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Guns & Ammo Network


How to Repack and Store Your AR Ammunition

by David Fortier   |  December 4th, 2012 11

MTM ammo boxes, Thermold stripper clips and guide (l.) and GI strippers and guides (r.) are all handy for repacking .223 Rem/5.56 ammunition for storage or rapid access and easy loading.

Most riflemen will expend a good bit of effort when it comes to ammunition selection. Picking the right load whether for accuracy, performance or economy is important. The hardcore will often sweat blood over load selection. They will research tirelessly in their quest for the Holy Grail.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but what do you do with your load of choice once you have it? By this I mean, do you simply toss it on a shelf in its factory packaging? Do you give any thought at all to how you store it? Rather than leaving it as it comes, you may wish to repack it.

Why repack your ammunition? There are several good reasons. The factory cardboard boxes are designed to basically do two things: Catch your attention and turn your head with a bit of sex appeal on the dealer’s shelf; and to protect the ammunition from scratches and dents during shipping. If you want more than this, you’ll want to consider putting in a bit of time doing a repack.

Repacking better protects ammo from the elements, makes it more accessible and easier to load into magazines, and provides it with a longer storage life. The best part of repacking is there are a lot of options available to you.

While I don’t repack all my ammunition, I do repack training ammo I will use in the short term to get rid of the packing materials and to make the cartridges more accessible. With some brands of economical steel-case ammunition in particular, such as Wolf, you can end up with a large amount of paper and cardboard. This can be a pain on the range, especially if it’s windy. Better to eliminate it at home than having it blowing around and litter your range.

Next I take the loose cartridges and simply fill and properly label an MTM .50 caliber ammo can. The MTM cans are lighter than the steel military cans because they’re made out of rugged polypropylene, and because of that, you don’t need to worry about them rusting either.

They come with a folding handle and feature a tongue and groove O-ring seal for water resistance. The MTMs also sport a dual-latching system with double-padlock tabs allowing you to lock them, and they stack. Inner dimensions are 5.8x11x7.2 inches, and there are sizes other than the .50 caliber. Prices start at $12. Toss in a LULA loading tool, and reloading magazines will be a snap on the range.

I load some of my practice ammo onto 10-round stripper clips, which facilitate rapid reloading of M16/AR-15 magazines. This not only reduces loading time, it’s especially nice in finger-numbing cold weather. If you are not familiar with stripper clips they are a very simple device dating back to the 19th century. Made from stamped metal, they are designed to hold a small amount of cartridges, usually five or 10, and are intended to be used to rapidly reload a magazine.

They’re simple to use. Just slide a stripper clip guide onto the rear of an AR magazine, slip a loaded stripper clip into the guide, place firm downward pressure onto the top round and push them vigorously off the clip and into the magazine. Repeat two more times and you will have a fully loaded 30-round magazine. Just be aware that a good bit of force is required.

Surplus M16 stripper clips are readily available both new and used. However, they vary greatly in price and can vary in condition if used. The best source I have found is Old Sarge’s Drop Zone, which offers packs of 50 clips for just $7. That’s enough to do 500 rounds. Or they have 12 packs of 50, enough for 6,000 rounds for $48. Don’t forget to order some guides while you are at it.

An interesting option to GI strippers is available from Thermold Magazines. It sells black nylon 10-round strippers that are actually easier to use than the GI models. While not surplus cheap, I actually prefer them. Plus they also function as an emergency fire starter. Basically they burn hot and long enough to be useful in an emergency. They are available from Cheaper than Dirt for $3 for 10 along with the required special guide ($9).

Another option is to use GI bandoleer kits to repackage your ammunition. These consist of a cloth bandoleer with four, five or seven pockets, cardboard pocket liners that hold two or three stripper clips, stripper clips and a guide. Bandoleers allow you to easily grab a fair amount of ammunition and go.

For long-term storage, GI steel .30 caliber, .50 caliber or SAW cans are the way to go. As long as their gaskets are intact and in good condition, these cans are totally waterproof and air-tight. Plus their robust construction allows them to survive rough handling and abuse.

But there are other options ranging from new paint cans to whatever you can imagine and have on hand. Ammunition can be placed boxed, loose or on strippers in resealable or hermetically sealed bags.

Or if you want to go all out, cartridges can be placed into an airtight container and topped off with oxygen absorbers and desiccant packs. Oxygen absorbers do what their name implies; they absorb free oxygen from the air around them and chemically bind it by oxidizing finely divided iron into iron oxide.

The desiccant packs absorb moisture from the air. The combination of low humidity and low oxygen levels will help to prevent your cartridges from degrading during long term storage. Whatever method you use I’d be interested in hearing about it. Drop me email at and tell me how you package your ammunition for short- and long-term storage.

  • Steve Alonso

    My solution – everything goes in .30 or .50 cal cans with dessicant packs. Ready ammo in .30 cal cans with mags half loaded and strippers to top them off (so springs aren't fully compressed long term). I shoot mainly M-14, AR-10, Thompson and AR-15 plus Garand (standard bandoleers in .50 cal cans). I have some Moisin-Nagant out of the tuna cans and in .50 cal cans. The balance is in the tuna cans as they've stored well for 50 years with little corrosion.

    I've experimented with 5 gal paint buckets with Gamma Seals ( but it's too early to tell
    if this is useful and the loaded unit is too heavy for mobility. I don't think an F-4 tornado can lift those babies.
    I just loaded up with another ten .50 cal cans to survive the next four years of national uncertainty so any ammo I buy has a suitable home.

    In the last 45 years of shooting, I've never had a stored round fail. Of course, it's only as good as it is manufactured to be so buy the good stuff….

  • Thomas Lane

    Sounds like this "article" was just an infomercial for the products recomended.

    • Alert & capable @ 70

      I'll bet you're also a conspiracy theorist about almost everything, too. Right?

      • Eric

        While I will not fault Mr. Fortier for his writing, he is an excellent scribe, I tend to agree with what the other guy said. This author's article DO tend to have a commercial ring to them. Frankly if I were getting the goodies to place many of the products he places, you're damn skippy I would do so too!

  • Kent

    Mr. Lane you seem like the type who would complain about a scratch on a gold brick that was given to you for free. Thats too bad. Mr. Fortier has probably spent hours on line looking for the best deals for the products he suggested. Note the word suggested. If those don't appeal to you type " ammo repacking" into your favorite search engine do the research and come up with a better solution. I have been telling people for some time now that it's okay to complain as long as you can follow up with a remedy for your complaint. Otherwise you're just part of the problem. I know how hard it is to find a good price with decent shipping costs because I've been looking also. It requires hours of diligent reading or if you use YouTube, listening. Just to help folks understand there are many right ways to do this. Do your homework and proceed with the method you can afford and you're comfortable with. You'll probably change things a few times anyway. Good luck.

  • harbl

    Certain brands of Factory ammo boxes are very compact and fit fine in .50 cal ammo cans. I put all my reloads in these boxes, salvaged from the range, reinforced with masking tape, labeled with bullet type, weight, charge, primer and date.

    The best brands I found are MFS and Geco for pistol ammo, PMC and Federal AE tactical for .223.

  • bill share

    I just take the ammo box as is and vacuum pack it

  • mmkkpro

    I like the vacuum pack idea seems like it would protect from moisture,im crrrently using ammo boxes from dunhams with rubber o ring,works for me.

  • JG Pelcha

    I use paint cans and a Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor capsule that works on ferrous and non ferrous metals. Should be good for 40 or so years as long as it isn’t opened.

  • McCollum

    For a cheap oxygen absorber, I use hot hands hand Warner’s. buying them from Costco on sale it’s about $12 for a box of 100. Much cheaper than the commercially advertised oxygen absorbers I’ve seen.

  • Barry Fitzgerald

    It is a terrible idea to pack loose rounds together. Metal in contact with metal will sped the deterioration.

    I used to be a fan of metal ammo cans until I tested some and found out how many gaskets failed and how quickly they rusted. Also, many are knock offs not even mil spec. I have been using marine grade utility field boxes by Plano and others. New gaskets,, stack-able, lockable, won’t rust. I use a food vacuum sealer and 4 mil plastic rolls for the machine to make “battle packs” usually of 200 rounds (so if 9mm 4 boxes, if .223 10 boxes). I make sure I write the date purchased on the “battle pack” load the same kind into one of the marine boxes. A marine field box would easily take 30 boxes of 9mm of my “battle packs” but I put in 25 (1,250 rounds) just to keep the weight down. I throw in 3 or 4, five gram silica packs (rice in nylon or silk will also work) then lock it down. Because memories fade, I take yellow duct tape and cut a piece for all sides and label the brand of ammo, # of rounds, when purchased, etc so I will never need to open it unnecessarily. I also store these boxes off the floor in the house where the AC run almost 365 days a year.
    I rotated through some the other day that I prepared like this in 1996 and it made me sick to see $3.99 price stickers on 20 round boxes of Federal .223. But the ammunition was perfect.

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