Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stockpiling Ammunition

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children and 6 adult staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On December 16, US President Barak Obama vowed to use all the power at his disposal to prevent anything similar from ever happening again. By the end of December, Obama had signed 23 gun-control executive orders, proposed 12 gun-control congressional actions, and formed a gun-control task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. Sales of guns and ammunition spiked, and for most of 2013 it was difficult if not impossible to purchase modern sporting rifles and ammo of any caliber as manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand. As I write this article 15 months later, the amount and variety of ammo available remains much lower than it was in early December of 2012, and online bargains sell out within minutes.

If ammunition is difficult to find after a mass shooting and political maneuvering, it will be impossible to find during any scenario where people actually need ammunition for hunting or security. Getting ready for such a situation means stockpiling ammo in advance.

So how much ammunition will you need? I base my preparations on a one-year horizon at most. (For any supplies, I start out by getting ready for a two-week event.) I've recommended arming yourself with such firearms as a handgun, shotgun, .22 rifle, high-power bolt action rifle, and a high-power semi-automatic rifle or carbine. Uses for ammunition in various scenarios include training, sighting, hunting, defense, and trade.

During an emergency I might use some ammunition to train someone with whom I group in the use of a firearm. I won't want to use much ammo for this purpose, as it will attract unwanted attention, but it may be unavoidable if that group member is to be relied upon for hunting or defense. I'd want to use no more than 50 rounds of .22 for general skills, plus maybe 20 rounds of handgun, shotgun, or high-power rifle ammunition for specific firearm familiarity.

Any time a firearm is acquired, the iron sights are disturbed, or a new telescopic sight is fitted, ammunition is required to align the firearm's point of aim (POA) and the bullet's point of impact (POI). Again, little ammo need be prepared for this purpose; 30 rounds per event should be plenty.

Surprisingly, little ammunition is also required for hunting. A great hunter could keep his family fed with less than one deer per week. That same hunter would hang his head in shame if he averaged two shots per deer (most try for one-shot kills); so 100 rounds of high-power hunting ammunition is plenty for my preparations. In fact, I am not a great hunter, and I don't expect hunting big game to be a viable strategy. Since I won't feel safe running around with a hunting rifle anyway, and am stockpiling food, probably a single 20-round box of high-power hunting ammo is all my family needs to prepare for the purpose of hunting big game.

Small game is another story; there is more opportunity to bag squirrels, possums, racoons near my home than any deer. Plus, I'd want more than a single squirrel a week to feed my family! Still, in addition to shooting small game with my .22 rifle, I'll also have snares and traps to work with, and don't expect game of any kind to stick around long in such a scenario, and then I have my food stockpile, etc. If I prepare 20 rounds of .22 per week for a year, that's 1,000 rounds I need to set aside--20 bricks or 2 value packs of trusty .22.

A shotgun also works for small game, as well as fowl such as ducks, doves, or geese. I figure 200 rounds of birdshot will be more than I can use in a year, along with maybe 20 slugs for hunting bigger game.

Now let's consider security. How much ammunition should I prepare for defending myself, my family, and my home (with its' important stockpiles of vital supplies)? It's possible to go through quite a lot of high-power ammunition in a single protracted battle. Some soldiers claim to have carried 750-1000 rounds of 5.56 NATO in Vietnam, though a more typical heavy loadout seems to be 6 30-round magazines plus one in the rifle for a total of 210 rounds. (Figure about 50 rounds of 7.62 NATO if that's the route you take.)

So then the question becomes: For how many battles should one prepare? My own personal goal is for none of us to ever get into a pitched battle in the first place. Each firefight is a chance of getting killed, and so if I were to stockpile 2,000 rounds of ammo for an AR-15 in a sense I'd be saying I expect to survive 10 fierce battles where I shoot 6-7 standard-capacity magazines-full of ammunition. I consider that to be pretty optimistic. Plus, if I did survive that many such battles, I'd probably have an opportunity or two to salvage ammunition from the enemy fallen.

I feel I'm ready enough for a year-long scenario if I have just four loadouts of 5.56 ammo--2 cans of 420 rounds on 10-round stripper clips or 3-5 battle packs (depending on capacity). For my Mini-G, I'll prepare 280 rounds of 7.62 NATO--a single ammo can (280 rounds) or 2 battle packs, with enough en bloc clips for it all.

The same shotgun that can be used for hunting is also a good home defense weapon. To (optimistically) survive 4 pitched battles, I think 200 rounds of buckshot would be plenty.

A handgun is great for self-defense because one is more likely to be carrying it when doing something else. If one expects a fight, one should have a long arm; but if one is traveling light, a sidearm can make the difference between life or death. Because a handgun is used when not expecting so much trouble, I'll likely have no more than two spare magazines or speed-loaders with me if required. My optimism holding up to aspire to survive four such gunfights, I'll need 72 rounds of revolver ammunition or up to 180 rounds of semi-automatic ammo.

Finally, think about the value ammunition has for bartering. If cash is gone or devalued, if silver and gold are not sought after because they serve no practical purpose, ammunition will keep its value. In 2013's ammunition shortage, people were buying ammo at Walmart at 6am and marking it up to sell at a profit by 9am. Just be reasonably sure you aren't supplying someone with the ammunition that will be used to threaten your family and home. I'll feel safer not spreading ammunition around, but it's important to remember its worth should I find myself in desperate need later on. Round up your estimates or pad your stockpile with this in mind.

To summarize, for a typical family, in my opinion the following amounts of ammunition should be adequate per firearm for up to a year:
  • 1,500 rounds of .22 LR (30 bricks or 3 value packs).
  • 100 rounds of high-power hunting ammo, mostly for training and sighting
  • 1,260 rounds of 5.56 NATO or similar (10-15 battle packs or 3 ammo cans)
  • 560 rounds of 7.62 NATO or similar (4 battle packs or 2 ammo cans)
  • 250 12 ga. birdshot
  • 250 12 ga. buckshot
  • 50 12 ga. slugs
  • 100 rounds revolver
  • 250 rounds semi-automatic pistol
You'll probably find many people recommending stockpiling much more ammunition than I do. Likely many are planning for a longer term, but some haven't thought things through and envision themselves packing this much into their bug-out bag alone(!). Feel free to stockpile more if you want to, and adjust these numbers based on the number of firearms you own, the scenarios you're preparing for, etc. Frankly, if there really were a year-long emergency without rule of law, I'd expect to have most of what I recommend still intact at the end.

The main thing to keep in mind when storing ammunition is to keep it dry. Battle packs (ammunition sealed in airtight plastic) packed in ammo cans are great for this purpose, as are heavy-duty ziploc bags, vacuum sealers, and dessicants. You'll want to record the purchase date on your ammo's containers to help as you rotate your stockpile; when you consume ammunition, add any ammunition you purchase to your stockpile and take the oldest ammunition to shoot.

I recommend not keeping all your eggs in one basket: keep some ammo at home and cache some. Don't neglect to include properly maintained magazines, clips, or speed-loaders at each location. You may also want to store gun-cleaning supplies, spare parts, etc. with your ammunition stockpile.

Now, the next time the economy collapses or a solar flare takes out the electric grid or a killer flu pandemic hits or the President focuses on gun control, you won't be caught empty.

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  1. Dont forget a good powerful pellet gun for small game, they can be as good as a .22 and they dont make any noise.

  2. A brick of .22 ammo is 500 rounds all across the world. It seems your refer to it as being 50 rounds in your article.

  3. How much ammo do you need? Realistically...probably what you put down in your article.

    How much ammo should you have? WAY more than what you put down in your article. For every weapon you own, the increments should be counted in thousands. 250 rounds of SA pistol? I ran through 500 at the range yesterday...

  4. Pellet guns will be awesome in a SHTF situation. Talk about cheap ammunition. And stealth operation. A good $250 pellet gun is one of the things I practice shooting the most often as the targets like rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc are rather small.