NOTE: USCCA Customer Engagement team members get a lot of questions, and they pass a good number of them along to Concealed Carry Magazine Senior Editor Ed Combs. If you have a question, you can either ask it below or email it to [email protected]. We, of course, cannot guarantee answers to all questions — Ed’s a pretty busy guy — but we’d love to help you out with whatever’s stumping you.

Jared Blohm
Managing Editor
Concealed Carry Magazine

How should I store guns and ammo long-term?

Outside of politicians, the greatest enemies of firearms and ammunition are moisture and heat. If you can keep ammunition in the classic “cool, dry place” it will last for generations. I’ve discharged ammunition that was manufactured during the Second World War that still ran just fine.

What this means is that if you want to store ammunition for “the long term,” basements, attics and garages that aren’t at least somewhat climate-controlled are pretty much out. This is unfortunate, as basements, attics and garages are generally where we like to store items we do not intend to use for years to come. But if you want your ammo to remain in factory-fresh condition, you will have to protect it from wild temperature swings — indoors or out.

Speaking of which, while plenty of the world’s militaries have stored firearms and ammunition in comparatively ghastly conditions, this has a lot more to do with the difference between how they store materiel and how you will likely store a few thousand rounds of 9mm and a dozen or so rifles, shotguns and pistols. When the old USSR was packaging ammunition for the long haul, they did so by sealing it into large sardine-style cans. When they were storing firearms, they did so by packing those firearms in what’s called “cosmoline,” a thick, earwax-like grease that is renowned for its ability to keep firearms brand-new and for never really coming out of wood rifle stocks. I can all but guarantee that you will not be looking to do either of these things.

Final Thoughts

You can order protective gun-storage bags from Brownells. These will square you away for several years on end. As for your ammunition, as long as it is kept cool and dry — as in away from floodwaters and not in an attic or garage that is burning-hot in the summer and freezing-cold in the winter — it will last almost indefinitely. The gaskets on American-made ammo cans will help you in your fight against moisture, but they require proper maintenance and will need to be replaced periodically. When arranging large quantities of ammunition in your residence, try to store it out at the edges of the structure where the floors are strongest. But if we’re just talking about a few thousand rounds of 5.56 and 9mm, even just under your bed should be fine.

Which is the better choice in an EDC firearm: a .38 Special or .380 semi-automatic?

Unfortunately, there is no “better” of the two. It will come down to what works best for the individual in question.

Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting is known to say that semi-autos are better at taking abuse, while revolvers are better at taking neglect. What he means is that if you know you’re the kind of person who will simply load a gun, place it in a bedside safe, and then never touch it again unless you need to retrieve it for self-defense, a revolver almost certainly won’t let you down. If, however, your EDC sidearm is going to get bumped into car doors and building corners but you properly clean and lubricate it every week, that semi-automatic will be a far better choice. (While their fans love to brag on how revolvers are “extremely reliable,” cylinder-feds can’t take a beating like autos can.)

Energy-wise, it can be difficult to pick a winner. Buffalo Bore will sell you flat-nose, hard-cast .380 ACP +Ps that leave a KelTec P3AT’s tiny little barrel at over 1,000 feet per second, while the traditional bare-lead .38 Special will trundle on out of a snubnose’s tube in the low or mid-800s. Both rounds are available in anemic and super-charged versions. Neither are anything you’ll see a modern law enforcement officer carrying for primary duty use. Both, however, are popular back-up guns in all areas of police work. That should tell you plenty.

Choosing Sides

Complicating matters is the fact that when someone asks me which platform is “better,” he or she is often trying to get me to justify whatever opinion they already hold. But I’m afraid I’m too boring to pick a side on this one. If you feel more confident with a 5-shot .38, get yourself some rounds that print well out of it and understand that I will be pleased as punch that you’re doing so. If you prefer the slim profile of an auto, rest assured that I am no less happy you’re carrying what you like to carry.

There are (of course) countless arguable details. Which can be reloaded more quickly? Which “hits an assailant harder?” Which is easier to shoot? Which runs more affordable ammunition? Which is easier to completely conceal? But none of those are as important as which feels the best to the end user. The ideal first step is getting the concealed carrier in question into a gun shop to get a sense of what feels best in his or her hand. From there, the next stop should be the rental firing line. And once you’ve sussed out which platform that end user enjoys shooting the most and which he or she is most likely to be able to effectively conceal, you will have — in that very specific circumstance — figured out whether a .38 Special is a better choice for an EDC firearm than a .380 ACP.

How often should you field-strip your carry weapon and rotate the ammo?

I am of the opinion that a concealed carrier should clean (as in field-strip and thoroughly clean if it’s an auto, swing out the cylinder and thoroughly clean if it’s a revolver) his or her EDC sidearm at least monthly. The biggest threat to a pistol carried inside the waistband or in a pocket is the lint that will accumulate inside and out a lot faster than you’d think. Most lubricants also dry up or run off of a gun, so that will have to be addressed as well. I prefer to disassemble and clean my carry gun every Saturday morning, but as long as you can find a time that works for you and is no more infrequent than at least every 30 days, you’ll be fine.

The ammunition is a different matter. If we’re talking about a revolver, and if you never sweat or get rained on, it is entirely possible that you could carry the same rounds for decades and never experience any failures to fire when you do finally drop the hammer. If, however, you’re constantly racking your rounds into and out of a semi-auto’s chamber, you will want to both rotate your ammunition within your magazine (as in do not keep chambering and ejecting the same round) and completely replace the rounds about once or at most twice a year. Some swear that it must be done more frequently and some swear that it’s a waste of money, but about once a year is what works for me.

Checking Your Ammo

After you clean your firearm, inspect your carry ammunition. All of the bullets should be protruding from the front of the case the same amount; line them up to confirm this. None of the rounds should be discolored or look any different than they did when they came out of the box. This would also be the time to rotate the rounds within your magazine. As you rack rounds into and out of your pistol’s chamber, the rims at the bases will begin to wear and the bullets can begin to creep backward. They can take a few cycles in and out, but don’t ask much more than that of them. As for revolver rounds, they should be similarly inspected and replaced if there’s any bullet setback or corrosion.

If your pistol gets soaked with rain or sweat and you cannot dry everything off within an hour or so, you’re going to want to move those rounds to the training pile. But as for both cleaning guns and rotating ammunition, I treat them both like I treat visiting the restroom: If I even kind of suspect that I should maybe visit the restroom, I do. And if I even kind of suspect that I should maybe clean a gun or swap out some ammunition, I am similarly proactive.