Survival Ammunition: How Much Ammo do you Really Need for SHTF?

By CTD Mike published on in Ammunition

I’m a shooter who likes to hang out with other shooters. My group of shooting buddies regularly go through a lot of ammo, mostly .22 LR, 9mm, .45acp, and 5.56 for the AR-15s. Oh, and 7.62×39 and 5.45×39 for the AKs, 7.62x54R for the Mosin Nagants… oh dear. We really do go through a lot of ammo. However, each of us has a stash of ammo that stays absolutely untouched, just in case the s&*t ever hits the fan. The SHTF stash is spoken about rarely in person, in hushed tones and only with close friends. More often it is discussed over the Internet, where folks take comfort in relative anonymity, as if the government will track you down and take you away for hoarding ammo. In reality there is no legal limit to the amount of ammunition we can possess here in the USA, despite that forwarded junk e-mail you got claiming that a new “arsenal law” will soon take effect. The SHTF stash is more common than a lot of people want to admit. Simply, it’s the high-quality stuff you don’t intend to shoot just for fun, carefully stored in a cool, dry place. Hopefully the SHTF stash stays carefully packaged for the rest of your natural life. But should the unthinkable occur—social unrest, government tyranny, foreign invasion, or green aliens from Mars—just how much SHTF ammo will you really need? The answer is “probably not as much as you think.”

Lake City XM193

The SHTF Stash: If this ammo ever gets loaded into magazines, something has gone terribly wrong.

I know some guys who really live by the motto, “Buy it cheap, stack it deep.” A very good friend of mine liked to buy a case of corrosive surplus 8mm Mauser ammo with every paycheck, back when that stuff was super cheap. I don’t know how much he has, but if he gets paid every two weeks and he followed this plan for two years, he would have nearly 50,000 rounds of 8mm ammo. That’s pretty close to a lifetime supply, assuming he continues shooting it through five-shot bolt-action Mausers. Not everyone can afford to do what he did, but I’ve seen posts on the internet seriously suggesting that 10,000 rounds of ammo is a “minimum” cache to survive the coming troubles. Really? Lets think about this from a practical standpoint and work it backwards. Don’t think about how much ammo you have in reserve, think about how much ammo you can actually carry!

Lets assume that your SHTF gun of choice is a high capacity semi-automatic carbine, like an AK-47 or AR-15. And lets assume that when the lights go out and things go bad, you’ll be wearing a standard style chest rig with enough pouches to hold six 30-round magazines, all day every day and sometimes at night too. Further, you’ll have one more 30-round magazine in your rifle ready to go, giving you a sum total of 210 rounds of ammo on your person. If you’re rocking polymer Magpul P-Mags, that’s 28 pounds of ammo and mags to carry wherever you go. Kalashnikov fans, those steel AK mags and the ammo in them weigh even more! The rifle you’re carrying started out as a lightweight carbine, but after adding a rail system, a red dot sight and a tactical light, its about ten pounds now. You’ll need two liters of water in a camelback (five pounds), some food (two pounds), a sidearm and its holster (nearly three pounds loaded), ammo for the sidearm (two more pounds)… phew, we’re already at fifty pounds worth of stuff. Then, if you’re super tactical like me, you sandwich yourself between two Level IV stand-alone ceramic body armor plates. Weight: 15 pounds, not including the weight of the plate carrier that holds them. If you think this sounds ugly, I’m actually going easy with these estimates—our young soldiers out in harms way often carry much more. My point is that 210 rounds is a pretty standard combat loadout and if you’re tempted to reply “I can carry a lot more than that,” you need to start thinking about what other important things you’ll leave behind in the name of carrying more ammo.

Two hundred and ten rounds of ammunition is actually quite a lot. The chances of you blowing through that much ammunition all at once with a semi-automatic firearm are pretty slim no matter the circumstances. Only high volume of fire events like “break contact” drills or defending against a “human wave” assault (the zombie guys just got all excited) are going to see that much ammunition expended. Your chances of surviving a scenario like those even with plenty of ammo aren’t very good, either. But lets say you kept seven more spare mags in a duffel bag behind the seat of your truck, and you managed to resupply while the Chinese paratroopers regrouped for a second assault on your apartment building. We are getting silly here, but for purposes of argument we’ll say you survived a massive, video-game style firefight in which your trusty carbine expended double the amount of ammunition you can actually carry. That’s a sum total of 420 rounds. Now, if you somehow survived not one but two of these epic firefights, you would have used 840 rounds of ammo. If your SHTF stash had originally consisted of a single 1,000 round case, you’d still have more than enough ammo left over to fill five 30-round magazines.

The bottom line is that you personally don’t need ten thousand rounds of ammo to survive a SHTF situation. If you want to buy extra ammo to hand out to your friends and neighbors if things go bad, that’s great and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Maybe having extra boxes of rounds available to barter in exchange for other necessities is a good idea too. But at the end of the day, a couple of cases of quality rifle ammunition stashed away for yourself is more than enough to see you through any realistically foreseeable circumstance.

Red Dawn

Two cases of ammo should be more than enough, unless…


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Comments (46)

  • CAS


    A .22 LR round is a practical , multi-performance , minimal-recoil , low noise report and muzzle climb/blast , lightweight to carry around over long distances , easy to stash with only 10 “bricks” providing 5,000 rounds , CHEAP and widely available with an estimated annual production volume of 2-2.5 billion rounds .

    Moreover , .22LR firearms are marketed at lower-cost prices .

    A SHTF scenario requires STEALTH and judicious utilization of limited resources , much like how a smart sniper would operate in the field during an assigned mission .
    Never engaging in an unwise and wasteful full-blown firefight a’la Rambo every now and then in order to survive .

    A sturdy slingshot could take the place of a gun when hunting small game and its ammunition is virtually limitless . It shoots quieter , thus negating unwanted attention.

    Finally , 22LR rounds can be lethal contrary to popular opinion .

    Israeli operatives use a silenced .22 LR rifle during field ops .
    The OSS/CIA were issued suppressed HighStandard HDM pistols .
    USN Seal units are mission-equipped with AWC TM-Amphibian “S” weapons that can fire underwater .
    and . . . .22LR weapons were successfully employed during the

    attempted Ronald Reagan assassination
    Kauhajoki school shootings
    Jokela school shootings
    1979 Cleveland Elementary School shootings
    as well as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

    My weapons of choice would be a Kel-Tec SU-22 carbine/Walther P22 pistol combo plus some fragmentation grenades to cover my withdrawal from an unexpected massive assault .

    But above all , no matter what weapon one has during times of grave peril
    never hesitate to call upon the Almighty for the ultimate in
    guidance , protection and provisions .
    He is the BEST there is . . . from here to eternity .
    God is the best there is !


  • paul


    A trained and well disciplined shooter only needs one round to change the outcome.
    Then, all the hoarded Walmart ammo will be available again.


  • Anonymous


    viral, charcoal, and ceramic filters,=2 pounds
    portable cooking/boiling system = 2 pounds
    survival canteen(bandaids, rain poncho, emergency heat blanket, flashlight, matches, magnesium) = 1.5 pounds
    2 liters of water 4.4lb
    spare clothes = 3 lb
    105 rounds of ammo = 14 lb
    2 lb food grain/beans

    toiletries= 2lb
    sentimental valued items such as pictures, bracelets, etc=0lb
    watch = .2 lb clothes on (brisk morning) = 4 lb+ boots = 8lb
    ar15= 8 pounds

    marginal accessories = 5lb

    under 60 pounds = survivor expert!
    prepared survivor = + sleeping bag, fishing gear, snares, journal, paper, pencils.
    = 80-90 pounds gear to haul.

    keep a belt on without stuff on it for a tourniquet.

    I suggest to establish an area, bury surplus supplies, or stow in a makeshift hidden location, such as a small hole in a ridge wall, or in brush, then mark the surrounding area but not the exact location.

    shelter is key for survival. underground shelters take time to build, but with some wood, a shovel, and time, you can build an underground shelter in weeks.


  • Ben


    Good article, particularly in that it brings up the oft-ignored point: if you have to “bug-out” you must carry everything you want to keep. As a “young soldier in harm’s way” I’ve never carried more than eight rifle magazines at a time, nor more than three pistol magazines, but add that to body armor, helmet, and a pack, which might have extra ammo and you are much heavier and much slower than you were before you donned all of it. I find that keeping my total gear weight (clothes, boots, equip., everything)under half my body weight allows me to stay mobile enough to cover distance in a fight (though not nearly as well as a “light” load of 50-60 lbs), and I can function with two thirds my weight while traveling, but have to ditch the pack for a fight lest I be pretty much a slug. Consider I’ve been in the infantry eight years and have had to condition my body to this and you can see that weight will drag you down. If you have a bug-out kit I recommend going on a 72 hour hiking trip with it to decide if it’s reasonable, and don’t just hike; move at least twelve if not twenty five miles a day and practice maneuvering and shooting in bad terrain. How’s the kit now? How comfortable are you with the shelter/water/food you are able to carry; don’t have a buddy bring in re-supply: live out of your pack for just three days and you may get a new perspective.
    That said the 28 pounds for seven magazines is ridiculous. I have always used the aluminum STANAG 30 rounder and full to the top with 5.56 (slightly heavier than equivalent .223 by virtue of thicker brass) and 1.1 pounds is what each one weighs, so if we assume that’s my scale rounding down from 1.14 we’re still under eight pounds. The heaviest steel AK mag I have weighed was three pounds- full of steel cased ammo. In light of these more reasonable weights I do recommend carrying one extra “combat load” in the pack if at all possible.
    Here are some examples of loads I’ve carried in the past year (the first two for the Army):
    8 M4, 3 M9= 8.8+2.2=11 lbs. + 7lbs. for 240 5.56 and 1.5lbs for 45 9mm= 19.5lbs
    6 M14, 3 M9= 10.2+2.2=12.4 lbs. +9lbs. for 120 7.62×51 and 1.5 for 45 9mm= 22.9lbs
    7 AK, 3 G19= 21+2.1=23.1 lbs + 9.5 for 210 7.62×39 + 1.5 for 45 9mm= 34.1lbs

    You may note that in any of these cases the primary weapon has fewer than 500 rounds and the secondary fewer than 100. Now if you have a site at which you can subsist for months or even seasons, perhaps you would stock up a little more ammo, but remember if someone happens on you and you can’t hang around then whatever you can’t carry you leave for them.
    Going to stay at your site no matter what? Consider the recent movie- in the real Operation Redwings there were fewer than 60 taliban fighters but four SEALs couldn’t hold them off for twelve hours. Numbers are a killer. Going to hike to a better hill? You have to carry your stuff up there and not get “treed.”
    Urban environment? Remember Randy and Gary? According to Durant when they arrived it was them, him, and both crew chiefs still alive plus, for a short time, a helicopter orbiting; these were some of the hardest and best men in the world- they didn’t last an hour.


  • Robert


    Two things you can never have enough of in a gunfight: time and ammo. Stock up.


  • Tucson_Jim


    I’ve not the time to read all the responses to ensure I’m not repeating, and, I’ll keep it “bullet points”:
    – You may need to teach others to use your firearms, you’ll need ammo for that
    – You may need to check your sights, scope, or functioning, you’ll need ammo for that
    – You will want ammo to stash, wherever your cache is, in addition to your personal carry load
    – If you are on a hunting/gathering trip, you will probably need less than if you are holed-in at home, but, you’ll need enough for either
    – If you can work WITH your neighbors, you’ll want to arm them
    – If you are in flight, you will carry less
    – You will want ammo to kill with as much reach as possible (distance is life), take game of any size, and kill with one shot to not give your location away… and the AR-15/AK-47 rifles won’t do that
    – While you are hoarding ammo and guns, have you considered that ALL firearms related paraphernalia might come under scrutiny? Get your non-perishable brushes, patches, solvents, lubricants NOW! Patches are cheaper by the yard at JoAnne Fabrics… it’s called white flannel
    – The reason that .22 LR is currently unobtainium, is because it is the primary round used for training, pistol-hunting 90% of what will be protein available to eat (birds, rats, small animals, etc.), and the small-change currency of WTSHTF
    – .50 BMG will be essentially useless by any except expeditionary teams going after materiel, law enforcement, or military vehicles
    – If you are lucky, you might survive 5 sorties… that’s 1000 rounds for combat, add training/maintenance needs, and hunting (how many deer can you carry back home on each trip?) and you are at about 1400 rounds per rifle, 500 rounds per side arm, and 3500 rounds per .22 LR; all for about 3 years of sheer hell you may eventually choose to not even endure… so, definitely don’t forget that .22 LR pistol


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