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How to store shotgun cartridges legally and safely

Putting your cartridges away at the end of the season? Here's how to keep them safe and in good condition.

lead shotgun cartridges

If you’re hanging up your gun until the autumn or not planning on going out in the field for a while, you’re going to need to know how to store shotgun cartridges correctly. First off, the legal requirements for this aren’t the same as shotguns. You don’t have to store your shotgun cartridges in a gun cabinet or locked away if you are an ordinary shotgun certificate holder. (Of course, the rules are different if you are a gun and ammunition dealer.)

As shooters we need to do everything we can to avoid giving our sport any margin for criticism, so you should always make sure your ammunition is stored safely and of course out of the reach of children. Be a responsible shooter at all times. Part of this behaviour is keeping your cartridges out of sight of any visitors, so that anybody passing by or dropping in (like a delivery van) will be unaware that a shotgun could be stored on the property.

Of course, you also need to store your shotgun cartridges away from damp. Put them somewhere dry where the temperature won’t fluctuate. If you have room in it, your gun safe is a good place. (Read our tips on the best gun safes here.)

How many shotgun cartridges can you store at home?

We asked Charles Bull of Just Cartridges who replied: ” It depends on the weight or load of the cartridge as it relates to the Net Explosive Quantity (NEQ) but in broad terms, under a normal shotgun certificate, an individual can store up to about 10,000 cartridges. After about 10,000 you would need an Explosives Licence from the police to store more.”

shotgun cartridges

Can I store shotgun cartridges in the attic?

A reader asked this question recently, saying:

Q: Due to storage and security considerations I am planning on keeping my shotgun cartridges in the attic. The temperature there never goes below freezing but it does get a bit damp at times. I am not planning on keeping the ammunition there for years, just for the next few months. Is this a practical idea?

Sporting Gun replied: We are aware of the problems involved in storing large numbers of shotgun cartridges in the average house.

The best plan is to pack cartridges in airtight containers. Use big plastic boxes with lids that seal tightly, although well sealed polythene bags are also an option. The important thing is to pack the cartridges in a dry, warm atmosphere before you seal them up, so that you don’t trap moisture in with them.

Don’t spray cartridge heads with rust repellents like WD40. Evidence from America suggests that it can penetrate the primers and make them unreliable.

There seems to be some disagreement about the shelf-life of plastic-cased cartridges. We have shot cartridges like this that are around 15 years old and they still shoot perfectly.