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Jerry Can Information

A short history of the NATO issue ‘Jerry’ can

The ‘Jerry’ can’s roots reach all the way back to the 1930s. During this time period Germany was rearming with an eye towards global war. One seemingly mundane item needed was a modern container for safely transporting liquids under very harsh conditions. While the German military had triangular metal 20 liter containers in service, they had a variety of drawbacks. Shortcomings included the shape of the containers which made stacking difficult, the handle design, lid and durability as well as how the cans were constructed. With Germany planning for a modern mechanized war on a monumental scale, logistics would be the key to success. Huge quantities of liquids (fuels, oils, solvents and water) would be required by the troops in the field.

Recognizing this need, in 1936 the Germany military responded by issuing strict requirements for a new fuel container. These included:

  1. The shape and size of the new can needed to ease both transporting and storage by allowing containers to be stacked side by side.
  2. A desired capacity of 20 liters with a filled weight of approximately 44 pounds. This would allow one man to carry a full container in each hand.
  3. Multiple handle design to allow two empty cans to be carried in each hand, one full can to be carried in each hand and to enable containers to be moved bucket-brigade style.
  4. A design with an eye towards rapid and economical mass production on a huge scale.

An engineer named Vinzenz Grunvogel working at Muller of Schwelm responded by developing a novel 20-liter (5.3 gallon) metal container in 1936. Extensive testing showed his design to be superior to the containers then in service as well as competing designs. His design would go on to be adopted across the board by the German military and would become known as the Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister.

Unlike the previous designs which were triangular in shape, Grunvogel’s design was rectangular. The sides of the can were marked with distinctive looking cross-like indentations. Rather than being for looks these strengthened the can. More importantly though they also allowed the contents to expand and contract during changes in environmental conditions. An air pocket under the handles also allows expansion of the contents when the can is filled correctly.

Another noteworthy feature is the three handle design. This was distinctly different than the previous triangular design with its single handle. The central handle allowed traditional carrying of one can in each hand. The outer handles allowed the weight of one can to be shared by two people, easing carrying over long distances. They also allowed two empty cans to be carried in each hand. Plus a large quantity of cans could be rapidly moved bucket brigade style.

To facilitate large scale mass production the design was constructed from two halves stamped from sheet steel. These were then welded together. The weld joining the two halves was placed in a central ‘gutter’. This protected it from impacts and abuse, increasing durability. In place of a conventional thread on cap Grunvogel designed an entirely new closure system. This eliminated the leaks associated with thread on caps subjected to hard military use. Grunvogel’s system consisted of a rugged cam lever locking mechanism. This secured a snap-closure lid located on top of the filler neck. His novel design proved both practical and reliable.

Another important feature of his design was an air pipe. This was incorporated neatly into the filler neck. Its purpose? It decreased the time required to pour the contents of the can while also smoothing the flow of the liquid eliminating splashing. It accomplished this by acting as a breather tube. Grunvogel neatly accomplished this without having to resort to an additional external vent which could leak.

Following its adoption Grunvogel’s Einheitskanister saw widespread use with the German military during World War II. Despite being exposed to incredibly harsh wartime conditions it performed exceptionally well on all fronts. It saw service in environments ranging from the extreme heat of the desert to the brutal cold of Russia. The Einheitskanister played a key role in keeping the German war machine fueled and rolling forward during the early years of Blitzkrieg. Grunvogel’s design allowed the rapid refueling of armored vehicles, transport vehicles, motorcycles and other military vehicles and equipment.

It wasn’t long before other countries recognized the value of Grunvogel’s design. The British first encountered them in 1940 during the fight for Norway. It was immediately clear the German design was superior to their own 4 gallon cans which they referred to as ‘flimsies’. British soldiers would use any they managed to capture from the ‘Jerries’ (Germans) in preference to their issued cans. Hence they became known as ‘Jerry Cans’ in English. The design proved so superior to their issue can the British MOD eventually copied it and placed it into production. The Soviets were equally impressed and copied it as well. Many other countries would follow their lead and in the years after the end of the war it would be adopted by NATO. Today it is not only NATO issue but a world standard as well. Popular around the world they are prized by off-roaders, military vehicle collectors, farmers, preppers and anyone else who requires a bomb-proof liquid container they know they can count on.


  1. Developed in the 1936 for the German Army the Einheitskanister replaced earlier pattern 20 liter containers (Left). The new design proved hugely successful and was widely copied. Photo courtesy Arche-foto, Burkhart Rüchel.
  2. Extremely well designed, rugged and safe the NATO Jerry can remains the world standard. PrepandMore.com is now offering 20, 10 and 5 liter Mil Spec cans with accessories.


A look at our NATO Jerry cans

The NATO Jerry can is not merely a container, but rather an iconic design which has not just endured but rather conquered the harshest conditions imaginable. Handsome in form and brilliant in function it is as useful a design today as it was in 1936. The high water mark of liquid containers, today the Jerry can stands in stark contrast to the cheap throw-away containers peddled by most. Recognizing the utility of this design we wanted to not just offer our customers ‘a’ Jerry can, but rather the best NATO spec Jerry can available. Equally important was to be able to offer it at a fair price without the gouging which has unfortunately become the norm. After a laborious search and extensive testing we are pleased to be able to offer high quality European manufactured metal Jerry cans in three different sizes to meet your various needs. The smallest has a capacity of 5 liters (1.3 gallons) and is very compact in size and easy to store. Our middle size holds 10 liters (2.6 gallons) making it very useful while still being light and easy to carry when full. The standard military size holds a useful 20 liters (5.2 gallons) and is unsurpassed in design or utility. No matter which size you select though they are all made to the same specifications and are equally robust.

Our cans are built not to just meet but rather to exceed NATO military specifications. Each can is produced using thick laser cut steel bodies. These are stamped into shape on modern machinery. Next the two halves are welded together using state of the art robot plasma welders. The quality of the welding is excellent without the unsightly splatter seen on our competitor’s cans. Next the filler neck is welded onto the body and each unit is carefully checked for leaks. Keeping with the original design, an internal breather pipe is fitted ensuring quick and splash free pouring. Then the distinctive handle assembly is welded on.

Rather than just standard paint, each can receives a corrosion resistant nano-ceramic finish. This ensures the metal body will have a very long service life, even under harsh conditions. On top of this is an epoxy powder coat paint proofed for liquid fuels. This is done internally as well to prevent the interior of the can from rusting. The finish is applied using state of the art equipment resulting in a finish which is both attractive and extremely durable. After the finish is applied each can is again checked for any leakage.

Next the lid mechanism is installed. To prevent leakage a simple yet robust cam lever locking mechanism secures a snap closure lid atop the filler neck. Extensive testing has allowed us to refine and improve Grunvogel’s original system. The result is a design which opens and closes easily yet better withstands drop testing from a height of 1.2 meters than the original design. Cans are tested by dropping them directly on the filler neck as well as the opposite corner. A simple but reliable locking pin ensures the lid cannot open accidentally. The gasket fitted to the lid is serviceable by the end-user and easily replaced in the field should damage somehow occur. During final inspection each can is again checked for leaks prior to packing.

Our NATO Jerry cans are built in a modern state of the art European facility which supplies these cans to NATO and other professional end-users. Certificates they hold recognizing the quality and safety of their Jerry cans by independent testing include UN numbers granted by D/BAM (Bundesanstalt fur Materialforschung und –prufung) and GS/TUV issued by TUV Rheinland Product Safety. They also implement the Policy of Integrated Management System in compliance with ISO 9001:2005. A family run business with 25 years of experience, their factory is thoroughly modern with a highly trained and experienced staff. We do not just import cans from them but rather are their exclusive North American partner. Working together, our goal is to provide the best possible metal containers and accessories to the US market.

To complement our Jerry cans we also offer spouts and spare gaskets. Our spouts are made to the same high standards as our cans and lock easily and securely into place. They sport a metal screen, to strain harmful debris out, as well as a flexible tip. Like the cans they feature a simple yet reliable lever locking mechanism as well as a user serviceable gasket. We also offer replacement gaskets which will fit not only our cans but those from other manufacturers, including military surplus, as well. Made from high quality materials our gaskets are easy to install and will provide a reliable seal. Of exceptionally high quality our Jerry cans and accessories will provide years of reliable and trouble-free service.


  1. The Jerry can is more than a container, it is recognized around the world as being the best of its type. Here 5 liter Jerry cans await inspection during the manufacturing process.

  2. The manufacturing process starts by stamping steel sheets into each half of a can.
  3. Here is what a sheet looks like after being stamped into a 5 liter can section.
  4. Next the two halves are welded together using state of the art robot plasma welders.
  5. A look into a container of 5 liter filler necks with their distinctive breather pipes waiting to be assembled onto a can.
  6. Here a filler neck is carefully welded onto the body of a can.
  7. In this parts bin are 20 liter handles waiting to be welded on.
  8. Here robot plasma welders attach the handles onto a 20 liter can.
  9. A line of 10 liter cans move towards a check station.
  10. Both the body weld and the filler neck welds are carefully checked and adjusted if necessary.
  11. Each can is carefully checked for leaks while submerged.
  12. After successfully passing their leak test, cans then head towards paint.
  13. Each can receives a corrosion resistant nano-ceramic finish and epoxy powder coat paint proofed for liquid fuels both internally and externally to ensure a very long service life.
  14. To prevent leakage a simple yet robust cam lever locking mechanism secures a snap closure lid atop the filler neck.
  15. Each and every can is checked for leaks multiple times during the manufacturing process including right before being packed for shipping.
  16. Rows of 20 liter cans stand ready for packing. Carefully manufactured from high quality materials our NATO Jerry cans will provide a lifetime of dependable service.