Anyone who has been hanging around the interwebz for any amount of time, especially on YouTube, has come across dozens and dozens of ‘how to cache guns’ videos that revolve around getting some PVC pipe, a couple end caps, some adhesive/sealant, and making a
potato gun burial cache. In retrospect, I’m surprised there are as many videos as there are on the subject since once you buy the materials there’s pretty much only one way to assemble the darn things. A year or so back, I stumbled upon the website of an outfit that makes burial vaults for guns and, amazingly, didn’t use the now-standard formula of PVC pipe and endcaps. An outfit in Idaho (go figure) was making a product called MonoVault and unlike the PVC creations, it was a purpose built container, not repurposed hardware from aisle 12 at Home Depot, made for creating a stash of valuables and gear.
I recently got the opportunity to finally get my hands on not one, but two of the MonoVaults. My main interests in them were pretty much what you’d expect:
- How much gear can I get in there?
- How well protected from the elements will it be?
- How durable and rugged will it be under the kind of harsh conditions I’d expect?
- How easy is it to transport?
These aren’t innocent questions…if you’re going to stash valuables with a significant dollar value into a burial tube, and trust your life to those same valuables being in good condition when the time comes to retrieve them, then you wanna know you’re not throwing your hard-earned money into some cheesy geegaw that is gonna leave you with a pile of rusted metal, rodent-damaged freeze-drieds, shorted-out batteries and wet, moldy clothing.
The MonoVaults come in two diameters and several lengths….short and stubby to hold just a pistol and some important documents, to long enough to accommodate just about any man-portable shoulder arm. Advantage over a Pelican case? Well the Pelican case is awesome for gun storage and hard to beat. But, that’s what its for – gun storage. A cache is usually more than just a rifle and a couple mags. It might look like this: rifle, mags, clothes, food, knife, flashlight, batteries, cash, pistol, ammo, web gear, backpack, maps, compass, first aid kit and a pair of boots. Thats the sort of loadout that doesn’t quite fit in a Pelican 1760 once you stuff a rifle in it. So for storing guns, there are as-good-or-better options out there, like the Pelican case, but for stashing guns and gear together this MonoVault is a handy option.
One of the greatest attractions of the MonoVault product was that while PVC pipe pretty much maxes out at around 8″, the MonoVaults were significantly wider….this meant that things like ARs and AKs could be stored without having to have their protruding pistol grips removed. When things in your life hit the stage where you have to recover a cache of hidden guns and gear, you’re probably also at a stage where you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to do little things like re-assembling pistol grips on rifles.
While this product and the classic PVC cache tubes are supposed to be airtight and watertight, it is always, in my opinion, a good idea to pack them as if they were not. That means that anything that is vulnerable to moisture or dirt should get packed in some type of protective container and then stored in a tube. I suppose there are times when the suspenders-and-a-belt approach might slow down your recovery of things from hidden cache but I bet its less inconvenient than finding your clothing wet and mildewed, your first aid supplies full of bugs, and guns bright orange with rust.
When I told the missus about these things being on the way, she asked me what they were. I said “Imagine a 5-gallon bucket with a Gamma Seal lid on the top. Now imagine that bucket being four feet tall.” I thought that was a succinct way of describing it and now that they’re here, I was way wrong. How wrong? Well I don’t think the 5-gallon bucket has been made with the wall thickness of these things. When I got the box off the UPS truck I whipped out a box cutter, opened the box and tried to lift the MonoVaults out of the box. They..uhm..were a …errr….a bit too heavy for that. (Or, more accurately, I was too weak.) Now, in my defense, the 130 was inside the 248 so I was trying to lift a fairly heavy four foot long object out of a four foot long box and..y’know, let’s forget about that, whats important here is that they arrived.
Nothing kills like overkill and this is one of the very, very few times I have gotten a piece of gear and thought “Okay, that may have been a bit much.” The Model 248 is huge. I mean huge. Paint it white, glue some PVC pipe to it and you could passably camouflage it as a water softener or hot water heater. I think that if you filled it to capacity with gear you would probably be unable to move the darn thing..it’s huge. The Model 130, by comparison, was much more portable but still looks like it’ll hold a respectable quantity of gear.
The MonoVaults are one-piece construction with a gasketed screw-on lid at the top. In addition to the Gamma Seal lid, there is a second lid, a cap really, that goes over the top of the unit to protect it and, presumably, to allow you to keep the Gamma Seal lid free of dirt and debris when you bury it,and to protect it from damage. You’d dig down to your cache, dig the dirt from around the cap (referred to as a ‘burial shield’ in the literature), lift up the cap and theres your screw-top lid ready to be removed and provide access to your goodies. It’s a well-thought out design.
The walls of the MonoVault are 1/4″ thick. That thickness makes the walls of the MonoVault rigid and very resistant to flexing. I laid the Model 248 down, rested my hands on it in a “CPR compression” type position and pushed down as hard as I could. There was just the slightest hint of flex. Interestingly, my flat Pelican cases exhibit much more ‘crush flex’ in the same circumstance. No doubt the round, cylindrical shape of the MonoVault distributes the forces against it in a different way. In terms of protecting-my-stuff-in-a-wreck I would think this thing is going to offer more or better protection than my Pelican 1760 or 1720.
One of my concerns about the MonoVaults was that there appeared to be no real place for ‘purchase’ on them….they are smooth-sided cylinders that don’t really have any place on them to get a grip. Now that I have them in front of me, I can see that at the top of the MonoVault, a couple inches down from the lid, is a ‘waist’ or ‘coke bottle’ groove running around the MonoVault that appears perfect for looping some rope or paracord around. That should go a long way towards making raising/lowering these things into the ground a bit easier.
So what will fit into these things? Well, since they come from a website called ‘storeguns.com’ I would reckon that we should put some thundertoys in there and see how they go. Most PVC-style caches/burial tubes are too narrow for anything with a pistol grip. Common practice is to remove the pistol grip or break the gun down into its larger component parts. (Such as splitting up your AR into its upper/lower receiver components.) Absolutely, definitely, most assuredly NOT necessary with the Model 248. Heck, man…I can fit my head through that thing and not even hit the edges. AR (with carry handle mounted!), AK, HK, SKS all fit with room to spare. How much room to spare? I stacked the two ARs, one on top of the other, and they slide right in. Same for the other long guns. About the only thing that isn’t going to fit in there is a SMAW (although it looks like an AT-4 will fit nicely.) Guns that do not have protruding pistol grips will fit right in and I’d bet you could fit enough 870s in the Model 248 to equip a pretty decent sized group of people.
The biggest drawback that I can see, in the Model 248, is that it really is just so huge. This is the sort of thing that if you were going to use it as a cache, and filled it with all the gear you’d want and that this thing could hold, you be rocketting past the limits of man-portability. You’re gonna need two, maybe three, guys to help you hump one of these things into the boonies, dig the hole, and lower it in. It is not a one-man job unless that man was formerly married to Maria Shriver. However, once you figure out where you’re going to put this thing, and once you get it there, you’ll have plenty of room for a large amount of gear. The Model 248 held a military sleep system, ILBE pack, AR-15 20″, and had room left over for other, smaller gear. Realistically, a smaller pack like a frameless ALICE, would really work well in this. The ILBE pack was flexible enough to fold in half ‘taco style’ to slide in. The rigid frames on an ALICE or MOLLE pack would be too wide.
A quick segue here – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I wanted to see if I could get a compressed military sleep system into the Model 248. It was … challenging. Here’s some photos showing the progression:
Yes, it went in…and it was like trying to stuff an unconscious Oprah Winfrey into a pair of wet blue jeans. Still, that was a piece of cake compared to the nightmare of getting the damn thing out. That was like trying to help a chihuahua give birth to a great dane. See, the GammaSeal has smooth plastic that funnels things into the tube, but when you try to pull them out it meets the abrupt sharp edges of the plastic ring that the lid screws into…kinda like a minnow trap. Every buckle and stitched webbing bartack would catch on that thing and it was a major pain to get that sleep system carrier outta there. Made all the more difficult because the MonoVault is smooth-sided so finding something to grasp for leverage was right outta the question. Yes, the military sleep system will fit. Do yourself a favor, put it in one piece at a time. Seriously. Moving on, now.
The Model 248, the largest MonoVault offered, is pretty darn huge…but there are several more sizes between the 130 and the 248. There’s a size in there somewhere that will probably meet your needs. You dont have to get the biggest one, I just wanted the biggest one so I could see what was available. Some of the smaller sizes might be prove to have even more utility than the larger sizes, depending on your anticipated needs. A smaller-but-still-very-handy size is the Model 130.
The Model 130 is a smaller version of the 248. How smaller? Well, the Model 130 was shipped inside the Model 248. The 130 is definitely a more man-portable version of the 248. Smaller in length and diameter, the 130 has about 40% of the volume of the 248, but it is far easier to carry around, and probably a lot easier to hide. With it’s reduced capacity you arent going to fit as much in it as the 248 but you can still get a respectable amount of gear. A broken-down AR with mags, a day pack, ammo, freeze drieds, some clothes and a pair of boots all fit and depending on how you pack your stuff (and what stuff you pack) there’s definitely enough space to hold enough gear to make your life easier in a crisis.The 130 is large enough to hold a folder 10/22 or other long gun with side folding stock, or a broken down AR carbine. In addition, there’s room leftover for a few essentials…not as many as you could stuff in the Model 248, but definitely enough space to get a long gun, pistol, some amo, warm clothing, a few freeze drieds, and a couple other niceties.
The 130 isn’t so large it won’t fit on an ALICE frame and cargo shelf for transport. When shouldered, the top of the Model 130 is only a few inches over head height. Kinda looks like a SADM package, doesn’t it? This would probably be the easiest way to transport it to wherever you’re planning on burying/stashing it. Since it can be carried by one person it eliminates the need for helpers. As the man said, three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Save yourself the headache, keep it a one-man job.
The monoVault folks didn’t do anything half-assed. Stuffing guns into a tube is only half the battle, the other half is making sure that the guns in the MonoVault are as well-protected from the environment as possible. To this end the MonoVault folks sent along a bunch of gear for long-term storage of guns. Just going off the invoice, we got:
- Desiccant, XL Pack, 900 grams
- Desiccant, Med. Pack, 450 grams
- Z-Corr Tactical Bag, 14″ x 49″
- Zerust Rifle Kit
- ProTect NoRust Bag, 9″ x 12″ Zip
- Ammo Can Liner by ZCorr, .50 cal.
- Humidity Indicator Card
Beats the crap out of a tube sock filled with oven-dried drywall. It is manifestly obvious that the folks selling this stuff have given some serious thought to how their product is going to be used and are logistically supporting that use. In fact, they did a bit of very interesting testing in regards to humidity…from their email:
We recommend vertical installation. We tested a series of MonoVaults with humidity and temperature sensors with automated hourly sampling for 1 year using 200g of desiccant. 7-9% humidity after 1 year, trending up at a straight line. Assuming the slope of the line would remain stable a projection of the graph suggests hitting 50% humidity at 3.5-4 years out. Backing off from that we suggest using that 200g pack only for applications less than 2 years… but go with the 900g if it fits. We generally suggest using as much as fits the budget without interfering with function. If using a vault liner we like most of the desiccant outside the liner with a smaller amount inside, e.g. with a 248 using 900g or so outside of the liner with a 200g pack inside. Desiccant / liner / desiccant / bag …makes for a multilayered system of protection. note: I have not seen it happen but it is said that desiccant can over-dry wood stocks and cause cracking or checking, though I would assume most guys aren’t caching their pre-64 Winchesters. Test location: Idaho mountains, buried, sun exposed site, hot summer, cold winter, snow pack, decomposing granite.
Pretty sure the guys selling PVC-pipe creations haven’t done actual humidity testing over the course of year. So, they’ve got you covered for more than just a burial tube. Shoot, all they need to do now is sell a soil auger bit wide enough to accommodate the Model 248 and I think they’ll have covered all the possible needs.
My impression of the MonoVaults is highly favorable. I haven’t had a chance to really smack them around a bit, but I will be doing that over the next couple weeks. When I’ve had a chance to do things like throw them out of a moving vehicle, drop them off the roof, submerge them for a few days, etc, then I’ll update things. (That’ll be the Pt II) For now, though, I am very impressed with this product. They should be strapping the Model 248 into parachute harnesses and using them for resupply drops in Afghanistan…although I think you could probably just skip the parachute and roll ‘em out the back of a low-flying cargo plane and they’d be fine.
This sort of protection and utility isn’t cheap. On one end of the scale, you have the cheapest method which is a fast trip to Home Depot’s plumbing department. On the other end of the scale, you have Pelican and Hardigg. That’s a spectrum that runs from about $40 on one end to hundreds of dollars on the other. (The Pelican 1720 in the picture was about $200 and it won’ t hold nearly as much as the Model 248. To be fair, though, its an apples/orange comparison since the Pelican is designed exclusively for one purpose – long gun storage, and the MonoVault is meant to cover a bit more ground than that) MSRP on the Model 130 is $100 and the Model 248 tops the chart at $170. These are MSRP according to the website, but I would imagine there’s a bit of latitude in the final price once you find one of these from a vendor.
Final analysis? Seems like a great product so far. I need to get to the destructive testing but I suspect it’ll handle most of it just fine…the submerged testing will be the most interesting. These things are heavy-duty and if you get the larger sizes you will almost certainly have all the room you would need for an emergency cache. If you genuinely feel the need to bury your gear, hide it in some mine shaft, under an old barn, or in the rafters of an abandoned warehouse, then this is probably the best container for the job. So far I’m very favorably impressed and look forward to beating the crap outta these things over the next couple weeks.
MonoVaults website is: storeguns.com
ETA: How can you not want to do business with an outfit that has this on their website:
Our goals are simple:
provide a quality product,
transact business honorably,
and behave loyally to these United States.
We take satisfaction in contributing to the safety, security, and preparedness of our fellow citizens.
We buy American when we can and are proud of the “Made in USA” label on most of our products.