It seems that every other night on the news, we hear that police at So-And-So’s house “Uncovered a huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition.” The camera pans to show the “massive” haul, which often consists of an AR-15, a bolt action rifle, a shotgun, and two or three handguns. Complete with a couple hundred rounds of ammo.
Most of my gun enthusiast friends burst out laughing, exclaiming, “That’s nothing! You should see my gun safe!!”
That got us thinking…what’s considered excessive? I know people that have tens of thousands of rounds stored in their house. One of my friends used to have so much surplus rifle ammo stored in his basement that he used stacked cases of it as the legs to a table. He had a couple hundred thousand rounds stored up.
All of this begs the question: how much is enough?
Many of us jokingly (or seriously) are fond of saying, “There’s no such thing as too much.”
What Is The Mission?
As I always ask, what are we trying to accomplish? Are we setting ourselves up for hunting? Self-Defense? Disaster? Zombie Apocalypse? All of the above?
The reason I ask is because we need to have a goal to directly address what we’re trying to accomplish.
I hate to bring it up, but at present, we’re coming out of the Covid Panic. When things began locking down, many people instantly prioritized a few things around the house: How much food, supplies, water, and ammo do I currently have? How long will it last? What do I need to grab right now?
That state of emergency left us all feeling very uneasy. Not one single person whom I know had any idea of how long it would last, or to what extent it would be taken to. Sadly, we found out.
It all brought things into focus, though, forcing us to take stock of necessities, and what we needed to acquire immediately. The best-prepared people didn’t need to rush out and buy anything.
Although my family and I make a point of having extra food on hand, we went out and got more anyway. Because, as mentioned, no one knew how long the shortages would last.
Ammo — Indefinite?
After we quickly shored up the food supply for the house, the next thing on my mind was ammunition. Mind you, I already had a pretty healthy supply. I considered myself in the middle of the road as far as my stockpile went. I had a lot more than casual shooters, but less than people with seemingly limitless incomes. For example, one associate told me that he has 15,000 rounds of 5.56mm rounds stored up, among other calibers. That goes well beyond my stockpile and my capabilities.
The question that went through my mind was this: What if they close down all non-essential businesses indefinitely? The government would almost certainly prohibit ammo companies from operating. That could cause a massive shortage of bullets.
In fact, we did see an intense lack of ammunition on the shelves for about a year. Indeed, we’re still somewhat recovering from that. There is a lot more ammo on shelves now, but prices are still very high for many of them.
My question at that time was, “If I could not buy a single bullet after today, how long could I operate with what I currently have on hand?”
I had a decent supply of 5.56mm rounds. Not as much as I’d have liked, but I could defend home and hearth for a good while with what I had. My 7.62x39mm supply was less, but still okay.
However, I did have a lot of .22 Long Rifle ammo. You know, the ammo that many people laugh about and don’t take very seriously? Well, there was a time when I used to buy a brick or two every week on my way home from work because it was so cheap back then (about $13 for 500 rounds). Or I’d grab a few 50-round boxes each week if I couldn’t get a brick. The bottom line is that I always added to my pile. After a while, I had a pretty large pile of .22LR, and I’ve never stopped adding to it. Long after I’m out of every other round, I will still have .22LR left. And that round can get things done if you know how to use it.
Beyond that, I have a few pistols, and I had a decent supply of ammo for them. They’re not my primary weapons for an Apocalypse scenario, so I don’t concentrate as much on them.
I had some rounds for a couple of my hunting rifles, which was fine.
Given my ammo status at that time, I concentrated on a few calibers: 5.56mm, 6.5 Creedmoor (for my hunting/sniper rifle), and .22LR. During the pandemic, I happily paid the higher prices being asked (within reason) because I was just damn glad when ammo was on the shelf! My favorite gunshop is a few streets down in my town and the owner was the only one in the area that wasn’t taking advantage of the pandemic to exorbitantly overcharge his customers—he kept things very reasonable!
Some gunshops in the area were charging $50 for a box of 9mm FMJ ammo!
Note that ammunition can be purchased at cheaper prices when we order in bulk. Picking ammo up a case at a time (usually 1,000 rounds, sometimes 500 rounds) is almost always cheaper. So while it appears that we’re going “overboard” to some folks, we’re really just saving money. It’s similar to going to Costco or Sam’s Club for household items.
When we train at the range, it’s a good idea to replace the ammo that was used. Or if we buy 100 rounds, use 50 for training and keep the balance to pump up those numbers. That way, we’re always growing the numbers.
I mentioned figuring out what we want to accomplish with our firearms before. Let’s take a look at some various tasks that we might want to accomplish.
I know hunters who have used the same box of ammo for their hunting seasons for over a decade. Some of them go to the range just before hunting season and fire a round or two to confirm their zero. Then they take to the field, shoot a deer or two, and put their gun away until next year. So a box lasts them many years. Ya gotta love PA deer hunters!
If hunting is our primary focus, we won’t need a ton of ammo. Several boxes will last a while, depending on how much we get out there and practice. Certainly, mounting a new scope will cause us to expend some rounds to zero it in. Beyond that, we don’t need a ton of ammo for this pursuit.
Hunting calibers should include the .22LR, 12 gauge shotgun, and a big game rifle. Of course, each of these choices can also overlap in the Defensive mission of use. Certainly, in a SHTF scenario, an AR-15 or other semi-auto defensive rifle could also serve to bring home game. For hunting firearms, figure on having a couple of hundred rounds each, which should last quite a while if used properly.
To defend the home against the garden variety burglar, a couple of rounds will be sufficient for the immediate threat. If you intend to practice (and you should!), more ammo will be needed.
Here’s where it gets a little more involved. If we foresee needing to defend our home during times of civil unrest, more ammo will be called for. And these days, depending on where we live, that could be a real eventuality. I’d say having two thousand rounds on hand for home defense in each caliber is not at all unreasonable. More is always better.
It will also depend on what sort of firearms we intend to use.
The AR-15, M1A, and a host of other semi-autos shine in this capacity, as does the 12 gauge shotgun. The .22LR will also do in a pinch, especially in long guns. As mentioned above, they can also double as hunting firearms.
Actual self-defense when we’re out and about shouldn’t take very many rounds. However, the practice for defending ourselves should expend a good amount of ammunition. If your primary method of defense is carrying a handgun, I’d say a couple of thousand rounds of that caliber should do well.
Expending a couple of hundred rounds in a session at the shooting range is not uncommon, so plan accordingly.
Civil Breakdown/Zombie Apocalypse
Here’s where it goes off the charts. This is a definite, “There’s no such thing as too much ammo (or magazines)” scenario. If there is a massive breakdown, there won’t be any ammo resupply, for the most part. Things will have degenerated to an every-man-for-himself mode.
Mob rule might take over, in which case we will need to dissuade groups of people from overrunning our position. Far fetched? I don’t know, you tell me. How stable does the world appear to be right now?
In a SHTF scenario, ammo may very well become a highly preferred currency. I often joke, telling people to invest in precious metals: copper, brass, and lead. If ammo becomes unavailable in an extreme scenario, it will be worth a lot. Suddenly, those tens of thousands of rounds of .22LR that we saved up will take on a new light.
Paper money, in that situation, will probably be worthless. People will want items that they can actually use. And ammo is certainly usable!
A question that we need to ask is, do we have the room to store large quantities of ammunition? It does take up some space, believe it or not.
I like the metal military ammo boxes for storing my ammo. Throw in a desiccant pack or two and they’re good for a very, very long time if stored in a stable environment. Be sure not to have the ammo in a very hot or damp place, because it will degrade. Otherwise, ammo can be stored for decades. I’ve fired ammunition from the 1940s that worked perfectly. There’s still WWI ammo out there that is probably fine as long as it was stored well.
This is the speed bump that many of us hit—the cost. If you’re a working person trying to make ends meet, it can be difficult to store up thousands of rounds.
If you fall into that category, my advice is to buy a little at a time. That’s one of the reasons I went wild with the .22LR ammo; because it allowed me to buy ammo in serious numbers.
This strategy can be used for any caliber, though. Even if you just buy one box per paycheck, it will start to add up.
Personally, I think it’s smart to concentrate on commonly found calibers that are likely to be found in most places that sell ammunition. The .30-30 Winchester, .30-06, 5.56mm, .308, 12 gauge, 9mm, .22LR, and a host of others are widely available. In a crisis, it’s good to have them because other people will be using them as well.
On the flip side, some have given a good argument that it’s an advantage to have a gun or two chambering less common rounds. For example, during the Great Ammo Shortage, 9mm was the first thing everyone scooped up, while .40 caliber seemed to be available for a longer time.
I recall seeing .17 HRM ammunition on the shelves when every other caliber was wiped out.
This is just some food for thought.
The Bottom Line?
So how much ammo is “Good Enough?” I’d say a couple of thousand rounds for each caliber that we own, at a minimum. I wish I could give you a defined number like 2,047 rounds per firearm. However, that’s not realistic.
But really, it boils down to this: How much can we afford financially? How much space do we have at our disposal to store the ammo? How often do we practice? And finally, what are we trying to accomplish with it? As we answer these questions, the answers will become more clear to us.
Just remember, you have way too much ammunition—said no one ever!