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.
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
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
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.