multiple bullets scattered

Do Bullets Expire? A Comprehensive Guide

You may have stumbled upon a box of old ammunition in your garage and wondered, "Do bullets expire?" This is a common question among firearm enthusiasts and casual users alike. In this blog post, we'll delve into the shelf life of ammo, the factors affecting their longevity, and how to store them properly for extended use.


What Are Bullets?


man holding bullets in palm
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First off, let's understand what bullets are. A bullet is the projectile expelled from the barrel of a firearm when the gun is fired. It's typically made from lead, copper, or a mix of both, and is designed to be shot from a firearm primarily for defense, hunting, or sport shooting. They are a part of the overall ammunition or round, which also includes the casing, the primer, and the gunpowder. Moreover, they can be of various types, such as shotgun shells and those suitable for concealed carry firearm weapons.

Bullet Shelf Life: Do They Really Expire?


bullets lined up
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In simple terms, bullets do not expire. When stored properly, modern ammo can last for an incredibly long time. Because they can remain usable for an indefinite period under ideal conditions, ammo companies usually don't mention an expiration date.

Factors Affecting Bullet Longevity


old bullets lined up
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While bullets can theoretically last forever, several factors can degrade their quality and impact their performance. These include:

1) Humidity

Humidity is the number one enemy of bullets. Moisture can lead to the corrosion and rusting of the shell casing, which may cause a bullet to fail.

2) Extreme Temperature Changes

Extreme temperature changes can also harm your ammunition. In hot conditions, the heat can cause the breakdown of the gunpowder, resulting in diminished performance. On the other hand, freezing conditions may lead to the expansion and contraction of the bullet components, thereby adversely affecting their functionality.

3) Frequent Temperature Fluctuations

In addition to extreme temperatures, frequent fluctuations in temperature can also be detrimental to the condition of bullets. These constant changes cause expansion and contraction cycles that can weaken the casing and potentially damage the bullet.

4) Poor Handling and Transportation

Mishandling of bullets or transporting them roughly can lead to physical damage. The impact can damage the primer or the powder inside the casing, affecting the bullet's reliability and effectiveness when used.

Signs Your Bullets Might Have Gone Bad


pointed bullet with black background
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Although bullets don't have a strict expiry date, they can certainly deteriorate under unsuitable conditions, becoming unreliable or potentially dangerous to use. It's essential to identify the signs of such degradation to ensure your safety and the effective functioning of your firearm. Here's what to look out for:

1) Discoloration or Staining

One of the most apparent signs of a deteriorated bullet or bad ammunition is visible discoloration or staining on the casing. This typically indicates the presence of corrosion or rust, often caused by exposure to moisture. If you notice a change in color, especially green, white, or brown spots, it may signify that the bullet has suffered water damage. In such cases, it is crucial not to use the bullet, even for just a few rounds.

2) Casing Damage

Visible physical damage to the bullet casing, such as dents, cracks, or deformations, is a clear indicator of potential internal damage. This can result from improper storage or rough handling, and such bullets may be unreliable or unsafe to use. If you observe any abnormalities in the shape or integrity of the bullet casing, it's best to dispose of these bullets properly.

3) Presence of Powder Debris

Finding a residue of powder in the bullet box is a strong sign that the bullet casing may be compromised. The casing serves as a protective barrier for the gunpowder inside, and any breach can result in the leakage of this powder. If you find loose powder inside your ammunition box, it's safe to assume that the bullets in question may be damaged and unreliable.

4) Unusual Odor

While this is a less common sign, an unusual odor emanating from your bullets could indicate a problem. A sour or 'off' smell could be a sign that the gunpowder within the casing has begun to degrade, which can seriously impact the performance of the bullet.

Ammo Storage Ideas: Best Practices to Extend Bullet Life


man placing bullets in green box
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Having understood how various factors can impact the longevity and reliability of your bullets, it's important to know how to correctly store your ammunition to preserve its quality. Here are some best practices for storing ammunition:

1) Store Ammo in a Dry Environment

Firstly, make sure to avoid storing ammo in an area where there is a lot of humidity. As we've learned, moisture is one of the key culprits in bullet degradation. Consider using tools like a dehumidifier or desiccant packs in your storage area to absorb any unwanted moisture.

2) Use a Safe Storage Ammo Box or Can

Ammo companies push the idea of storing ammunition in dedicated ammo cans or ammo boxes. These containers are often designed to be airtight and water-resistant, offering extra protection against humidity and temperature fluctuations.

3) Keep Ammo in the Original Packaging

Whenever possible, keep the bullets in their original packaging until they are ready for use. Ammo manufacturers design these packages to protect the bullets from physical damage and environmental hazards.

4) Store Away from Harmful Substances

Ensure your ammunition is stored in a location where it won't come into contact with harmful chemicals or corrosive substances. Such exposure could lead to casing corrosion and bullet degradation.


While bullets do not have a specific expiration date, their longevity is heavily influenced by proper storage conditions. A bullet stored in a dry, cool, and stable environment, with careful handling, can last for many decades. If you come across old ammunition, inspect it thoroughly for signs of damage before using it. Remember, safety should always be your primary concern when handling bullets or any other firearm components.

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