Range Time and Ammo Storage: How Much is Needed for Both?

If you like guns, you like going to the range. Shooting at targets or performing drills with your friends can be fun. At least that’s the idea. I tend to find myself wanting to save the ammo for another day and not just blast it all down range. I used to plan to buy one box of ammo each week to get in some range time, but then I would want to save it for later and skip the shooting.

Target ammo is great for range time and training
It can be hard to find that balance between shooting ammo and saving ammo. Pictured above, the Winchester 5.56, 55-grain target load that comes in 20-round boxes, making it the ideal size for running a drill or two on the range.

My next idea was to buy 2 boxes of ammunition, 1 for shooting and 1 for saving. But I struggled with that too. After all, what if you need that ammo someday and it’s hard to find? So, I would end up saving 2 boxes and still not practicing enough at the range. Not that long ago, I remember walking down the aisles in gun stores and seeing empty shelves. Any number of things can cause a panic about ammo shortages across the country, which lead to actual ammunition shortages and skyrocketing prices.

How much ammo is needed at the range?

Here is the thing with ammo. If you save it all, you don’t get any practice. If you shoot it all, you don’t have any. The idea is: shoot some, save some. So how much ammunition should you be shooting on the range?

Good firearms safety, shooting techniques, and accuracy all come from practice. Lots of practice. This can be time-consuming and expensive, depending on what caliber you are shooting. It will also depend on the level of skill you want to develop. Practicing long-range shooting will be different than training for a 3-gun competition or training for self-defense. They all require different types of skills, but they all require practice.

Training on the range with the AR-15 Rifle
Getting in plenty of range time is a must if you want to be proficient with your firearm. It is possible to minimize the amount of ammunition needed to get in some good training.

One trick I learned at firearms instructor school was to substitute smaller calibers into the training. If you are going to practice drawing from a holster or performing mag changes in-between shots, consider purchasing a .22 conversion kit. Shooting .22 ammo will not replace the need to train with the original caliber of the firearm, but it can help with learning muscle memory while saving a little cost over time. The amount of ammunition you shoot will depend on your skill level and the ammo available to you. I like to shoot at least 50 rounds of handgun ammo and 60 rounds of rifle ammo when at the range. But that number can be cut in half if I’m really trying to conserve ammunition.

How much ammo should be stored?

This again will depend on your intended purpose for the ammunition. But let’s throw some numbers out there. According to an article by US Law Shield, the recommended amount of ammo for a primary self-defense rifle (like the AR-15) is 2,000 rounds. If the same rifle is used for hunting, then additional hunting rounds will need to be stored as well. They also recommend 500 rounds be stored for any additional hunting rounds and having at least 6 magazines for each gun is preferred. I personally like to have at least 1,000 rounds for my primary handgun and 2,000 for my primary rifle. This will allow me to still get some practice time in should ammo become hard to find.

Being in law enforcement full-time, the idea of being prepared and having plenty of ammo and magazines on-hand is normal. Over time, I started to realize it’s just as important to be prepared at home as we are at work. When someone is forced to defend their home, a lot can happen in the time it takes law enforcement to get there. Natural disasters and other large-scale emergencies are good reasons to be prepared to defend your home. The last thing you want is to not have any ammo on hand when you need it.

Boxed ammo can be left in the box when storing in surplus ammo cans
Boxed ammunition can be great for transporting to the range or stacking inside an ammo can. It is recommended that boxed loads be left in the box, even when stored in ammo cans.

Training Ammo vs. Defense Ammo

The type of ammo you use on the range can also have a large affect on your ammunition budget. If you train only with the hollow point ammo you carry for CCW, it could get a lot more expensive. When I shoot a new gun, I break it in with about 200 rounds of range ammo (the cheap stuff). Then I re-oil the gun and begin shooting the defense load I plan to carry in it (the expensive stuff). Once I feel confident it will cycle my chosen self-defense ammunition, I start training with range ammo again.

It is important not to keep the same ammunition in your gun for too long. It is easy to forget about it and carry it for too long. Ammo can get dirty from everyday carry in your waistband or pocket so it’s important to inspect it and shoot it from time to time. To help with this, I make a note on my box of defense ammunition with the date I started carrying it. Once it hits 6 months old, I use it for training on the range and replace it with new ammo. This allows me to keep new, high-quality ammunition in my gun and still train twice a year with defense ammo instead of range ammo.

sheriff deputy training at a range
Training on the range is important for any gun owner. Setting up regular training times can be fun and beneficial to help develop valuable skills.


How much ammunition you want to store and how much you want to fire away at the range is up to each shooter. I like to shoot a little ammo more often as compared to a lot with longer gaps in between. I also like to keep enough defense ammunition to last me a year (factoring in shooting it at the range twice a year) and much more target ammo than that. Almost every shooter I know uses 1,000 or 2,000 rounds per gun as their standard for storing ammunition. The amount you decide to keep in storage is completely up to you. Just make sure you don’t skimp at the range when it comes time to learn those valuable shooting skills.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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