By Mitch Hardin
Plastic vs. Metal
SO, who else has seen plastic ammo can’s for sale and wonders just how well they will hold up? I’ve heard all sorts of stuff from both sides of the debate, “They work” and “They suck.” I decided to do my own waterproofing test utilizing three different types of ammo cans. The test was supposed to originally take place at a lake not far from me, but the weather was nasty and plans were changed. Ultimately, I waited for my wife to leave the house as sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. In the jetted bathtub the ammo can’s went, along with a quick prayer that I didn’t drop them. And with no teenagers in the house that day, I didn’t have to worry about bribing anyone.
The three victims were a Cabela’s plastic “Fat 50” type, an MTM plastic 50 cal can, and a standard metal USGI surplus 50 cal can. My rational was pretty simple, what if your basement or garage floods and your ammo cans are in there? Hopefully this testing will give you, the reader more insight, and help you make an informed decision regarding ammo can purchases. By accident, I did a couple of tests. My first “test” inadvertently became a “plastic can’s still float” test. I then weighted down each can with pieces of ceramic tile, a green shop rag (to wick moisture), some spent shell casings, and factory cardboard ammo boxes. To be completely impartial, the cardboard and rags were changed out in-between the two tests, so as not to skew the results.
Apparently, the plastic cans didn’t have enough weight as they started floating. So, I drained the tub and checked the contents. What this tells me is that even with a decent amount of weight in the plastic ammo cans, they still wanted to float. If you walk down into your flooded basement, perhaps you will see ammo can’s bobbing up and down….
All cans seemed to pass this test. The plastic can’s appeared to have a minute amount of condensation build up inside, but nothing was really “wet” per se. I dug around in the cans and there was no standing water, everything was still pretty dry. On to the next test….
This was the test that yielded solid results. I filled the tub back up and tried it again. However, I decided to use some free weights to weigh down the cans and simulate ammo cans stacked on top of each other. It was also to not have a repeat of Test #1. I drained the tub and checked the contents of each can. Fair to note that both plastic ammo can’s burped a small amount of air out when they were fully submerged.
Cabela’s Plastic “Fat 50” Ammo Can:
Upon opening the can I noticed that the green rag was darker in spots denoting that it was damp. It wasn’t wet per se, but it was obviously exposed to moisture. The cardboard ammo box was very damp, and easy to tear. Upon tilting the can slightly, some accumulated water was plainly visible in the bottom of the Cabela’s ammo can.
MTM Plastic 50cal Ammo Can:
This can preformed a tad bit better than the Cabela’s ammo can. The cardboard ammo box was noticeably damp, as was the green shop rag. There was some obvious condensation built up in the can, some wet brass, however, there was no standing water like the Cabela’s ammo can.
Military Surplus (Metal) 50cal Ammo Can:
If I could sum this candidate up in two words it would be “predictable” and “boring.” The milsurp ammo can did everything it’s supposed to do. Upon inspecting the inside, I did not notice any condensation, water build up, or damp cardboard. It worked exactly as it was intended to.
Things to Ponder
It’s important to mention that most of the plastic ammo cans out there on the market are not meant to be submersible. Most will do a fine job of keeping water out of them if they are used as intended. I’d say for example, if a pipe burst and sprayed water all over the place, the plastic can should keep your ammo safe and dry. Seriously though, how many of us have purchased ammo can’s to keep our precious metals from getting wet? Many people think “ammo can” and assume that plastic is just as good as a metal USGI Milsurp ammo can. I suppose it would depend upon its intended purpose. If you’re purchasing simply to dry store ammunition, then a plastic ammo can should be more than adequate. The Cabela’s “Fat 50” even included a handy tray in it.
If you plan on storing your ammunition in a basement, or area that contains high levels of humidity, then your mostly likely going to want some metal milsurp ammo cans. My suggestion would be to carefully inspect the can for any damage. Also look closely at the rubber gasket contained in the lid. Make sure it’s free of tears and in good working order. I dab my finger in whatever gun lube I have handy and run it over the entire length of the lid’s rubber seal (gasket) prior to using any can for storage. This will help ensure that the seal doesn’t dry up and crack over time.
Nobody wants to walk down into their basement and be ankle or knee deep in water. I’ve bene there a couple of times and it wasn’t fun. That being said, I had used metal milsurp ammo cans and didn’t have an issue. A couple of can’s were under water, but didn’t let in a drop. That lesson taught me to store everything at least 6” off the floor. You don’t want to store any ammo cans directly on a concrete floor as humidity and temperature fluctuations will invariably let moisture seep into the cans, thus damaging the contents.
You can’t go wrong with either type of ammo can, plastic or metal, if used for their intended purposes. My purposes is metal cans in the house and plastic out in the garage for reloading. What works for you may be different, it all depends upon your geographical location and intended purpose. This test simply served to point out the pluses and minuses of the Plastic vs Metal Ammo Can Debate. As long as nobody tells my wife that I almost dropped the metal can and cracked her jetted bathtub, then all will be well in the universe. If you never hear from me again, you will know why……….