Rifleman Q&A: Shotshell Shelf Life

posted on July 19, 2023
old shotshell boxes

Q: What is the usage life of shotshells, and what is the best way to dispose of old ammunition?

A: While I can’t give you a definitive “wear-out” date for shotshells, much depends on how they were stored; the common “cool, dry place” advice comes to mind. If properly stored, their lifetime might be indefinite. Sergeant Major Byron Acres, U.S. Army, Ret., was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the shotgun element of the Army Marksmanship Unit at Ft. Benning, Ga., during the 1970s. He mentioned to me that, on a prior assignment at the Radford Arsenal in Virginia, the unit discovered a large number of World War I-era paper-cased shotshells that were partially eaten by mice. He said they picked out the good ones and shot them.

As far as disposal is concerned, unless they have been wet or appear to be in bad shape, the preferred method is to take such shells out and shoot them. Otherwise, recycling facilities often have ammunition-disposal protocols. Your local police or sheriff may also take them from you for disposal.

—John M. Taylor, Contributing Editor


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