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Ammunition Storage – Cool, Dry, Dark, and Portable?

Ammunition Storage - Cool, Dry, Dark, and Portable?

Ammunition Storage - Cool, Dry, Dark, and Portable?

ANYWHERE, USA. (AP) – A fire at a house, deemed too dangerous for firefighters to put out after live ammunition inside the house began going off, burned to the ground today.

The fire started in the chimney of the house and spread to the attic.

When firefighters arrived and started putting out the fire, ammunition began going off and shrapnel hit one firefighter.

The Fire Chief said that, for safety reasons, firefighters could only stand, watch, and let the fire burn out; it took seven hours.

If your house catches fire, would you will be able to grab your firearms and all of that ammunition that might be sitting in more than one location?  For you hand loaders, can you get to your powder and primers and transport them to a safe place quickly? Although I used a fire for the lead-in, I could have used a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, or tornado.

This article is not about the legalities of transporting ammunition. Please refer to your state laws concerning the transportation of ammunition. The information that follows is for mature audiences that only need information about enhancing ammunition storage with a degree of portability.

This article is also not about amounts of stored ammunition nor any legality in doing so. This article is about the portability of ammunition that you may have stored. This article is far from being a comprehensive study of the subject of ammunition portability. There are far too many variables and situations to consider and I can only address the matter at a glance and share what works for me.

As gun owners, we usually have ammunition of varying quantities for the guns that we have and we usually store this ammunition with three watchwords of care: cool, dry and dark. There are countless articles available to us on how to store ammunition and most have to do with two factors: Shelf life and Service Life. Shelf life refers to how long an item can remain in storage and still be functional. All military small arms have an indefinite shelf life. This means as long as it is properly stored it will never go bad. Service life refers to how long an item can remain in an operating configuration and still be functional. For the most part, before you store it make sure it clean, dry, and wiped off if you touched it and that is it!mThere has been much debate on what is the best way for long-term storage of ammo. I will not say it is wrong to place your ammo in a bucket, suck out all the air, and replace it with a chemical element that has the symbol N, an atomic number of 7, and an atomic mass 14.00674 u. For most of us,  we simply need to know what is the best way to properly store ammunition so that it doesn’t degrade over a period of time and that it functions as designed when put into use. We rarely think about moving it en masse, as we rotate the stock and very few articles address the portability issues of ammunition storage.

Ammo Can

Ammo Can

Most of us have loose boxes of ammunition. One of the most popular means for storing loose boxes  of ammunition and that also addresses the portability issue is the “Ammo Can”; Genuine Military Issue, made in the USA ammo cans than come in a variety of shapes and sizes for everything from 5.56 to .50 calibers. In fact, you can purchase 81MM Mortar Ammo cans that measures 25 in. long x 13 in. wide x 7 in. high that can hold a quite a few rounds of smaller arms ammunition. Not only do the boxes seal well they are highly portable making them quite desirable for moving from one location to another.

ammunition storageSome folks get quite extensive in their ammunition storage and have shelves that look like those ammunition shelves that you see at the local sports outlet with each type of ammunition categorized by manufacturer, bullet style, and weight while others are not so meticulous about storing their ammunition.

Ammunition may sit idle in the box or can that it comes in and may be stored in a dresser drawer, in the glove box of the car, high on a closet shelf along with the favorite home defense shotgun, or in a locked, large case in the basement or closet.

I know people who have case upon case of surplus ammunition for their weapons of cash destruction. The cases are stacked and the ammunition will probably never see the light of day until the fertilizer hits the ventilator (I have a couple of cases of that ammunition myself). I also know people that feel if they did not expend a couple of thousand rounds or so at a range session the world will, in fact, end. They are usually found with massive amounts of surplus ammunition that would label them as a terrorist in some circles.

bulk ammunition storageWeight wise, bulk ammunition storage will always present a problem. If you simply have a drawer-full of ammunition for your favorite handgun, rifle, and/or shotgun, just grabbing it and going may not be an issue. If, however, you have managed to accumulate quite a bit of ammunition either by reloading your own or by OTC (Over-The-Counter) purchases, the bulk and weight of the ammunition may pose a problem when you have to grab it and go.

Regardless if the intention of storing the ammunition is for short-term or long-term purposes, one must answer the question of the portability of that ammunition, as there may come a day when we need to not only get to it but also get it out of the house as quickly as possible. Accessibility and portability are two different entities. If it would take a forklift to move your collection of ammunition, it is not easily portable.

I looked at my own past way of storing ammunition and the one thing that was missing was portability. Most of my ammunition was like Waffle House hash brown potatoes; scattered, covered, and smothered in and under various locations in the house. Small boxes of ammunition were here and there and everywhere. I wanted my ammunition localized but with one requisite, I needed to be able to snatch-and-grab it at a moment’s notice.

One answer to my problem of ammunition portability lies in recycling a container that once held another product – Cat Litter. Since I have cats, putting the litter to use was no problem. What I had left afterward were the pails stacking up in my carport.

Tidy Cats cat litter, for example, comes in 25-pound, 27-pound, and 35-pound pails among others. Each empty pail can hold quite a bit of ammunition whether for a single caliber or multiple calibers. The lids snaps shut and a handle provides a means to carry the pail.

In the example shown of one of my 35-pound Tidy Cats pails, slightly over 1500 rounds of my favorite 7.62 x 54R ammunition for my Mosin Nagant lays patiently awaiting use. All I need to do is grab the handle and go with it. Another 1760 rounds, still packaged in the original shipping containers and boxes, are grab-n-go as well. There is also about 200-rounds, scheduled for shooting over several range days, packed in a dedicated “Mosin” range bag. I keep them all in one location.

One advantage of the Tidy Cats cat litter pails is that the containers can be stacked, which gives me the New York answer to my ammunition storage space challenge– if you cannot build out – build up.

As a side note, would you like to read about a covert use of these Tidy Cats cat litter pails? I thought that you might. If someone breaks into your home, the burglars will be looking for weapons and ammunition among other things of value. You may have a safe that houses your favorite firearms and might even have an abundance of ammunition locked up in a secured and fireproof container. If you use the Tidy Cats cat litter pails for ammunition storage, all the BG will see is one or more pails of cat litter stacked in the corner and how many BGs do you know that want to go rummaging through or steal cat litter? Not any, I would venture.

portable ammunition storage

Another idea for ammunition storage and portability lies in the use of portable, wheeled, tool bins such as the Contico Tuff Bin With Wheels or the Stanley Consumer Storage 037025H 50 Gallon Mobile Chest. These bins are of tough structural foam construction impervious to most chemicals, gas and oil. They have professional grade wheels for rugged mobility and pivoting handle for easy handling and they can hold a lot of ammo and other items that you might have to evacuate quickly. I use one of these bins as my “survival box” that contains quite a few items needed for survival and that can be easily loaded in my vehicle and broken down later as needed.

There are also smaller versions of this type of box, such as the 92-Quart Camp Footlocker (Single) by Sterilite.

Ammo Bags

Ammo Bags

Another great means of making stored ammunition portable is with “Ammo Bags”, which are military surplus (or commercially available tote bags) bags intended for the transportation of ammunition, among other things.

One of my favorite bags, called the “Tactical Hipster“, serves not only to carry ammunition but can also carry a handgun that is chambered for the ammunition and other items such as spare magazines, cell phone, food, flashlight, etc. One such bag is set up for .22 long rifle carry. A pistol resides in the inner zipped pocket while the main pouch contains 4-boxes of Remington 36-grain PHP ammunition – That is over two-thousand rounds of ammunition with room to spare for more! I also have several others set up for different calibers.

Ammo Bags

There are an abundance of military-type bags and the bags, once loaded with ammunition and stores, can be placed inside a safe or storage locker such as the previously mentioned storage bins, or simply thrown over the shoulder for a fast exit.

Furniture Dolly

Furniture Dolly

Another great thing to have on hand and that can be part of your ammo storage portability answer is the furniture dolly.

You can purchase furniture dollies for reasonable prices or cheaply construct one to your own specifications. I have three that I made for my Tidy Cats cat litter ammo pails and I can move some heavy ammo from one point to another without any effort. If you have an ammo storage locker, simply place the case on the dolly, load it up with your favorite ammunition, and wheel it away when necessary. Aside from my ammo moving necessities, a file cabinet sits atop one of these. If I need to move the file cabinet, I simply push it to where I need it. The casters are large enough to roll atop grass easily.

It is all about the location, location, location! One of the main keys in my ammunition storage is keeping the bulk of ammunition in as central a location as possible and in as few portable containers as possible.

Your house smoke alarm just went off and you have precious seconds in which to accomplish your objectives. Get the family, the cat, two dogs, your son’s pet Iguana, and your daughter’s pet hamsters out of the house. Get your new Porsche, the Harley-Davidson, the boat, and your wife’s 10-year old Plymouth Voyager out of the garage. Grab the fire extinguisher and head down to the basement. Unlock the gun safe, grab all of the pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns and get them out the back door. Hearing Fire Engine sirens in the background, you start grabbing boxes and cans of ammunition and you start thinking, “What the hell was I thinking?” I hope that part of your thinking was how you were going to move it while accumulating all of that ammunition. The portability issue, with that part of your storage plan being somewhat important at this particular moment with the house burning down around your head, might be an important issue to think about in the near future.

The above are just some suggestions to get you thinking about how you are going to move ammunition should the need arise. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of the aforementioned means of storing and moving ammunition and those will be particular to your ammo storage situation. Storing ammunition is easy. Storing ammunition with the ability to move it quickly takes a little more effort.

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  • Anonymous

    good to know

  • M_porcelain2002

    What about storage in a fire proof gun safe along with weapons?

    • DarylD

      See my comment for Bob’s reply. The idea behind the article was to stimulate thinking among those who have more ammunition that can fit in a safe. The question of how to store ammunition is well beyond the article and there is plenty of information regarding ammo storage. My thoughts were to make it as portable as possible.

  • Mark

    “…how many BGs do you know that want to go rummaging through or steal cat litter?” I am a big fan of “misdirection”. I’m also amazed tht the firefighters were afraid of the ammo! When a cartridge is exposed more than 450 degrees but not contained in a barrel, there is no focus to that energy from the powder when the bullet pops out and while getting hit might be annoying and it would be firecracker loud, it would not be anywhere near as dangerous as the high temperature itself.

    • DarylD

      Unfortunately, there is the Hollywood concept of exploding ammunition. I worry more about the gas line coming into the house and compressed cans of whatever exploding. There was a case where a fellow had .50 caliber ammo stored in a standard ammo can and his house caught on fire. No rounds penetrated the can, but dents in the can were found afterwards.

  • Frodo

    Good article. I know too many people who store ammunition in non-movable locations.
    I have the bulk of my ammunition stored on my property securely and well away from any buildings keeping a couple of boxes in an ammo can in the home.

  • bilbo

      good subject – been in the back of my mind for a while that i need a better plan for fire/evacuation for ammo, and more so since a house was allowed to burn 50 miles from me for exactly this reason a couple weeks ago…  i like the cat litter container idea (i accumulate them here)…  i have avoided buying ammo boxes (red flag in your car) so watch for sales on large toolboxes and knapsacks and have organized them for range/bugout… 

  • Bob

    I agree with the fire-proof storage suggestion. Just how many trips in and out of your burning house do you think you are good for before the smoke takes you out?

    • DarylD

      There is nothing wrong about storing ammo in a fire-proof safe; I do that myself for some ammo. I placed the ammunition in a couple of “Messenger Bags” that I can grab along with the guns inside the safe. Small quantities (multiple boxes) of ammunition can be made quite portable.

  • JPKirkpatrick

    All good things for those of us that shoot and store ammo/guns to think about.  Portability is and can be very important.
    When we built our new home, I had a fireproof ‘safe-room’ built for my storage of my ammo and firearms, but that does not address the issue of ‘portability’. 
    Good thoughts…

  • Instructor

    Ordinary ammunition in a fire does not “explode” or throw shrapnel.  People who legally have grenades have the means to store them safely.  A fire chief that told his men to let a house burn down because it had ammunition in it would be incompetent.

  • David_mcleod30

    Very well thought out article. Cat litter boxes are a great idea, I will check this out since I store most of my ammo in 20 & 30 mm Cans and these get realy heavy .
    Thanks again

  • Robert Bush

    When in the military back in the early fifties, we always burned outdated small arms ammo in a steel oil barrel. Never any escaped projectiles, just ruptured casings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annerajb Anner J. Bonilla

    The NRA Metallic Catridge Reloading course states the Industry guidelines for storing ammunition in their factory on large scales. It also indicates that they tested extensively the behavior of ammunition on fire and that the noise where the case rupturing and the primers but the catridge didnt fired in the sense a bullet would.