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Spam Cans - a Castle PSA

And no, we're not talking about caskets for these people.  We're talking jargon for the style of ammo cans used by Warsaw Pact and now former Warsaw Pact nations for bulk shipping ammunition.  [Warning - if you're allergic to cats, there is a *lot* of cat hair in this post.  A *lot.*  Really.  I mean it.  A whole lot.]

We speaking of cans which we people who have the habit, as Skip noted in this post, "of turning money into noise" call, "spam cans."  Why that moniker? Because the high-end cans had the twist-open key system like real Spam® cans of yore did.  Now, you need a can opener.  Though some cans, like the one seen in this link, do come with built-in wire pulls.  In my experience, that's usually for pistol ammo.

So, if you're at a gun show, or your local dealer, and they've got stacks of cans of ammo that look like this (and it's usually pretty cheap stuff, comparatively, and serviceable, and often comes in western calibers as well):



Then you need to ask your dealer for one of these:



*If* he or she has 'em, they'll probably offer to throw it in... if you buy *two* cans.  Why?  Because that's how they got 'em.  These cans come two to a wood crate, with one opener. 



There's some cardboard on top, and of course, both cans are sealed.  And somewhere in that box (sometimes *under* the cans) is that can opener.  You take your opener, an unopened can, and get to work like it's a big ol' P38 c-rat can opener.



Mind you, like c-rat and other cans, there's going to be some sharp edges, so pay attention already.  Don't despair, however. if you don't have an opener or your dealer won't give/sell you one.  Your trusty KA-BAR, (such as this one that served with the Auld Soldier and the Armorer from Korea through to today and beyond), with it's nice bowie-style tip will work just as well.  Just insert the tip along the edge and pull the knife back towards you.  if you're careful, the tip will catch under the lip and the blade will take care of the can.  Now you probably don't want to do this with some expensive collectible knife or tool.  If you are careful, all you'll need to do is stone the edge a bit, but you really won't damage the knife.  Just make sure to be at the edge of the can, angling towards the edge, else you run into cartridges...

This PSA has been posted because of a long-distance phone call to the Castle Help Desk I got from Cricket a couple of weeks ago - where her family had picked up a spam can of ammo at a show and were at a loss how to break into it.  That was a fun call. 

Feel free to lard up the comments with your ways of doing it!

Oh, and you've just seen "thousands of rounds of ammuntion."  Keep that in mind when next they use that to terrify you with when reporting a gun-owner bust.  Most people conjure up a basement full of stacks of crates.  In fact, just three cans of that stuff will get you into plural thousands. 

23 Comments

Hm...that reminds me of a panicked phone call to a certain State in the Union.  Looked just like those too.  The rounds fired as expected, and the Young Man had a few happy moments.  Not only that, his Bushman knife is working as well as it ever was.  Thanks for the tip!
 
You've been tagged over on Facebook, too.
 
..insert tip of knife and pull knife back towards you...

Knowing how well you and sharp edges tend to come together, I hope you were wearing suitable protection.
 
You can also just take a little die grinder and grind off the outer edge of the seam. The top will come off in one piece then.

Doesn't work on the ones that are soldered, only the crimped ones.
 
Rik - I *always* buy in bulk.  And I have more than one can opener...  so I don't *need* to use the knife.  It's just there if you do.
 
I did think that sorta looked like a P-38.  I miss the John Wayne bars and the pound cake Dad would sometimes save out for us kids after they'd gone out in the field...
 
So many sharp edges!  I was expecting blood, not cat hair.  I guess that they didn't learn the lessons of Isandlwana were they found that ammo should be able to be opened without tools!  I had a lovely can of .303Br from Greece that had an old-style sardine can wind-up key to open it.  All in bandoliers and clips, too.
 
It all makes perfect sense with all that cat hair for reference.
 
Well? Did you pass inspection? The other view is Kitty, is looking for a place to do some serious sittin' and thinkin'. Your imagination can fill in the blanks.

You talked about the old KA-BAR, there was an old knife from the same era made by Gerber. They had a neat way to describe the finish on the handle, "Cat Tongue Finish." It was an accurate description.
 
 
Grumpy - as long as I keep the kibble coming and the litter box clean and expend at least 10 minutes a day in worship of His Mightiness, Damncat and I are fine.  I do get deductions for not taking naps with him in mid-afternoon.  The Auld Soldier did that religiously, but, then, the Auld Soldier didn't have a day job, either.

As for the Gerber Mark III knives, there's one around here somewhere...
 
Geoff - got some cans of that Greek 30.06 laying around - same packaging.  The bulk .303 I have is POF and some Radway Green.
 
Cabela's (where I now work) has some of their house brand ammo in these cans.  I believe each can comes with the opener.

I can tell you from experience that it can take a half hour if you have to use a cold chisel to open one.
 
The brown truck of happiness dropped off a can of 8mm with no key.
Dremel, tin snips, cussin', a little blood and 340 nice shiny 174gr rounds to convert to noise.
 
That's how I used to buy ammo for my chicom AK. Chicom ammo in spam cans.

It was *basically* servicable ammo, generally speaking. I'd tend to get at least one "burper" per mag. A burper was a round that had a rough low report, lots of sparks out the end of the muzzle, and a low strike on the target.

Every once in a while, I'd get a banger. A banger was a round with a sharper than usual report that would strike high on the target.
 
As long as you didn't get a "whoompfer." That'd be where there's some noise, nothing on the target, and a bulge in your barrel, and you can't get the bolt open... at least not until the primer cap blows out enough to have a whirlwind of gas blasting back through the bolt, testing all those safety features as it blows out the magazine.
 
"Just insert the tip along the edge and pull the knife back towards you."

Pull it toward you?
Really??
Let me just do that, as soon as I look down the barrel of my gun to make sure it's not loaded.....
Geeez, John.
0>;~}
 
Yeah, Sly, *toward* you.  I suppose you could do it going *away* from you... except then if the tip slips free, it's popping up towards your face.

Whereas, if you are pulling the knife back *towards* you, the blade cuts *down* into the can.  Remember what we're after here - I'm not talking stab the can vertically and just try to muscle it back, which *is* a great way to have fun with sharp objects (this being the stitching needle) I'm talking about one stab in along the edge to make the hole, then, using the tip as a fulcrum inside the can, push down on the knife.  Then reset and repeat, until you have the can open.
 
 Og sez:
"You can also just take a little die grinder and grind off the outer edge of the seam. The top will come off in one piece then. 

Doesn't work on the ones that are soldered, only the crimped ones."
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Darnit, Og, that was my gig.
Oh, well. That's whatcha get for coming late to the party.
 

Like taking the lid off of a can of paint, eh?  Why use a knife at all then?  (And run the risk of SWWBO's rath when you cut yourself) Why not just use a flat screwdriver -- or a stiff-blade paint scraper, if you're looking for more lift from the width of the blade?
Course I'd just use the blade like an opener, put the blade in to the curve then leverage down, using the back of the blade as the fulcrum, splitting the metal until just the tip was inside, then slide forward, leverage down, rinse and repeat.

Oh, and Og?  They make can openers that do that nowadays.  My Pop had one.  They work pretty good.
0>;~}

 
I learned that from owning a can opener that can opens a can by shearing off the crimp, which leaves a lid that can be touched without slicing yourself. You can even tape the lid back down onto the can.
 

100 years from now they will still be finding perfect Warsaw pact ammo lying around. It's impressive the steps they took to preserve their ammo.

 
The Engineer stuck the blade of the knife into the can, gently pulling the blade toward him, then made a series of nicks in the corners as he came to them, and then continued slicing it open.
It was like opening a time capsule, because while John talked us through it, each item he described (the cardboard, the way the rounds were wrapped) was just as he said it would be.
This particular box was from 1942.  All the rounds we were able to pull out (he didn't open it all the way, just partly) were pristine.

The Young Man enjoyed shooting the rifle, even though it has a wicked kick.  He was amazed that I bought it for him, but an AR-15 was a tad too much for the budget right now.  I couldn't resist the rifle though...new in the crate, still smelling of that oil.  The memories that brought back of Dad cleaning his guns after hunting or target shooting...well, suffice it to say the Young Man has a piece of history.
 
 hmm reminds me once i get back stateside i need to stock up on ammo. 2 years in korea isn't gonna help my weapons qual but 30 days leave on the range just might.