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Ammo boxes versus Lock ‘n’ Locks

November 25, 2006 @ 21:42 By: gordon Category: Geocaching

notoammoboxes.pngA lot of geocachers feel that an ammo box is the pinacle of perfection in terms of geocaching containers. Basically, they are metal boxes that come in a variety of sizes depending on the type of ammunition they were designed to hold with a mechanism that requires more than strength and dexterity than your average raccoon has to open. Most of them have some sort of gasket that makes them very waterproof when sealed. They are usually already painted in a drab olive colour, meaning they tend to blend in with the vegetation.

On the other hand, Lock ‘n’ Lock containers are plastic containers that come in a variety of sizes, though usually smaller than your typical ammo box. They have locking mechanisms and gaskets that make them very waterproof. While not painted olive green, they can have cammo jobs applied and they’re usually easier to hide than ammo boxes because of their size.

The prices are comparable, so why would you pick one over the other, particularly if size isn’t a big concern? Well, ammo boxes also tend to have all sorts of markings on them describing the type of ammunition they held and some even have warnings about explosives on them, sometimes on bright orange stickers. Responsible geocachers ensure that these markings aren’t visible, but I have come across ammo boxes used as cache containers that have all the markings intact. If they’re found by non-geocachers, they can easily be mistaken for something much more dangerous than the trinkets found in your average geocache. In some cases, people who have stumbled across them have reported them to the police who in turn have deployed their bomb squads to neutralize the danger. This results in the public being unduly scared, the waste of police resources and bad publicity for geocachers.

If cache containers are transparent then it’s very easy to see that the contents do not pose a threat. Even if an ammo box has had all the military markings removed and the words “geocache – not a bomb” (yes, I actually saw that on a cache container), the overall shape is still identifiable as being an ammo box and you can’t see what’s in it without opening it.

What we really need is a Lock ‘n’ Lock-style container that’s made like an ammo box, with a lever-action locking mechanism, lots of space and a gasket to make it waterproof. If the walls are a bit thicker than the average Lock ‘n’ Lock, then it should be just as durable as the metal ammo boxes, though I haven’t had any durability issues with the Lock ‘n’ Lock containers I’ve placed.

11 Responses to “Ammo boxes versus Lock ‘n’ Locks”


  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    Have you looked at Otterboxes? They’re a favourite replacement for ammo boxes in the kayaking community, and seem to meet most of your requirements.

  2. gordon says:

    That’s an interesting idea, Paul. I hadn’t thought of using an Otterbox for a cache container, even though I own a couple of them myself that I use while scuba diving.

  3. Tripper says:

    I still like the ZERO maintenance of an ammo box. The responsible thing to do is paint it up and slap an official geocaching sticker on it. Yeah, you can still tell it’s an ammo box BUT only if you actually know what an ammo box looks like in the first place. Not everyone does.

    The lock’n’lock containers are too brittle to survive the -30 degree Celsius Canadian winters – especially when they get buried in the snow and then whacked a couple of times with the snow shovel. Hey it happens.

    Otterboxes would work if you had the money to buy them for each of your hidden caches. I certainly don’t.

  4. gordon says:

    I’ve found the Lock ‘n’ Locks to be fairly durable. One of mine spent most of the winter frozen in a plug of ice about a metre deep. When it was eventually retrieved, the contents were wet, but the container itself did survive and is still in service. I suspect the water got in through a hole I drilled in the bottom to mount a magnet widget on it, even though I did my best to seal the gap around the bolt. Many of the ammo boxes I’ve come across have been very difficult to open and/or close.

    The fact that you can see through the sides of the a Lock ‘n’ Lock is a major advantage in this age of heightened paranoia.

  5. Jake says:

    Lock and Locks do just fine in -30 temps under the snow for long periods of time. We have both locks and ammos out in the wild and have for years and they both work out well but I would take a lock n lock over an ammo can any day. As for otterboxes the price of them makes lock and locks yet again your BEST choice.

  6. Stephen says:

    As long as the box is marked I see no reason for people to get their panties in a bunch. I however have seen many caches without any type of marking at all. I have also seen ammo cans with the military markings still on them. While I agree that we need to be a little more responsible and remove the unwanted markings as well as put an identification sticker on it, I do not believe they need to be see through. It is a matter of education.

    • gordon says:

      The last geocache in Ottawa to cause a bomb scare had a green “this is a geocache” sticker on it, yet it was blown up. (You can read about it here.) A couple of days later I met the site commander for the incident at a geocaching event and he stated that had they been able to see into the container, almost certainly would not have been blown up.

  7. joey says:

    Ammo boxes are meant to withstand battle, why go with a mamby pamby piece of plastic. No matter what you do, the anti war, anti gun, anti-eat meat, anti-free speech people will make a fuss about it. No compromise!!

    • gordon says:

      This isn’t an “anti-war, anti-gun, anti-eat meat, anti-free speech” issue, which you would know if you’d read the whole entry. This is about placing appropriate containers in appropriate places. I’ve seen many ammo boxes in locations where they are going to cause a problem, particularly when the original markings aren’t obscured. And I’ve spoken with officers on the local bomb squad who confirmed that they are much more likely to destroy a suspicious container if they can’t see into it.

      The “no compromise” attitude is the sort of thing that will give geocaching a bad name and cause land owners to start issueing blanket bans on their property.

  8. Rebekah says:

    The paint on Lock ‘n Locks does not adhere very well and comes off in when left out, even those that are fairly covered from the elements. I have also found moisture in them too, I feel their seal isn’t as reliable as the ammo boxes.

    • gordon says:

      Any container with a seal will end up with moisture in it at some point because the seal will get dirty and become less effective. I’ve found ammo boxes with moisture in them. Because ammo boxes tend to be larger, they may be a bit less prone to moisture problems because of placement. My Lock ‘n’ Lock caches are generally dry when I check up on them.

      WRT the paint adhering, that’s probably a situation of not using the right type of paint or not putting a primer coat on first. But being able to see into the container is a Good Thing. As I mentioned, the bomb disposal expert said that if they can see into a transparent container they’re much less likely to blow it up. 🙂



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