By January 13, 2011

MTM Lockable Plastic Ammunition Storage Box Review

When it comes to buying ammunition, some firearms owners say “buy it cheap and stack it deep.” I used to wonder why people bought more than a few boxes of ammunition for home defense and practice until a few things happened:

  • Ammunition prices skyrocketed when we took on a two front war and the construction boom ate up a bunch of copper.
  • Ammunition became scarce when Obama got elected. There was concern that he would tax ammunition and drive prices up.
  • I began to practice a lot more, and it became difficult to buy what I needed on demand.

So, the next thing you know I have extra ammunition in the house. What’s the responsible way to store it? Locked up, just like your firearms.

I bought a small safe made by Bunker Hill from Harbor Freight Tools, but I wound up using that safe for something besides ammunition. It did the job, but I was looking for something even less expensive and could be stored more easily than a square safe.

My friend Bond told me about plastic ammunition cans that he purchased via I followed the link and bought a .50 caliber ammo box from MTM.

Three days later, I bought six more. After all, the idea was buy it cheap and stack it deep. I figured it applied to storage, too.

There are several things I like about the MTM storage cans:

  • They are rugged and lightweight. The metal .30 caliber cans I have weigh 5.4 pounds each; the larger .50 caliber MTMs weigh 1.2 pounds.
  • They were inexpensive to purchase and ship. You can buy metal surplus ammo cans for pretty cheap these days, but you’ll pay the same price again to ship them. These cans are a particularly good value if you have an Amazon Prime membership. You can get them shipped to you second day air at no additional charge.
  • They are watertight. Just like metal military ammo cans, there is a gasket around the cans that keep them watertight. This is important if you store your ammunition (or whatever else) in an environment that might flood, like a basement.

    This rubber gasket runs the entire length of the can and forms a tight seal.

  • They can be locked. There are two holes — one on each corner of the latch-side of the lid — for locks. I don’t expect the plastic to withstand any significant trama / cutting in case someone steals the cans. However, the cans are strong enough that you can’t open them without serious effort. Some states have laws about allowing minors easy access to firearms and ammunition. Lock ’em up so you don’t get locked up.
  • They can be stacked. Unlike the surplus metal cans I own, which has a fold-flat(ish) handle on the top, the top of the MTM boxes are designed so that other totes can stack right on top. I’ve had about 45# of ammunition stacked on top of one container, and it held strong.

Of course, no product is perfect, and there is one major downside to the MTM container.

The plastic handle can snap away from the rest of the box very easily. The handle may pop loose if you start to pick the can up without extending the handle completely upright. If the ammo box is fully loaded, this will happen more often than you’d think. I would estimate even a five degree variance from top dead center can cause a separation.
The knobs that anchor the handle to the ammunition box can wrench free and pop out during use.

When the handle does come loose, it isn’t a big deal to snap it back into place — unless you’re in the middle of carrying a full bin of heavy rifle ammunition. Then it’s a pain in the ass, because you might just create a perfect storm where you pop the handle out, set the can down to fix the handle, then pop the handle out again picking it up. Derp.

Once you learn the weakness of the design you become more aware of it, and will be less likely to pick the box up without rotating the handle to full stop. I have had it happen a couple of times moving different boxes back and forth, but it’s nothing I can’t live with.

Strongly recommended.

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