Flooded With Ammo

Is it safe to shoot ammo that’s been exposed to water? Depends… Read more!


by Jason Hanson

In 2016, the U.S. experienced 19 major floods, which was a record number for a single year. 2017 was been a busy year for flooding as well, especially with Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Combined estimates of the damages of the two recent hurricanes will most likely exceed 150 billion dollars.

The fact is, flooding can occur in every state in the U.S. and floods kill more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Now, with the amount of flooding we have seen this year there is no question that many people in Texas and Florida have lost personal belongings, likely including guns and ammo.

The reality is, it doesn’t have to be a natural disaster for you to experience flooding in your home since a broken water pipe or an overflowing toilet can also lead to a messy situation. Considering the number of gun owners who have most likely experienced flooding recently it leads to the question of whether or not ammunition that has been submerged in water can still be used?

To be clear, there is a big difference between ammo that has been used while you’re training outdoors in the rain or snow compared to ammo that has been sitting in a basement completely submerged in water.

I have trained outdoors in all types of weather from rain to snow and I’ve never had these elements affect my gun or ammo. Of course, I always give my firearms a good cleaning after training so as long as you do this as well, you shouldn’t have any issues when training in wet weather.

For ammunition that has been under water for any amount of time there are a few different issues that could potentially arise. The problem is, there are so many different factors when flooding occurs that it’s difficult to give a one fits all type of answer. For example, the depth of the water, the amount of time the ammo was submerged, and whether the water had contaminates can all affect the ammunition.

Nevertheless, once you remove the ammo from the water you would obviously want to dry it out. However, during this process the ammo could be damaged or deteriorate even more than what occurred when it was in the water.

In addition, you face the risk of a weaker powder charge when you fire the weapon, which could mean there isn’t enough pressure to push the bullet out of the barrel. In other words, you could pull the trigger and the bullet might only move slightly, then, if you pulled the trigger again while the bullet was still stuck you could seriously injure yourself.

Perhaps, the most critical issue with ammo that has been submerged in water is that it could fail to fire for a number of different reasons caused by the water. If you’re like me and carry a concealed firearm everywhere you legally can, then you probably don’t want to risk using ammo that may or may not fire.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize a malfunction can happen with any ammo but that’s why I train to clear the malfunction and move to the next round in my firearm if I need to defend myself. The thing is, I wouldn’t bet my life on ammo that has been submerged in water.

Unfortunately, the problem is there is really no way to tell which ammo is safe to use and which is completely damaged. Basically, you can’t inspect every round because you never really know what kind of internal damage has taken place.

Also, I’ve heard some people mention that the primers in their ammo are sealed so water wouldn’t be able to get in. However, I still wouldn’t risk firing the ammo because there is truly no way to check the primer to make sure its safe.

In contrast, I understand that ammo can be incredibly expensive and if you have thousands of rounds stocked up for an emergency you are no doubt losing a ton of money by getting rid of the ammo. However, I would never risk firing a round that could cause injury or death to myself or someone I was training with or might not work when I needed it to save my life.

Lastly, if you happen to have ammunition that was damaged by flooding I would contact your local police department and ask them if they are able to dispose of ammo.


Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, click HERE.

12 thoughts on “Flooded With Ammo”

  1. Ammunition that has been submerged for any length of time is probably not safe to shoot without potential problems. Even it was sealed and lacquered, the possibility of condensation exists. If it can be gotten out of the water in a reasonable amount of time, I see no reason that the bullets couldn’t be pulled, the powder dumped, the primers removed and the brass dried and then run through a cleaning process. At least the bullets and brass could be salvaged. If it is rimfire, then it probably is toast.

  2. It also depends on your method of storage. Most of my ammo is packaged in vacuum sealed bags. As long as there is no moisture or water inside the bag, the seal is intact and the ammo is dry.

  3. I have used ammo that has been seriously soaked. I have never seen an issue where the powder is noticeably weaker, although I have not had a situation of serious contaminants being present. What I have seen is that the primers get ruined and don’t fire at all, or maybe a few do fire. Of course, definitely be on guard for any rounds that are noticeably weak and might have left a bullet in the barrel. Otherwise, though, you get to have the fun that maybe two out of five shots actually fire. This is to say that, if after being soaked and then dried out in the sun or a warm but not hot spot, the ammo works well, then sure, use it. If you are experiencing duds, then go more slowly, if you want to bother with it. Incidentally, soaked ammo is often fine in its powder, and going through a chain of pulling bullets, pouring the dried powder into a freshly primed case and seating the bullet there, re-priming the case just emptied, and so on, is a way to usually have success in rejuvenating a problematic box of ammo. Yes, unused primers can be carefully pushed out of cases without much chance of ignition, although that is your choice to try or not. I do, avoiding any impact, the same idea as when I seat new primers . And no, this refurbished ammunition is not what you want for self defense, hunting, or competition; it just lets you plink and target practice at moderate range.

  4. Seems that no comment was made about ammo in sealed containers like the ubiquitous .50 cal. ammo can, or similar.
    If they are dry inside you’re good to go I would think. I also can’t think of anyone that has a larger stash of ammo that wouldn’t use some sort of sealed containers.

  5. Dude, you ever hear of a bullet puller? Reuse the bullets and cases, dump the powder and replace the primer . . . . powder and primer aren’t worth more than 19 cents and in many cases (pistol or 223REM) will amount to only 13 cents or even less. Easily 70% of the cartridge is going to be recovered by recovering the bullet and brass.

  6. It doesn’t have to be a flood to be a problem. Waterfowl hunters (me included) will, sooner or later have steel shot loads get wet. Steel shot is ..well..steel. Moisture can fuze the shot together. When the load reaches the choke, it can “Bridge” and go no further. Also, moisture can affect the powder, causing a squib load which can leave a wad behind in the barrel.

    The old paper shells were really bad about squib loads, but plastic ones can absorb moisture as well. Just as shooting Damascus barreled shotguns might be ok for a long time, sooner or later they’ll let go using modern shotshells.

  7. I used a reloaded .44 mag.for a sinker at the river years back. a year later my son and I pulled it from bottom of the river where I had it tied off a root..to my surprise it shot just fine, I used a tight primer and crimp. just luck I guess.

  8. Does anyone know if surplus ammo cans are actually waterproof? If so, it might buy you enough time and you’d still be able to shoot the ammo.

  9. Kelly, I worked in Air Force Ammo for many years and the mil spec ammo cans are the best storage solution for sure..Most of the metal cans will have a vacuum hiss sound when you crack the lever to open them..A good rubber gasket that has not dried out or cracked will give you that hiss..Most small arms ammo has a life span of 99 years as long as it is kept cool and dry..Much WWII ammo still fires fine..Keep ammo out of a glove compartment or truck tool box..Vibration and temperature extremes do bad things to gunpowder..

  10. I seal all my loads with a seal-a-meal then store them in ammo cans. No danger of moisture contamination.

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