storing ammo in ?

storing ammo in ?

This is a discussion on storing ammo in ? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I am wondering at what point does ammo 'cook off' in a fire. I have seen the mythbusters episode, where they toss bullets into a ...

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    Member Array boatman's Avatar
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    storing ammo in ?

    I am wondering at what point does ammo 'cook off' in a fire.

    I have seen the mythbusters episode, where they toss bullets into a campfire. Mostly the casing comes apart, not the bullet firing.

    I normally store my ammo in fire/water proof sentry safe. However, the safe is rather small, and ammo is building up...

    I was wondering if ammo cans from the surplus store would be safe enough to withstand a house fire and prevent the rounds from doing harm to anyone?


  2. #2
    Distinguished Member Array Brady's Avatar
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    I keep most of my ammo in ammo-cans around the house but, they are not fireproof.
    It might slow it down just a little but it'll cook off in the cans as easy as any other place.
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    Member Array boatman's Avatar
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    ok. but if they cook off in cans, i would hope that the can being steel would prevent big damage? On mythbusters, it seemed like the bullet casing splitting and ejecting the primer cartridge was the problem, not the bullet actually shooting.

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    Metal ammo cans are not fire-proof, and in fact, are just the opposite. The metal conducts heat faster to the contents. Other than a container specifically designed to be "fire-resistant," a wooden container is a better choice of fire protection than metal anything. Wood burns, yes, but it is also insulating--far more so than metals.

    Metal ammo cans are handy, easy to tote around (within reason), protect ammo against physical damamge well (nicks, dents etc.), but never were intended tp protected agains heat. Pack one full of ammo, apply heat, and you've got one serious bomb in the making.
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    Ex Member Array apvbguy's Avatar
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    I've stored ammo in their boxes on a shelf for over 25 years, I recently just fired some, they all went bang as expected.
    this doesn't need to be over thought.
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    I've recently been researching the same question, as I plan on building up a surplus of ammo over the next several months. What I've gleaned is that the most important part of manufactured ammo storage is to keep it dry and avoid extreme temperatures, especially if you plan on storing it long term.
    For fire safety, keeping the ammo in a wooden container or even thick sheet metal is usually adequate. The brass case is what will actually end up shooting off, and it doesn't have the ballistic properties required to penetrate whatever you're storing it in (in most cases). Additionally, storing the ammo low to the ground is also beneficial as that's the last place in a fire to get really hot. Some fire fighters who have commented on this issue have said in a house fire, it's more important for your ammo to be water-proofed, since they usually have the fire under control before heat becomes an issue for the ammunition (again, in most cases).

    Hope that helps.

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    No, a single brass case doesn't have the potential to explode a steel ammo can, but 500 rounds or so packed together, stacked on top of a couple momre ammo cans, definitely does. And depending on where one lives and relative closeness of the local FD, whether the water sprayers arrive in time is a matter of conjunction.

    Back in the day when I stored large quantities of ammo, I used an old wood footlocker and placed my plastic boxes, factory boxes, and ammo cans inside the footlocker and placed a lock on it. It was inside, out of the weather, and there was never a moisture issue. Now, with the kids long gone, the minimal (?) amount I keep on hand is stored in the bottom of an old(?) wood gun cabinet (the guns are not).
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    Mythbusters is essentially correct. Consider the physics of shooting. What propels the bullet is the expansion of gas from the burning powder. When contained within the breach of the firearm, the gas has only one place to go, down the barrel. That of course is what propels the bullet forward. If the gas is not contained, such as the case of loose ammo in a fire, the bullet may in fact separate from the casing, put the gas is immediately dissipated and the bullet is not propelled in any meaningful sense forward as you would have going down the barrel.
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    We have a volunteer fire department. I know most of them I have long ago told them if my house is burning go for coffee waiting till morning.
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    Senior Member Array Divebum47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boatman View Post
    I am wondering at what point does ammo 'cook off' in a fire.
    About 600 degrees F.
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    I store mine in the fish tank buried in with the gravel.
    Highly ornamental, great conversation piece, and the feds will think they are dummy rounds.


    In all seriousnes, mine is kept in metal and poly ammo cans, away from moisture.
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    More than just Ammunition. Powder and Primers as well.

    Check with your local gun shop or reloading store and see how they store the stock in the back room. I rather imagine their storage will comply with local fire codes.

    Do a internet search for 'Fire Codes' and check the ammunition storage section. Working from memory, there is information for safe storage of loaded ammunition, powder and primers. Most of it includes wooden cabinets of not less than 1 inch thickness. There are further details of how many primers can be stored in one pile and so on. It goes on a bit, but it is fairly simple in the whole.

    Loaded ammunition does not explode in a fire. Individually, rounds will 'pop' with the bullet and primer coming out of the case. A large pile of ammunition will render a large number of pops. It is not cumulative. One close enough to feel the heat may get peppered with bits and pieces, but except something directly in the eye, not much damage.

    I remember getting hit with a case from when a nameless dimbulb dumped a hand full of G. I. M16 rounds in a campfire. The case hit me in the upper torso and caused a foul word to escape my lips. Had I been hit with five or six, I would have been rather annoyed and angry but not injured.

    A metal G. I. ammo can full of ammunition would certainly 'cook off' in a fire. However, the can is not strong enough to hold much pressure, so it would deform and vent the evolving gasses rather than explode. Plastic or cardboard containers will vent gasses even sooner.

    Smokeless powder in bulk is rather disappointing in a fire. It burns quickly and rather hot, but nothing like an explosion. Unless the pressure builds, the burn rate is nowhere close to the confined burn rate in a cartridge in a chamber. To prevent pressure build up and rate of burn increase, powder is packaged in either plastic or cardboard containers. It is also why most powder packaging says not to repack it in glass bottles with lids. (As Jeff Foxworthy says, "They wouldn't put those warnings on the label if someone hadn't tried it.")

    Primers are probably the most dangerous component. If one fires, the possibility of another firing in sympathetic detonation are good. Even with the modern 'separated' packaging, primers are the most dangerous item. Still, the primary danger would be to eyes and possibly minor skin wounds. A stack of primers in a metal feed tube will blow out the ends of the tube and could be most unpleasant; much more than in the original packaging.

    All in all however, powder, primers and loaded ammunition are far less problem in a fire than a lawn mower or gasoline can only half full. Gasoline vapors are seriously dangerous in a fire.
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    Distinguished Member Array onacoma's Avatar
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    I have attached the SAAMI report on ammunition reaction in a fire. While ammo cans are great for storage they can be a problem in a fire as pressure can built up until the can ruptures! If storing in a dry area a wooden box or a metal "non airtite" storage cabinet that way the gases in a fire can expand and the ammo will just burn. The poping sounds are the primer going off as the powder burns. The bullet are forced out the end of the brass but without any velocity.

    Do as Smokie sez, "Don't start a fire!"


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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    Metal ammo cans are not fire-proof, and in fact, are just the opposite. The metal conducts heat faster to the contents. Other than a container specifically designed to be "fire-resistant," a wooden container is a better choice of fire protection than metal anything. Wood burns, yes, but it is also insulating--far more so than metals.

    Metal ammo cans are handy, easy to tote around (within reason), protect ammo against physical damamge well (nicks, dents etc.), but never were intended tp protected agains heat. Pack one full of ammo, apply heat, and you've got one serious bomb in the making.

    Lets see: Apply a little heat to a metal box and it just gets hot. Apply a little heat to wood and IT BURNS. Just a REAL outside shot here but ya think that may be why the military uses metal boxes? Gee Mr. Wizzard we going too fast here?

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    AS kids, we were dumb at times, and threw .22 bullets into fires.... and we would hear a real small pop .... and nothing else. When we looked at them later, the casing had split and that was it. The bullet was still there, although melted.

    I don't think there is any real threat to them "shooting". There is no muzzle to spin them and give them direction and velocity either.
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