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What To Do With Old Ammunition – Safety Guide

You’ve just stumbled upon a box of old ammunition in your attic, and you’re left wondering what to do with it. Old ammunition refers to bullets, shells, and cartridges that have been stored for an extended period of time and may have degraded due to age, humidity, or other factors.

Disposing of old ammunition properly is crucial to ensure the safety of yourself and others, as well as to avoid legal issues and minimize environmental impact.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the reasons to dispose of old ammunition, the methods of disposal, precautions to take before disposal, and even some alternatives if you’re not quite ready to part with your vintage rounds.

Where To Take Your Old Ammunition

Depending on where you live its best to check with your local gun representation body that can help you understand where to take your old live rounds.

Here are a few options

  • Contact your local police department: They may have a program in place for disposing of old ammunition safely or can direct you to the appropriate agency that handles it.
  • Local shooting ranges: Some shooting ranges may accept old ammunition for disposal or recycling. Call ahead to see if they offer this service.
  • Hazardous waste disposal facilities: In some areas, old ammunition can be treated as hazardous waste and can be disposed of at designated facilities. Contact your local waste management department to find out if this option is available in your area.
  • Gun stores: Some gun stores may offer disposal services for old ammunition or can provide information on where to take it.

Here are a list of or gun organisations

Organization Website Ammunition Disposal Information
National Rifle Association (NRA) https://home.nra.org/ The NRA does not directly handle ammunition disposal, but they may provide guidance or resources for safely disposing of old ammunition. Visit their website or contact your local NRA-affiliated shooting range for more information.
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) https://www.nssf.org/ The NSSF may provide information on ammunition disposal or recycling programs. Check their website for resources or contact your local NSSF-affiliated shooting range for more information.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) https://www.atf.gov/ The ATF is a federal law enforcement agency that regulates the firearms industry. While they may not directly handle ammunition disposal, they can provide guidance on proper disposal methods and local resources. Contact your local ATF field office for more information.
Local Shooting Ranges Varies Some local shooting ranges may offer ammunition disposal or recycling services. Contact your local range to inquire about their policies and procedures.
Local Police Departments Varies Local police departments may have programs in place for disposing of old ammunition safely or can direct you to the appropriate agency that handles it. Contact your local police department for more information.

Reasons to Dispose of Old Ammunition

Safety concerns

Old ammunition can become unstable and potentially dangerous over time. Degraded primers, powder, and casings can lead to misfires, hang fires, or even catastrophic failures when fired. Proper disposal is essential for ensuring the safety of yourself, your family, and your community.

Legal issues

In some jurisdictions, it may be illegal to possess or dispose of old ammunition improperly. It’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations to avoid any legal complications.

Environmental impact

The chemicals found in old ammunition can contaminate soil, groundwater, and ecosystems if not handled correctly. Proper disposal helps minimize the environmental impact and protects our planet for future generations.

Potential damage to firearms

Using old or degraded ammunition in your firearms can lead to malfunctions or even permanent damage. Disposing of old ammunition can save you from costly repairs or replacements.

Methods of Disposal

Taking it to a certified gunsmith or ammunition dealer

Many gunsmiths and ammunition dealers are equipped to handle the disposal of old ammunition. They will ensure it is disposed of safely and in compliance with local regulations.

Contacting the local police department or fire department

Local law enforcement or fire departments can often assist with the disposal of old ammunition. Give them a call to inquire about their procedures and any drop-off locations.

Disposing of it at a hazardous waste facility

Some hazardous waste facilities accept old ammunition for disposal. Check with your local facility to determine if they accept ammunition and what their procedures are.

Using a demilitarization service

Demilitarization services specialize in the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of old ammunition. These services may be more costly, but they ensure your ammunition is handled by professionals.

Precautions to Take Before Disposal

Storing old ammunition safely

Before disposing of old ammunition, ensure it is stored in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources and flammable materials.

Identifying and handling damaged or unstable ammunition

Inspect your old ammunition for signs of corrosion, damage, or other degradation. Handle damaged or unstable rounds with caution and consult a professional if you are unsure.

Transporting ammunition safely

When transporting old ammunition for disposal, ensure it is secured in a sturdy container and kept away from any sources of heat or ignition.

Alternatives to Disposal

Donating ammunition to shooting clubs or gun ranges

Some shooting clubs or gun ranges may accept old ammunition for use in training or target practice. Contact local organizations to inquire about their needs and donation policies.

Repurposing old ammunition for crafts or decorations

With a disclaimer of getting the ammunition properly disarmed. With a little creativity, old ammunition can be transformed into unique arts and crafts or decorative pieces. Just make sure the ammunition is inert and safe before starting any projects.


Disposing of old ammunition is crucial for safety, legal, environmental, and practical reasons. Remember the various disposal methods available, including gunsmiths, police departments, hazardous waste facilities, and demilitarization services.

If you’re not ready to part with your vintage rounds, consider donating them to shooting clubs or repurposing them for crafts or decorations. By following the guidance provided in this article, you can ensure the safe and responsible handling of your old ammunition.


What happens to unused ammunition?

When unused ammunition is disposed of properly, it is typically disassembled, and the components are separated. The gunpowder and primer are neutralized, while the brass and lead are often recycled or repurposed for other uses.

Is 30 year old ammo still good?

The shelf life of ammunition can vary significantly depending on the storage conditions. If the ammunition has been stored in a cool, dry place with minimal temperature fluctuations, it may still be functional after 30 years.

However, it’s essential to inspect the ammunition for signs of corrosion or degradation and exercise caution when using old ammo.

How is ammo recycled?

Ammunition recycling involves disassembling the components and separating them. The brass casings can be cleaned, reloaded, or melted down for reuse in other products.

The lead from bullets can be extracted and recycled into new lead products. The gunpowder and primer are usually neutralized to render them inert and then disposed of according to local regulations.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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