Whether you shoot one caliber exclusively or multiple calibers, keeping your ammunition organized and stored properly is important. Increased shelf life, reduced risk for corroded or malfunctioning ammunition, and time savings at the range are only some of the reasons why it pays to be organized.
Plus, you don’t want to be that shooter rifling through random unlabeled Ziploc bags when it comes time to load your magazines with the correct ammo. Trust me, I’ve seen it. It did not look like a good time. It can also be dangerous, even catastrophic, if something along the lines of a .357 Magnum round got mixed up and was loaded and fired in .38 Special.
The most common method of storing and transporting ammunition is ammo cans. They come in various sizes and materials, with similar goals of protecting and transporting your precious ammo. To accomplish this, the ammo cans feature rubber gaskets (i.e., o-rings) to create a watertight seal, padlock tabs to deter prying hands, and carry handles that make trips to the range a bit easier.
People often debate which is better — metal or plastic ammunition cans. Both have their respective pros and cons. Neither is a clear winner in my opinion. As a result, I own and use both types, but for different purposes.
Plastic ammo cans are lightweight, affordable, and tend to stack quite nicely. They can also be discreet, almost looking like tackle boxes to the untrained eye. On the other hand, the plastic ammunition can become brittle if left in the sun and tends to flex or bend with enough weight in them. I would like to add though, that if you keep your ammo stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, it will help extend the useful life of the plastic drastically.
Despite the few negative aspects, plastic ammo cans are very popular and my “go-to” when it comes to range transport or keeping a quick-grab stash. Depending on which cans you choose, some have their own storage trays or crates that you can purchase to further enhance your organization!
When I first started shooting, I placed a bulk 9mm order that came with a plastic ammo can. I used it, along with several others, for years. Then, one day it fell off of the tailgate of my truck and essentially shattered, sending a few hundred loose rounds of 9mm into the dirt. Was it the end of the world? No. However, it piqued my interest in looking for a better storage solution. I researched alternatives such as plastic models with thicker walls, bags, and metal ammo cans — all of which I added to my collection.
Metal cans are extremely durable and usually watertight and airtight. After all, there is a reason that the military has used them for decades. If you are planning on storing ammo for extended periods of time or traveling with them through various climates, metal cans will likely be your best bet.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, why wouldn’t I just go with a metal can then? And, that’s a reasonable question. While metal ammo cans have multiple benefits, they are heavier, louder to move, and harder to stack. Overall, I would recommend having both types on hand, so you are prepared for any scenario that may come your way.
For those who reload their own ammo, want additional organization options, or don’t feel like carrying fully loaded ammo cans to the range, ammo boxes will be something you definitely want to consider. You can transfer your loose ammo into them for storage purposes or you can use them to easily keep track of how much you’re shooting at the range.
Plastic ammo boxes are simple, cheap and make for great add-ons to your cart if you need a little bit more to hit your free shipping threshold! Ammo boxes are also a must for anyone who reloads. Multiple loads can be separated to measure the performance between powder and bullet combinations.
Labels and Decals
For most, simply separating different calibers or loads into different containers may be enough. For the rest who want just a bit more order in their ammunition stores, you can easily label each container. Stick-on labels and decals make it easy to quickly grab the correct ammo on your way out the door. Once I upgraded to decals, as opposed to simply slapping some duct tape on them and using a permanent marker, I never looked back.
Ultimately, how you choose to store and organize your ammo is up to you. However, the more thought and care you put into it, the longer your ammo will last, and the safer your range time will be. With ammo prices in a constant state of flux, why not spend a little time planning and organizing?
With the addition of watertight containers, you’ll also keep you ammo safe from the unforeseen disasters caused my Mother Nature or a simple flooded basement after a burst pipe. Remember that food vacuum sealer you received last Christmas but never used? It’s a perfect waterproofing solution for long-term ammunition storage…
Do you have an ammo storage and organization system? If you had to choose between plastic or metal ammo cans, which type of ammunition can would you choose? Share your answers in the comment section.
Ryan is a firearms and tactical gear enthusiast that has maneuvered himself into the firearms industry over the past decade. While his full-time career is outside of the industry, he has consulted for dozens of firearms and tactical gear related companies. He enjoys conducting tests and evaluations, shooting product photography and developing marketing strategies for them.
If he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or driving around looking for photo shoot locations. You can check out some of his photos and other content on Instagram (@theguygearreview).