Best Ammo Storage Ideas: How and Where to Store for SHTF

If you are like most gun owners, you care almost obsessive about how your store your guns.  More than likely, you have a humidity-controlled gun safe that keeps them protected. Guns are a major investment, and, like any investment, you pay attention to the details.

Ammo storage ideas

If you stop and consider your ammunition stockpile, you may have almost as much invested in ammunition as you do in guns.  Do you take as much care with the storage of that investment as you do your guns?  If not, why not?  Doesn’t your ammo stockpile deserve the same care as your guns?

There are a few things you can do to protect your ammunition.  Many people don’t realize that ammunition is subject to the same sorts of deteriorating and damaging effects as anything else.

Here are the things that I think are the most important when you are considering ammo storage for the long and short term.

Safety Always Comes First

Before any other consideration, safety must be on the top of your list.  Face it, ammunition, by its very design, is destructive.  Past the destructive part, there are some dangers that shooters fail to recognize.

Children and Pets

Children are naturally curious.  Some pets are the same way.  Easily accessible ammunition is a hazard in many ways for both.  If there is only one argument for storing your ammunition properly, it is to safeguard those who have access to ammunition could innocently cause harm.  Think about these situations.

  • Choking hazards – Younger children are exploratory.  Part of that exploration process is to put things in their mouth.  Small ammunition, particularly pistol ammunition, can be a choking hazard if swallowed.
  • Toxic hazards – From the powder and primers to the lead content of some bullets, the components used in ammunition is toxic.  Protecting both children and pets from the chance of unintentional ingestion is your responsibility.
  • Fire and Explosion – We all know that bullets and fire don’t mix very well.  Any situation in which a bullet overheats can result in an unwanted explosion.  Imagine a bullet inadvertently places near a heat source or inside the oven of a stove.  The result could be catastrophic. 
  • The Obvious Hazard – A curious child, an accessible bullet, and a firearm are a recipe for disaster.  Your failure to properly safeguard your ammunition and your firearms could be a criminal offense in some states.

Keeping Ammo Organized – Knowing What is Where

Organizing your ammunition stockpile for storage is as important as how it is stored. In an emergency, being able to locate the right ammo is a critical issue.  When it comes time to organize your ammunition supply, consider some of these strategies.

Keep it Simple! (KISS Principle)

Your organization method doesn’t have to be complicated or involved.  Decide on how you want to store your ammo and then make sure you can find it easily.  Some ideas for organizing your ammunition inventory include

  • What kind of containers? I prefer to use military-style ammunition boxes.  These are sturdy and reliable.  If the gaskets are in good shape, they are waterproof and almost airtight.  If you shop around, you can find surplus boxes in relatively good shape that won’t bust your wallet. I try to avoid plastic because a plastic box full of ammo is heavy and the handles don’t stand up very well.
  • Loose or Boxed – It doesn’t matter to the ammo whether you store it loosely in bulk or in boxes or packs.  If I am storing factory ammunition, I prefer to leave it in the original boxes and pack them into the ammunition box.  For reloads, I prefer to pack the reloaded ammo into smaller boxes and then put them in the ammo can.
  • Label Lavishly – Label each container in which you store your ammo.  I try to avoid storing multiple calibers in the same container.  It just gets confusing.  You should label the top of the box and the sides.  With labels on every side and the top, no matter how the container sits on a shelf, you can see what is inside.
  • Protecting Your Ammo from the Elements – Even if your ammo is in a locked cabinet, in a metal ammo can and the original boxes, it is subject to attack by the elements.  The biggest concerns are moisture and oxygen.  I like to drop a few oxygen and moisture absorbers into each can before storing it for any length of time.

A Word About Labeling

When you begin to label your ammo storage containers, I have some recommendations about what should be on the label.

  • The caliber of the ammunition, including the size of the bullet
  • The manufacturer of the ammunition.  If the ammo is your reloads, mark it that way
  • How much ammo is in the container?
  • The date the ammo was purchased or reloaded

That last item is important.  It would be best if you instituted a rotation plan for your ammunition.  You always want to shoot the oldest ammunition in your inventory first.  Ammunition, even if safely stored, has a shelf life. 

Location, Location, Location – Where is the Best Place to for Ammo Storage?

Finding suitable places to store your ammunition can be a problem for some people.  Considering that safety in storing ammunition is so important, there are several other considerations to take when making choices of storage locations.

Security – Not just for You

The security of the location you choose for your ammunition storage should be a priority issue.  Ideally, your ammunition storage includes locks.  There are several reasons for this.

  • Secure storage prevents little hands from gaining access
  • It adds another level of protection for your investment
  • It tends to keep things where they belong

Remember, you may live in a state where it is required to keep ammunition in locked storage, separate from your firearms.

Temperature – Finding a Happy Home for Your Ammunition

In general, if you are comfortable where you are storing your ammunition, your ammunition will be comfortable as well.  Just like you, ammunition doesn’t appreciate extremes in heat or cold.  Wherever you decide to store your ammo, it should not be subject to wide variations in temperature during the year. 

Humidity – The Quickest Way to A Bad Situation

Humidity in your ammo storage is a sure way to finding yourself with corroded and unusable ammo.  Even fluctuation in temperature can cause problems with humidity in your stored ammo.  If you live in an area where humidity levels are naturally high such as coastal regions, there are some ideas to help mitigate the humidity problem.

  • Seal your ammo in plastic before you put in in the container. You do this with plastic bags or shrink-wrap material.  Add some extra oxygen and moisture absorbers into the packaging before you seal it.
  • Seal your ammo cans or containers with tape.  Sealing tape or aluminized duct tape works well and will last a long time.
  • Store your ammo in environmentally controlled areas of your home.  Avoid unheated or cooled garages, attics, or unfinished basements.

How Much Ammo Do I Need to Store?

Deciding how much ammo you need to keep on hand is very much a personal decision.  Perhaps the most important factor is your purpose.  There are some questions to ask.

  • Are you storing ammo for personal use at the range or storing ammunition for professional reasons such as law enforcement?
  • Do your plans call for storing ammunition for long term survival or crises?
  • How much do your shoot regularly?

Personal Use vs Professional Use

If you are the training officer or armorer for a law enforcement agency, your storage needs are considerably different from those of the run of the mill amateur shooter.  As a professional, you should have a much better understanding of the amount of ammunition to keep on hand to allow adequate stockpiles for training and qualification

For those who just like to shoot, it can be a little harder to figure out how much ammunition to keep on hand. Looking back at your usage for the past few months should give you a better understanding.  I like to keep enough ammunition on hand so that I could make four trips to the range without having to purchase ammunition. 

Preparing for Any Eventuality

You may be someone who has a longer view than just going to the range.  Many people see ammunition as a necessary item to have on hand as a preparedness issue.  If you are considering stockpiling ammunition for the long term should things go bad financially or socially, some recommended guidelines include:

  • Handgun Ammunition – Considering that your handgun may well be your primary means of self-defense in a survival situation, the amount of ammunition your stockpile should reflect that concept. As a minimum, I recommend that you have no less than 500 rounds of ammo for each handgun on which you may rely. If there are two people in your household and each person has two handguns, you should have at least 2,000rounds of ammunition for those guns.
  • Self Defense Long Guns – The anticipation of having to defend yourself with a long gun is not something anyone relishes.  Those who have been inf combat firefights will tell you it is not a pleasant experience.  However, if you anticipate those situations, having adequate ammunition is a must.  My general rule is to have 1,000 rounds of self-defense rifle ammunition for each rifle in my inventory.
  • Long Range and Hunting Rifles – In most cases, your hunting rifle or long-range rifle ammunition needs are much lower.  My goal is always to have 500 rounds of ammo on hand for each of my long-range or hunting rifles.
  • Shotguns There are two scenarios to consider. If your shotguns are a source of meat, you need to stockpile the most appropriate shot size for the game you will be hunting.  You should also stockpile defensive ammo for your shotguns as well.  The most popular self-defense round for shotguns is 00 buckshot.  The minimum stockpile we recommend is 1,000 rounds of the shot size you shoot most often and 500 rounds of self-defense shotshells.

3 Dont’s about Long Term Ammo Storage

Some people have some misconceptions about long term storage of ammunition.  You should avoid these at all costs.

  • Don’t bury your ammunition – The worst place to store your ammunition is in the ground.  Even if you think you have found the perfect container, more than likely, you will be disappointed.  Soil moisture and pH work on metal the moment you put it into the ground.  Plastics tend to degenerate in contact with soil.  Even PVC will become brittle and crack.
  • Avoid unfinished basement, garages, attics, and storage buildings. – Your ammo will last a long time if it isn’t subject to extreme heat or cold.  Large fluctuations in temperatures can also do your ammunition harm.
  • Watch your Shelving – Ammo stored in bulk is heavy.  When you start planning your storage solution, consider the weight that you will be putting on the shelves and the frames.  In many instances, the best option is to purchase heavy-duty commercial grade shelving rather than the big box store home shelving.

Some other Considerations – What else are you Stockpiling?

Building a stockpile of ammunition is just the first step.  One thing many preppers forget is to stockpile other items that may be necessary for a survival situation.

  • Magazines – You can have all the ammunition you need, but if you don’t have the means to get it into your rifle or handgun, it is useless.  There is no hard or fast rule about how many magazines to have.  If you are a competition shooter, 8 or 10 magazines may be sufficient to meet your needs.  If you anticipate a survival situation, a minimum of ten magazines for each firearm should be on hand. 
  • Spare Parts – Things wear out.  Firing pins or strikers and springs are subject to breakage.  Roller pins and screws get lost.  Do you have a stockpile of spare parts for each of your firearms?  Even if you are just a weekend range shooter, having a spare spring or firing pin can salvage a day at the range.
  • Reloading components – Having a supply of reloading components can be handy.  Supplies of many reloading components have fluctuated widely in the past few years.  Keeping a supply of your favorite reloading supplies such as powder and primers is useful.  If you anticipate ammunition shortages, a larger supply of components may be in your plan.

Keep it Safe and Keeping you Safe

There are many things to consider when planning your ammo storage.  Location, environment, and safety are the three most critical. 

I hope that the suggestions in this article help you plan and organize your ammunition storage.  If you have any suggestions, comments, or experiences, please post them below in the comment section.  As always, be safe and be well.

Written by Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here. Read more of Dennis's articles.