Reliability , heck the safety, of using old ammo

An interesting discussion on how old is too old posted on The High Road.
Here’s an excerpt from an Army Supply Bulletin that should of interest to ammo hoarders and power buyers:

Ammunition Surveillance Procedures SB 742-1
Chapter 13 Propellant and Propelling Charges

page 13-1


Nitrocellulose-based propellant can become thermally unstable as the age. The normal aging process of the propellants involves deterioration of the nitrocellulose with an accompanying generation of heat. At some point, the propellant may reach a state where heat is generated faster than it can be dissipated. The accumulation of heat can lead to combustion (autoignition). Chemical stabilizers are added to propellants to slow the aging process. In time, the stabilizer levels will drop to a point where the remaining effective stabilizer (RES) is not sufficient to prevent an accelerating rate of decomposition. When this point is reached, the propellant may autoigniet, with possible catastrophic results to property and life. Monitoring the stability level of each propellant lot is essential for continued safe storage.

Page 13-5 , Table 13.2 Propellant Stability Codes.

Stability Category A 0.30 or more Percent Effective Stabilizer

Acceptable stabilizer loss: safe for continued storage

C 0.29-0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer

Significant stabilizer loss. Lot does not represent an immediate hazard, but is approaching a potentially hazardous stability condition. Loss of stabilizer does adversely affect function in an uploaded configuration. Disposition instructions will be furnished by NAR. All stability category “C” assests on the installation must be reported in writing…

One year after becoming stability category “C” a sample of the bulk propellant lot or the bulk-packed component lot will be retested. If the lot has not deteriorated to category “D”, it will be retested each year until it has been expended, or it has deteriorated to category “D”, at which point it will be demilitarized within 60 days.

D Less than 0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer

Unacceptable stabilizer loss. Lots identified as stability category “D” present a potential safety hazard and are unsafe for continued storage as bulk, bulk-packed components , or as separate loading propellant chargers. Bulk propellant, bulk –packed components and separate loading propelling charges will be demilitarized within 60 days after notification of category “D” status.


So at what periods of time and what temps are they experiencing significant stabilizer loss?

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Just a few of many vids. :us:


@John292 >> good info << another concern is steel shot used for water fowl.
Shot shells that have been exposed to wet conditions could cause the steel shot to corrode and stick together in one lump. The lump of steel can cause damage or injury when fired. Not my concern because when I did hunt waterfowl it was On dry land for geese.

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Here’s the thread:

FWIW, Slamfire, a responding poster, is an Army Ordinance technician who definitely knows his stuff.


Interesting info. Thanks for sharing!

Sounds like a lot of variability and uncertainty but if excesses of heat and humidity are avoided then we shouldn’t have to worry too much till 20 years or so based on the info referenced in that thread.

I would likely try to use up all my self defense ammo before it gets to 10 years old.

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This is precisely why I’m hesitant to stock up too much. I need to learn more.

Cool, Dark and Dry and Vacuum Sealed is how I store anything I want to keep long term. :us:

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Except the kids.:wink:


One take away is that every time we experience an ammo shortage, old milsurp ammo comes out of the woodwork at grossly inflated prices and the fearful buy it up.
Often it still goes bang (everyone has stories of shooting old ammo that works just fine, however we don’t know how much performance has been degraded nor for how long it will continue to function. Bad things can happen as the High Road thread I’ve linked to illustrates.
The worse case scenario is pretty bad, both with geriatric ammo, both defensive and " range"

Another take away is that visual inspection to determine degradation is a useful practice and this involves pulling bullets after so many decades if degradation isn’t observable otherwise. It’s better then (if I’m reading this correctly) to store reloading components for the “long haul” (if that is your goal) and load what ammo you’ll need for use in the near future, since components like the interior of brass cases and funky powder can be easily observable.

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Never for EDC. If using at a range, you are taking a risk.

I have had some different, and even old ammo cause too much smoke, and dark smoke after firing. I did not like that and think the others in the range did not either, so I stopped using it in indoor ranges.

I can save the smokey ammo for an outdoor range experience instead, still, it did not add trust to the quality, to me.

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Stability? interesting it only seems (in relation to the Bulletin Post not to specific member) related as to the length of storage.

A person (for some strange reason) could store new purchased ammo outside on the porch for 2 weeks is more stable bc basis of the “aging deterioration” than any properly sealed climate control stored ammo.

I like Slamfire’s sentiment that asking when your ammo will go bad is like asking your doctor when you’ll get prostate cancer .