Make your own low budget survival kit using empty shotshells

I guess anyone who is into survival and bushcraft has seen similar ideas come by in books* or on social media. Therefore this little project is nothing new, but nonetheless a fun one to do yourself. With just a few simple tools you can fabricate some low cost and cool looking shotshell containers in no time.

I personally like to keep a few of these little containers in the pockets of my life jacket. They are in the jacket together with more handy items, but that is a story all by itself.

Of course you will need some material to work with, which is probably the biggest challenge in this project.
Empty 12 gauge shotshells can sometimes be found in places where hunters are active, but luckily nowadays most hunters will take their discarded shells back home, leaving less plastics in nature. So to get hold of some, it’s best to just ask around. I asked a local hunter if he could help me and a week later I got a bag full of empty shotgun shells for free.

Once you have got your hands on the goods, the rest is easy.

For this particular project I made three different kits; a fire kit, fishing kit and sewing kit. I did use some extra materials that you may or may not have lying around, but are often very cheap on Ebay and such.

Materials used are as follows:

For the survival fire kit
Two 12 gauge shotgun shells
Duct tape (a cheap copy in my case)
Some thin polyester rope
Cotton balls
Ferrocerium rod toggle
Tea light candle

For the survival sewing kit
Two 12 gauge shotgun shells
Some thin polyester rope
Safety pin

For the survival fishing kit
Two 12 gauge shotgun shells
Duct tape
Fishing line
Assortment of hooks
Assortment of sinkers
Small fishing lure

Of course these are just examples, and best is to let your own imagination go wild and make your own kit.

But enough for the babbling, time for some crafting!

All three containers are basically the same and you can make them as follows.

Use something small and pointy to remove the primer cap from one of the two shot shells. This can be done by using a hammer and a long nail or an old screw driver. As long as it is small enough to fit through the hole in which the primer cap houses. Make sure you remove the primer cap from the inside out. It is best if you have a piece of wood with a hole underneath, so you can push the primer cap through. 

After removing the primer cap you will have a hole to which you can later attach a lanyard.

Step two is to cut the shells to the desired length. The shell without the hole in it will become the lid of your container and the one with the hole the main body of your container (for the fishing kit I did it the other way around). For the cutting I used a box cutter/utility knife which worked great. Cut of the crimped part from the shell with the hole, this part will form the body. If you do not remove the crimped part the lid will not fit.
Cut the shell without the hole about a centimetre above the brass casing, this part will form the lid. 
From here on I refer to the small part as ‘the lid’, and large part ‘the body’.  

You now have the two parts of your container and this is where your bushcraft skills need to come into action. Find yourself a stick which is slightly thicker than the shotshell. Cut a tapered point to your stick and press the point into the body. Doing so stretches the material a bit making the opening of the shell wider. Now using a lighter, slightly heat the opening of the body, with the stick in it. After it cools down the material will stay in its new form.

Heat the outside of the lid ever so slightly. Doing so will make the material shrink just a little. Don’t heat it too much or hold the flame too close to the material. You don’t want the plastic to melt or deform all too much.

Now press the lid into the body of your container. If it’s to tight a fit you can repeat the previous steps. The cap should however be a tight fit though so don’t over do it .

If it all fits then it is time to dress it up a little.

For the fire kit I used a little ferrocerium rod toggle which I once bought on Ebay. Of course you can always use a tiny ferrocerium rod that fits in the container, or even some matches if you like.

I used some nylon cord for the lanyard. Just feed it through the hole, from which you removed the primar cap, and tie a knot on the inside. For the fire kit I cut the lanyard on the outside so I can remove the washer and toggle. I find it easier to use them that way. The storage space in the body can now be stuffed with cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. I wrapped the outside of the container with some duct tape which can also be used for starting a fire when you are in a pinch. You can go even further and transform the lid of your container in a candle. I did so by removing the wick of a tea light candle. After that I melted the candle itself. Placed the wick with the little metal plate in the bottom of the lid and filled it with the molten candle wax. Let it solidify and you got yourself a little survival candle.

I like to light a piece of the cotton ball and with that light the candle. After which I use the candle to light my kindling.

The sewing kit is basically the same but instead of duct tape, it is wrapped with waxed thread and inside the container there are things like safety pins, needles and buttons.

For the fishing kit I attached the lanyard to the lid. I did it so I will not accidentally lose it when I use the kit as a little hobo fishing reel. Also the lanyard is longer on this kit, so I can slip it over my wrist. On the outside it is wrapped with a few meters of fishing line and in the container I keep an assortment of hooks, sinkers and swivels. I used the cutoff part from one of the shells to cover the fishing line. Just cut it open lengthwise and clip it over the thread. A little rubber band keeps it in place. 

So there you have it. Three little survival kit containers made from empty shotshells. I hope this post was inspiring and you will start crafting your own little survival kit.

Keep in mind, these are just fun projects and in no way a substitute for a well thought out survival kit. If however it is all you have with you than it is definitely better then nothing.

*My own inspiration for doing these little projects comes from the books from James Ballou. 

Stay wild & creative,


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