Advice on Caching Containers

I recently had a consulting client ask me about sources for waterproof containers that she could use for caching guns, ammo, food, camping gear, and so forth. I generally prefer military surplus ammo cans and shipping containers for two reasons:

  1. They are made to rigorous military specifications (“mil-spec”), and
  2. They are relatively inexpensive, compared to their civilian counterparts.

For ammunition caches, I generally prefer military surplus (“mil-surp”) 20mm ammo cans. The larger 30mm cans hold even more, but they are so heavy when full that they are a pain to transport any distance. If you opt for the 30mm size, then I recommend that the upper half of their available volume be filled with lighter weight items, such as cold weather clothing, socks, tentage, or bedding.

One key proviso: It is not a good idea to store anything that is oily, greasy, or flammable in the same container as any cached food, since such volatiles can quickly taint foods in even very heavy duty plastic packaging. You are better off burying separate, sealed ammo cans side by side with those items segregated.

For long items, such as a rifle that cannot be easily broken down into short lengths, I recommend U.S. Navy surplus sonobuoy shipping containers. See: These hexagonal, gray plastic containers are generally available at surplus stores that are in proximity of any of the U.S. Navy P-3C Orion (or the new P-8 Poseidon) antisubmarine squadrons. In CONUS, these are presently located at Whidbey Island, Washington and Jacksonville Naval Air Station (Jacksonville, Florida.) You might also find some near the recently closed Naval Air Station Brunswick (Brunswick, Maine) or perhaps near the much longer-deactivated Moffet Field (Sunnyvale, California).

If you can’t find any sonobuoy shipping tubes, then an even sturdier civilian equivalent is made by Mono Vault. (They’re a great company and a former SurvivalBlog advertiser.)

For long-term underground storage, metal ammo cans should have a sacrificial zinc anode soldered on. (Note: Gluing it on will not work; it needs to make metal-to-metal contact!) After that is done, then the can–but not the anode–should have its exterior repainted in rust resistant paint, such as Rust-Oleum.

Small military surplus stores tend to charge a premium price for ammo cans and shipping containers. So, instead look for the bigger wholesale/retail stores that are in proximity to military posts. The real mecca for ammo cans is Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

See the SurvivalBlog archives for specific advice on how to prepare firearms for cached storage. (Search on the keywords: “RIG and silica”)

Some good mil-surp ammo can and container sources:

SG Ammo

Gotta Go Surplus

Keep Shooting (A SurvivalBlog advertiser)

Coleman’s Surplus

Army Surplus Warehouse

Spartan Surplus (on eBay)

And, for general reference, here is a map of military surplus stores in the United States and Canada.

Happy shoveling, folks! – JWR