High Density Weapon Storage: Basic Understanding

Proper design, material selection and system configuration is critical to long term performance.

High density weapon storage systems are like cars and trucks.

There are truck systems and there are car systems. Both are very good at doing what they are design to do. A 1-ton pickup truck with duallys will easily carry huge loads and lots of people and gear over rough terrain but will struggle when a mom with 3 kids is trying to park at the grocery store and vice-verse for the Toyota Corolla.

Big problems occur when you start trying to use the Corolla to haul 40 sheets of plywood. The same thing holds true for high density weapon storage solutions. It is critical to get the system that meets the performance requirements of the application.

We have been brought into many armories to fix failed weapon rack systems. Often the cause of failure can be attributed to the installation of a high density system that was not designed for military environments. The fault in this case should not be on the system itself but on the shoulders of the people who recommended, designed, sold and installed it.

Lack of experience is the root of all evil in military weapon rack systems.

Real armory design and building experience is not easy to get. Most civilian contractors are hesitant to look at military bases and facilities as a source of knowledge. If you are not comfortable with the setting and do not know how to get access you will simply focus your selling elsewhere. When the phone rings and a military unit needs a new weapon rack system these people go in to make the sale. Based on their office and filing storage experience, they evaluate the needs , look at the weight load and recommend a system that will easily carry the load. In many cases they are unknowingly making critical mistakes. See: How to evaluate a sales rep's competence

Most high density storage system salesmen simply do not know what a military weapon storage armory is.

It is not the same as a hospital, law or records office, where they spend most of their time installing mobile aisle systems.

Consider Military armories as an off road application

In a military armory it is not as much about weight and total load as it is about impact.

A tractor trailer can move very heavy loads over smooth roads but will fail quickly on a rocky off road excursion.

Consider military armories as an off road application.

Military armories require heavy duty high density systems with all steel components and end panels.

A proper military grade mobile aisle system should require at a minimum:

  • 5" dual flanged wheels
  • full length steel drive axles
  • All steel welded carriages
  • All Steel end-panels
  • Decking should be rubber or VCT tile - never uncovered plywood.

Understanding how it works

The basics: A mobile aisle system consists of steel rails (tracks) mounted to or embedded in the floor. Steel carriages holding weapon racks, shelving, modular drawers etc. roll on the tracks.

This is a typical military armory where growth in weapons and gear is exceeding arms room capacity. Here weapon racks are configured in rows with narrow aisles between them. There is barely room for the armorer's desk. This is a tight difficult space to work in.

This is the same arms room where the weapon racks have been mounted to a high density mobile aisle system. By using this system and only creating an aisle where you need it, there is a great deal of re-claimed space. Now the arms room has 2 work benches with a modular drawer cabinet between them and an area with wide span shelving. The drawers are used for tools, optics, NVGs and other gear. The shelving can be used for cases, mounts and other large pieces of equipment.

Electric vs. mechanical assist.

There are two types of mobile aisle systems used in armories; electric and mechanical assist.

Electric system use electric motors to move the carriages, mechanical assist use a gear driven system with a manual wheel that you turn to move the carriages.

Electric systems are complex, require programming and regular maintenance. In the event of a power outage the system will not work. Battery backup units can be installed, these will give a bit of time but not much.

Mechanical systems are the best choice for most armory applications. They are simple, low maintenance and faster to operate then electric systems. They also do not require any power. If your armory houses a security, rapid response or reaction force, then a mechanical system is the only choice. In the event of the power being cut you will still be able to get to the weapons.

For the most part mechanical assist is the best choice.

Clam Shell or Cube systems.

A cube or clam shell system uses mobile carriages and open weapon racking or weapon storage cabinets without doors. The system is secured by closing the aisles and locking the carriages. The system is set up so there is no gap between adjacent carriages and weapon racks. When closed the system forms a tight secure cube.

Cube systems allow for fast access to a lot of weapons and gear. These system work well for security force armories as well and reaction force and rapid response teams.

There are many options and considerations when evaluating a mobile aisle system. It is very important that the storage specialist you are working with has a lot of experience with military weapon storage. Also see Evaluating Salesman Competence.

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