Strain growth is a phenomenon observed in the elastic response of containment vessels subjected to internal blast loading. The local dynamic response of a containment vessel may become larger in a later stage than its response in the earlier stage. In order to understand the possible mechanisms of the strain growth phenomenon in a cylindrical vessel, dynamic elastic responses of a finite-length cylindrical shell with different boundary conditions subjected to internal pressure pulse are studied by finite-element simulation using LS-DYNA. It is found that the strain growth in a finite-length cylindrical shell with sliding–sliding boundary conditions is caused by nonlinear modal coupling. Strain growth in a finite-length cylindrical shell with free–free or simply supported boundary conditions is primarily caused by the linear modal superposition, possibly enhanced by the nonlinear modal coupling. The understanding of these strain growth mechanisms can guide the design of cylindrical containment vessels.