Instructables
FPS is run by a husband and wife team that loves the outdoors and a simple way of life. We update our blog with money saving coupons, DIY instructions found on the internet and items purchased in bulk. Self sufficient articles appear on our wall regularly.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/FoodPlotSurvival
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: 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.

Recycling is one of my favourite past times and we often do it as a family. We encourage it in the household and empty bottles, cans, boxes and other containers are often reused to become super useful storage compartments all around the house. We have loose change in small jars, pencils in tin cans and pastas in bottles. Those are just some of the ideas we have come up with so far. I bet there are more to come which is really exciting to work on.

Doc19571 year ago
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)  Doc19571 year ago
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
Never thought of that one. Thanks for the info. Love this instructable.
keithwd1 year ago
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
Tgauchsin1 year ago
Why not use the bags?
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.
Haven't had any rounds go off accidentally from the heat of the hand warmers?
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!
moose571 year ago
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.
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!