Shotgun shells, also known as shotgun cartridges, are a type of ammunition used in shotguns. Like all ammunition, proper storage and handling is important to maintain reliability and effectiveness. One key consideration is the temperature at which shotgun shells are stored.
Why temperature matters for storing shotgun shells
Temperature can impact shotgun shells in a few key ways:
- Extreme heat can degrade components – Excessive heat over time can break down the propellant powder, primer compound, and other internal components. This can reduce power and reliability.
- Extreme cold can make shells brittle – Very low temperatures may make plastic shells more brittle and susceptible to cracking. The shells may not feed or function properly.
- Moisture condensation – Going from cold to warm can cause water droplets to form on the shells. This moisture can penetrate shells and damage internal components.
To avoid these issues, shotgun shells should be stored at moderate temperatures. But what is the ideal temperature range?
Recommended temperature range
Most experts recommend storing shotgun shells in a temperature controlled space between 50-80°F (10-27°C). Within this range:
- Internal components are protected from heat degradation.
- Plastic shells remain flexible and resilient.
- Moisture condensation is less likely to occur.
Major shotgun shell manufacturers like Remington, Winchester, and Federal all state similar recommended temperature ranges in their ammunition storage guides. Storing shells within 50-80°F will help maintain proper function.
Temperatures under 50°F start to increase the risk of shells becoming brittle, especially plastic versions. Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can make plastic shells prone to cracking or splitting when chambering in a shotgun.
Moisture condensation is also a concern when bringing cold shells into a warm environment. The moisture can penetrate shells and damage the primer and propellant.
For these reasons, storage below 50°F is not recommended for shotgun shells. Short term transport or use above freezing is generally okay, but shells should not be stored long-term below this threshold.
Storing shotgun shells above 80°F starts to run the risk of slow propellant degradation over time. The hottest temperatures can accelerate the breakdown of propellant powder and primer compounds.
Some experts warn against keeping ammo over 100°F for extended periods of time. After 6-12 months at these elevated temperatures, shells may start to experience slight losses in ballistic performance. But degradation will happen much faster above 120°F.
While plastic shells are not as brittle of a concern at high temps, the internal components are vulnerable. So for long-term storage, keeping temperatures under 80°F is advised.
Ideal humidity range
In addition to temperature, humidity is another important factor for stored shotgun shells. The ideal humidity range is similar to temperature:
- Minimum: 35% relative humidity
- Maximum: 75% relative humidity
Low humidity can make shells brittle and susceptible to cracking. High humidity increases the risk of moisture penetration and component degradation.
Short term conditions
For short term use or transport of shotgun shells, temperature and humidity deviations from the ideal ranges are not a major concern. Shells can withstand brief temperature swings or humidity changes without issue.
Hunters carrying ammo in the field during hot or cold seasons do not need to worry as long as the shells are used within a few days. Similarly, a box of ammo left in a hot or cold vehicle for a couple days is generally fine.
The ideal temperature and humidity ranges are most important for longer term storage of several months or years.
Other shotgun shell storage tips
In addition to temperature and humidity control, a few other tips can help maintain proper function and reliability of stored shotgun shells:
- Avoid direct sunlight exposure – Sunlight and UV rays can accelerate degradation
- Store shells sealed in original box – Only open box when accessing shells
- Use airtight, water-resistant containers
- Inspect shells every 6-12 months for corrosion issues
- Clean storage area to avoid dust, debris, and pests
Signs of degraded shotgun shells
Check your stored ammo periodically for any signs of deterioration including:
- Corroded priming compounds or propellants
- Dented shells, split seams, or brittle casings
- Wet or damp-feeling shells
- Odd colors, deposits, or coatings on casings
If any shells show these traits, it’s best to discard and replace them.
Maintaining proper conditions
The ideal storage conditions can be maintained using:
- A climate controlled gun safe
- A dehumidifier in the storage room
- Heating or cooling as needed to keep within range
- Residential HVAC system to control home storage spaces
Monitoring the temperature and humidity in your ammunition storage area will allow you to make adjustments as needed to keep shotgun shells within the proper ranges.
For reliable long-term storage, shotgun shells should be kept in a controlled environment between 50-80°F and 35-75% relative humidity. Exposure to extreme heat, cold, or moisture can damage internal components and degrade performance. Following these guidelines, along with proper storage protocol, will maintain shotgun shell function for years to come.