That time the Army packed guns like sardines for long term storage (PHOTOS)

As any gardener will tell you, when you want to save a bumper crop for a rainy day, can some of the best of the harvest and put it away for later — and Uncle Sam took that advice.

In the years immediately after World War II, the U.S. military constricted in size from 12 million uniformed men and women in 1945 to just 1.5 million by 1947. This left a lot of relatively brand new hardware on the surplus list and, while Washington gave shiploads of gear to overseas allies looking to rebuild their own forces for the looming Cold War, there were still stateside warehouses stacked to the ceiling with everything from bullets to blankets.

In a move to test out ways to preserve small arms for future generations, Springfield Armory spent much of the late 1940s working on long-term storage containers which essentially canned racks full of guns, ready to use. This included packing 10 M1 Garands complete with their required accessories, into sealed air-tight metal canisters alongside bags of desiccant.

Garand, rifles

The can-o-Garand held 10 rifles and weighed 175-pounds when loaded. (Photos: Springfield Armory National Historic Site)

Garand, rifles

The loaded cans were tested by dropping them, end over end, onto a concrete road, and lengthways onto iron rods and 4×6″ timbers.

Garand, rifles

They were then submerged in 140-degree water and monitored for relative humidity build-up through sensors threaded into the sealed can.

Garand, rifles

Likewise, similar cans could hold 10 M2 Carbines. Note the slings and bags of desiccant.

M1918A2, BAR, rifles

Or five M1918A2 BARs, complete with bipods and magazines.

M2, machine gun

They could also accommodate a single .50-caliber M2, some assembly required.

1911, pistol, .45acp

Or 20 M1911A1 .45ACP pistols and 40 magazines. According to Springfield Armory National Historic Site, SA canned 59,920 M1911A1s at a cost of $1.57 each. Each can weighed some 90-pounds.

While, interestingly, the nature of the canning process allowed the guns to be stored cosmoline-free, the containers were susceptible to damage.

Garand, rifles

Here we see the inside of a can-o-Garand that was dropped twice, resulting in spilled desiccant and a damaged rifle.

Still, at least you can dream of coming across an old warehouse somewhere with a bunch of giant dusty old cans, each with an Army Ordnance Dept bomb and some worn stenciling.

Just look for a big can opener.

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