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Unless you’re a die-hard trial-by-fire kind of individual, at some point you’ll need to organize your ammunition. You may choose to do it at the last minute; while loading mags at the firing line, for instance. Or maybe you’re so organized you apply a FIFO approach to storage and use your ammo based on date of manufacture. I lean more towards the OCD end of the spectrum and, like many others, I employ a variety of military surplus ammo cans to organize and protect my gun food.

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For the most part, I can recall what ammo lives in what can. But, as the number of cans in my collection has grown, the need for a labeling solution has become apparent. What I want is a solution that’s practically permanent…until it needs to be flexible.

Stickers are a little too permanent and can be messy, or lose their stickiness too quickly. Tape can work well, but rewriting labels over and over can be a pain. Then there are magnetic labels.

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I hadn’t considered magnetic ammo can labels a serious option until one of the awesome guys from Freedom Munitions (FM) told me about their magnetic labels while at Northwest Shooting Sports Expo (NWSSE) this summer. I ordered a set the following week. Unfortunately, FM’s selection didn’t completely cover my required range of calibers/gauges so I also purchased a set of magnetic labels from AmmoCanMagnet.com.

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AmmoCanMagnets.com (ACM), shown above, has been offering its wonderfully legible products for some time. They are well-rooted in the marketplace. Notice how the printed characters fill as much available space as possible on each magnet.

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Freedom Munitions (FM) is a newcomer in the arena of magnetic labels, but is a favored ammunition brand throughout the firearms industry. It makes perfect sense for FM to bring a labeling option to its customers, as they are obviously buying ammunition which may need to be labeled. FM’s design incorporates characters that don’t necessarily completely fill the space in all cases; however they mostly do a good job leveraging space to avoid looking squished.

A basic comparison of the two company’s offerings makes it clear that newcomer FM is entering the market with a focused set of products closely matched to their ammunition offerings, while incumbent ACM has breadth and depth across their catalog after years of operation.

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As I received each set, the first characteristic I examined was memory and curve of the magnetic material. This raw magnetic material comes on large rolls, causing the material to live in a curve until production. How the material holds this curve is its “memory.” The degree of curve across a batch of magnets may vary depending on where that specific section of material sat on the roll (farther from center = less severe curve).

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Material with a lot of memory and curve will often peel away from its host surface at the corners or an edge. This occurs when the curve is stronger than the magnetic force within the material (relative to the surface you are attempting to attach it to) and lends the label less-effective due to loss of magnetic contact surface area.

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The FM magnets had quite a bit of memory, exhibited through a substantial curve. The curve ran one direction in one size and the opposite direction in the other size. Affixing the magnets was easy, but they quickly began to peel away from the can as the memory kicked in. In most cases, the curve was more powerful than the magnetic abilities of its host material, leaving the label vulnerable to inadvertent detachment.

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ACM’s magnets also had a noticeable level of curve and memory in the material. However, it was substantially less (and weaker) than that experienced in FM’s offering. The direction of the curve was consistent across all size variations of ACM’s labels. Their magnets also tended to lay-out onto the surface of the can well and stay flat.

I believe the difference in curve, memory, and resulting magnetic contact surface area can be attributed to the thickness of the magnetic material used. ACM’s material was roughly two-thirds the thickness of FM’s magnetic material. Thicker material can lead to more memory and curve in the final product. It can also make reversing a curve more difficult.

If you’ve ever used a surplus ammo can I’m sure you are aware of their not-so-perfectly-smooth sides and latches. And the side you want to label seems to always end up the side with the seam (which is why most people attach their magnets to the can’s latches). ACM’s thinner material is more flexible and, thus, more effective at adhering to uneven surface.

While curve, memory, and how they affect the label’s magnetic capabilities are the most important factors, there are some additional attributes to take note of. Color and clarity of printing are also important and varied between brands. FM had brighter printing, but was slightly fuzzy and inconsistent. ACM’s printing was dull by comparison, but crisp. Both brands are holding up well against scratches. I did drop and step on an ACM magnet, cracking the top of it and rendering it practically inoperable.

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When we get down to brass tacks, things get a little interesting. FM magnets cost less – $0.51 less for the large/.50 cal variety; a penny less for the small/.30 cal size. However, that savings comes with a trade-off in the form of branding.

Each FM magnetic label bears their website URL, whereas the ACM product is branding-free. The FM branding doesn’t bother me one bit. The URL isn’t distracting and I am very happy with FM’s ammo. In fact, I found it useful to pair my ammo cans that held Freedom Munitions ammunition in them with the magnetic label bearing the FM branding. Now I have quick visual access to both caliber and manufacturer information. And with this material you can always trim the magnets to your liking.

To make things just a little more interesting, ACM includes a free ACM advertisement magnet with every order. And if you’re an NRA member, you can check a box at checkout and receive a free NRA magnet. These do have ACM website URLs on them in relatively small font. Each person must decide the value of these freebies for themselves.

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Magnetic labels are suddenly feeling really complicated so let’s just use the things…

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Above, a small number of unlabeled ammo cans with a variety of calibers. Below, the addition of Freedom Munitions and AmmoCanMagnets.com magnetic labels allows for much quicker identification.

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After testing the magnets for over a month on a variety of ammo cans ranging from single 7.62 NATO belt cans up to 20mm cans, it was clear that both brands of magnetic labels have their shortcomings – as does the surface of a typical ammo can. Magnetic labels do afford you the opportunity to quickly rearrange and relabel the contents of your ammo cans without a mess or new supplies. The biggest drawback I found was the propensity for the labels to fall off during handling.

However, the FM magnetic labels had a higher frequency of performance issues, I believe due to the thicker material. The flexibility afforded by the thinner ACM labels allowed them to adapt to more surface inconsistencies, and thus, they are my top choice. Personally, I will continue to use both labels, taking care to use the FM labels as a tool to identify Freedom Munitions rounds.

Specifications: Freedom Munitions Ammo Can Magnets

Price as Reviewed: $0.99/each (small & large)
Sizes Tested: Small & Large
Color Tested: Yellow on OD Green

Ratings (out of five stars):

Quality of Printing: * * *
Letters and numbers are slightly fuzzy. Spacing is okay. Colors are mostly bright, but inconsistent.

Memory/Curvature: * *
FMs labels held a high degree of memory and curvature. It adversely affected the product’s performance and is the biggest issue still to overcome. Massaging the curve seemed to help somewhat.

Magnetic Capability: * * * ½
The magnetic backing of these labels is strong enough to do the job. However, the memory of the material is overpowering.

Variety of Labels: * * *
The labels are available in a limited number of calibers. The selection closely matches FM’s ammunition selection. No additional calibers, gauges, or ‘other’ labels are planned at this time.

Variety of Sizes: * * * *
FM took a standard approach to sizing – one size each for .30 cal and .50 cal ammo cans. They do not offer supplementary or custom label sizes.

Overall: * * *
Freedom Munitions’ magnetic ammo can labels are a nice addition to their line of products. Clearly they pair well with their ammunition. I am disappointed by the product. Given this is FM’s first magnetic label offering I am confident we will see updated versions in the future.

 

Specifications: AmmoCanMagnets.com Ammo Can Magnets

Price as Reviewed: $1.00-1.50/each (.30 cal/.50 cal)
Sizes Tested: .30 cal, .50 cal, .50 cal Half-Height
Colors Tested: Yellow on OD Green, Yellow Stencil on OD Green, Black on OD Green, American Flag, NRA

Ratings (out of five stars):

Quality of Printing: * * * *
Letters and numbers are clear and mostly crisp. Spacing is good. Colors could be a little brighter.

Memory/Curvature: * * * *
Some obvious curvature and memory existed, however they were overcome by the force of the magnet. Over time, the curvature began to relent a bit and new memory formed.

Magnetic Capability: * * * 1/2
The magnetic sheeting used in these labels was strong enough to overcome the memory and curve of the material. However, the labels did fall off on occasion when bumped or brushed against.

Variety of Labels: * * * * *
ACM boasts over 500 magnetic label combinations. Their variety of choices is relevant and wide.

Variety of Sizes: * * * *
Two basic sizes help keep things simple. The .50 cal half-height is a nice addition. It would be great to see additional sizes for their non-caliber labels.

Overall: * * * *
AmmoCanMagnets.com has a great selection of magnetic labels. Based on their selection and quality of printing, I expected the magnets to be more powerful. ACM’s ability to create custom magnetic labels is one capability that helps set them apart.

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47 Responses to Gear Review: Magnetic Ammo Can Labels

  1. They need more selection. I have thousands of 12 gauge alone. They need to add 00, 4, slug, 6, 8 at a minimum. Missing a number of rifle calibers as well, but since even finding 6.5 Grendel is hard, I’m not surprised.

    • I agree – I’d definitely like to see more of a selection for smooth bore and rifled shotgun loads. At least ACM has a “Steel” label to help separate upland and waterfowl hunting loads.

        • Great question, Jeremy. Their website does not list details for custom orders but I have put a call in for more information.

          And the ACM non-caliber assortment is pretty sweet. I will probably be picking up more out of that category soon.

    • They do have a number with a white strip below the caliber. You can write with a water-soluble marker the ammo specifics. I’ve used these extensively on my giant pile of cans for differeing types of 5.56, .308, 7.62×39. Not sure if they have them for 12g.

  2. About one dollar *each*?

    And they want to un-stick themselves in use?

    A black Sharpie and a bottle of acetone at about, oh, two dollars or so is far, far cheaper over the long haul…

    • Not only is it cheaper but you can put more information.

      If it is commercially loaded ammo you can put bullet weight, and ammo type.

      For reloaded ammo you can put all the relevant information like bullet weight, powder/charge, OAL, and load date.

  3. Sandpaper, rough up paint on one or more sides of the can. Masking tape marking out rectangles on the can. Chalkboard paint, paint the rectangles. Chalk to write what you have in the can.

  4. I’ve been using ACM labels for a while. I usually buy doubles and just stick the extras to the inside of the gun cabinet.

  5. Avery business card stock, plus a box of business card size refrigerator magnets with adhesive on one side. You can get both from Amazon.

    And then you can roll your own whenever you add a new caliber or a new can of whatever.

    It’s a neat idea. Just too simple to do yourself, and too much of a hassle to add just one or two more labels if you go with a premade version.

    • I like that idea. I use business card stock to print all my load data (powder charge, bullet weight, etc.) so they could be stuck to such magnets.

  6. Stupid question – Why don’t you turn your cans around so that the magnets aren’t on the handle, and are instead on flat steel? You have enough room on top of the cans to reach the carrying handle to pull them off the shelves.

    • I believe your question is not an uncommon one. I gave it some thought when I was putting on the magnets. For me, it came down to a matter of convenience. I prefer to use the side handles so I keep them facing outward. Plus, the cans do travel to various locations and some of the storage spots don’t have room to access the top handle, or they are stacked. The 20mm cans I can use either way because they have handles on both sides.

  7. I have another question with nothing to do with the post subject. I see at least 3 different ammo cans there, and no real reference as to what they are other than your reference to 20mm. I am accustomed to .50 and .308 ammo cans only, what are those tiny ones, and just how many different ones do you exhibit here? Pretty please?

    • LOL no problem. Using the last photo for reference, there are four sizes of ammo cans. Largest to smallest:

      -20mm (Single Belt): The eight largest cans across the bottom and stacked on the right side (.22LR, 9mm, .308, MIXED, MISC, MIXED STEEL)
      -5.56 NATO (Double Belt): The two in the back corner, top shelf (16 GA, 12 GA)
      -.50 Cal (Single Belt): The six cans in the middle of the top and bottom shelves (7.62×39, .223 REM< .300 BLK, .308 WIN)
      -7.62 NATO (Single Belt): The five smallest cans across the top shelf, left side (BALNKS, .22LR, 9mm, 10mm, .300 BLK)

      • This reminds me of a really random, pedantic thought I had while looking at the photos. Some of them use a period for caliber markings and some don’t. Looks like even within the same brand (e.g. depending on the size the FM ones might have .223 or just 223 without the period/decimal point). Even in some calibers, like 300 BLK, which specifically aren’t supposed to have a period! SAAMI spec even mentions that — it’s “300 AAC BLACKOUT” or the official short name is “300 BLK.” No period 😛

  8. Think I’m going to dump my blue tape and sharpie.
    Those just look good.
    Now I’ve got to make a list….

    Thanks Conner!

  9. I put adhesive card holders on all my ammo cans, then printed out all the different calibers I shoot in, and cut them to size to label my ammo. I haven’t had any problems with the adhesive peeling off and it’s still easy to change the label when needed. You can get a 10-pack of the card holders for $3.49 on Amazon. As much as I’d like to support the guys who are selling the ammo can magnets if you have a lot of ammo cans to label the card holders will save you a bit of money

    https://www.amazon.com/Avery-Self-Adhesive-Top-Load-Business-73720/dp/B001E6BCSI

  10. I picked up a bunch of these after they were reviewed on that ‘other site’.

    I used to use painter’s tape and a sharpie, but my old eyes started not being to read those well. These (particularly the ones with the white strip for writing in specific information) make it very easy to identify down in the deep, dark cave in which my pile of cans resides. 😉

    And I have not experienced the issue with the magnets curling. That said, I ‘reversed curled’ them when they arrived. That might be what did the trick.

  11. The problem with being a “new” gun owner is how much extraneous shit you have to buy.

    I don’t really have ammo storage, and I learned pretty quickly that ammo is HEAVY when my closet shelf started to sag.

    Time to buy more gun swag, I guess.

  12. I use magnetic label holders with custom cards I print off (using a MASH-style font, of course) in the exact calibers I need. I even go so far as to list manufacture names and grain weights.

    I also turn the cans around with the flat back facing out (as Brian B mentioned above) so that I have a large flat side to work with in case I have multiple brands in the same can. Works great!

    https://smile.amazon.com/Panter-Company-Slap-Stick-Magnetic-MAG-LH-BK/dp/B00N3BI3CA/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1480467443&sr=8-14&keywords=magnetic+label+holder

  13. Just get painters tape and a sharpie. Cheap easy to remove and reapply. No sticky mess from painters tape. If you work construction just take a roll from the painters they don’t care.

  14. For everyone offering up tape as an alternative. I write out or type out what I need and use scotch tape over the white paper. Looks cleaner than masking tape and still easy to remove if swapping contents.

  15. I bought quite a few from ACM some time back when I saw a previous story on them. Mine have worked out well.

    I think the only “problem” I have is that I bought more than I needed and therefore have this urge to buy more ammo cans and fill them up. 🙂

  16. I use a code to identify my cans, this way no one will know what i have….

    Here is how it works….

    I take the caliber number, and divide it by my year of birth, then I multiply it by the moon phase of the day i stored it. this will then equate to a number which i then multiply by how many sheep i counted going to sleep on the prior night.

    I then take a paint pen that can only be seen with a UV light and write that number on the can.

    simple and effective!

  17. If I were going to store a variety of types of ammo in similar looking containers, I’d spray paint each container with a different color to signify the type of ammo. Blue=5.56×45; Purple=45ACP, etc. This might not be really practical if you were going to store 100 different types of ammo, but that’s not a problem with most folks. You’d really only need to paint the outward facing side of the box, and as another comment mentions, business card stock is a good size to record the specifics of each ammo, held in place with clear ammo. All of this assumes, of course, that I was some sort of deplorable bitter clinger.

  18. I’ve used a bunch of the old laser-printer labels and a sharpie for a long time and yes, they’re “good enough” but I’ve tried magnets too. Magnets are good for when you swap out, upgrade, or otherwise change cans a lot. As someone else said, when you’ve emptied a can, you just stick the magnet on the shelf or door until you refill the can. The yellow also really, really stands out in the back of a cabinet or in a dark place.

    Haven’t tried the “dry erase” magnets with the white bar at the bottom, but that’s sounding like a great compromise, so going to give that a try.

  19. I really like the ACM magnetic labels, and they also make sticker labels for non-magnetic containers.

    I don’t really like the website on every label from FM.

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