There are four types of Jerry Cans:
- USGI plastic military fuel can (MFC)
- NATO style fuel can
- USGI steel military fuel can (aka "Blitz" cans)
- French fuel can
Each of the above four cans have different pour spouts and only one of these pour spouts is compatible with 2 jerry cans.
Typically jerry cans will not safely and efficiently pour fuel without their corresponding pour spout, especially if you are refueling a vehicle that uses unleaded fuel. Therefore, it's important for you to know what kind of jerry can you have or plan to buy so that you get the correct pour spouts and pour spout replacement gasket.
In addition, there are 2 types of jerry can holders. The military designed holder will hold all types of jerry cans, both for fuel and water; the civilian version will only hold the Blitz style fuel can.
Note: California residents are no longer allowed to buy any of these jerry cans unless the corresponding spouts meet the new California Air Resources Board (CARB) spill-proof spouts. Although CARB spouts are available that fit some jerry cans, discussion of these CARB approved spouts is out of scope for this FAQ since these spouts are not a military standard.
USGI plastic Military Fuel Can (MFC):
The plastic MFC is the current US military fuel can and like its brother, the USGI plastic military water can (MWC), is very tough and very durable. It's much lighter than the steel jerry can and rust and corrosion are not a consideration with the plastic can. Another advantage of the USGI cans is that plastic is much less noisier than metal cans.
These cans are made by the same USGI water can manufacturer, Scepter of Canada. Research noted that the sources for these new cans are: Brigade Quartermaster (BQ), Davidson Products and Generator Joe. With an average cost of $39 with combination sales of both the can and spout for about $45.
The main difference between the MFC and MWC is that the fuel can has three handles vs. water can's one and a different spout cap size and threads. Caps are not interchangeable between the 2 cans.
Used plastic MFC's can be purchased at Major Surplus for about $10 each and are usually used for diesel fuel.
According to Scepter, the gasket material is different for diesel vs. gas. Although there are no MIL markings on them, they are made by Scepter and have the same dimensions, cap/spout interface etc. as the USGI MFC.
The USGI MFC cans meet the US Federal specification A-A-59592, Can, Fuel, Military: 20-liter Capacity, dated August 28, 2000. This specification supersedes the previous Military specification MIL-C-53109. Both of these specifications are in the public domain and should be available at any public library. See figure 1 for a drawing and dimensions of the USGI MFC.
This can has a 3.4 external (male) thread for the cap and designed to use a female threaded pour spout. This pour spout is not compatible with any other jerry can. The USGI MFC also has an internal female thread. This female thread pattern and size is compatible with the old Blitz style male threaded spouts. See figure 2 for the external thread and dimensions; note that the internal female threads are not shown on this figure.
Another advantage of the USGI MFC is that there are adapter cap assemblies available to turn the MFC into a spare fuel tank for your vehicle. These products are available from Davidson Products. A complete adapter cap assembly with hoses etc. costs apx $80, or you can get the adapter cap itself without hoses for about $25.
The USGI MFC has three pour spouts designed for them. Note that for unleaded gas powered vehicles in the US, you will need the smallest pour spout. Replacement gaskets are available directly from Scepter; gaskets for gasoline cans are about $4.95 each with diesel gaskets are about $1.95 each. The gaskets for gasoline cans are made of viton.
NATO Style Jerry Cans:
These steel cans are the current NATO spec cans used throughout NATO member nations in Europe. The NATO cans shape is similar to, but very slightly thinner, than the USGI MFC. The NATO cans will fit all military style jerry can holders.
This can is constructed of 2 sides welded together in the middle. The welded seam is leakproof unlike the early US steel jerry cans with their rolled seams. The design of this can has remained essentially unchanged since before WWII.
The main difference between these steel cans and USGI plastic cans, besides the material, is the pour spout. The NATO cans have a trapezoidal shaped locking cam cap and pour spout design. This design is very robust and leakproof, assuming the gasket is in good shape. The gasket for the NATO locking cap and the pour spout are the same. The NATO can gasket is different from the USGI MFC and the steel Blitz style can cap and spout gasket discussed below.
Used NATO cans are available on-line from several sources, notably Major Surplus and Cheaper than Dirt. Prices vary from $10-$15 each. CTD also has Israeli new cans for $60 for four cans. One thing to watch for when buying used cans is that the internal coating may be flaking off the insides. If so, you'll either need to remove all of the flaking and replace it and/or take steps to not contaminate your fuel with the paint flakes when refueling. Major Surplus also have the pour spouts for about $7 each plus the can cap and pour spout gaskets for $.95 each.
Both the USGI MFC and NATO cans are available in 10 liter (2.5 gallon) size cans. These cans are the same dimensions for width and length but are not as tall. They will fit all military style can holders. They are useful for those that may have trouble moving or using the +40 lb. cans when full or don't need the full 20 liter capacity.
New NATO style steel fuel cans are available from Back Country Trailers and others. These cans are made by Wedco and they are very sturdy, very robust cans. Recent cost of these cans was $41 each. These cans also will not leak when the gasket is in good shape. Back Country has the pour spouts for $15 each and the gaskets for $1.95 each, both are compatible with the NATO style cans. The Wedco cans have a gold colored anodized locking pin that ensures the cap stays locked. These locking pins are not on the NATO cans. The camming action of the cap doesn’t necessitate this safety pin, but it does add confidence that your can won't inadvertently open under rough off-road conditions.
USGI Steel Blitz cans:
These cans are the former US military standard jerry cans. This can has been around for decades. They are made of steel with a vertical edge on the bottom. This civilian can is the same as the military can except for the color of the paint and the thickness of the metal. Military cans have thicker steel material and are olive drab in color. This can has a male threaded cap and it is different than either the USGI plastic can or the NATO/Wedco cans. See figure 8 for a picture of the Blitz style pour spout. The Blitz style pour spout, as noted earlier, will fit the female internal threads of the USGI MFC; the MFC spout will not fit the Blitz style can, however.
SurvivalMonkey stated that their experience "with the Blitz style cans is that they leak. They leak with the cap on and they leak when refueling."
French Military Jerry Can:
SurvivalMonkey had no experience with this can other than the picture at the Cheaper than Dirt catalog. The CTD catalog clearly states that the French can pour spout is not compatible with the NATO cans that they also sell. These cans go for about $10-$15 used. These cans are not recommended due to being built by the French, no known pour spout available and no known cap and spout gasket available. Not a recommended fuel jerry can.
Please see http://www.survivalmonkey.com/portable_fuel_storage.htm for more details.
From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper ;-}