NSSF: What to Do with Firearms and Ammunition Affected by Flood Waters

(Editor’s note: For our Texas readers who’ve survived Harvey and for our Florida readers now staring down the barrel of Irma, the NSSF and SAAMI put out some solid advice for those who may attempt to restore firearms or salvage ammo that has been exposed to water.)

Firearms owners who have seen their guns and stored ammunition submerged by flood waters in storm-wracked areas are probably wondering if their firearms and ammunition can be salvaged and safely used.

The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute® (SAAMI®) and National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) point to two helpful documents containing guidelines to assist gun owners in making sound decisions related to safely handling and treating or disposing of these items, emphasizing to always err on the side of caution and safety.

SAAMI, founded in 1926, is an organization that creates and publishes industry standards on firearms and ammunition. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.

The SAAMI document “Guidance on Firearms That Have Been Submerged or Exposed to Extensive Amounts of Water” points out two major concerns about firearms that have been exposed to water: parts susceptible to moisture and rust damage such as metal parts, wood stocks and grips, and optics; and, secondly, infiltration of the action, barrel and safety systems by grit, silt and other foreign debris.

Always unload firearms before beginning any treatment process.

It’s important to limit moisture and corrosion damage to the component parts of the firearm. This can be accomplished by disassembling the component parts and using up to two coats of a moisture-displacing lubricant such as Hoppes #9 MDL or WD-40 to clean and stabilize the parts while, importantly, following the product’s directions so as not to damage, for instance, plastic or synthetic parts. Another tip is to allow wood stocks and grips to air-dry and not be force dried by exposure to heat.

The document emphasizes that once the firearm has been thoroughly dried, consideration must be given to having the firearm inspected and serviced by the manufacturer, an authorized service center, or a qualified gunsmith before putting the firearm back in service.

Dealing with Submerged Ammunition

To help firearms owners determine what to do with ammunition that has been affected by water and moisture, SAAMI offers another helpful document, “Guidance on Ammunition That Has Been Submerged in Water.”

Discussed are differences in moisture resistance between centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammunition, and potential hazards associated with “drying out” cartridges, including possible deterioration and damage to cartridges due to drying methods.

Another serious hazard that could result from using compromised ammunition is the potential for a bore obstruction due to partial ignition of either the priming compound or the propellant powder charge, or both. Firing a subsequent round through an obstructed barrel can result in bodily injury, death and property damage.

SAAMI provides the following cautionary conclusion: “It would be impossible to ascertain for certain the extent of the deteriorating affect, if any, the water may have had on each individual cartridge. Therefore, the safe answer is that no attempt be made to salvage or use submerged ammunition. The ammunition should be disposed of in a safe and responsible manner. Contact your local law enforcement agency for disposal instructions in your area.


Guidance on Ammunition That Has Been Submerged in Water
Guidance on Firearms That Have Been Submerged or Exposed to Extensive Amounts of Water

About NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Auggie Will September 8, 2017, 4:47 pm

    I’m not up to writing a book here but I can tell you that after Hurricane Ike the flood waters did a job on my weapons!
    People who evacuated before the storm were not allowed back on the Island “Galveston, Tex.”
    For most people, it was two weeks before they let them go back home to see what was left.
    My arms were in a gun vault.
    One day under blackish water than three days sitting wet.
    It took a week before a Lock Smith could get to me so all told just short of two weeks before I could do anything.
    The gun vault would not open due to the mud and such in the water.
    Due to the Chemicals that were in the water + the time it sat there were Pitts in and on all the weapons.
    We are talking Rifles, Pistols, Shotguns & knives.
    I was lucky to be able to get my hands on a 5 Gal can of Diesel.
    I put everything in the Diesel and from time to time tried working the actions.
    As time allowed (Working to save what I could from my home) I was able to get the actions working and placed everything in Motor Oil.
    Long story short everything now works or fires as it should but everything has the Pitts I talked about earlier
    It’s as if everything spent time in the ocean so that’s what I’m talking about when I say Pitts but it was from the Chemicals that mixed together before entering my gun vault.
    Insurance will not pay for new arms just enough to get some of them re-done.

  • Marc September 8, 2017, 9:55 am

    As a reloader, I would not dispose of ammunition, I would just disassemble it. Most of the components are still usable since only the powder and primer would be affected by water. If you are not a reloader, contact someone who is and they may be interested in doing it for you or buying the ammo from you.

  • Alan September 8, 2017, 9:37 am

    I disagree with contacting LEA’s about ammo disposal, and no it’s not because I don’t trust cops, it’s because they aren’t that knowledgeable about guns for the most part.
    I believe a local gun club or range is a better choice.
    That’s where you’ll find the most knowledge on this matter, with the aficionados of the sport.

    • JIM September 8, 2017, 9:54 am

      Pretty much the most useless article I ever read. In other words, they don’t know, take it to a gunsmith.

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