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Best before date


Well-Known Member
Premium Member
This might sound like a daft question, but is there usually a best before date on ordnance ie. artillery shells in this instance. I have recently seen a photo of a British Army Artilleryman loading a 105mm gun with an HE shell clearly and profusely marked, dated CY 11-85. The guy in question looks to be wearing the new type of body armour, which would suggest the pic is quite recent, but that makes the shell up to 23 years old. I would not have thought that in the present climate, there would have been many left of any age ? Just something that was bugging me. Tony.
Good question that!

Im told that the stuff in ww1 shells got a lot more unstable with age?


Best before date

Hi Roller my dad served in the 7th Royal Tank Regiment in the early 50s he trained on Centurions then went out to Hong Kong where they had Comets [ one squadrons where in Korea serving with Churchill Crocodiles ,but thats another story]Dad says all the 77mm rounds for the Comets were 1943 -45 dated so nearly 10 years old with quite a few misfires .Dad been the wireless op /loader had to with the commander unload these and carry them up the range to be destroyed by machine gun fire , no health and safety in those days .Dave
Ordnance items lifespan

Back in the late 70's I saw a whole pile of 1940/41/42/43/44/45
.50 Cal ,20mm Hispano and 20mm Oerlikon wartime ammunition being used, out of many hundreds of rounds miss fires were well below 1% and hangfires were even less than that !
All items had been "ideally" stored and most of the boxes on opening had the usual "hiss" of air rushing in.

So providing the item is carefully stored I guess they can last for many years.

Chris :tinysmile_shy_t:
Ammunition Shelf Life

Within the Canadian Forces gun, howitzer, and mortar ammunition does not have a service or shelf life. Service life and shelf life are assigned to certain items such as pyrotechnics used in survival kits (flares, smoke pots, etc) and Cartridge Actuated Devices used in aircraft safety systems.

Depending on the type of ammunition (gun, mortar, howitzer, small arms, etc) and in some cases the type of packaging, location and storage conditions there is a set inspection interval to verify the servicibility of the ammunition. In addition propellant samples may be removed for additional testing to ensure there has not been any deterioration of the propellant. Additional proof and test of the ammunition can occur if the ammunition shows signs of deterioration or is suspect for any reason.

The user units can also submit ammunition defect reports if they feel that the ammunition is not functioning correctly or within set tolerances. These unit generated reports could also lead to a special proof or test of an ammunition item.

I would not consider artillery ammunition from 1985 old. I am sure that if you dug deep in the storage facilities of most armies you would find ammunition much older than that and it would still be serviceable.
Old Grenades

I remember the very last batch of L2A2 grens we had to throw were all dated 1979 and this was in 2001. they all went bang ok. The crates they were in all had sand in them so i presume they went out to the first gulf war, never got used and came back. only to be issued years later to the T.A.
Wartime Ammunition

About 2 years ago at Bisley the British Army had a clear out of various weapons and came up with a large number of mint (as in new and still greased up) Vickers machine guns (circa pre WW1) and these used .303 inch ammunition-I was told that search was undertaken to find any old .303 rounds with some 10,000 Plus being discovered in various magazines around the country, of these rounds the earliest I saw was a box of 1937 dated R & L Ball along with hundreds of rounds from WRA,GB,RG,DAC,REM,AN and various other makes all dated prior to 1968 and a good percetage being wartime issue with I believe very few miss fires.
The Guns were being fired all day and raised a great deal of money for a charity by allowing members of the public a chance to fire the weapons whilst fully supervised.
Please feel free to correct if any one knows better as I can only relate what I was told on the day.

Chris :tinysmile_shy_t:
the 105 cartridge i have is 1982 dated with 1982 dated primer it does not appear to have any stamping to indicate it is re loaded and was only fired last year
Hello all,

I regularly take part in historic weapons demos for Army battlefield tour groups. Most of the ammo we use is new, 7.92mm and .303, mainly from Privi Partizan in Serbia.

On a recent shoot we had to acquire more .303 ball at very short notice and the only stuff we could find was 1941 Winchester manufactured. Still in all its packaging (some of which has turned up recently on a well known auction site!) we experienced not a single failure and it performed extremely well. The point here is that I doubt whether this had been stored in ideal conditions for all its life. It was certainly not stored well at the time we picked it up!

Other than a little muck on the outside of the cases (not enough to affect feeding on the weapons we were using) and the actual propellant being a little dirty resulting in a bit more cleaning at the end of the shoot, it performed as intended 66 years on!


Thanks for the replies Guys, it seems that 20 years or so is not that old then, if stored properly. I know some of the very old explosives got unreliable as time went on, but I suppose that the modern equivalent keeps better. Tony.

I drafted a longer reply but it disappeared into cyber space.

All ammunition in the stockpile goes through a periodic In Service Surveillance process where a "statistically significant" number are inspected and fired and performance is checked.

This is still sound ammunition.