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

By CTD Mike published on in Ammunition, Camping & Survival

September is National Preparedness Month. Be ready! Have a plan and make an emergency kit. The Shooter’s Log has all the information you need to prepare for disasters.

It’s not if, it’s when.

I’m a shooter who likes to hang out with other shooters. My group of shooting buddies regularly goes through a lot of ammo, mostly .22 LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, 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 email 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? Let’s 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!

Let’s assume that your SHTF gun of choice is a high capacity semiautomatic carbine, such as 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 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 10 pounds now. You’ll need two liters of water in a CamelBak (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 50 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.

Your 210 rounds of ammunition is actually quite a lot. The chances of you blowing through that much ammo all at once with a semiautomatic firearm are pretty slim—no matter the circumstances. Only high volume of fire events such as “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 let’s 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 ammo you can actually carry. That’s a 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 would still have more than enough ammo left over to fill five 30-round magazines.

The bottom line is that you personally don’t need 10,000 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…

How much is too much and what amount isn’t enough? How much ammo do you think is the perfect amount to stash for SHTF? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (67)

  • Hide Behind

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    A firefight to protect ones home from an ouside assault by multiple equally armed assailants¿¿¿¿¿Hell just be sure to have funeral expeces prepaid.
    The welfare Obamatrons will not be the big worry they will spend days banding together close to gov facilitys or be ordered to stay put, and unless you are going out to loot rob and steal some insurance necessityd you should be safe for days.
    IF the copd come knocking you damned well will turn over your extra food and of course your guns, the local preachers willbe with cops collecting food Faith Based Charites under FEMA AND DHS) and you do not shoot cops or religious nuts trying to steal your food for their faithfull ,AMEN!
    A shotgun slug fired under 60 yRds will penetrate both outer walls and multiple plaster ones.
    A heavy solid copper or penetrTor round will go full length of your house and cleR through your neighbors.
    Hiding behind couch and range or reftigerator will not save your but and heave forbid some bad guy does not have tracer rounds.
    You gonna have your old lady and kids furing and being object of outside guns, thTs macho of you and you from a house position even under flooring firing through air vents in blocks how long does a block last and stop anthing.
    You and loved ones need enough ammo so that after acertaining that local police cannot control mobs you and family can fight way out of immediate danger, not pretty but killing anything blocking your path, just like Obama welfare queens.
    YES A PACK each WEIGHING UP TO 80 #’S FOR YOU AND WIFE and 50 For light built teens should be on hand. YOUR SPARE AMMO AFTER 240 IS IN PACK AND THOUSANDS MORE AT YOUR DESTINATION.
    PENETRATING ABILITY OF PENETRtor and multiple other calibers will go through 8″+ tree, autos and heavy glass. straw bales.
    So unless you have been in a real firefight where in you even with trained mates against trained men and even at times been outnumbered and outgunned you have no fn idea of what a sad place you would place your family in.

    Reply

  • Steve Orpin

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    My credo has been that you only need enough ammunition to take the other guy’s ammunition.

    Reply

    • Mikial

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      @Steve Orpin

      In other words, you’re one of the parasites the rest of us are preparing to defend ourselves from . . . like with a head shot?

      That may work out fine with a lot of the lukewarm gun owners who have shot maybe one box each out of their M4 and compact .380 before putting them in the closet, but with people who are well trained and prepared, that’s a formula for a very short life span.

      Reply

  • Mikial

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    CTD Shooter’s Log moderator.

    If you people do not fix the “Reply” function so that when I click on “Reply” in the email it takes me directly to the comment I want to reply to, I will leave this forum. There is no excuse for this total incompetence.

    Reply

  • Mikial

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    I guess what bothers me most about this article, is that the author is being naively optimistic in assuming that any of these scenarios would be short in duration, and that somehow, the feds would get things under control within a week or so. Frankly, I’m not that optimistic.

    A hack and crash of the power grid would hamstring any government response. If you live anywhere near a concentration of Obama’s welfare recipients, they will be desperate and all over you in short order.

    I guess my point is that you need a solid ammo, food, medical, and life support supply. Where is the harm in being over prepared compared to the harm of being under prepared?

    Arm, train, equip, prepare. If you are over –prepared, no worries,. But if you are under-prepared . . . you’re dead.

    Reply

    • Bobby G

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      Great advice Mikial, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Many people wildly underestimate how fast things can go bad and how long it can stay that way. Even if one survives the initial event you still have to deal with the aftermath.

      Reply

  • DaveW

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    Properly stored ammo will keep for a long time, and we all want to have as much as we can get our hands on. However, in a combat zone, troops carry a standard issue and get resupplied as needed.

    I think it best to have as much as you can properly store, and stored in a number of accessible places rather than store in one place where you can be cleaned out.

    I’d also recommend people stock ammo for specific purposes. 500 rnds of .22LR for hunting small game like rabbits, or a .410 for birds, will last quite a while. Same with ammo for bigger game. For self defense or combat ops, you’d want more stores because they get used up rather quickly in a fight.

    You might own several weapons in different calibers, but, for WTSHTF, you might want to take specific ones and leave the rest stashed. In that case, it’s probably better to make sure you have plenty of ammo for the ones you take, and less for the ones you stash.

    Reply

  • Bob C

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    A silly article. Likening SHTF requirements with a military that moves, shoots, and communicates against hostile enemies that have Armor, air cover and more is simply dumb. Personally, my view of SHTF has me on my porch or maybe some “deliberate defense” positions protecting me and mine… not on “search and destroy” missions. You might need thousands of rounds if some mob from the cities runs across your property. You might just sit on those rounds if the nearest road is twenty miles away. It has long been axiom in my beloved Army that “all plans go south when the first enemy incoming is received”

    . The Ammo load isn’t a problem when you are defending your home. You aren’t going on 20 mile marches with it. So you don’t need all the types of ammo needed in the article… weight isn’t a problem. So go with 308 and hit the bad guys with AR-15’s at twice the range they can achieve. (Lesson learned in Afghanistan, btw.)I prefer 308 and 40 S&W because they are both government issue. All the AK and other non-NATO… non-Leo ammo may dry up. But when NATO STD and LEO Std ammo dries up… we’re dead.

    The Basic Load I carried in the Army for a single patrol was 160 rounds. Sometimes I wanted more before the firefight was over. Other times I went home with all 160 rounds.That could be eaten up in a single firefight. Then we might go weeks before we shot another round. The lesson here is that the bad guys don’t follow any rules you might envision. They just try to kill you. Projecting how many rounds you might need is like projecting how much insurance you might need to fight Pancreatic Cancer or a heart attack. Its not up to you. Just take your best “shot”.

    I want as much as I can… until God lets me into His morning briefings.

    Reply

  • Dwal

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    I have read every response on this topic and no one has mentioned anything about tossing a good cleaning kit in their bag along with a sharpening stone. Maintaining your equipment is one of the most important things to be prepared for.

    Reply

    • Mikial

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      Damn straight!

      Reply

    • Nattleby

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      I keep a good stock of CLP, Hoppes #9, and Gun oil. Have a cleaning kit in each bag. Also get a can of Wheel Bearing Grease. It works great as a gun lube, and 1 can should last a very long time.

      Reply

  • shooter111846

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    I follow the “one is none and two is one and more than two is better” saying when it comes to my “arsenal”. My arsenal consists of 2 9mm hand guns, two 223 rifles,3 308 rifles (I just love the m14) 4 22 rifles (2 savage with scopes and 2 Henry survival)and two shotguns( one with exchangeable barrels). My ammo stockpile consists of 2000 rounds of each caliber.
    My bug out load out for weapons is 9mm hand gun 3 16rd mags,308 with 5 20rd mags,Henry (broke down) 1 10 rd mag . In addition I pack
    96 9mm,200 308,200 223 and 200 22. my wife’s load out is 9mm with 3 16rd mags,223 with 5 20rnd mags. I also carry a home made weapons cleaning and maintenance kit. Each of us carries a combat first aid kit and all the other essentials are divided between our packs. My pack runs around 80 t0 90 lbs and the wife’s around 50 lbs.
    In addition if there is time to load the game carts or vehicular bug out we add 1 or two bags with an additional 308,223,22( with scope) rifle and the shotguns. Also add double the total ammo load out as the packs. These bags also hold a large amount of all the other essentials to a long bug out.I also have three “resupply” caches with additional ammo and essentials.With this I feel we are prepared for an extended bug out.

    Reply

    • Mikial

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      The thing I like most about your comment is that you are looking at a variety of scenarios. The article is . . . amazingly naive.

      Reply

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