Introduction: Foodsaver Ammunition Canning & Long Term Storage

Picture of Foodsaver Ammunition Canning & Long Term Storage
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Step 1: In the Beginning.

Picture of In the Beginning.
Before we get started with this Instructable let's talk about what we want to accomplish.

I was needing a way to preserve my ammunition for long term storage. Given the fact that my basement is almost always damp and very humid in the summer months it posed a real challenge to keeping the ammo fresh. After gleening over the Mrs. pantry one day and seeing rows upon rows of canning jars the Foodsaver idea popped into my head. I have been using this method of storage for over 5 years with great results. After my last reloading session I decided to do an Instrucable on it.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of using canning jars before I get berated for using glass containers.

Pros:
  • Impervious to moisture and humidity
  • Effective oxygen barrier
  • Contents can be easily seen
  • Can be stored in harsh climates including underground
  • Canning jars WILL ALWAYS be needed for food preservation

Cons:
  • Fragile
  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Hard to transport
  • Harder to stack

Once filled, the benefit of using glass outweights the negatives as a storage container, especially if the jars are going to be used in a supply cache.

Step 2: Testing the Foodsaver Vacuum

Picture of Testing the Foodsaver Vacuum

Here is a little demonstration showing the Foodsaver vacuum in action.

Both jars have almost an equal amount of marshmallows. Once the Foodsaver is turned on and a vacuum is created, the atmospheric pressure is reduced inside the jars. This vacuum allows the marshmallows to expand.

Step 3: Foodsaver Vacuum Results

Picture of Foodsaver Vacuum Results

The test shows that our Foodsaver is working as intended, with the pressure lifted the marshmallows almost double in size.

We will be using this same concept to purge the jars of moisture and oxygen, the two ingredients needed for rust and corrosion to take place.

As we get further into this Instructable you will notice that my storage techniques have a redundancy factor built in (overkill).  This is done to assure the quality of the contents even if one method of corrosion protection fails.

Step 4: VCI Rust Inhibitor Bags

Picture of VCI Rust Inhibitor Bags

Our first step is to line the jar with a VCI bag.

I found this information for VCI bags on the internet:

VCI is an abbreviation for Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor or Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor. (Also known as VpCIs or Vapor Phase Corrosion Inhibitors.) These corrosion inhibiting compounds are coated on paper or polyethylene bags, and have sufficient vapor pressure to release molecules into the air. Due to their polarity, the VCI molecules are attracted to the surface of metal, just like a magnet. VCI molecules move from the paper or film directly to the surface of metals. When these compounds come in contact with metal surfaces they form a very thin molecular layer. This thin layer effectively inhibits corrosion on the metal surface by preventing air and moisture from coming in contact with the surface of the metal.

This is a much better definition than I could ever give!!

Step 5: Use Hand Warmers As Oxygen Depletors

Picture of Use Hand Warmers As Oxygen Depletors

 The hand warmers work through a simple chemical reaction which causes rusting inside the packet once it's exposed to air. The warmer contains water, cellulose, iron, vermiculite, activated carbon and salt. When exposed to air, these things cause the iron to rust at a slow rate, and produce heat.

This rusting process needs oxygen to work. By placing a handwarmer inside the jar and then vacuum sealing it, the warmer will consume what it can until the process starves itself. It is no different than putting a glass jar over a lit candle, once the oxygen is gone the flame will die.

There is little to no difference between hand warmers and the oxygen depletors used in mylar bags for food storage. Some say the oxygen absorbers are rated as food grade and the hand warmers are not. I don't really know if that is true but it is something folks should be aware of.

Step 6: Foodsaver Jar Attachment

Picture of Foodsaver Jar Attachment

If you have a hard time getting a good vacuum seal try lightly moistening the canning ring, it will help in getting a good seal on the jar.

The Foodsaver has two different attachments for the canning jars, wide mouth and standard.

Step 7: Sealing the Ring

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Once sealed take a tube of silicone or in this case outdoor caulk and run a bead around the edge of the canning lid up under the lip. This is extra insurance to keep the jar from losing its vacuum, then screw on the canning ring.

1 quart canning jar = 250 rounds of 9mm

I label all of my reloaded ammo with component data. Do not assume that my reload info will work with your gun! Working up your own load safely and within the specs of competent reloading books is the only responsible way to do it.

Step 8: Storing Shotgun Shells

Picture of Storing Shotgun Shells

Here we are canning some 12 guage ammunition, it is very bulky for this type of storage but can be done. One trick is to fill the empty space with .22LR because lets face it, you can never have enough 22 rimfire.

Step 9: Thank You for Viewing Our Instructable.

Picture of Thank You for Viewing Our Instructable.

At this point the ammo will store for years in a basement this way.
If these jars were going into a 5 gallon bucket and then buried I would opt for a rust preventative measure for the lid and rings.

One way to do this would be setting up a double boiler and melting a couple blocks of paraffin wax. Once melted, dip the canning jars (lid first) into the wax until the rings are completely covered. Allow the wax to harden then pack away.

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Thank you,
Big Don

Comments

markgrogan (author)2016-02-23

I think this is a simple yet highly practical way to keep those ammos intact while in long-term storage. Glass is a good material for this purpose provided that you are careful with your handling to prevent breakage. I am in the midst of maximizing storage space in the kitchen and storing condiments in pickle jars while labeling them helps in the retrieval process later on.

markgrogan (author)2016-02-17

I think this is a simple yet highly practical way to keep those ammos intact while in long-term storage. Glass is a good material for this purpose provided that you are careful with your handling to prevent breakage. I am in the midst of maximizing <a href="http://supercheapselfstorage.com.au/blog/sorting/storage-space-kitchen/">storage space in the kitchen</a> and storing condiments in pickle jars while labeling them helps in the retrieval process later on.

Doc1957 (author)2013-09-20

Great instructable and good info. However I have seen plastic canning jars on the shelves at our local Walmart, Kmart, and Meijer stores they may be smaller in size than the quart that you stated but they won't break if dropped.
Also you can obtain the LARGE pickle jars from local fast food joints and place the bags of ammo in those large jars. As for caching them place the bags in tyvek envelopes. This will help with the puncher's and holes. along with no broken glass if you need to dig up your cache.

foodplotsurvival (author)Doc19572013-09-21

It really depends on your intentions, plastic is not an oxygen barrier and would be a poor choice for long term storage. UV light degrades plastic in a short time. Thanks

Doc1957 (author)foodplotsurvival2013-09-21

Never thought of that one. Thanks for the info. Love this instructable.

keithwd (author)2013-07-03

Hi FPS

A good instructable and well laid out.

Some of your methods are a bit of an overkill, in many ways, but if survival is the goal then there is no such thing as overkill or too much paranoia...

I have been doing vacuum storage for 15 years, both with FoodSaver bags and with glass jars. The results have been excellent and have saved me a lot of money. Probably enough to pay me for all my equipment and more, but I haven't kept records.

Comments on your methods:

If you are only using the VCI bag to prevent corrosion from oxygen, then I think they are unnecessary. I have never had oxygen corrosion in the bags or jars. But if you are concerned about corrosion from chemicals in the primer and gunpowder it is a good idea.

I cannot see how the hand warmers would help, especially since you use the VCI bags. They are only used for oxygen depletion in the jars and even the weak vacuum created by the FoodSaver depletes the oxygen level below any observable corrosion point. If the primers are oxygen sensitive, there might be enough left in, by the FoodSaver machine to lower raise their failure rate, but I doubt it. They don't hurt anything though.

I don't think moistening the canning ring is the best way to improve the seal. But if you do not want to use the iron method mentioned below, I suggest lard or other animal fat. Do not use vegetable oils, they can, and probably will, damage the seal material and they have lots of other additives that "might" be harmful to the primer and powder. If you don't want to use animal fat use Vaseline (it does not work as well for some reason). Another effect of a vacuum is to equalize the moisture level through out the jar. All the individual powder grains, in all the bullets, will have the same percentage of moisture--and any other volatile chemical--after a couple of weeks. This probably good for accuracy--but is why I worry about moistening the ring...

The silicone method does work--but is messy, smelly, and expensive. The best method I found to create a multi year storage seal, was using a clothes iron. The lids have a temperature sensitive sealant that melts around 200 degrees F, and totally conforms to the rim of the jar. After the jar is sealed, and before the screw top is put on, set the iron on top of the lid for a few minutes. The iron should be somewhere between 210 F and 250 F, higher is BAD because the seal gets too soft and the molten seal gets sucked inside by the vacuum.

Protecting the lid is important if the jars are not stored somewhere dry and chemical free. Paraffin wax works, but can crack with time and handling. If I was going to bury them, in a bucket or naked I would clean them with acetone and smear clear RTV all over the lids. For indoor storage where it is humid, regular spray silicone works well. You need to find the type of spray that was designed for long term protection instead of just lubrication purposes. Usually that type has an oily feel when you spray it on your hand and rub it.

Other things that I learned over the years.

Kerr brand lids are the worst ones to use for this method of sealing jars. The seal part of the lid is too coarse and bumpy to make a good seal. That type of lid totally depends on heat to properly mold itself to the jar. Lids with a smooth rubber sealing area are best (Ball is what I use). I had to use the iron to heat my Kerr lids so they fit the rim and then take them off, fill the jar and seal it. They leaked too fast for me to do it the regular way with the iron.

Always check the seals after a month, and then recheck every time you think about it. The fast way to check is by tapping the lid with a spoon. If it goes ping they are sealed if it goes thud, clang or bang, it isn't. My one month failure rate was 2% with "ironed" lids and 10% for the others. Mostly this was because I was sealing foods which were dusty or powders like flour, that get sucked out into the rim area by the air leaving the jar. Without the "powder" problem, I think the seal failure rate would be quite a bit less.

The lids can be reused, even the ironed ones--IF the lids, from either source, is always kept with the original jar--and is not bent or damaged when removed. The best way to remove the lids is with a piece of thin metal that fits the curve of the jar and is inserted between the lid and the glass screw ridges and slowly twisted until the air rushes in. FoodSaver sealed lids are fairly easy to pry off with your fingers. Lids sealed with a vacuum pump are not. Reused lids should always be lubricated with animal fat by putting it on the jar rim.

Anything that rust if, stored in a vacuum will never rust. This means that you can store needles, small files and other metal parts in the jars forever--without them rusting. Larger items like circular saw blades, large files and large parts can be stored using the FoodSaver plastic bag vacuum sealing system. If the item has sharp corners you need to wrap it in cloth to prevent the corners from puncturing the bag and loosing vacuum.

Certain chemicals go bad over time because of chemical interaction with gases or humidity in the atmosphere. Vacuum sealing those chemicals in jars will preserve them for many years and prevent contamination and off gassing (assuming they don't melt the seal). They are also much less likely to spill, leak, catch fire or poison you with their fumes. I store all my left over paint that way and it keeps forever.

Certain items like some fabrics, rubber, leather, photographs and some plastics dry out or fade over time and become useless. Vacuum sealing those things will make them last for 20 years or more. Rubber bands are especially bad about going bad with age and keep forever when vacuum sealed.

Most glues will last a very long time if kept in a freezer. Some exceptions are silicone glue and rubber cement. I found that if you vacuum pack those and put them in the freezer that they are useable for years. The silicon will still harden at the tip where the cap goes on, but it will be shallow and easy to pry off.

Vitamins, other medicinal tablets and pills will keep their full strength many times longer if--stored in a vacuum. Another instance in which you can save a lot of money with vacuum packing.

As you can tell I use vacuum packing heavily and do it daily. I live in the tropics and what doesn't rust... molds, gets eaten or rapidly degrades due to the temp and humidity. Because of this heavy use, a FoodSaver machine was too slow in sealing and did not give the vacuum strength I wanted. FoodSaver vacuum level is probably around what you would find at 25,000 feet.

So I bought a rotary vacuum pump which makes a vacuum around what you would find at 60,000 plus feet. It seals the half pint jars in a couple of seconds and a quart in little over 5 seconds. They cost $130 to $300 new, or you can go visit "old style" print shops that still use printing presses and get a used rotary vacuum pump off of an old vacuum frame--that is what I did. Converted refrigerator motors will work but are probably too slow.

I also bought a vacuum desiccator (a special kind of bell jar for vacuum drying) which allowed me to vacuum seal used gallon jugs (olive and pickle) and 4 quart mason jars at one time. I used rubber bands to keep the lids in place while I sucked a vacuum on them. I wound up having to buy lids for the gallon jars since the restaurants pried them off and usually bent them. The stupid lids are expensive, even in lots of 50--but they do hold bigger things like files and tools that I don't want to rust...

With a vacuum desiccator, quart mayonnaise jars and other similar jars can be reused with their original lids, but the jars are much more fragile, temperature sensitive and harder to seal. Sometimes jars with twist off lids can be reused but are a lot of trouble and you have to check the seal quite often because you have about a 25% leakage rate with them. I could never find anything to use to make a new rubber sealing area--I tried many things and none worked.

I use my system daily for foods. I unseal the jar, get what I want and then re-seal it. Dried foods last forever, even in the tropics. Spices last for 15 years or more and given how fast they go bad, even in the north, you save a lot of money vacuum sealing them. Also when you want a spice you always have it.

One warning about foods. Yeast can happily live in a vacuum. You have to heat the jars to 160-180 degrees F after you have sealed them to kill any yeast. This is not necessary in most dry foods -- but some dried fruits, dry cheeses and other "semi wet" foods will still ferment in the jars if you do not kill the yeast. An example would be vacuum sealing a fresh garlic ball--one of the worst mistakes I ever made, and I had no idea until 6 months later--WHEN I OPENED IT!

I probably should do an instructable on vacuuming for food preservation since that is most of what I do. But right now I don't have the time right now and probably won't live long enough.

Keith

Tgauchsin (author)2013-05-29

Why not use the bags?

keithwd (author)Tgauchsin2013-07-03

Insects, rodents, fire and sharp pointy things that might fall on the bag or that the bag may be thrown on, laid on or drug across.

The bags are tough but...

Insects and rodents have been known to chew through.

Fire, sparks and hot objects can "easily" melt a hole in the bag and let in air and water.

The world is full of sharp pointy things and even a splinter in a shelf could puncture one.

Both the jars and the bags have a similar "did not seal" rate. There are methods to decrease the failure rate with the jars but I never found a way to do so with the bags other than buying the expensive FoodSaver brand bags--which actually is less expensive due to the failure rate of the others. But the jars still have a higher failure rate. More on this in a separate post here.

barnmaster98 (author)2013-05-06

Haven't had any rounds go off accidentally from the heat of the hand warmers?

TheAntiHeroHimself (author)2013-05-04

That's amazing! And yet another reason for me to buy my .22LR rifle! And a foodsaver also, of course haha

2 Thumbs High Up!

moose57 (author)2013-03-15

I would suggest vacuum sealing your ammo in the food saver bags. It will be waterproof and most of all won't break if dropped. Also they will be easier to store.
Keep up the good work.

RedneckEngineer (author)2013-02-07

I like what you've done here. If I could make a suggestion, since your labeling all the jars with the contents, why not put the label inside the jar? That way the writing will not rub off or get wet and deteriorate and become unreadable. Make up the label and slip it in with the green paper before you seal it. Other than that good idea on self storage.

That's a good idea. I applied a piece of shipping tape over the label to help protect it but there is no reason why I couldn't put the label in the jar.
Thanks!

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