Camping & Survival

MTM Survivor Ammo Can and DIY Desiccant Packs

“The world is just getting crazier by the day.”When a friend recently made that statement at a group event, it rang true to everyone in the room. The discussion first swayed toward politics, then quickly developed into a full-blown prepper discussion.

I know Cheaper Than Dirt!’s audience has many hardcore preppers, but even if you are only a prepper-lite or just a security minded individual, MTM’s Survivor Ammo Can should be on your radar. In truth, it is much more than an ammo can; it is a burial vault that can easily handle several items. It is ideal for emergency cash, documents, precious metals, survival gear and just about anything else you might want to stash from prying eyes or in preparation for a SHTF scenario.

I have read directions and recommendations on several forums regarding building your own time capsule or survival vault. I am sure that some of these can work and I question them for a couple of reasons.

  • First, there is the cost. I priced the parts at local hardware stores and could not build any of them for the cost of the Survivor Ammo Can.
  • Second, and most importantly, I question the quality of some of the homebuilt designs. The Survivor Ammo Can keeps items sealed with six stainless steel screws in a bucket-style body with a double O-Ring sealed lid and protective cap. Also included with every Survivor Ammo Can is a Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor plastic bag to line the ammo can along with a desiccant pack to help with humidity control.

Dimensions and Capacity

The Survivor Ammo Can has a 10-inch outer diameter and 7-inch inner diameter. Outside, the Survivor Ammo Can measures 13.5 inches, and inside, the height is 12.4 inches. According to MTM, the Survivor Ammo Can will hold up to 500 rounds of .45 ACP or .223 ammo or up to sixteen 30-round metal AR-15 magazines. Essentially, the inside capacity is equivalent to a .50 caliber ammo can.

I must (shamefully) admit, I am a fan of cheap guns. Included in my collection are pistols such as a Hi Point, Raven Arms .25 caliber and many others. The Survivor Ammo Can is ideally sized for a pistol and ammunition, but you would really have to think it through. After all, burying a firearm always includes the chance of being found by the wrong person and you could easily run afoul of the law by doing so. I am not going to lecture you about how to plan for a SHFT scenario, but I will warn you to think it through and be smart about your decisions.

The lid of the Survivor Ammo Can is sealed with six screws and covered with a secondary cap. Depending on the contents and quality of the metal detector equipment, I would guess that you would have to bury it and cover it with at least three feet of dirt to avoid detection. One friend also recommended decoys—several pieces of scrap metal or tin in the general area of the vault. After a few failed attempts, the treasure hunter will likely move to more fertile areas.

Moisture Control

MTM includes a desiccant pack and a Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor plastic bag (not food rated). A healthy dose of Cosmoline or rust inhibitor is also a good idea for metal items. For extra protection, you can also build your own desiccant pack for additional protection.

Here’s an easy recipe for cheap homemade desiccant packs for a burial vault or the back of a gun safe.

  1. Buy the cheapest silica cat litter and box of cheap coffee filters.
    If you have a coffee maker whatever you normally use will probably work fine. If not, try #4 filters.
  2. Add about ¼ cup of litter to a #4 filter.
  3. Fold the outer corners and staple it shut.

Just before you are ready to use it, toast it in the oven for a short time. This will remove any excess moisture and add a slight vacuum seal to your Survivor Ammo Can. If you value the metallic items in side the container… DO NOT let the desiccant come in contact with ferrous (metal) objects. I would recommend a plastic container with a few holes punched into to encapsulate the desiccant packs.

Fortunately, the silica never goes bad. Simply spread out the silica on a cookie sheet and bake it at 250 degrees for a few hours to dry and “recharge it.” After doing this, you can rebuild the coffee filter pack or fill old socks with a cup or two and place them in a corner of a gun safe to control humidity.

Not that I can vouch for it personally, but according to Wikipedia:

Purchasing silica in the form of cat litter can be an easy and cost effective way for retail consumers to purchase silica gel for use in other applications, such as maintaining the desired relative humidity in humidors, keeping tools or other materials rust-free in damp environments or long-term storage, and preserving dried food.

It is the food part that I caution you to be careful and do your own due diligence. This may absolutely be the case or it may not. However, if it is going to go down my throat I do not want to take a chance and would rather spend a couple more bucks and buy a product that I know is food rated.

Do you have any experience with homemade desiccant packs or burial vaults? Tell us about it in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (6)

  1. I think you were very dismissive of Stephen’s idea to put handle/eye-bolt on the lid to make it easier to remove from a 3 feet hole. He makes very good points about how hard it would be to dig out (without digging a hole several feet wide) and it (the handle/eye bolt/etc.) could be added to the design for very little cost, and make the vault a lot easier to retrieve. Please pass this idea on to the manufacture for their consideration.

  2. There is a lot of concrete and asphalt near my home. If I could get one of the MTM cans under the asphalt or concrete will the metal detectors be able to locate it? How far beyond the edge of the concrete/asphalt would it have to go to avoid contact?

    1. Concrete often has rebar in it for reinforcement which would mask it from a metal detector.

  3. Just by looking at this can for 2 seconds I have a very important improvement idea for the manufacturer! How is anyone going to pull this can with 20-30 lbs of ammo inside 5 years later from a 3 foot deep hole in the ground??? Unless you dig a very wide hole allowing your upper body to fit and lean down into, grab the can with both hands and hopefully work your way back out of the hole without getting stuck and suffocating, it’s not going to work! Please have the manufacturer add either a sturdy handle or at least a hook so that it can be pulled out of the ground with a rope without having to dig a wide hole or running the risk of dying.

    1. Good thinking, Stephan. Or, you could bury it in a shallow 1′ or deeper trench rather than a vertical hole. Hey, a metal detector will find either one very easily, so don’t mistake burying it with being undetectable by those who are looking for it.

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