Three Letters Re: #10 Cans for Ammunition Storage

Hi Jim,   For some time now, I’ve been using spare food-grade oxygen absorbers with my long-term ammo storage in regular ammo cans. I keep a regular supply of O2 absorbers in a Mason Jar that I re-vacuum each time with the now famous Alvin Vacuum sealer / Tilia Mason Jar Adaptor.   Being able to stack ammo cans is also good. Seeing the sides of the cans squeeze towards the center (and hard to re-open): Priceless. This is one of the reasons why 5.45x39mm Russian is my favorite MBR round: The surplus Soviet ammo is already delivered that way! They knew how to package their ammo for the long haul. – J.E.

Capt. Rawles,  
I read the letter from John S. about using #10 Cans for Ammunition Storage and wanted to let you and my prepper brethren (and Sisteren) know that they can “Check Out” a can sealing machine from the LDS Home Storage facilities for free when they are buying their cans and lids.  As you have mentioned before, the LDS church home storage facilities are open to the public, not just members, and they won’t send the 4th Mountain Bike Brigade (Missionaries)  to your home because you visited.  I have been frequenting the one near our home and have checked out the machines so my family can seal up wheat at home.  They typically give you a couple of days to use it, and can show you how to work it.  It is very simple.  They also sell the oxygen absorbers, plastic lids for after opening, and boxes to make stacking the cans easier.  If people don’t have the time you can even buy some prepackaged cases (6 cans) of food storage.  They have had a couple of price increases since January 1, 2011 due to cost increases, but their prices are very good, and they try to make getting your family prepped easier.   I hope this information is helpful. – Brad M.

I had no idea I could reuse and reseal the cans! I had a “Duh!” moment when I read this. Also, clarify please,  Is it safe to put an O2 absorber in with the ammo that is canned sealed to counter any dampness?   What about Berdan primed ammo? Can I can seal it up too? – K.A.F.

JWR Replies: As I mentioned once before in SurvivalBlog, oxygen (“O2”) absorbing packets are not the best choice for ammunition storage. Silica gel desiccants are much more reliable, especially in disaster situations, when replacement )2 absorbers might not be available. The formation of rust takes two ingredients interacting with ferrous metals: moisture and oxygen. Ditto for oxidation of copper and brass. Without moisture present, corrosion will not occur with typical atmospheric oxygen levels

Both types of packets will work in protecting guns or ammunition is fully-sealed containers, but desiccants have far more reliable efficacy. The biggest problem with typical food grade O2 absorbing packets is that there is no easy way of insuring that they were handled properly before they came to you. The O2 absorbing packets that I have seen all have gas-permeable coverings. If the seal on the outer package that the packets were shipped in was compromised, or if they were removed from their original packaging and later re-packaged, then they will have virtually no usefulness. They are effectively “used up” when they come in contact with a large volume of air for more than a few hours. And once used, these packets cannot be reactivated at home. You have to buy new ones.

But unlike O2 absorbing packets, if you use silica gel desiccants, you can reactivate them by simply putting them in a food dehydrator (or in a kitchen oven on a 150 degree F setting) overnight. Using this method, they can be used over and over. This is vastly superior, especially in the context of a survival situation where regular commerce is disrupted. And, as I’ve mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, in the present day, desiccants are often available free for the asking. Just make a few phone calls. Piano shops often get musical instrument shipments that include large desiccant packs. Most of these get thrown away.

So if you are going to depend on one of the other for firearms and ammunition storage, in my opinion you should choose silica gel desiccants rather than O2 absorbers. OBTW, beware of re-using any packets that you find in jerky packaging. These sometimes include an integral moisturizing packet, to prevent jerky from becoming too dry. Those packets would of course be counterproductive, for ammunition or gun storage!

Again, only use O2 absorbing packets that are factory fresh, and preferably that come vacuum shrink wrapped. Otherwise, with most of them, you have no way of knowing whether or not they have already been chemically neutralized. (A few brands have pink-blue indicator dots, but most do not.)