How to Dispose Of Old Shotgun Shells?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: May 7, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

All firearms enthusiasts come across unwanted ammo that you no longer need. And because you don’t want to risk shooting, you may think of getting rid of them. 

So, with hunting season around the corner, I thought of the best ways to dispose of these cartridges safely. 

Well, it’s unlikely that you can throw ammunition in a recycling bin. No, what could be the best solution. 

In this post, we’ll curate about how to dispose of old shotgun shells. 

Along the way, we will discuss what not to do with unusable ammunition. 

Let’s take a look!

What is the Shelf Life of Shotgun Shells?

Quite often, shotgun shells have no specific expiration date. 

The fact is that no one knows the exact shelf-life for ammunition. 

It’s not a surprise to find Grandfather’s old ammo perfectly fine. 

The lifespan will depend on certain things that include;

  • Conditions 
  • The model you buy
  • What the shotgun is made of (material)

The shell life is relative. If you store your shotgun under favorable conditions (store in a dry place or no wild temperature extremes), then it can serve you for decades.

If only you can treat them right, shotgun shells won’t deteriorate quickly. Probably, you can keep them for half a century. 

Nevertheless, if you don’t handle and store them decently, the ammunition may become moldy and rusty over time. 

Some things that could end the life of a shotgun include consistent contact with;

  • heat, 
  • moisture and 
  • Sunlight. 

Avoid these conditions as they will spoil everything by making the latter rust at a higher rate. 

Furthermore, any water that gets inside makes the rifle ammo corrode. 

This state is an issue because it makes it not fit to shoot. 

Simply faulty!

Preserve your shells by keeping them in dark, dry environments. Those who reside in humid areas should opt for a dehumidifier.

Besides, the material that makes up shotgun matters a lot. The shotgun shell features 3 essential parts; 

  • Brass-plated steel base, 
  • The plastic base and
  • Gunpowder. 

Quality material won’t rust, and at many times it’s recyclable and reusable. 

The best model will typically last longer. 

What Not To Do with Shotgun Shell Disposal

  • Never throw away unwanted ammunition in the dustbin.

I don’t think that it’s safer to toss in old ammunition, soaked shells, or damaged cartridges in the trash. It’s not advisable at all. Truth be told, those shells may be active, thereby posing a danger. Never throw them away!

  • Don’t soak the shotgun shells in oil or water.

Others disable the gunpowder and primer inside by soaking the shotgun shells either in oil or water to make the powder harmless. They shouldn’t be forgiven for such an assumption.

  • Don’t bury shells in the ground. 

Even if you find rounds or shells around, either damaged or not, don’t add them in the bin. Also, don’t think of burying them in the ground. People may collect the waste, which can be problematic.

Instead of troubling yourself and endangering other people, why don’t you dispose of them the right way?

The 3 Best Ways to Dispose Of Shotgun Shells

What’s the best way to get rid of them sustainably and safely

Ammunition is very dangerous when left in the open. 

There’s always the best option out of the best. Choose the easiest and effective one.

  • Recycle it. Recycling animation isn’t that simple. But used ammunition, which is made of the brass casing, is recyclable. First, clean it out and get rid of any lingering powder. Then seek a recycling center around you that accepts scrap. 
  • Give away. There are gun ranges that accept old shells to recycle or dispose of them effectively. Even if you can’t or don’t want to use ammunition, others would be willing to use them. Dial the local number to find out centers that are accepting animations.
  • Shoot the shells. Provided your shells aren’t damaged, you should shoot them and have fun. Take the animation to the range, train, shoot skeet, target practice, and more. But think about your intention with them in the first place. Then, you can use them.

Do It Yourself

If not, make a sensible decision to take care of it yourself. Here are the most popular suggestions:

  • Disassemble and Re-use – use the kinetic bullet puller to disassemble bad rounds 
  • Bury the shotgun shells in your backyard – somewhere out of reach. But this is illegal, though. 
  • Please disable it

Where Do You Take Shotgun Shells for Disposal?

If you can’t bury or throw them away into the garbage, then where should you take these shells. 

And at the same time, make sure the environment and community are safe. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Contact local law enforcement. The first and foremost thing to do is to call your local sheriff’s office or police. Speak to them beforehand before you show up with your shells. You can dial your local law enforcement office directly. They may recommend the best disposal of old ammo. Most of them do have eco-disposal programs and initiatives.
  • Take them to your local gun store or gun range. Apart from calling your local police, you may opt to reach out to your favorite gun store. Some gun owners may offer some help on how to dispose of your ammunition. Also, there’s a likelihood that they provide services regarding how to get rid of shotgun shells. Against all odds, you’ll benefit. 
  • Hazardous waste drop-off. This is another top choice option. Never throw old shells in a trash container. It’s simple – consult the local waste management department. The staff will advise you what to do with these shells. Keep in mind that many departments of the same won’t accept firearms waste regularly; hold onto misfit shells until the collection date.  
  • Find a shooter or collector. Old shells might seem meaningless to you. However, a shooter may consider them. A collector may even come with an offer or buy them. Just make sure the ammunition is in its original packaging. 


When it comes to disposing of the shotgun shells, be smart about it. Above all, be a responsible shooter. 

Remember that live ammo is dangerous and can hurt the community severely.

Whatever the option you choose, dispose of it safely


TOPN: National Firearms Act | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (

41 CFR § 102-40.145 – How do we handle ammunition and ammunition components? | CFR | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (

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