Ammo: How Much do You Need?

Metal military surplus ammo cans stacked up

A guest post written by Eve Flanigan.

Today, as gun owners and advocates of defensive living, we’re constantly scrutinized for exercising our 2nd Amendment rights. I’m sure many readers have numerous firearms available to them. Good. But the long-term concern, at least in my estimation, is the ammunition to feed those firearms.

While we’re enjoying the right to own guns, it’s worth noting that Constitutional protection may not include ammo. Ponder, if you will, the prospect of having firearms, but not ammunition. While many readers are surely prepared in the ammo supply arena, from conversations with students, I’d venture a guess that most aren’t. The question is not just for you, but perhaps generations to come. Teaching students on an ongoing basis, I find it not uncommon for folks to struggle to come up with a couple hundred rounds of handgun or carbine ammo to conduct some baseline training. Given today’s political climate, ammunition is more aligned in the crosshairs than ever. Consider in just the last few years there have been attempts to control or restrict ammo via several rationales, including:

Metal military surplus ammo cans stacked up
The military style .30- and .50-caliber ammo cans or the sealed spam cans of ammo make good long-term storage options.
  • Environmental — the claim that any lead-based projectiles will lead to the ultimate demise of endangered species by wildlife ingesting lead from hunters and shooters.
  • Public Safety — the all-too recent attempt to eliminate 5.56 green tip ammo as a supposed fix for preventing penetration of law enforcement body armor. Never mind that any high velocity rifle round has this penetration ability.
  • Leave your fingerprint — recent attempts in the land of fruit and nuts (CA) to have purchasers of ammunition have their fingerprint on file.
  • Taxation — there’s already a tax on most ammo through the Pitman Robertson Act….now Seattle, Washington politicians have decided to tax its residents even more on ammo purchases in the name of funding anti-gun propaganda.
  • Quantity restrictions — Numerous discussions lately by liberals on restricting ammunition sales to a minimal amount per week or month.

Let’s not forget the bare shelves of just two or three years ago because of the political climate. .22 LR rimfire is just now becoming reasonably available again. Prices have just settled in the last few months.

So, back to the original thought of how much ammo? Well, it depends on what your primary, secondary or beyond use of it may be. That of course varies from person to person. Aside from fact that many folks are very accomplished handloaders requiring a good supply of powder, primers, casings and bullets in their own right, many don’t have the time or inclination for handloading.

The need and use for ammo can probably be categorized into the following;

  • Hunting
  • Sport and competition
  • Training
  • Defensive
  • Bartering


For most, standard, big game considerations I could probably get along for quite some time with a couple hundred rounds. But thinking down the road for many years, I would like to have 500 to 1,000 rounds per caliber of any hunting rifle. Small game means shotgun and rimfire, the round count here could increase exponentially.


If its USPSA, IDPA, 3Gun, Trap, Skeet, Silhouette or others, start thinking in the thousands of rounds or even higher for the long term.


This is where things could get interesting. Shooting well is a perishable skill (yes, dry fire can take place of live fire to some extent). I shoot almost on a weekly basis, at least handgun. That may not be sustainable in tough times. I focus most of my weekly handgun shooting on 9mm to keep it economical. I like to keep a minimum of 5,000 rounds available if possible.


I keep a few hundred rounds of good quality handgun, shotgun and rifle ammo that fits this category on hand….per caliber or gauge. A sub category here would be the battle rifle or fighting carbine, at which point there is no such thing as too much ammo.


Military ammo can filled with ammo boxes
In really tough times or a run on the supply, ammunition will always retain a high trade value.

The sky’s the limit. All common calibers and rimfire ammunition is in high demand. Imagine ammunition over-the-counter availability being gone overnight! In really tough times or a run on the supply, ammunition will always retain a high trade value. So the question is how much do you need to have for yourself and family versus how much you can afford to sell or barter with?

It goes without saying that the cost, storage and transportation of ammunition may require logistical planning. Ammunition is heavy. Storage can have its own challenges. Basically, prioritize cool, dry and durable storage when it comes to ammo. The military style .30- and .50-caliber ammo cans or the sealed spam cans of ammo make good long-term storage options.

Other than your local store, where might one find ammo today without breaking the bank? Some obvious choices may be your local gun shows (or similar events) and online ammo sales sites (these sites have also been under fire in recent months). A few less obvious locations to find ammo at sometimes below wholesale prices are flea markets, estate sales and garage sales. This may bring up the question, how long is ammo good for? In my experience if it has been stored properly and out of the elements it can be good for decades. I have shot military surplus that was 50-plus years old, without issues. Not to disparage any hand loaders, but I stay away from reloaded ammo that I do not know the source of. I say this because you will run across such ammo at flea markets and garage/estate sales.

Someone once called ammo the precious metal of the future. I agree.

Eve Flanigan is a firearms instructor and writer residing in the American Southwest. Flanigan provides instruction in safety, basic and defensive pistol, defensive scenarios and basic rifle as well as concealed carry. Flanigan’s work in the non-profit sector has provided opportunities for participation in law enforcement firearms and use of force training. Her instruction, as well as her reviews of guns and gear, center around safety and practicality for self-defense. Her development as an armed citizen and instructor is aided by a variety of firearms and self-defense instruction plus competitive shooting. Persons wishing to contact Flanigan for instruction or to offer materials for review may do so through



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Comments (106)

  1. Sivispace : Empty plastic Folgers cans with a little silicone adhesive makes a great Ammo cache.

    Not those cheap plastic things!
    Under ground they would deteriorate too fast.
    A 5 gallon bucket with a fresh lid/seal maybe, but not a thin little coffee container.

  2. I believe that one cannot have too much ammunition or too much gun lube. Empty plastic Folgers cans with a little silicone adhesive makes a great Ammo cache. Be sure to bury it near a tree or beneath a post to ground-penetrating radar won’t reveal it.

  3. The future will be serviced by unaccounted for “GHOST GUNS” and old Spam cans of ammo stashed away in little cashes along with guns and ammo culled from the government.

  4. Ammo Cans, are made of Mild Steel! Which have a Life Expectancy of ~120-years when Buried in Dirt. OLD AMMO, is “Anything” over 30-years old. If Possible, “Shrink-Wrap” the Ammo with a Desiccant Silica Pack INSIDE as well. Though Airtight Shrink Wrap, Humid Weather and a Warm Ground in a Steel Container. Will “Act” Like a Solar Still…

  5. I also live in So. California. One of my other hobbies is custom woodworking. First get some good airtight containers such as military ammo cans. When woodworkers want to save partial cans of paint, stain, etc. there is a product called “Bloeshield”. It comes in like spray cans. The product is inert and heavier than air. Just as you are closing your container, give it a good blast and shut the lid fast. Air and the moisture it containes will be displasted. (pardon my lousy spelling), Every time you open a container you will have to do it again. It works. I got tired of throwing away half cans of stain, paint etc.
    Go to http://www.woodcraft,com or do a google search. You can buy it over the internet.

  6. Read your article about having enough ammo. My problem is: even though I live in the desert southwest I have a bad problem with corrosion. Any hints? I shoot .45 ACP.


  7. Long term ammo storage is not so much a problem of how much but as to where.
    While article is theoretical , government limiting ammo, what makes anyone think storage will be legal.
    Having ammo 20 years from now in a vastly changed political, environmental and financial world , It is minight and I am listening to the “Twilight zone”, easier than reading the political fantacies of gun ownrrs.
    Too damn long living in your pocket book to satisfy our fantacies.
    Hunts for less animals ( except the diseased who have mad cow( deer and elk) but that shows the true kill not the hunt mindset. You get poisoned food but not from a dead pacific , wildlife is dying at alarming rates and gun owners wave flags and talk as if everything was normal.
    Why is it most gun owners are like dumb beast of box and horse wearing blinders, all they see and know is 2nd Amendment.
    This nation is an environmental disaster where only 30% of populace under Agenda 21 the rest of population will be no more than animals to be used and herded.
    Store all you want as nations people die of cancers and genetic defects are the norm.. Your grandkids will morebthan likely never touch a weapon once the old horses are gone.

    1. Funny you should mention United Nations Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is the communist inspired vehicle that will eventually take your guns, and is currently the greatest threat to ALL property ownership worldwide.

      For example, in the name of “health and safety,” Agenda 21 is in Maryland banning all septic tanks in the state. What’s wrong with that? What’s that got to do with guns?? Without rural septic tanks, no one lives outside the city, and easier to control you and your guns.

    1. Wait a sec there AINT SO . I did mention the importance of safe steel fire safes for storing large amounts of ammo and powders etc. for that reason .If you are going to store that much it must be done safely in case of a fire so you do not take out half the hood and responders to the fire with lbs of powder and loaded rounds cooking off in a fire .So i did bring that up .

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