How many check, rotate, and cycle their defense ammo?

My protocol for my carry/defense ammo.

  1. I rotate my rounds in my magazine once a month. Set a calendar appt on my phone.

  2. I check all my carry ammo with a new round that has not been in my rotation. I am studying to see if any of my carry ammo has developed cracks or even shrunk in size compared to a new ammo round. ( part of monthly maintenance)

Every Six Months, I shoot my defense rounds and start over.


I don’t get it. What have you found?


I think this is excessive, except for periodically training with defensive rounds.


I do look over my carry/defense rounds when taking them out of the box to load them.

I have found a total of 3 rounds of premium handgun defensive JHP over the years that were bad. One had a deformed case where the primer pocket was recessed so far the striker/firing pin could not reach it, resulting in a failure to fire. If you didn’t really look you wouldn’t notice, and it went into the mag and fed as normal, just result in a click. So, glad I was paying close attention when I put it in the mag and thought to myself ‘that’s not right’

I don’t do anything specific for rotating the ammo. I do fire my carry ammo from time to time, whenever feel like it. Ammo is tough, many cops go a year at a time with their duty ammo in their OWB gun out in the elements and weather for that full year and it’s not really a problem, so my IWB concealed ammo, I’m just not overly worried about as long as I don’t get setback from rechambering


I used to fire the carry ammo loaded in my firearm whenever I went to the range. Best way to test if the firearm would have been good to go if I had needed it. But with current prices and availability I have cut back on that practice.

Whether I get to the range or not, I inspect the gun and spare mag regularly to make sure they are not clogged with lint or debris. Have never had an issue with rounds being damaged while stored or carried but I live in a dry climate.


Only once I found a round was shorter. It looked like the casing was churched. Maybe I should not be so dam particular. Lol, now I need to reevaluate my maintenance on my carry ammo.


You could always buy a cartridge gauge and drop rounds into it for a better-than-eyeball check before loading them into the mag


I still empty my SD rounds when I go to the range. But I only have 7 round mags.


I do my live and dry fire practice with my EDC most of the time. Which means I am loading and unloading the gun with some frequency. I use separate magazines for practice, which means I don’t empty the magazine frequently but exchange the chambered round for the top round. Over time that causes bullet setback.

I have seen the excessive pressures that can develop from shortened cartridge lengths (presumably due to compressed powder charges), so setback from factory length has been my evaluation criteria. At the first of each month, I unload the magazine which has been swapping the two top rounds for practice sessions and measure overall length. When I get over 1mm of setback, I mark the cartridge base with a Sharpie and put to the bottom of the magazine. When every cartridge in the magazine is marked, they go to the range and I start a fresh set. More than six months, maybe a bit more than a year.

I would do something else if I ever saw excessive pressure signs, or had a primer fail to fire. So far, so good.


I end up naturally cycling them on range day, roughly once to twice a month. I extract my 9mm for each mag into a Ziploc so I can load with FMJ. When the HPs go back in they’re essentially randomized. I shot two mags of HPs I loaded in Nov 2020 not long ago. I have 7 rifle mags loaded too, don’t ever touch those really.


I have a set of dial calipers on my loading bench. I’ve measured SD rounds after months and have witnessed very little changes in the way of the C.O.L.

I don’t rotate ammunition. I might shoot all of my carry magazines dry every 24 months or so. And in my opinion, even that is overkill. In temperate climates, it just isn’t necessary.

Stay safe out there.


Please add me to the number who check, rotate and cycle defense ammo.


That’s interesting. I wonder if it has to do with different ammo, or with different handling practices. I unload and reload my EDC for training/practice. In that process the top two rounds repeatedly swap places — I don’t empty the carry magazine and completely reload it randomly.

It was time to shoot all my shortened rounds out in November, so I don’t have good rotation examples to measure. I did my January check this evening:

Hornady .380ACP 90gr FTX
• new = 0.98"
• top two = 0.97"

Federal 9mm 124gr HST
• new = 1.10+"
• top two = 1.09"

These aren’t ready to mark, but both show the change I expect in the loading order I expect. I don’t rotate rounds until they shorten about 2mm or nearly 0.1" — I’m not worried about pressures at that amount of change, but it tells me the cartridges have been rattled around some. I do think about stories of potential damage to primer compound, which I can’t inspect.

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If you want to use something besides the barrel/chamber from your pistol, I prefer the EGW tool. However, the kerplunk test is a sure thing.


A couple of days ago as I was unloading before dry fire. While ejecting the chambered cartridge it stuck between the slide and the breech of the barrel. As the slide came forward, it pressed the bullet a significant amount into the casing.

So, yeah I check, and in this case, cycle into the discard box.


The set back on the bullet on that cartridge is so evident that I wouldn’t need calipers to identify that one as a problem child. I would however be willing to use a inertia puller to bring it back out a bit and re-seat and re-crimp that on stations #3 and #4 on the Dillon.

Stay safe out there.


I rotate monthly. I also keep a half dozen mags aside, which I use to rotate, so I don’t ruin the springs in the mags I carry…last thing you want in a ■■■■ storm, is mags that won’t feed rounds because the springs are worn out.

I too shoot my carry ammo, but I do so every 3 months. I do so for 2 reasons:

  1. practice with what I carry(recoil is different from range ammo)
  2. To make sure I have useful ammo if said shitstorm arrives.

Lastly, I carry Hornady Custom during the summer, and Buffalo Bore during the winter. The Hornady rounds are monsters, but I like something even bigger if potential threats are wearing 5 layers.


Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, we had not yet acquired the wisdom of “don’t use reloads for SD ammo.” So I did, because I could make .45ACP JHP for a nickel instead the 15¢ major brand tailor-mades were bringing. After 30yr or so, I had not defended myself yet, but one day realized that I had this same kind of 1/4" setback scattered through my EDC magazines. No specific mishaps noted, it was just unmistakably there.

I had stayed healthy, and become (not very) wealthy and wise, but did I switch to factory defense ammo. Eventually, I saw the same thing beginning to develop randomly in EDC ammo. I was dumping magazines for practice and then refilling them randomly. Then I started sorting by OAL and refilling magazines with the most setback rounds at the bottom. That eventually became a sorting hassle with a graduated series of rounds shorter by a few thousandths each, and I lost track of the OEM length without pulling out a fresh box.

When the accumulated staircase of 0.01" got to the point where the whole set was clearly shorter than OEM delivered, I switched to a more systematic method of rotation and disposal. I do shoot them all at the range (still a cheapskate). I observe for anomaly just like I was working up a new reloading recipe — never anything unusual. Tapping out the grossly shortened to original length is probably a good idea, but I would not put a repaired round back into defensive service.

It seems obvious why this happens, but I only speculate — repeated chambering of the same round stripped from a magazine involves the bullet with a simple taper crimp bouncing off the barrel hood. Why would that not set the bullet back eventually? Different gun geometry avoids that ricochet? There are still cannelured bullets in factory handgun loads?


As long as you are not cycling the same two rounds every day (eg, when you get home, taking one of the chamber and then when you load it the next morning loading the top magazine round, and topping up the magazine with the previous day’s round {which can result in the bullet getting recessed into the casing}, and shooting every ~6mo, you’re probably fine.

I have heard anecdotal stories of police officers getting cucked by this issue, and have seen pictures such as the one further up in this thread of it’s occurrence. You won’t get screwed from a half-dozen to a dozen cycles, but it certainly isn’t great.


I unload my carry or home defense rounds from the mags whenever I clean or use the firearm at the range. I mark rounds that have been chambered and put rounds that have been chambered twice in a box. When I get a full box, I take it to the range and practice with them. Based on how often I practice with my EDC I probably refresh all ammo in the primary and spare mag at least every 12 months.

I also cycle mags. The mags I just used at the range get wiped down then loaded with the carry ammunition. This way I know the mags work since I just used them. The mags previously used for carry or backup get used at the range next time.