Routine Inspection and Rotation
Care and maintenance of your defensive ammunition becomes a necessity when you carry on a daily basis. There are several problems you can avoid if you have a good system of inspecting and rotating when necessary.
Defensive Ammunition Demands
As more and more people enter the concealed carry world we will continue to see ammunition in high demand. Defensive ammunition complicates the situation even more since it is typically made in smaller quantities. On the flip side, you generally do not need a substantial surplus. How much defensive ammunition is a matter of opinion, but my recommendation is two full loadouts. If you normally carry 30 rounds, two 15 round magazines then you are looking at a total of 60 rounds. The reason for two full loadouts is to accommodate for rounds that you must survey due to use and abuse. Carrying on your body daily is taxing on your gear, ammunition included.
Negative Effects of Weather on Ammunition
Your gear is exposed to the elements such as heat and cold. In modest climates the temperature shifts are negligible. In the extreme climates they can have more serious consequences. Moving from extreme hot to cold or extreme cold to hot stresses your equipment. Moisture and humidity can also wreak havoc. While most defensive ammunition have coated primers, not all do and constant exposure to moisture can have a negative effect on the components. Body secretions such as oils and sweat tend to follow the same negative effect of moisture. There are other contaminates to be aware of, but these represent the most popular. They don’t include foreign objects or debris. With such close contact to the human body, dead skin cells and fabric remnants or lint can insert themselves into the firearm’s mechanisms causing problems.
Avoid Loading the Same Defensive Round
Probably one of the most important reasons to care for your defensive ammunition is to ensure it functions properly. Even if extreme weather is not an issue you can still run into problems. In this case where you run the risk of problems is when you reload the same round numerous times. Each time the round is chambered it is forced up the feed ramp. It hits the feed ramp under pressure generated from the recoil spring. The same round hitting the feed ramp can experience bullet set back over time. Bullet set back occurs when the projectile itself is forced deeper into the casing.
Defensive Ammunition Rotation Cycle
Care and maintenance means I have to periodically examine my defensive ammunition. At a certain interval I will inspect, clean and replace my defensive ammunition for all my carry guns. The interval is based on the frequency of carry along with the exposure to the elements. The more the firearm is carried through various environmental conditions the sooner I will rotate my ammunition. I start by unloading the gun, then downloading all the magazines. I will then inspect each of the rounds for what I call a strike. When I eject a live defensive round I will mark the casing on the head stamp, what I call a strike. If a round accumulates more than three strikes then it is surveyed or shot at my next range session. This helps avoid bullet set back along with possible damage caused when the round makes contact with the ground.
Care and Maintenance Procedure
Once the ammunition inspection is completed I will replace the current magazines with fresh magazines. Then starting with the two strikes rounds, I load them into my fresh magazines designated as my reload magazine. This puts these rounds at the furthers point of use. Then I load the remaining rounds into the magazines. However many rounds need to replaced are pulled from the box. They go into the top of the carry magazine since they are the freshest available. Once I have completed this rotation I reload my carry gun. Store the box of surplus defensive ammunition in a cool and dry place. Then add the three strike rounds to my range bag for the next trip to the range. However, in these difficult times I have chosen to hold on to them for just a little bit longer. Storing them separately, but in a cool and dry place.
With 60 defensive rounds being the average two boxes of defensive ammunition will give me several years of service using this procedure. It is worth the peace of mind to know your loadout is fresh and ready to go.
2 thoughts on “Caring for Defensive Ammunition”
Jeff, thank you for this post. I recall you mentioning some of this to another student in passing from a previous class of yours that I attended. I didn’t fully comprehend the “why” this was important at the time and I meant to ask you more about it at the end of the class but it slipped my mind. It makes complete sense now and I can see how important this could be. The ammo loading order of “strike rounds” is something I also likely never would have considered.
You mentioned that at “a certain interval” you rotate your ammo (and shorten the interval based on conditions), generally how often do you do this based on normal conditions?
Good question and at a minimum once a year. If you carry every day, you might consider bi-annually. Usually once a year is more than adequate.