How Safe Is Stored Ammunition When Exposed to Fire?

Ever wonder if the sporting ammunition of cartridges (up to .50 caliber) and shot shells (up to 8 gauge) you store poses an extreme danger to you, your family, or neighbors if a fire should ever occur? Wonder no more: it doesn’t.

Rifle and handgun cartridges consist of a metal case with a primer, gunpowder, and bullet; shotgun shells typically consist of a plastic or paper tube often with a metallic covering at the base which retains a primer, and the shot charge is typically contained by a wadding inside the case.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Learn the Basics of Ammunition with Winchester® Educational Infographics ]

In the following video by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute with input by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, over 400,000 rounds of bulk packaged and unpackaged small arms ammunition were burned and crushed in a variety of scenarios to determine the ammo’s lethality in stored configurations outside of firearms. The tests involved were single cartridge impact, 65-foot drop, bullet impact, blasting cap attacks, forklift and bulldozer friction and compression, bonfire with and without packaging, and retail store and semi-trailer fire simulations.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Ammo Price Trends: Cost Per Round Chart ]

These demonstrations confirm that:

  • Sporting ammunition does not pose a fire or accident hazard substantially different from other everyday commodities and, in fact, is less of a risk than many household products.
  • Ammunition is difficult to ignite and does not start a chain reaction, burn, or explode when subjected to extreme stimuli.
  • When not in a firearm, projectile velocities are extremely low.
  • When exposed to fire, ammunition is loud and launches small debris, but the projectiles do not injure firefighters or inhibit them from proceeding with their duties in the immediate vicinity of a fire.
  • Firefighters may safely and quickly extinguish burning ammunition with standard methods using water.
  • Firefighting personnel must wear standard protective gears, including self-contained breathing apparatus and keep it on while extinguishing hotspots after the fire is controlled.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Checklist: Matters to Consider When Deciding on a Handgun ]

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