Ammunition: To Stockpile or Not To Stockpile?

ammo stockpile

A friend of mine was bemoaning the recent decision of Walmart to get out of the pistol and 5.56 ammunition business, along with their other recent anti-gun (and anti-liberty, if you ask me) decisions.

This friend is an ardent 2A proponent and has recently transitioned from one career path to another. The career decision has improved his joy index, but his checking account has not quite recovered.

Those things take time, as does amassing a proper ammunition reserve.

The Big Stockpile Question

ammo: to stockpile or not

As an outgrowth of the conversation, he mentioned his ability to shoot is going to be greatly decreased. With a puzzled look, I asked why. His response was, “ the 50-100 rounds I keep on hand is not going to be as convenient or inexpensive to replace.”

To put it mildly, I was shocked and horrified by that statement.

After an awkwardly long pause, I replied, “You aren’t doing it right. The minimum standard is 1,000 rounds per caliber you own, except .22 LR and that is 5,000 rounds. Shotguns are a different thing, but still… 100 rounds, TOTAL?”

There was another awkward pause. He replied, “You really have thousands of rounds for each caliber you own?”

“No, for 6.5×284 that is an entire barrel life, but I do have 200 rounds of that. For my non-exotic, frequently shot calibers, absolutely.”

How Much Should You Stockpile?

Doing some mental math, here are rough approximations of my ready stores in different calibers:

Caliber Loads
  • Just over 150 rounds of Federal HST 124 gr
  • Similar for Speer Gold Dot short barrel 124 gr
  • Similar for Federal Micro HST 150 gr
  • 1500+ rounds of Blazer Brass FMJ and another 600+ of assorted other FMJ
  • Components to reload another 3000 FMJ rounds – 3 Gun burns ammo
5.56x45mm NATO 
  • 300+ rounds Berger 77gr OTM precision reloads
  • 1000+ rounds Prvi 75 gr HPBT match reloads
  • 1500+ Federal American Eagle 55 gr FMJBT
  • Components for another 1000+ precision loads
  • Components to make another 5000 FMJ rounds – 3 Gun burns ammo
.270 Winchester 
  • 100+ precision reloads – Hornady 140 gr SST
  • 250+ precision reloads -Hornady 130 gr SST, deer hunting
  • 200+ precision reloads – Hornady 130 gr Interbond, hog hunting
  • Components to make another 1700 rounds with the above and vintage 150 gr spire point
  • 900+ rounds Wolf Military Classic 124 gr JHP
  • 800+ rounds Wolf 124 gr FMJ
.300 AAC Blackout 
  • 200+ reloads Maker Bullet 190 gr Expanding Subsonic
  • 250+ assorted subsonic solids
  • 200+ Barnes VOR-TX 110 gr TAC
6.5×284 Norma
  • 200 precision reloads with Hornady 147 gr ELD Match
.300 PRC
  • 300 Precision reloads with Hornady 250 gr A-Tip
  • 250 Precision reloads with Hornady 230 gr A-Tip
  • 300 Precision reloads with Hornady 225 gr ELD Match
.22 LR I don’t even want to begin to count. But let’s say I have a 5,000-count brick of CCI 40-grain standard velocity sitting on top of the ammo crates labeled .22 LR.

I have a few other calibers that are not shot often so they fall well below the 1,000-round minimum. I have a couple of wildcat calibers that also fall below the 1,000-round minimum, but they are reload-only and serve a specific purpose.

Note: As an astute reader pointed out, be sure to check with your local laws to ensure there aren’t any restrictions with the amount or type of ammunition you have on hand.

Budgeting for a Stockpile

ammo: to stockpile or not

The point is, Walmart’s poor decisions do not matter. Whether you are buying by the case (no point at Walmart) or buying by the box; if you are only buying for current needs, that is a huge mistake. Take the prepper approach and stockpile.

When you buy a box for shooting, add a box for saving. Do this with every paycheck and your ability to shoot and your reserve fund will grow immensely.

Before you say you don’t have the money, is your budget really so tight as to not be able to afford the equivalent of two boxes of 9mm ammo with each paycheck?

The concept works best when you get into a routine, just like your retirement investments. Do it with every paycheck and pretty soon you will mentally budget around that $20-25 “hole” in the budget.

My technique was to save the money until I had enough, for a case. Then, I bought ammo online for even greater savings.

How many rounds of ammo do you usually keep on hand for your go-to calibers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (53)

  1. OK so i know i shoot .40 cal and have a loose box of 450 to 500 rounds, and for duty/ defensive rounds i have about 3/4 full eotech box worth. Is that good or bad?

    Next what would you recommend for .308/ 7.62×51 ? need to know decent training ammo and decent defensive ammo? Also what round count would you keep for the .308/7.62X51?

    1. @ Christopher McKenzie.

      Try DAG 7.62×51 German Training Ammo (#LOSDAG95F0616) for $11.99/box of 50 at “vtammowarehouse . com”…

  2. Bill McCullough, as long as the ammo is stored properly and kept in a cool dry place, it will last almost indefinitely. I just fired some .30-06 my Father handloaded in 1967 and kept in a plastic bag in a .30 caliber ammo can, and it was indistinguishable from new stuff. FYI, that can was also kept indoors in a closet.

  3. Cap’n Steve, that option would be nice, but you can’t buy ammo from Cheaper Than Dirt if you live in California, or any other place online. Until now, Walmart had a decent selection and the best prices on bulk ammo for the millions of shooters in California.

    1. @ EL Ripley.

      Not exactly true! CTD can be purchased through “Cali B&M”. I have friend who have bought “CTD” products and even the DP-12 Shotgun through Cali B&M…

    2. I guess that’s an FFL? Yes, I could buy online and pay extra to get in the system and have a background check run, and have it shipped to an FFL, but I choose not to do that. I either buy in bulk on my trips to Nevada, or make my own. I was speaking to the point about buying online in general as a normal free citizen, and it made sense to buy from Walmart when they were selling.

    3. @ EL Ripley.

      “Normal Free”!/? What consists as “Normal Free” these days, or at anytime in US History…

  4. To S Sainati’s post above. Cook County, Illinois residents can order ammunition from sellers, and have it shipped directly, not to/through an FFL. Most big sellers will require that a copy of a valid Fireowner’s ID card be on file before shipping, some don’t even require that. But you can have ammo shipped directly to you. I’ll take your word on MA, but your post isn’t accurate as to Cook County; Chicago perhaps, but not other parts of the county.

  5. No such thing as a minimum … or max. Better to have it & not need it than need it & not have it. Seems the longer we wait the more we’re going to need.

  6. Just a note about your reloading quanities for the several calibers. If you have many or all of the calibers listed maintaing the components, spcifically powders, necessary for the suggested quanities may run afoul of local laws. my local community limits possession and storage of more than 25 pounds of powder a crime. I usually buy 8 pound containers for my 223 and 308 reloading and I reload two different loads for my 308/7.62 . Which leads to having to limit my pistol calibers to 1 pounders.That is OK since they use much less. Just check your local community’s quanity and storage regulations.

  7. I read an article once by a guy who was a civilian in the Yugoslav war in 1992. He said that it became rapidly clear that it didn’t matter how many guns you had. The only thing that mattered for self defense was how much ammo you had. Since moving to the U.S., he has 4 guns, but a minimum of 2,000 rounds for each gun. His lesson was hard learned.

  8. My complaint about that idiotic decision by WalMart is not that I can no longer find ammo (the decision you adopted is one I made years ago). My complaint centers around Wally World under selling the firearms dealers in my area and making their businesses unprofitable top the point they closed. WalMart then quit stocking and selling entire classes of firearms, a practice they continued and expanded until now it has reached into ammunition.

    I fail to discern much difference between between WalMart and Dicks Sporting Goods with regard to firearms–I have not entered a Dick’s store in years and have no plans to do so in the future. Sure Dicks, like WalMart sells a great many other things I use and need to replace at times–so do a huge number of other merchants. WalMart needs us far more than we need WalMart.

    Might we see the locally owned and controlled gun store return to the community, after all WalMart has decided to no longer compete in those markets.

  9. This story reminds me of an encounter I had with some young Mormons on Mission knocking on my door..

    I told them as an Orthodox I thought their Mormon sect was fine as new sects go.. . I said.. “The only problem I have is your Church is too liberal.. They looked at me perplexed and I said.. for example.. I bet you only have a Years worth of food stored at your house..

    1000 rounds per firearm? Well, that’s fine as far as it goes, certainly a good start.

    It is after all .. a matter of balance..


  10. John Bibby, the ammo you have stockpiled is darn near the same way I have mine setup. I keep an adequate supply of .22 CB, .22 Short, and .22 Magnum (500, 300, 1000 respectively). For .22 LR, the sky is the limit. My current stash has 2000 CCI (40 gr), (3) bricks of Federal with 3250 per brick, and an assortment of misc. brands (~1500 Rds) for a total of about 13K Rds…giver or take. I feel that there’s no such thing as too much .22LR, especially the ammo shortage that began in 2008 (Obama) and the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (Insecurity) purchased 103 “Million” Rounds of ammo and each DHS employee (for 2012) shot up between 1300 to 1600 rounds while soldiers in the U.S. Army averaged about 350 Rds/Yr. Wow…that’s freakin weird. My point is that ammo availability is unpredictable so you should do as John Bibby suggest by picking up 2 or 3 boxes of ammo every payday. It’s a good idea to stock up on the .17 WSM by Federal (2000 Rds..20 Gr). Great varmint ammo.
    As for other calibers, my stockpile is similar to John’s. I’m a retired 1st Infantry Division grunt (11-Bravo) and a Disabled Veteran. I’m an AKA (above-knee amputation) amputee and ambulate by way of my crutches or wheelchair. I will pick up small amounts of ammo from stores (stores other than Ball-Fart) but prefer buying bricks or free bulk ammo in box/crate from places like Sportsman’s Supply, CTD, Brownells, Primary Arms, etc. In addition to the ammo called out on John’s list, I have an ample amount of Aquila Minishells (about 500 Rds of Slug and 350 Rds of Buckshot). These are ideal for CQB scenarios. Gotta have some .50 BMG too (200 Rds of 660 Gr, 100 Rds API) to feed the M82a1. A good stash of ammo is a must but high-cap mags/drums and lowers is also something we should be considering. A variety of ammo cans and desiccant, or a dehumidifier will better preserve your goodies. Shortages and bans are inevitable, why wait til the day of mayhem when you could load up now? Besides, the core of Prepping is “preparation”…and I’m not talkin Prep-H.
    See ya all on the range for another Mad Minute…Yeah Buddy, gonna get some. “Hoorah!”

  11. I’m not a super gun guy. I only have four firearms, two rifle two pistols. I go to the range about once a month and fire all four until I’m satisfied they and are working well together, or at least I remember which end points to the paper. Each weapon has four magazines. They are kepted fully loaded at all times except for when they are being used at the range. I edc and rotate between the two handguns. I see no point in having a stockpiles of each caliber since none of my weapons will fire bullets from a box, besides even tho cargo pants are worn most days I have no desire to lug around a half dozen or so ammo cansand what’s buried under the garage floor won’t do me any good when I’m down town at 5th and Main in the middle of bm hitting the fan.

  12. Although I am in my 70’s, I keep about 5000 res of .22, 750 .38 Super, 500 10 mm, 750 45 acp, 1000 total .223/5.56 NATO, 250 6.5 Rem. Mag, 500 match grade.308 + hunting loads, 300 .41 mag., + unknown quantity of .38/.357 mag.. I haven’t even fired my new 6.5 Creedmore so the Ammo is limited. Forgot the 400 .22 mag.rds. Also 100 #4 Buck loads in 12 ga., + field /trap loads, turkey loads for my 20 ga.. That covers most of the inventory. JERRYMARK, Terre Haute, IN

  13. I agree with keeping a stock pile of ammo. However this seems a little excessive. I don’t have the time to shoot all of my calibers a lot. I think to keep a 1000 rounds of 9mm and 40 S&W would be a good idea. Or whatever caliber pistol you shoot a lot. I always wait for sales on 5.56 ammo. My target price is less than $300 per 1000 rounds delivered. I’ve gotten a 1000 in the 55gr for $265.00. If you shoot steal plate I would recommend keeping 2000 or more on hand. I shoot longer distance and use a 77gr bullet. They are $600 for a 1000. But I don’t go through them as fast as the 55gr. Most of my guns are magnums So there is no way I could afford a1000 rounds of those. But I do have the components to reload many rounds. I always look for bullets at gun shows. You can end up with a nice stock pile of components in a short time if you just search for deals.

  14. I usually can pick up 9 mm ball ammo Federal or Remington for 16 cents a round locally after taxes if I watch the rebates and fill out the forms! The days of $5 bricks of 22 and 45″s at 7.50 a box of 50 went out the door with the Clinton thru Obama nightmare!

  15. Always buy ammo when it goes on sale. It’s not like its going to spoil and you never know what the gov’t will come up with to restrict your purchase

  16. Before the Obama ammo shortage, I would stop at Walmart 2-3 times a month and pick up 2-4 bulk boxes of Federal or Remington .22LR 500 packs. It takes 8 to fill a 50 caliber ammo can, I have several of those, and 6 to fill a 30 caliber can, I have several of those. I also have a 5000 rd case of CCI that is unopened. So that’s a good start. As for the rifle ammo, I think a minimum of 2000 rounds for the 7.62X54R and 3000 of 7.62X39 is a good start. As for 5.56 I think a minimum of 5000 rounds is on the low side since I might use up to 1000 rounds on any given class at Front Sight. Handloading for each caliber saves a lot of money and produces the best load for each barrel that I shoot. The RL550 and Square Deal B’s will be back in full production as soon as it cools off a little bit next week. I guess what I’m trying to say is, “how big is your garage?”

  17. We agree 1,000 rounds per caliber should just be your minimum safety stock. Your shooting inventory would above that level. Buying in lots of 1,000 rounds is also cost effective.

  18. In my experience it is much cheaper to buy in bulk, that is 1000 round in anything other than .22LR. There it is better by the 5000. Not that expensive either. Ammo is cheap right now.

  19. I have around 6000 total, half of that being .22 LR. And I do exactly as you suggest, grab a box of SOMETHING or two with every paycheck. Have to be prepared!

  20. For me, Walmart was the cheapest and most convenient location to buy handgun ammunition. Excepting a decent sale, I never found anything that came close to their price for the same brand of ammunition (I found cheaper off-brand or reloads online, but I don’t do that).

    Their (Walmart’s) response to so-called ‘gun violence’ by not selling handgun ammunition will in all likelihood not save one single life, but will make the life of honest and law-abiding gun owners that much more difficult.

    I ask liberals all the time why the good law abiding citizen is punished for the actions of the law breaker. The silence of their response is deafening…

  21. I’m a total newbie to the gun scene. Recently purchased my first handgun (9mm). Can you clarify what this means?

    Components to reload another 3000 FMJ rounds – 3 Gun burns ammo

  22. I was at Gunsite taking an Urban rifle class 10 or so years ago. One of the students was a young Marine Lt. just back from Iraq. I asked him about combat and he had some interesting observations:
    1. His medic was in a room to room search and stepped around the corner and surprised a guy trying to change mags on an AK. The medic shot him 5-6 times in the chest with his Beretta 9mm before he dropped, dying and no longer a threat.
    2. I asked what the typical round count per engagement was. He said it was common to burn 2,500 rounds of 5.56 per Marine in a hard fought engagement. This is something that might have lasted 30 to 60 minutes, not an all day or all night battle.
    3. He said they were commonly loading bags with 50 mags of 5.56 in vehicles to pass out to their shooters after they had burned through their basic loadout of 5.56 mags.
    3. When I asked what the average Marine was carrying he said that the basic loadout of 10 mags was inadequate in a hostile environment and that a rifleman would burn through his ammo and go empty very quickly. He said his guys were each starting out with 20 mags on a normal patrol.

    So as you are contemplating your storage requirements, you can see what the likely most extreme case of urban combat could be and then see how it might apply to your world view. Everyone will have a different approach. Barney Fife was ready for a one or two round engagement. Which side of the ledger do you fit into?

  23. Bibby is correct. Different calibers, different loads, different weapons, not to mention I can go through hundreds of 12 gauge rounds in an afternoon of trap and sporting clays.

  24. I’m relative new into shooting (10 years) so I remember walking into Cabelas during Obama’s 8 years of hell and seeing the ammo isles completely empty. Luckily, I had bought a few ammo cans of 22 so I was in good shape for that shortage. Since then I rarely pass up a sale for ammo. I also learned to reload incase I can’t get the finished product. My old 10 gun safe is now jam packed with mostly reloading supplies and I have more 50 cal ammo boxes full of ammo than I can count. I stopped buying ammo at Walmart years ago.

  25. Back in 2015, a large cache of WWII era M1 Garand’s were found in Brazil at the bottom of a lake.
    How and why they were at the bottom of the lake is unclear and probable lost as time past, and people forgot they were there. Packed in original crates and slathered liberally in “Cosmoline”. The M1’s and .30-06 ammunition were in pristine condition, considering they sent almost 70-years at the bottom of a lake…

  26. decent article but,……….. “Before you say you don’t have the money, is your budget really so tight as to not be able to afford the equivalent of two boxes of 9mm ammo with each paycheck?” Yeah dude , there really are a lot of people with budgets that tight…..unfortunate fact eh?

  27. Personally, I’m of the opinion that you need more like 1000+ rounds per firearm you own, not per caliber. I have several 9mm and 45acp. I shoot 9mm the most, so I stock more 9mm than anything but 22lr. That said, if you do have a firearm with a 200rd barrel life, maybe you ought to stock another barrel and another couple hundred rounds. And, I keep lots of 22lr around not only for shooting, but for bartering in a SHTF situation.

  28. Here is my thing… By my name, you know a little about me… spent 2 1/2 consecutive years in Nam …1969-71. I still have the first rifle and shotgun my Grand Father gave me when I was about 10. I NEVER sell a firearm I own. So, having a hmmm few… I have to “feed’ them. Luckily the ones I use most it my ARs in 308/300AAC/223-5.56… add to that my 38spl/357 and my 45 ACP. I am a lucky guy. My son is a LEO and twice a year he has to qualify with the AR15 and the 45 ACP… The local Prison Employees qualify but with their 38 SPL. So that being said..I am up to my ass in brass.

    Short story… I utilize my local VA and they asked me about firearms in the house… Hmmm I think they think I will go postal… the way…I AM a postal retiree LOL. I was told I needed a hobby. I told them I am not the Stamp Collecting kind of person. A month later they asked if I had a hobby yet… I smiled and said YES… Asking what… I said RELOADING. Their eyes went to the back of their head.

    Ok, onto relevant matters… I now reload as well as buy when prices are good. 9mm and 22 are the best bargain..I can’t reload 9mm for the cost of a box and 22s are a lot cheaper now. I think the writer hit it on the head… stockpile slowly unless you reload..but not so much it is in the way of the wife vacuuming. I take my Grand Daughters… 21 and 16 now…to the range and we take a lot of ammo and firearms so they can have some fun…along with Grandpa. The oldest is in the process of becoming a State Trooper so I push the 45ACP on her more than the others… that will be her work “tool”. So, we can go through a lot of ammo and paper targets in an afternoon. My point..have enough that you can have fun with or hunt but… keep those reserve supplies up to where the writer suggests if possible… always better to have enough for the NEED than not enough. Be a Squirrel and stash enough to eat now and LATER. Sorry for being long winded…

  29. Hmmmm…
    Factory ammo, 4k of 22lr, including high quality hunting rounds maybe 4500. 2k 9mm, 2k 5.56, 1k .308, 200 30.06, 100 458.
    Then there are handloads. 2.5k 9mm (124 grn xtp clone), 2.5k 5.56 (all 55grn sp), 200 .308 hunting, 200 .458 for hunting.
    Capacity to load a few hundred more of each of the larger rounds. Capacity to load maybe 5k 9mm and 4k 5.56.
    Primers are vacuum sealed and kept in temp and humidity controlled environment. As is the powder. I prep cases during the summer when they are plentiful at the ranges for pick ups. This is also when I stock up on materials. I load during the winter. And yes, I shoot lots.

  30. Hell, I shoot about 200 rounds a week, so I buy ammo by the 500. Whenever it goes on sale, I buy 10 boxes

  31. When I go to the range, after my shot I buy twice the number of rounds of the caliber(s) that I shot. This lets me build up a stockpile. I live in Cook County IL, to which direct shipments of ammo are not permitted. They can only be received by an FFL. It was the same when I lived in MA.

  32. How long can you keep ammunition in stock? Say for instance: .223 caliber or 9mm,or even.22 caliber. How long can you keep ammunition in stock, and it would still be safe to use?

  33. I have 2,000 rounds of .22, 2,000 rounds of 5.56 (I own 2 AR’s And 50 30-round mags), 1000 rounds of .45, and 1,000 rounds of 9mm. Oh, and about 150 rounds of .380.

    I need to get going, obviously, and get more rounds.

  34. I agree with your calculations, but would add that buying more if one’s finances allow. One also needs to decide the what and why for one’s stockpile. Is it a SHTF scenario or the decline in availability that drives the answer(s). The why you’re stockpiling dictates what you should have on hand as well as how much you need on hand.
    The equipment and the ability to reload it, is a real plus regardless of the reason you’re stockpiling. While a Progressive Press is the cat’s whiskers of reloading, it’s not essential to have one, so, getting in to reloading can be done on a budget. Personally, I’ve been reloading for over 40 years, and I still use the same single stage press I bought way back then.
    Being on a budget makes stockpiling a little more difficult, but not impossible. If you have a buddy that’s shooting the same calibers, discuss buying in bulk between the two of you. Thst cuts the costs for you both to have up front, yet still enables you to buy at the best cost per round pricing. For plinking and target practice, consider buying remanufactured ammo. There are several reputable companies that offer this option.
    What we’ve recently witnessed with Walmart, appears to be a trend we may be forced to accept for a while. I believe we’ll see other Big Box Stores pull the same thing in the near future. Whether or not this “Virtue Signalling” continues is anyone’s guess. This corporate lean to the Left may be with us for quite some time.

  35. I seriously have minimum 10,000 rounds for every firearm I own (in excess of 200 firearms) for that particular firearm caliber. I’m not stockpiling for casual target fun. If the intent is to be able to defend and preserve life… then 100 rounds in case of a catastrophic event isn’t going to get very far. Also…. ammo will be a currency if SHTF. Ammo and firearms in a post-collapse society will not only be necessary, but they will also be the currency used for safe passage, for food, for supplies. Not to mention the necessity of ammo to defend ammo stockpiles. If the .22 and 9mm shortages taught us any lesson, it should be that being dependent on retail or online stores to maintain a small and only usable amount of ammo is not sufficient. Not imagine that shortage being not just a shortage but a full-stop…. where are you going to get ammo then? My house? If you’re coming to barter or help… then we can deal. If you’re coming to steal and plunder….. well, again I have the ammo to take care of that also.

  36. I’m somewhat appalled at your own small stockpile 🙂
    I get nervous if my 9mm drops below 5,000 rounds…

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