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How to Dispose of Old Ammo

bucket full of old ammo or unusable ammo
Posted in: Ammunition
By Ammunition Depot
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How to Dispose of Old Ammo

 

Whether you're completely new to gun ownership and shooting or a seasoned pro, at some point you'll likely encounter ammunition that can't be shot. Whether it's old, damaged, or ammo you no longer trust for another reason, you may find yourself in need of a way to dispose of it. But how do you dispose of old ammo safely?

 

First, Make Sure Your Ammo Really Needs to Go

 

First, you need to answer the question of whether the ammunition is bad or needs to be disposed of to begin with. The good news is that ammunition has a very long shelf life — most manufacturers list their products as having around a 10-year lifespan. However, in many instances, as long as the ammunition isn't exposed to high heat or excessive moisture, it could last for years or even decades past the published expiration date.

 

man aiming a pistol downrage at a shooting range with hearing protection

 

The caveat to this long shelf life is the same as it is with all things related to firearms: It's better to be safe than sorry. It's much better to inadvertently dispose of good ammo than to try and shoot bad ammo. If there's any question about whether or not your ammunition is still good, err on the side of caution. Most ammunition is fairly inexpensive, and there's no point in risking injury to shoot some ammo "just in case" it's still good.

 

Four Options for Disposing of Ammo

 

A few methods are available for safely and appropriately disposing of old or unwanted ammo. The method you choose is up to you, and the best way is the one that suits your needs and comfort level.

 

1. Call the Police

 

An easy option is to call your local police or sheriff's department via their non-emergency line and let them know you have ammunition you'd like to get rid of. They will let you know how to proceed. They may offer to pick it up or ask you to bring it in, but once it's in their possession, the authorities handle the rest.

 

If you decide to go the police route, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

 

 

 

  • Under no circumstances should you walk into a police station or sheriff's office openly carrying a weapon. No matter how harmless you think you look, you never want to take the chance that someone misunderstands your purpose for being there with a weapon.
  • Always make sure you have your driver's license or some form of identification with you. They'll likely want to make a record of the transaction to ensure a suitable paper trail showing you properly disposed of the ammunition.
  • Understand that the procedures involved vary by department and locale, so check your local department's website to see if any specifics are listed and call before you take any action if instructions aren't available online.

 

2. Waste Disposal Facilities

 

Most local waste management facilities don't accept ammunition. Whether a landfill or other type of facility, it's probably not equipped to handle ammunition as a waste product. However, these facilities often have periodic disposal times during which you can bring ammo to them. They may contract with a hazardous waste company or other licensed provider that's equipped to handle unique waste such as ammo.

 

3. Your Local Gun Shop or Indoor Shooting Range

 

gun store owner showcasing a rifle

 

Another option is your local gun store. As a firearms facility, gun stores handle a lot of ammunition. They may have a way of shipping ammo back to the manufacturer for disposal or access to a service that disposes ammo. In addition, many gun stores have regular customers who spend many hours at the store, and some may reload ammunition. Reloaders are equipped to break the ammunition down into smaller parts safely and may work with gun stores to buy old stock or repurpose turned-in ammo.

 

You might also ask about ammo disposal at indoor ranges. It's one of the main tasks these businesses deal with regularly. Sometimes ammo doesn't fire properly or there are instances of double feeds, jams, and other situations that leaves the range with live ammo to dispose of. Since ranges likely already have a process for this, it doesn't hurt to ask if they accept ammo from customers for disposal.

 

4. Reloading: DIY Ammunition Recycling

 

do it yourself ammunition reloading or recycling with tools

 

This option isn't for everyone and requires that you have a commitment to safely and correctly reloading. You must have the right tools and be willing to learn how to identify rounds that are in the right condition for reloading. Even if the ammo is bad, there could be some serviceable pieces for you to use to reduce waste.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

 

One last thing to keep in mind, though, is that you're likely to encounter some other advice for methods of ammo disposal along the way. Sadly, many of these are questionable at best and outright old wives tales at worst.

 

For example, some people say to bury old ammo in your backyard. Some people will even claim the powder can be used in fertilizer. And while that's not impossible, it's also possible the other materials could have a toxic impact to your yard. In addition, your locality may have laws forbidding such practices. Other advice you might hear consists of soaking ammo in water or oil to render the powder harmless so you can toss it in the trash.

 

While some of these “tips” may work in certain situations, they’re far from guaranteed methods of disposal. If you have old, compromised, or otherwise unusable ammo you need to get rid of, it's best to stick to the previously mentioned methods of safe ammo disposal.

 

 
6 months ago
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Comments
George
6 months ago at 8:13 AM
As a dealer, I encourage customers to bring in anything that they feel they need to get rid of, not so that I can get a great deal from someone that just doesn't know what they have, but to offer free advice to a customer in need. I have taken old useless ammo in to be broken down and destroyed, but I always offer some type of compensation in good faith.
Don Harris
4 months ago at 6:43 PM
Give it to me!
Bemused Berserker
4 months ago at 11:46 PM
Good article. You're right about storage conditions and shelf life. A few years back my Grandfather passed and I was bequeathed his firearms and ammo (Mostly shotshells and .22 LR). Some of the .22's boxes were 50+ years old (the local stores they were price tagged closed in the late 60's). When I took a look at the old ammo, condition was still visibly good. I decided to limit the old ammo to use in one of my revolvers, because I suspected there would be failures to fire. Surprisingly, there were very few FTF's and the few that did fail, most worked when rotated in the cylinder for a second strike. Actual total FTF's were less than 1%. Since this ammo was stored in a cool, dark environment during those 50 odd years, it serves to illustrate that conditions were optimal and a prime factor in the ammo longevity. There were also a couple of boxes of .22's that were older yet (Western brand ammo, made before they became a subsidiary of Winchester). Those I set aside for their collected value.
Alan Waite
4 months ago at 10:50 AM
I've got German 8mm from 1939. Never had a misfire.
Kathryn Martin
4 months ago at 12:07 PM
If it was old ammo (that really, really needed to be destroyed due to years past its shelf life), it could be placed into a bucket filled with water and let it sit for a month, two months or longer. The water would seep down into the powder and destroy any possibility of it ever being used. Then it could be buried (if city/county ordinance did not prevent) , never to be dealt with again.
Henry
3 months ago at 11:18 AM
Many people think that just because ammunition is "old" that it isn't any good - it depends on how it was stored! Why toss it or bury it when you can use a bullet puller and recycle the bullet and casing?! Recycle whatever you can and use it in the future.