By: Amanda Suffecool
In gun circles there are a great many debates. These confusing debates can lead one to question oneself: “is my choice right or wrong? Do I need to change?” Opinions abound, should my purse match my boots? Or does that only apply to shoes? Do my gloves match my coat or accent it? Basically, it’s opinion: yours, mine, hers, and ours. Rely on experts and the experience of friends – and Remember – folks are giving their opinions, based on what works for them: their opinion. And you know what they say – Opinions are like noses, everyone has one. Two sides of the same coin takes one of the discussions that seem to lead to volatile conversations and looks at all sides.
The question on the table today is ammo. And as it was asked and answered, I believe that some folks are not aware of the different needs and requirements of range ammo, as it compares to personal defense ammo or hunting ammo.
Question: My concealed handgun license instructor told us we need to put fresh ammo in our weapons every 3 months. What do I do with the “old” ammo I take out of the pistols and shotgun? Do you follow this 3 month rule? And how old is “too old” for a box of ammo? I have a couple of boxes of ammo going on 2-3 years old, never opened, planned on taking it to the range. Should I?
Answer – Pro:
I understand that the need to change out your carry ammo is simply because it has a tendency to get “dirty”. Lint, dust, and other particles accumulate in your carry gun’s magazine just through the process of putting it on, carrying it, and taking it back off. I use up my carry ammo once a month and replace it all with fresh ammo.
Answer – Con:
My carry ammo is 3 to 4 years old! I don’t shoot it, just shoot target ammo through my carry every so often. Though, in the past I have shot some of my carry ammo through my gun to make sure it runs OK .
I have always been told that as long as the ammo is stored in a dry place it will last forever, though not in a humid attic or outside somewhere. I have never heard to change it every 3 months.
Gee, there is still ammo from WW2 that is being sold today. Unless it has been damaged why change it?
Lord! My dad put 15 year old black talons in my first pistol because it was good ammo and made for personal defense. We don’t follow a three month rule, as you can tell by the 15 year comment above. We’ve also never had any problems with old ammo. There are people who buy thousands of rounds at a time to stockpile in case of a SHTF situation and I don’t think they use it or throw it out on a timeline!
Explanations to the answers – and let’s take this section by section.
- There is a difference in personal defense ammo and range ammo. Personal defense ammo is manufactured to higher quality levels, tighter tolerances and is intended to function in your firearm EXACTLY the same each and every time. Range ammo – not so much. If the bullet weight varies, the amount of powder is a bit more or a bit less – what does it really matter? If the range ammo fails to fire, you perform a clearing drill and carry on.
Selecting Personal Defense ammo for your firearm requires some time, effort, and energy to make sure that your firearm functions flawlessly with it and it will be repeatable in its operation. Some of the hollow point ammo is fairly zealous with the size and shape of the hollow point opening and some semi automatics feed ramps are finicky about it, causing the ammo to dig, scrape, slow down in loading and sometimes jam.
A small box of personal protection ammo is more than twice the money for half the ammo. Why? Because it’s worth it.
- Powder inside the ammo is delicate, and will break down over time. How much time is dependent upon the amount of activity, motion and movement that the firearm sees.
When you carry, your gun goes through everything that you do; Heat, cold, wet, dry, walking, running, jiggling and sitting. Think of all the activity and motion that your gunpowder is going through while your gun in motion with you. Now think about what the gun powder looks like on a small level. Powder is generally tiny pill shaped cylinders or flakes, similar to donut sprinkles or frosted corn flakes.
Visualize taking a snack box of cornflakes and carrying it with you for the time that you carry your gun; day, night, hot, cold, in the car, and walking over a period of 6 months. What do you think the powder will look like? In actuality, it is tougher than cornflakes, but the premise is the same. I tell my students (based on the research I have done and the recommendation of the ammo companies): 6 months. So when you change your smoke alarm batteries, pull that ammo and mark it to shoot the next time you go to the range. It does not go BAD – it just fires differently, is not as dependable and will be just fine as range ammo, but could affect its repeatability / dependability for life-saving use.
- Moisture is bad for ammo. Long term carry of ammo subjects your gun and it’s ammo to the daily humidity swings, to sweat, and to rain.
We have all heard the cowboys in the movies tell one another, “keep your powder dry” and that is not just cowboy advice – its good advice. If the powder gets wet, it may take more energy to light it off than what is available in the small primer that is the firing mechanism within each bullet.
- You can tell good ammo by looking at it. No – you cannot.
You can tell bad ammo by looking at it, but not good. It’s like you can tell bad milk by looking at it – if it’s separated, clumpy or discolored, you know it’s bad. But sometimes you open ‘good looking’ milk and one sniff causes you to realize that it is bad. Based on this scenario, those bullets that are misshapen, discolored, have green crud growing from them – those are the easy ones to identify as bad. But a perfectly fine-looking bullet may not be perfectly fine. Bad ammo avoidance is your best bet, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Simple rules for the range are as follows:
Buy the correct ammo for your gun. Caliber matters, as does those little words like ACP, GAP or Long Colt. Those three descriptors when applied to 45 describe 3 completely different guns and ammo sizes. Know what your gun uses and buy that.
Buy the correct ammo for your purpose: Personal protection, range ammo, shotgun shells for trap & skeet, hunting ammo.
Keep your ammo in a cool, dry, safe place where you can access it when you need to and others cannot unless you want them to.
Shoot your gun, rotate your ammo. The ammo in your concealed carry gun – shoot it on a periodic basis. I have heard 1 month, 3 months, 6 months. There is no wrong answer unless you pick NEVER or a really long period of time. The more action / activity your gun sees equates to a smaller time period between switch-out times.
So in summary, when someone tells you that rotating your ammo is bunk, that they have had positive experiences and not negative ones and that you should follow their lead…let me just say that just because a bullet goes bang this time, will it go bang all the time? And will you bet your life on it? That is the question under discussion. Good quality ammo, bought & used for the purpose it was designed for, is always a good choice. Following manufacturers’ suggested recommendations is wise. Be smart, be safe and keep asking questions.