Letter: Steel Job Site Boxes as a Valuables Storage Option

Hugh and James:
It’s often mentioned at Survival Blog that firearm magazines are a critical component. As Tamara K. of the View From the Porch blog has written: “The correct number of magazines to have is: ‘more.'”

So, some of us buy magazines, especially lots of them when we find a very good price.

But…as valuable as magazines are to us they’re just as valuable to anyone else, which is why we buy way more than we need, even considering that they are “wear items” that will eventually require replacement. Magazines have substantial value as trade or barter items. They’re also among the first targets of gun-banning politicians, making it imperative to possess more than a minimum quantity.

The desirability of magazines makes them potential high theft items. I use cardboard boxes 12″L X 9″H X 9″W as “food unit” boxes: 24 standard 16 ounce (actually, 15.5 oz now) cans fit perfectly, with space between them to drop in plastic knives, spoons and forks. Tape a few P-38 or P-51 folding compact can openers under the top, and it’s a 27 lb “grab and go” food unit with 8 cans of protein, 8 of veggies and 8 of fruit. Those same boxes hold will 44 PMAG 30-round AR-15 magazines, more than three dozen 20-round AR-10 or M1A magazines, and more Glock magazines than I’ll ever have.

Whatever we paid for them on super-duper sale, those 44 PMAGs carry a retail cost of $792. They may be covered by insurance, so the theft of two of those boxes – if you can document them to the satisfaction of your insurance company –  will get you a hefty check in a couple weeks. (Minus your deductible, of course). The dollar value, however, is peanuts compared to “really, really needing magazines right now” and not having them. An insurance check will be worthless if Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and their comrades make them illegal and impossible to buy replacements. (Can’t happen? Look at Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Seattle, Connecticut, etc.). The same holds true for those cases of 5.56×45, 9MM and .22LR that you’ve been stockpiling.

I’m suggesting that you consider security storage methods for those items, like magazines and ammunition, that are high value to thieves and especially high value to us who buy them as prep supplies with our hard-earned dollars. It’s certainly not “gun safe security level” or very fire resistant. However, standard steel job site tool chests aren’t very expensive. A 48″ X 24″ X 24″ steel chest retails for a little over $300. They are available at places like Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc., and often show up on sale for even less. They’re also frequently available in used condition for much less on websites like Craigslist. As long as the metal is intact, the hinges in good shape and the lid closes securely, then it’ll work for reducing the possibility of critical–and potentially irreplaceable–prep supplies being stolen. The boxes weigh around 130-150 pounds, and adding several hundred pounds of ammo underneath the boxes of magazines makes them effectively non-portable. Needless to say, buy your own new locks for them–even if the seller throws them in.

A Proviso: Make sure your floor structure can hold those several hundred pounds without damage. I know someone who has one in their living room, attractively covered with a painting tarp cut, sewn and fitted, and used as a coffee table. It’s full of ammunition and magazines, and weighs over 600 pounds; some horizontal bracing for the floor joists and a couple vertical posts in the basement were required to make sure the floor adequately supported it. I have two of the 36″L X 19″H X 18″W versions in my concrete-floored basement rec room, encased in sanded and stained plywood and in use as end tables at each end of the couch. No visitor has ever discovered that either of the tables where they’re setting their drinks is a plywood box covering a steel box holding about 350 lbs of “lead products.”

One more tip: Some amount of fire protection can be added by installing a layer, or two, of drywall panels inside the steel chest. Fire code rated drywall is commonly found in 5/8″ thickness, and 3/4″ is available, and most house construction codes accept two layers of properly installed (meaning the panel joints don’t line up) 1/2″ drywall as a 1-hour fire rating.  Regards, – Edwin X.

JWR Replies: That is some good advice. But I would add four important points:

1.) A gun storage “locker” or a job site box is no substitute for a proper gun vault. If you can afford to buy an extra vault (or two, or three), then do so!

2.) Edwin’s advice on camouflaging a storage container is quite worthy. But if you are handy with tools, then you should take it a step further: Build false walls or panels to completely conceal your gun safes and storage chests. Burglars can’t defeat what they don’t know exists.

2.) Be sure to buy tool chests that are constructed of steel that is at least 16 gauge (1/16th-inch) thickness.  The 22 gauge (1/32nd-inch) steel ones are just too flimsy. You see, a 22 gauge chest can quickly be sledge-hammered or even forcefully kicked out of shape (bowed inward) to the point that the locking mechanism is no longer engaged.

3.) DO NOT underestimate the ability of a gang of house burglars to haul away something quite heavy and bulky. I recommend that you use lag bolts and BOLT DOWN your gun vaults and storage chests!



  1. “He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:36

    What Jesus is saying here just before his departure, is to be well armed. In his time it was armed by swords in our time it is a well regulated militia. Self defense is not just for the defense of self or defense of others but also defense against an occupying force. Typically those forces have more weapons and stock than us, but come under the guise “We’re here to take your guns, food and water storage and now private property for the common good of all the citizens we protect and who have elected us to public office.”

    Their are so many churches and flavors out there, my family now home-churches as we home-school. There are many resources out there for you to do your own bible studies within your own families and we get more out of it. We use concordances, bible charts/maps, geneology graphs, and the discussion is real-time. There are too many different flavors of Christians [as the author pointed out in the article wanting her child to die and not defend them from an attacker becuase “it’s God’s will”] that we have to very protective as a survivalist group. Not to mention there are Pastors today writing government reports [so to speak] and ties into the alphabet agencies which might give you pause.

  2. I have and use these at my residence. They will stop the opportunist but not the Profesional crook. A die grinder will defeat them, but it will also defeat a gun vault/safe also. So do hide them.

  3. When a friend in town here built his house, he had the concrete contractor fabricate two vaults, one for firearms and one for ammunition and magazines.
    He has two quality bank vault doors protecting them all.

    1. Tim in CT,

      Defeating those ‘bank vault’ locks is quick simple easy. Can you imagine your response as EVIL holds your spouse or child, a paring knife or screwdriver or machete inches from destroying fingers or eyes.

      Who believes EVIL plays by your fake rules? Civilized, with boundaries and time-outs tap-outs? EVIL uses your fake rules against you == and wins every time.

      * * * * *

      My four grandparents moved to north America from Ireland in the 1870s. They had gun safes for the stuff they could afford to lose. The good stuff was invisible.

      Granpa Jack told us kids:
      “Think like thieves… or the government agents. Now, what do you need to threaten or destroy to get your goods?”

  4. An excellent idea! A couple of years ago I purchased a nice used job box at a garage sale for the paltry sum of $10 to use during a construction project at a remote location (our retreat). Lately I had been thinking that I should get rid of it as it was taking up storage space and I no longer needed it for the original intended purpose, but this letter provided an outstanding idea on how I can repurpose it. Like the author, I have been purchasing mags since the temporary ban, but storing them in ammo cans. Now I’ll be transferring those mags to that job box. With the heavy metal construction and a good quality lock, the job box will provide much better security from theft. In turn….empty ammo cans….what could I possibly fill them with?

  5. Set up an obvious gun safe, master bedroom closet is most likely to be discovered. Bolt it so securely to the wall that it cannot be easily removed. This forces the thief to try to break into it. Set up an decent alarm system where it will be triggered by anyone trying to break into that safe, preferably a monitored alarm system where police will respond. The thief takes time to break into what he believes will be something profitable to him and the police have time to respond and catch him. Hide your actual fire arms and valuables in places far less likely to be discovered.

  6. JWR,

    I would add a fifth suggestion following your own four:

    5) Divide your gun-related inventory among two or more locations, if possible. This is more than simply “caching” a few items here and there in hidden containers…you might even divide it up equally into two halves. Here in SoCal, we have undergone wildfires, flash floods, mudslides, and even earthquakes in addition to thefts. I myself have been blocked by deputies from accessing the road leading to my home due to natural disasters (twice by fires and once by heavy rains), which sometimes took days to clean up and re-open.

    I myself have all items evenly split between two addresses located several miles apart, in the event that one is entirely lost due to theft or wildfire.

    Just my two cents.

  7. I second the split, disparate locations for valuable storage. Both sites should be put of even abnormal flood zones and tornado proof. For earthquake survivability I also keep a survival kit set on a 27 foot camper, with cheap .22 and 12 gauge there.

    At the very least, get an out of the way storage closet somewhere, such as an out of the way storage unit with 24/7 accessibility even when the power is off. You can fit a good lot of stuff into a 5 by 8 unit, including a gun safe.

  8. @Commenters

    Be sure you have a safe in a common location which looters/thieves would be preoccupied. Inside should be your old broken .22 long rifle and other non-functioning and worthless firearms. The guns are what you give to the authorities when they arrive to collect guns.

    Use ever available space in your home. Such as a crawlspace, boarded up floor joists in your basement, false walls, and even board up supplies in your home walls. Remember modern day radar from the alphabet agencies can see through walls, so disperse them accordingly in ammo cans. Never behind a bookshelf or in those fake ceiling vents or outlets. Be sure the good stuff is hidden.

    In JWRs book, Liberators, there were Finnish made guns and precious metals stored behind one wall of a room which was 6 inches short than the adjacent room [if I recall my reading correctly].

    As far as storing your weapons at two seperate properties-Don’t! Store usable ones in your home and the others in tubes [as described on this website], and then off on a remote portion of property which you is state or federally owned–builders won’t be out on that property.

    As far as deputies stopping you from going to your home, that is against the Constitution. Next time ask to be deputized and you can stay where they stay. If they don’t deputize you on the spot, then call their watch-commander. If that doen’t work, fill in the blank, but do not let KALI-officers stop your tracks in life… that pull that garbage way too much on the public in TPROC.

  9. Here in our area. A pickup truck backed up to a house. Winch cable attached to gun vault. Vault, wall studs and pieces of floor gone in less than sixty seconds. Opened Vault found in field later.

  10. If you’re a welder or know one; weld up boxes out of 1/4” steel plate, line or cover them with drywall. If you scrounge you can sometimes find used steel at scrap or near to scrap prices.

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