box, $39.99, Cabela's


  • Large storage area
  • Tray is perfect for accessories and cleaning supplies


  • Why is this so expensive?
  • Water-resistant, not waterproof

This Plano box is one I have owned for a while. At 17 inches long by 10 3/8 inches wide by 13 inches high, it will hold a decent amount of ammo. Plano says it will hold up to six boxes of shotgun shells in either 2¾-inch or 3-inch Magnum sizes. However, I've never used this exclusively for shotgun shells. It will hold probably a dozen 20-round standard boxes of centerfire rifle cartridges. I am not the type of hunter to stockpile thousands of rounds, so this field box suits me well—and I am confident to say I think it will suit most average hunters, too. The storage area for ammo in this box is great, but what's additionally helpful here is the tray that sits in the top. It is perfect for smaller cleaning kits or smaller accessories. That makes this ammo case a great solution for hunting trips because it keeps all your firearms stuff in the same area. No more worries about misplacing some vital item. My biggest problem with this box is the $30-$40 price tag depending on the retailer. It has an O-ring seal that makes it water-resistant, but not waterproof. One would expect a box at this price to stand up to moisture a little better. However, if you are looking for a larger indoor storage solution, this is a solid option.

2. A Quality Plastic Alternative to a Metal .30-Cal Can

Ammo Storage


Sheffield Field Box, $14.99, Amazon


  • Solid metal can alternative
  • Nicer locking handle than other plastic options


  • Not as water-resistant as a metal can

In truth, so many manufacturers are making plastic ammo boxes these days that it's hard to tell one from another. I suspect many are coming from the same factories under different brands, based on the similarities among the designs. In any case, we picked the Sheffield as a solid, metal .30-caliber can alternative, mostly because it has a slightly nicer locking handle than some of the other options on the market. Most cans have a spot to lock the box shut through the lid, and the Sheffield option has that. However, it also offers a third place to lock the box through the handle, which makes for less chance someone will get into the can who shouldn't be in it. This is a great choice for anyone who just wants to secure one or two cans worth of ammo. For $14.99 each, this is a solid storage solution that won't break the bank.

3. The Best Non-Surplus Metal .50-Caliber Option

Ammo Storage


Strategy Metal Ammo Box, $12.74, Walmart


  • Water- and airtight metal design
  • Generous storage space
  • Classic latch design


  • Not quite as rugged as military surplus

It really got annoying when military surplus .50-caliber cans became hard to find. They are large and provide generous storage space for a variety of calibers. It is quite easy to pack hundreds of rounds into one of these things and stow it away with a ton of peace of mind. Experienced shooters know that tell-tale snap of a quality ammo can is a mark of good quality. These cans are made in the same classic design as the traditional military cans. The nice thing about these is that they can be readily found on store shelves, whereas the military surplus stuff is near impossible to find these days. For $12.74, this is one of the best deals you are going to find on a metal ammo can online. The drawback to these cans is they are not built quite as ruggedly as the old-school military stuff. Just know that you can't expose them to the same level of abuse as the military cans, and you should be fine.

4. The Best New Metal .30-Caliber Option

Ammo Storage


Hardrock Ammo Cans, $20.99, Amazon


  • Classic .30-caliber design
  • Great seal
  • Ruggedly built


  • Expensive

As much as I wish I could turn back time to when .30-caliber ammo cans were $3 each, we all know that is not going to happen again anytime soon. Fortunately, there are new, metal 30-caliber rifle ammo box options like this one from Hardrock. This is the classic military-inspired design, brand new and ready for storage of ammo or accessories. These cans have an excellent gasket seal, and Hardrock includes a desiccant gel pack with each one to help wick away the moisture. Not that you are likely to get much, if any, in a can of this design. They even offer it in multiple color schemes. You can get the classic Army Green, or black. The only bad thing about this can is that it costs $20 each. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times these days, we are afraid.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram. For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels