Keeping Your Powder Dry!

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Most of us have lived through the “Dark Days” – The Great Ammo Shortage of ’08 – ’13. Dark days, indeed. If you were like me, your days alternated between agonizing mental arithmetic and staking out the ammo counter at the local Walmart from across the aisle in the automotive section, waiting for the next shipment to arrive. Cabala’s used to advertise that ammo deliveries would make it to the display floor just before opening on Thursdays, there was always a line waiting for the opening Thursdays.

Many days I found myself wanting to train, wishing I had paid more attention to the proverb of the ant who “provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest”. Deciding between saving and training will always be hard for those of us short on cash. Plain and simple. However, having the proper storage system in place can alleviate some of the burden of storing ammunition for the long-term and at least give us the sense that we have done all in our power to preserve its integrity.

The Perfect Container for Ammunition Storage

The perfect container for ammunition storage can lock out air and humidity, while providing protection against extreme heat. Surplus military ammo cans have been a prepping staple for years, however, these cans rely on an o-ring around the edge to keep out humidity and air. The downside is those seals can go bad. If you have these you should lubricate the o-rings on a regular basis. Any true mountaineer treats his/her waterproof boots with a bees-wax coating at the end of the winter to keep them from cracking over the summer and at the beginning of the winter in preparation for the coming snows. This same product is used to preserve the o-rings on swimming pool equipment and is available at any pool supply store as well as Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes. A thin coating is all that is required. WD40 also works but can break down in high heat and, yes, even the ArmorAll you use on your car can work. – an aside as this should always be used on the rubber seals of your vehicles doors, all of them, as well as your hood, and trunk, if you have one, to keep them from cracking as well.


In 2017 you should pass on nostalgia and macho and consider purchasing one of the newer plastic ammo cans which do look “tacticool”! These are less likely to conduct heat, and with proper care, can retain their air tight features longer. Using any of the o-ring treatments above on these storage containers o-ring can prolong the life of the seal. These plastic ammo cans are a great investment, especially when you purchase the stack-able kind. I have them and they have yet to let me down. I label them by caliber of the ammo stored in each. One note, I have one very large one, 20″ x 24″ x 9″ and it stores so much ammo that where it sits now determines where I will have to make my last stand with its contents! Smaller and more are the way to go.

If you want to take it a step further, consider some “add-ons”. The zcorr anti corrosion bags are air and water tight. They also come with a humidity test card. Or, you could purchase a BluGuard .30 cal ammo can liner. When all else fails, silica gel packs endure. Consider stocking up on these.

Remember, airtight and watertight ammunition storage is a MUST.

The Do’s and Do Not’s of Ammunition Storage

Do seek to store your ammunition in a dry, cool, location. Do not store your ammunition in hot or humid locations. If you must store ammunition in a humid environment, use a dehumidifier. Don’t rely on older surplus ammo storage cans. Do choose your ammunition storage container wisely. Don’t plan on keeping the factory ammunition box. Do research your ammunition’s components before you purchase and never buy ammunition with a box date older than 10 years.

Final Thoughts

In my many years of managing a firearms store, the most successful preppers seemed to be the ones who consistently bought extra ammo. An extra box of ammo every two weeks can add up. Spreading your purchases out also offsets the financial burden. Having ample supplies of ammunition is a prepping must, as is not neglecting to protect your investment. Keeping your powder dry is a valuable lesson learned.


  1. Robert Thompson

    July 18, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    What happened to all the regular authors?

    • Bill Terwillegar

      July 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Robert. Hoping nothing happened to them. Pat Henry did sell the site and we are hoping they will keep submitting articles.

      • equippedcat

        July 20, 2017 at 1:49 am

        Bill, do you know how to contact the new owners? They already have part 5 of my “ar-15 building series” and the last part is ready for them.

  2. John D

    July 19, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I mean no offense Wild Bill, but I miss the regular, and guest contributors. Contributions from regulars, like R. Ann Parris, helped make me a better gardener, and provided valuable food preservation tips. John Herting provided a wealth of information concerning firearms. Guest contributors provided a wide range of useful prepper information, and are perhaps the most interesting thing about this site. The diversity of authors and topics is one thing that, in my opinion, made TPJ great. We don’t always agree, but that makes for lively discussions, via comments. Please tell me that TPJ will be as good, if not better, than it was in the past.

    • equippedcat

      July 20, 2017 at 1:47 am

      Thanks John D. If TPJ does not print them any more, you can see my future articles or at least links to them on my personal blog, equippedcat.wordpress.com

      John Hertig

    • Robert Thompson

      July 20, 2017 at 8:52 am

      Yes. I came here regularly to read articles by Pat Henry, R. Ann Parris, and the other regular contributors. I assume Wild Bill is the new site owner. If so, he needs to get these people posting articles regularly again or much of his audience will disappear.

    • R. Ann

      July 25, 2017 at 2:21 am

      Thank you for he compliment – I’m glad you found some of the articles helpful.

      >>” We don’t always agree, but that makes for lively discussions, via comments.” – I love this perspective.
      I agree totally. Too, hearing other’s opinions, pro or con, allows us to reevaluate. Whether we change our minds or not, the evaluation – with as much information and theory as possible, even to research later – allows us to improve.

      R. Ann

  3. equippedcat

    July 20, 2017 at 1:52 am

    I don’t know if I would use WD-40 (or any petroleum product) on my ammo can gaskets. Much as ammo doesn’t like heat or moisture, it dislikes petroleum or its vapors more.

    • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

      July 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      I definitely wouldn’t use any petro based products – they all “creep” through very small spaces, including the bullet-casing interface, and will result in misfires eventually.
      A silicone based light grease such as that used for o-ring seals would be better.

      As regards the queries I’ve noted about the regular contributors – I too miss reading their contributions. That said I myself just see something “different” about the site now. Aside from the non-Disqus comments section, something just seems amiss.

    • R. Ann

      July 25, 2017 at 2:17 am

      Not just the ammo.
      Most rubber doesn’t actually like petroleum products, either.
      That’s why we use silicone grease on the o rings of airguns that we want to actually hold pressure.

      Rebecca Ann

  4. Simon

    July 22, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Quick point about humidity around ammunition. I’ve been using compact car dehumidifiers in the box that I store ammunition just as a precaution. You can pick these up pretty cheap on Amazon and will likely last you for ages.

    • Wild Bill

      July 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Good info, thanks!

  5. Ben Leucking

    July 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I would like to see some hard information on how effective plastic ammo cans are at keeping out moisture. Based on my limited experience with the plastic versions, I would not rate them nearly as effective as military grade metal cans. Second, does anyone have a link to replacement gaskets for metal cans? I’ve never had a problem with them, but I’d like to have a source for gaskets in case the cans ever loose integrity.

    A side note: I never buy used (metal) ammo cans because I don’t know how old or viable the gasket might be. I’d rather spend another couple of bucks to get quality products that have that “new can” smell.

    • equippedcat

      July 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      For that matter, does the plastic give off any petrochemical fumes? Ammo would really hate that.

    • R. Ann

      July 25, 2017 at 2:15 am

      Finding replacement gaskets for ammo cans is the holy grail. Every rare once in a while, somebody does apparently get them (varies) but this is one of the ongoing quests pretty much everywhere – the forums at the AK files, S&W, CMP, AR15.com, M14 forum.

      At one point we were able to contact Plano directly and they sent us somewhere where we could order them – could HAVE, if we wanted to spend as much as we had on the boxes just about (I don’t remember if that was before or after shipping, it was a few years ago).

      If you find somebody actively selling them, please let us know.

      R. Ann

  6. R. Ann

    July 25, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Just a handful of thoughts here:

    – Know your environment. Some may really and truly need some waterproof storage. Most of us don’t need zero-contact, zero-humidity. (Central AL river valley; pretty darn humid – recently went to go use up some of grandpa’s old ammo, averaging 35-45 y/o; one box that had been sitting in a drawer had about a 5-10% combined failure to fire rate … and, the Old Man snookered me good by arranging my nephew’s gun so about every 3-4 shots was a low-powder wadcutter not the .357 and .38 spl of the rest of the loads; that’s just mean, man.)

    – Watch petroleum based oils, especially right after cleaning (your fingers) and cleaning mags, especially if you take “good” ammo out and shoot a same-point FMJ for training.
    Motor oil is the stuff we put in your dud buckets – it eats through the seal of the primer and cartridge and the bullet and cartridge, and renders the powder inert. Any petrol oil has the same potential.

    – A heavy-duty freezer bag has been my storage go-to for more than a decade (and remember, I *abuse* my stuff so take that with a grain of salt – I don’t want a gun that’s finicky to feed or that needs to get detailed every third time I shoot; I’m the nut who just oils and goes, and wants to go 800-1200+ rounds by firearm before I have to break that booger down).
    No problems. I also know people who use the game meat bags, either with the sealer or by keeping a Marie Calendar’s box to fold over and iron it with most of the oxygen out or with an oxygen absorber such as you’d use for food storage.

    – I DO know several “for storage” preppers who only do their reloading wearing exam gloves, to keep the oils off their ammo. I know plenty who don’t, and whose presses get set up on 3-6 month cycles so it could be 2-3 years before they get back to the caliber again (shooting that caliber all the while).
    If you go through your ammo and start noticing that it’s got dark fingerprints, that’s a clue it’s oxidizing and you need to take extra steps of some kind.

    – The nice people who made our corrosive surplus ammo many moons ago were not big on employee health, and did not go to extremes like gloves for either ammo or worker care. (If you shoot corrosive ammo, you have to clean your guns; so I don’t – it’s just a point from all those surplus bulk can buys for preppers as well as the CMP and regional and local club vintage competitions.)

    – Rubber doesn’t actually like petrol oil, either. Go silicone, or there are folks who use caulk to rebuild all kinds of gaskets and o-rings, either for permanent storage, or as a temp fix.

    **Fun bonus: The caulk is also a way to get better seals out of storage totes – figure out where they contact, throw a bead around the top and inside the groove of the storage tote, make sure they’re good and dry and if you really want, you can throw some of that stuff that’s not actually “plumber’s tape” in between those two layers as you close the box – it’s a white non-sticky strip used for sealing threads and somebody helped me with the name last time (thank you again, and I’m sorry I can’t remember the real name again).

    Caveat: I do have some ammo boxes, and some nice ammo boxes.
    Even inside them, for the most part, are plastic bags – big ones for big cartridges and shotgun shells and smaller ones for smaller rounds. If we switch to a different comment system again, I will take a picture.
    I also carry and regularly store my hunting “pocket rounds, and my .22 and pellets in tupperware. If it keeps soup out of your backpack, it will keep the air out of your ammo.
    However, tupperware does have some weight constraints and is fragile when cold-cold. Stack wisely.
    (Actually motivated by: I can toss my tupperware box across stalls and have yet to have box failure in a bag, and rain means I have to clean guns, not blow dry all my ammo.)

    And remember, we’re all always going to have differing opinions, especially when it comes to how we treat and store ammo and firearms.
    But store your wood-stock guns muzzle down so any residual oil drips out the barrel, not into the stock.
    Rebecca Ann

    • Wild Bill

      July 25, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Great info, very much appreciated. When I belonged to the Yankee Canyon Rod & Gun Club, Jawbone Canyon California (yeah I know, but this was before Jerry Brown) we would shoot Annie Oakley’s on the trap range. Elimination game – everyone lines up, first shooter from left calls pull, has to shoot. If the first shooter misses second shooter has to shoot, if he/she hits the first shooter is eliminated, if he/she misses the third shooter has the option to shoot (as the clay may have already hit the ground.) If the third shooter hits the first two are eliminated. We had a great old salesman member we used to call Commodore Feathers. Traveled the world, hunted everywhere, always had great stories. He would supply the ammo for these events as he loved to reload. One event at about the halfway point no one was hitting anything anymore. An investigation showed that we were shooting nothing but wads as his bb fill ran empty and he just kept crunching out shells….we loved that guy.

      • R. Ann

        July 25, 2017 at 11:58 am

        That’s one I didn’t get into reloading – a couple others in the trap club had, and shotshells were not so expensive as to make me willing to go through their learning curves! 🙂

        We used to play what sounds like a similar type game, except there was a doubles aspect.
        You played as pairs.
        If the first person in the pair missed, you as the partner could pick up theirs as a spare, whether or not you’d hit yours. However, if you shot and that first-shooting partner had actually hit, you forfeited both (or the spare from the team to your left you were hitting).
        I had this guy who could not make the spare shot to save his life (adored him, had tons of fun, he could shoot doubles but as third man the dropping arc was just killing him), and just habitually started shooting pickup.
        Yellow disc comes out, squad 2 misses, and he actually hits it.
        Doesn’t count because I powdered half the disc.
        Yellow-green disks … the ones where you shoot your match for free and get club ammo boxes for what you’d just shot.
        Nullified because I picked up his pickup.
        They made so much fun of us – that it was the one he’d actually hit … and that I had so little faith I shot it, too.
        Good times! 🙂

    • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

      July 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Wish we could up-vote…
      But anyways – that white plumbers tape is actually Teflon, and I use it to make “custom” seals on my tired ammo cans quite often. You can also buy the stuff in wider rolls, or even sheets for oddball forms. Even cyano-acrylates, (super glue) won’t stick to it…
      If your mating surfaces to be sealed are very accurate, machined surfaces and the like, such that the sealing gap is less than ~ .005 inches, you can use the tape directly, although I still smear a film of silicone goop on both surfaces, just because….
      And yes your finger oils are just as bad as distilled petro products, but with even more acidic components. I have some ancient .45 long colt rounds that could be used by the police the prints from my grandfather are so good…
      For long term storage of anything I use a food grade vacuum sealer, with desiccant packets and a humidity indicator. As a matter of fact, this weekend past side project was putting away some potentially “helpful” electronic devices for very long term storage. Pack the device(s) in the vacuum bag with desiccant & indicator strip, seal that into Mylar anti-static, (conductive), zip bags, that all goes into metal ammo cans, with a conductive silicone goop bead all around the seal gap. That is then wrapped in an aluminum sheet, and sealed with metal AC duct tape. Quiz: why would I go to such lengths…..

      • R. Ann

        July 25, 2017 at 6:58 pm

        Cool, thank you for the name again! (One day…) 😀

        >>”Quiz: why would I go to such lengths…..”
        – with the exception of me abusing tools of all sorts, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
        – especially if the overlaps don’t line up, you’re covered even if there’s a point of failure and there are theoretical models and beliefs out there that suggest EMP or EMP-type damages come in a wide spectrum, which some barriers won’t cover.
        – if there’s a gap, current will follow, especially if there’s also a moisture factor.
        – the more electrical current you can bleed off a all wavelengths the better. This is the source of people sticking small boxes buffered by something non-conductive inside progressively larger metal containers and layers of buffer, until they’ve reached their trash can or locker and call it good, taping or using a conductive rod to weld/solder or using your goop to seal cracks.
        – power lines have melted in past solar and N-EMP testing, and while that may or may not still be an issue, our metal caches may follow the same

        Anywhere in there?
        If you have extras, for-sure share, boss man!
        R. Ann

        • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

          July 26, 2017 at 9:42 am

          I should probably do an article, and there is a ton of publicly available info, but in brief….
          A Coronal Mass Ejection, (CME), eg; a Carrington Event, is pretty much equivalent to the E3 component of a nuke EMP, (below). It kills power systems and anything connected to the system as well as anything with antennas or other long conductors attached.
          I will NOT kill non-connected electronic devices.so your cell phones, unplugged radios, TVs, and microwaves, will all be fine except there won’t be any utility provided AC power for them.
          A nuke-EMP is much more damaging, and is usually described in terms of three components, differentiated by time: E1, E2 and E3.
          E1 – A very brief electromagnetic pulse that can induce very high voltages,(50,000 volts per meter), doing most of its damage by causing electrical breakdown voltages to be exceeded. This affects semi-conductor based equipment; and is too fast for ordinary lightning protectors to provide useful protection.
          E2 – A pulse that has many similarities to the electromagnetic pulses produced by lightning.
          The main problem with this component is the fact that it immediately follows the E1 component, which may have damaged the devices that would normally protect against E2.
          E3 – Is a very slow pulse, similar to direct current, lasting tens to hundreds of seconds, that is caused by distortions in the Earth’s magnetic field.
          Nearly all of the damage occurs to the AC power grid, which is generally not designed to handle direct currents, especially in critical devices such as power transformers.

          Next: What’s in YOUR Faraday cage?

          • Wild Bill

            July 26, 2017 at 9:46 am

            The scientist in me would love it.

          • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

            July 26, 2017 at 12:02 pm

            Edit: The E1 portion of an N-EMP is produced LOCALLY relative to the earths surface, so the intensity, KV/m, does NOT degrade with distance. This is the result of the pulse being generated by the gamma ray particles produced by the nuke detonation knocking loose electrons from the gases in the mid-level atmosphere. So it is not an electromagnetic effect generated by the nuke itself, it’s the result of the gamma rays messing with the atoms that make up the atmosphere over your head. The intensity of the total effect may degrade with distance, but the potential type of damage does not. In other-words, if you’re holding a piece of wire a meter long you’re still going to get nailed with 50KV, just that the amperage might vary.

          • equippedcat

            July 26, 2017 at 2:19 pm

            CD, do you have any opinion on “sol-ark.us”, who claim to have “EMP hardened” solar systems? Are they blowing smoke or might their stuff actually survive an EMP?

            • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

              July 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

              I took a quick look at their video and some of the written material: the EMP generating stuff looks like a large scale pulse generator hooked up to some tesla coils, and the protection device is pretty much a special spark-gap lightning protection device typically seen on commercial AC distribution sites. I could be wrong since I can’t touch & tinker, let alone look at the design specs.
              But: per the IEC, (International Electrotechnical Commission), criteria, the E1 phase of an EMP reaches max potential about 5 nanoseconds into the pulse, and is gone by 1 microsecond.
              So to accurately reproduce and test a protection device they would need the gear to be able to produce 50 KV/meter electromagnetic fields at a frequency of 200 Mhz to get a rise time equal to 5 nanoseconds. That works out to roughly 6.6 Megawatts/ square meter power density.
              I don’t buy it.

              Now then: like I said I should just do an article or three, but – standard mono-crystaline solar panels, by themselves are pretty resistant to the E1/E2 phase by nature of their very simple, relatively speaking, construction. They’re essentially just a bunch of large, light sensitive diodes connected in a series/parallel arrangement. The lead/acid batteries typically used are also essentially immune. The charge controller however is very sensitive to the E1/E2 sequence, and if unshielded is probably toast.
              The main problem comes in due to the cables needed to connect all the bits together – these wires are essentially an antenna farm that WILL pick E2 and E3 charge potentials.
              So: my little solar farm, built primarily to run a 24VDC pump in the drilled well during “events” is strung together with all the wiring enclosed in rigid, bonded, metal conduit, and the charge controller and batteries are in a grounded, commercial marine grade metal cabinet. I also keep a spare charge controller in my “EMP stash” along with a few extra panels.
              Will it all survive “if”? Dunnoh. But I have the parts to rebuild if need be.

  7. John D

    July 27, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I’ve been thinking of some worst-case scenarios as well, and it occurs to me I could get by without a charge controller. My system is 12v solar, 12v battery bank, and 12v inverter. I could connect the solar array directly to the battery array, and manually disconnect when they’re nearly fully charged. I would need a good DVM. I would have trouble living without an inverter though, but I have EMP-protected spares.

    • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

      July 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      The charge controller is nice to automate things somewhat, and mine all have USB and 5VDC outputs as well. The manual hookup though is exactly what I started with, primarily as a keeper for the tractor and such. it just evolved…
      Spares for the inverter are easily found at electronic junk, and flea markets: Old UPS systems pretty much all use 12VDC as the battery source, and these can be hooked up to any 12 VDC supply.
      Also note: your DVM is susceptible to an EMP event along with all the other semiconductor based devices… The generic automotive analog meters will most likely survive though.

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