Bury a gun and ammo
for 15 years
(and be assured everything still works when you dig it up)
By Charles Wood
Back in the early 1990s the outlook for the nation in general and gun
owners in particular seemed rather grim to many people. A few years
earlier in 1986, Congress had banned civilians from owning newly
manufactured machine guns. There was ever more strident talk of banning
semi-automatic weapons or so called assault weapons. Many of us regarded a
semi-automatic rifle as the foundation of a home defense battery. Many of
us believed that more laws banning ever more types of guns were imminent.
About that time I acquired a Ruger Ranch Rifle through a private sale. I
decided to stash it away in a safe place just in case my worst fear was to
another gun ban.
The general location of the pipe after the
logging was done. It would have
I had had a better method of locating the pipe.
First order of business was to decide how I would prepare the gun for
long-term storage and where I would store it. I decided that for maximum
security I needed to bury it. This would keep it safe from all but the
most determined government goons. I set about finding an appropriate
location. I live in a fairly remote, wooded rural area in the northeast.
One day as I was walking in the woods I noticed a hemlock tree had blown
down and been uprooted by a recent windstorm. There was a small crater
about eight feet across and three feet deep where the root ball had been
torn out of the ground. It occurred to me that this would be a good spot
for my rifle.
Since I now had the location, I began preparing the rifle for storage. I
bought a piece of 6-inch diameter schedule 40 PVC pipe, end caps, and PVC
solvent from a hardware store in another town where I had never done
business before. Being in a rural area where everyone knows everyone I
didnít want to arouse any suspicions about what I was up to. I then
disassembled the rifle and completely coated every metal part with a rust
preventative oil intended for storing unused machinery in damp locations.
This oil dries to form a waxy coating. I was extra careful that the bore
was completely coated. I wanted to vacuum-pack the rifle as extra
insurance against rust. As it turned out my employer had just taken
delivery of a mainframe computer that happened to be
wrapped in a large aluminized mylar bag for shipping. This proved to be
Here is the top of the pipe uncovered with
and winch attached.
perfect material for my
purpose. I discovered that with a warm iron I could fuse the edges of this
material into a custom-fitted airtight bag for the rifle. I placed each
individual component of the partially disassembled rifle in its own
custom-made mylar bag with a small bag of silica gel desiccant to absorb
any moisture present. Using my shop vac and an iron I managed to produce a
professional-looking vacuum-packing job. The barreled action, stock,
trigger assembly, hand guard, magazines, scope, and mounts all went into
Since the rifle was so heavily preserved I knew I would need something to
degrease it with when I finally retrieved it so I included two small cans
of 1-1-1 Trichlorethane in the package. Also, since a rifle is of little
use without ammunition, several thousand rounds of .223 were included.
Because every well-maintained rifle needs to be cleaned and oiled
occasionally, I added a cleaning rod, patches, Hoppeís #9 solvent, gun
oil, grease, and ownerís manual. A set of reloading dies was included as
well. If dire circumstances required me to retrieve my rifle I wanted to
be sure that I would have everything at hand necessary to put it into
service. All of the individually wrapped components were sealed together
into a larger mylar bag custom-made for the purpose along with a couple
more medium-sized bags of desiccant. A few bags of ammo were taped to the
side of this bag and the entire thing was wrapped in duct
tape. Additional ammo was packed into zip lock freezer bags.
The pipe was carefully sawn open to
it remained watertight after
With everything prepared I was ready to load the pipe. I first put in a
large bag of desiccant followed by several bags of ammo, followed by the
bag containing the rifle and supplies. Since there was some empty space
surrounding the rifle, I dumped in some loose ammo just to fill the voids.
More bags of ammo were then added to fill the pipe. Since I had a tank of
nitrogen available, I also purged the air from the tube with the nitrogen
before sealing it. This was undoubtedly overkill but I had it available so
I used it. I took extreme care while using the PVC solvent to insure that
the caps were perfectly sealed and watertight. Finally, I painted the pipe
black, and at this point, 15 years later, Iím not sure why.
I loaded the sealed pipe in the back of my truck and drove up into the
woods to the downed hemlock tree previously selected. With a post hole
digger I dug a hole about six feet deep and a foot in diameter in the
center of the crater left by the root ball of the tree. After gently
placing the pipe in the hole, I carefully pulled the tree upright using a
chain attached to my truck. By this time the tree had died and most of the
needles had fallen off. Once returned to vertical it was pretty stable and
a little dirt and debris shoveled around the edges did the trick. In any
healthy, well-managed forest there are always a few standing dead trees,
so this one would not arouse the curiosity of
anyone who hunted or hiked there.
The contents of the pipe, still in the
I never told anyone what I had done and I didnít write down the location
anywhere. About five or six years later I had a timber harvest. I had my
consulting forester mark the tree as a wildlife tree so it wouldnít be
disturbed by the loggers. It was, after all, popular with the Pileated
Woodpeckers. It has been 15 years since I buried the rifle and I have
recently had another timber harvest. The tree was quite rotted by this
time and it didnít survive the harvest. I had been keeping an eye on it,
so when it finally fell I marked a nearby tree so I could find it again
after the loggers left. Even careful logging causes quite an upheaval in
the forest and it can be difficult to locate a specific spot after all the
landmarks have been changed. After the logging crew had left it took me
several days with a shovel and a rake to locate the rifle. In hindsight, I
should have had some additional way of locating it. Since the top of the
pipe was about three feet below ground level, my old metal detector wasnít
much help. I decided that it would be interesting to retrieve the rifle
and see how well my storage plan had worked.
I managed to locate the very rotted stump beneath the logging debris and
started digging. Once I located the top of the pipe I excavated around it
about a foot on all sides and to a depth of about a foot below the top of
the pipe. I attached a noose of polypropylene rope and used the winch on
my truck and a convenient log to slowly pull the pipe out of the ground.
After all these years the soil was still very loose around the pipe and it
was relatively easy to pull it out. I could have accomplished it without
the winch had it been necessary. After removing the pipe, I filled the
hole with logging debris and covered it up with some loose hemlock boughs
to prevent someone from
falling into it.
All components were individually wrapped
The contents show no adverse
after spending 15 years underground.
Back at the house I hosed off the mud and prepared to saw the pipe open.
Using a handsaw, I very carefully cut completely around one of the caps. I
didnít want to damage the contents by being too enthusiastic.
With the cap removed it was immediately obvious that no moisture had
gotten into the pipe. I carefully slid the contents out on to a table for
examination. After unwrapping the duct tape and removing the outer bag, it
was obvious that all was OK. All of the individual packages were unwrapped
to reveal the contents were as good as the day they were packaged.
So if you think it is necessary, you can store a rifle safely for long
periods in harsh environments. A little attention to detail, some
scrounged materials, and a few dollars in supplies are all it takes.