How much ammunition do you REALLY need? A “rule of thumb” to stockpiling ammo.

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Ever since I’ve gotten serious about being ready to defend my home, I’ve heard people tell me that I needed 1,000 rounds of each caliber ammunition that I use or 10,000 total rounds of ammunition.

I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with those numbers. Not that I see anything wrong with having a lot of ammo on hand, just that I’ve always thought they were rather arbitrary.

Arbitrary numbers bother me, because they clearly have not been though through. 

When it comes to the equipment and supplies I have on hand for survival, I believe it is important to make sure that I have what I need, not just some arbitrary number. That means thinking the situation through and making some hard decisions.

So let’s start by defining some things FIRST when it comes to stockpiling ammunition …

There are more than a few reasons to stockpile ammunition. Here’s the top 3 I can think of right now off the top of my head:

1. To have a SHTF supply of ammunition, if you are ever caught in a “battle” How much ammo do you (most likely) need to fight as long as you need to fight if you need to fight?

2. How much ammo should you stockpile, to have enough to keep “dry” for a SHTF situation AND to train with, while not running out of ammo …

3. And how much ammo should you stockpile, in general, because you believe either the political climate or a coming price crunch will make it hard to get your hands on said ammo?

These are just three of the primary reasons why I would suggest stockpiling ammo, and they all have DIFFERENT answers. Makes sense right?

But today, we’re going to focus on how much ammo do you (most likely) need for a SHTF situation where you have to fight a battle?

When it comes to firearms and the ammunition for them, I decided that there could be no better source of information than the U.S. Army, specifically the Army Infantry. So, I went looking to see how much ammo an infantry soldier carries into combat.

The Army has taken great pains to develop what is called the “basic load.”

This is what a soldier is expected to carry on them when they go into combat. It is divided into four basic parts: the things on the soldier’s body, those on their body armor and/or chest rig, their assault rucksack and their main rucksack. The combat load is expected to provide the soldier with everything they will need while conduction combat operations; that includes enough ammunition to get through the day.

Looking at the Army’s own information about this, we find that infantry soldiers carry a total of 210 rounds of ammunition for their rifles. That consists of one magazine of 30 rounds in their rifle and six more magazines of 30 rounds attached to their plate carrier and/or chest rig.

Those who carry a pistol carry three magazines or 45 total rounds of ammunition; one magazine in their pistol and two in an ammo pouch on their load bearing equipment (LBE).

Seeing these number made the 1,000 and 10,000 figures seem even more arbitrary.

If an infantry soldier only needs 210 rounds of ammunition for their rifle, why do I need 1,000? For that matter, if an infantry officer only needs 45 rounds for their pistol, why do I need 1,000? Obviously, something is amiss.

Even looking at the worst-case survival scenario, I can’t see myself ever having the equivalent of three days combat in one location. If I do, then I’m doing something wrong. I can see my home getting attacked once, or maybe even twice. But if I’m still in that home after that second time, then I need my head examined. By then it should be clear to me that they’re going to keep on attacking until they kill me, so I’d better get out of Dodge.

Besides, I don’t think there’s any way I’d use 210 rounds of ammunition in a firefight, even if I did have 20 people attacking my home. I wouldn’t be using a rifle that fires on full automatic and I wouldn’t be using suppressive fire. Since all my shots would be aimed shots (even if only poorly aimed), I’d be surprised if I went through two complete magazines.

I think these numbers have been developed out of fear; fear that the government is going to make it hard for us to get ammo. While that has already happened and is likely to happen again, and is a PERFECTLY legitimate reason to stockpile more ammo, I have realized that I really don’t need more than three basic loads of ammo to be able to defend my home and family. So a little over 600 rounds per rifle in the house and around 200 rounds per pistol in the house.

That’s a logical number we’ve arrived at for home defense … that said, there are reasons to carry more.

What about carrying out guerilla operations after a collapse of society as we know it?

This is a scenario that I know a lot of Americans worry about as well.

Society has collapsed and a totalitarian regime has taken over, and/or enemy forces have invaded the U.S.

In other words, you are fighting a longer, more drawn out battle that will require more than defending your home. You’re an unconventional warfighter at this point. A freedom fighter or guerilla, insurgent, however you want to look at it.

In that case, you do need more ammo and I think this is where the 1,000 to 10,000 ammo “rule” comes from.

There is no better expert on unconventional warfare (UW) than John Mosby, the Mountain Guerilla. John is former Special Forces (SF) The following is a quote from an article of his concerning load bearing equipment for the unconventional warfighter (comments in bold and/or parenthesis are still John talking):

“When we look at the requirement to “shoot,” we’re actually looking at all the necessities of required to direct lethal force on the enemy. Primary amongst these of course is the rifle…

“Second to the weapon, is the ability to continue feeding the hungry beast. Opinions on how much ammunition the individual should carry on his fighting load differs, based on whom you ask and what their specific mission experience entails. Some tactical trainers will insist that, for the armed citizen, no more than three or four rifle magazines will ever conceivably be needed. Former Special Operations Sergeant Major (SGM) Kyle Lamb (USA, retired), of Viking Tactics, is an advocate of this approach, even for military special operations. As he explains, logically, in his excellent book “Green Eyes, Black Rifles,” three magazines of 30 rounds each (like myself, the SGM advocates loading a 30 round magazine with…30 rounds!), equals 90 rounds. Assuming it takes three rounds per bad guy to kill him, that still allows for 30 dead guys accounted for by each shooter before he runs out of ammunition. If a person is in THAT serious of a fight, then either he’ll have plenty of buddies around to borrow a magazine from, or there will be plenty of rifles and magazines laying around to pick up. There’s a lot to be said for that argument, including the fact that such a minimalist load will do a great deal towards ensuring maximum mobility for the fighter (MSG Paul Howe, a veteran of the same unit as SGM Lamb, concurs with the SGM for that very reason).

“On the other hand, unlike a member of that unit, the partisan fighter, like the SF soldier in an UW role, does not have the option of counting on a “speedball” re-supply getting dropped on the objective, not the ability to readily call for a helicopter-borne quick-reaction force (QRF) if help is suddenly needed.

“It is entirely possible, and far from uncommon, for every soldier in an UW, small-unit element, such as an SFODA or a LRSU team, to run through more than three magazines performing just one “break contact” battle drill.Additionally, in the event of a break contact, it is entirely plausible that, while performing an exfiltration from the immediate area of the fight, an UW unit could be forced into further contact with pursuing forces, before having the opportunity to re-supply from a pre-positioned re-supply cache.

“It should be considered that the US Army doctrinal “basic load” of ammunition is 210 rounds, and the average conventional force infantryman has a lot more buddies around to call for help, including CAS (close-air support), indirect-fire weapons, and QRF, than you will (as a young Ranger, I was blessed to have a squad leader who encouraged us to carry nine magazines on our old ALICE LBE, instead of six, and one in the rifle. As an 18B NCO in SF, my personal rule was to carry 12 full magazines: one in my rifle, one in a butt-pouch on the rifle, and ten on my LBE. My current standard is 12 magazines: one in the rifle, three on my war belt, and eight on my chest harness).

“My recommendation is, “carry as much ammunition as you are physically capable of carrying, as long as it does not preclude your being able to physically perform the job you’ve assumed.” (Want to test your load? Can you perform a 300-meter shuttle run in less than 1:30 minutes, with your gear on? Can you run an 800 meter sprint, through the woods, cross-country, in no more than half-again as long as it takes you without gear on? If so, you’re probably alright. If not, you either need to dump some gear, or do more PT…probably the latter) 

“While this certainly adds more weight to the load-out, considering the possibilities of being out-numbered and pursued by numerically superior forces, it’s unlikely that you will ever be carrying “too much” ammunition (As I tell people in classes, “I’ve never been in a gunfight, after which anyone said, ‘Damn, I had way too much ammo! I should’ve left some of that shit in the rear.!’ I have however, been in more than one fight, where halfway through it, people were screaming, “Dude, I’m out! Toss me a magazine!”)

So what’s a good guideline then?

John Mosby carries 360 on his person. More than the Army “basic load”, but still not that much (compared to 10,000 rounds). If you burned through the entire 360 round loadout every day, you could still fight for almost three straight days with 1,000 rounds.

So multiplying each loadout times three. You have 600+ rifle and 150+ pistol rounds being on the low end (using the Army “basic load” standard) … and … 1080 rifle rounds, and 150+ pistol rounds (per John Mosby’s Unconventional Warfare loadout).

Sp then, it would seem that 1,000 rounds of good rifle ammo and 150+ good pistol ammo is a bare minimum for stockpiling when the you-know-what hits the fan.

Now, keep in mind the other two reasons for stockpiling are

A.) because you need MORE than your defensive loadout stash of ammo to train and practice with.

B.) because you know the price of ammo keeps going up and up, so by buying in bulk now you are saving money in the long run.

We’ll discuss those reasons later … but in each those cases … more is obviously better. Luckily, ammunition is sold at a slight discount when you buy in 500 and 1,000 cases. Hopefully this gives you a good guideline to think of when it comes to stockpiling ammo.

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Caleb
Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.

59 COMMENTS

  1. During the “Nam fiasco. yes one bandoleer was a basic load, however, I cannot ever remember anyone leaving without at least 2! I was attached to 4th Infantry for a while as a field corpsman. I not only carried a 26 Lb. field aid kit, but a small (waist) ruck as well as a CAR-15, the 2 bandoleers as well as a .45 with 6 spare mags. Strange medic? I don’t think so. I came home alive!

    • while i realize that statistically you will only need the 210 rounds and that most battles are very short lived but i would like to point out that in the recent riots of fergusson and maryland there were certainly more than 210 people participating. lets say 500 were participating and became aggressive and violent. thats going to leave 290 thats going to cook your ass. civilians are not military. we do not nor will we ever have an endless supply of ammunition with which we can be restocked by an airdrop. we have also heard numerous stories of american soldiers who come under attack repeatedly by taliban insurgents and either run out or run dangerously close to running out of ammunition. we do not have the ability to call in air support or an air rescue to come bail us out of the fire. if one depends on the police in any given situation that is likely to unfold you will be like the lone ranger when him and tonto were riding down a valley with indians on both sides. the lone ranger said here is what we do if they attack and he said what you mean we pale face. you will be on your own. i think to apply a number to how much ammo one should have with them takes into account more than just a number. how much ammo one stockpiles is totally dependent upon the person. i think it is time to stop trying to limit the number or place a number on this and just tell people to buy what they can afford and stockpile what you want or think you will need, otherwise you will have nothing but an expensive paperweight.

  2. Triple your kill rate, Head shots usually only take one round, Also take out 3 with one shot by forcing there buddies to care for a wounded man.

  3. One generally missing eventuality…………..There will undoubtedly be those who are ammo short or even, perhaps, without – who might join the fight. Lord knows the variety of guns and calibers/cartridges they may have. Without sources to buy quantities of matching factory ammo and no (or very few) reloading components for “whatever”, there is not much to do. BUT, for the two most common cartridges (5.56 and 7.65) it can be possible to stockpile factory rounds at quantity and to reload same. At least those two should be available in great quantity – particularluy for the vast number of ARs in 5.56. Rounds for the AK 7.65X39 are also quite popular. The vast majority of these are steel cased, advisedly non-reloadable and available as factory (Russian/Balkan) loads. A few of these cartridges are available in brass cases from PPU and certain others but they are a minority. Few that I’ve known reload this cartridge. In short, those who may have stockpiled components for 5.56 & 7.65 can provide quality rounds valuable in helping to fill demand. After all, a battle for liberty will require group support for how many millions(?)

  4. As the article states,,, 210 rds per rifleman ,,,, that’s because his life expectancy is 15 mins in a battle… I have enough to sustain a respectable fire fight… Hell, If these went off at one time, I’d take out 1/2 of the place that I live in. My Barrett alone has 150 !!!”””SPECIAL””!!! rds to feed it!! Don’t have a m16 type,,,, 1901 Springfield, & 1 “”BAR””!! & other pistolas!!

  5. I always look at a worse case scenario. If the power grid goes out from an EMP and won’t be back up for a year or possibly more, how much ammo will I need? My small cal .22 will be my primary for meat. Small game would be perfect for that caliber If you used 3 shots each day on average to get your meat, it would take over 1000 rounds in a year. Don’t forget, when TSHTF there will not be anymore stores selling ammo and it will be more valuable than gold. It will become a great trading item. When .22 cal ammo disappeared from shelves there were people paying over $250 for 1,000 rounds that normally sold for under $50. Think of how much they would be worth if there was no ammo being manufactured and no expectation of resupply?

    The question to ask the people in the military is not how much ammo do you carry with you, but if you set up a fire base how much ammo do you stockpile for the fire base? You home will be your fire base. I would say you should stock it like a fire base.

    Remember, a basic load is designed to fight the enemy and be able to move around without the weight constricting your movement. The basic load will allow you to fight until a resupply or additional forces can come to your aid. I always think of the worst case and plan accordingly.

  6. I have always considered my guns and ammo as an investment so I see it as the more I have the better the investment. If it turns out that I need to retreat to a safer more friendly environment I will take all I can and just consider the rest as a loss on my investment. Until that happens I will keep on investing in them.

  7. I have always considered my guns and ammo to be an investment. If it comes down to me having to retreat to a safer place I would take all that I could and just consider the rest a loss. Until then I will keep on investing. My motto is all you can get is not enough when you need to defend yourself and family.

  8. a BASIC LOAD is just that. A minimum load to carry during a maneuver. I agree with having at least 1000 rds stockpiled in a safe location for each firearm. You never know what to expect and i would rather prepare for the worst case, hope for the least case and come out somewhere in between.
    Also you will need extra ammo for practice and training

  9. Assume TEOTWAWKI has come. Here’s what I think: 22lr /9mm/.38spl AMMO will become the barter of choice, along with seeds. Other barter stuff is too dang heavy to carry.: Man comes to me w 90% silver US coins and wants to TRADE some for some ammo..etc etc. So..how much? 10,000 rds of 22, and 5000 rds of 9mm and .38. to start…plus reloading suplies to MAKE more except of course the .22 which is impossible at home. IMHO the other stuff like .308, .223, 30-30 etc will be valuable but heavy and harder to drag around.
    btw, 308 and .223 will also be found lying around after various fire fights.. just sayin.

  10. what I stockpile is different from what I carry, normally I carry 1 or 2 magazines but in a SHTF scenario I will carry what ever I can and still be able to move without to much burden, as far as stock pile you can never have enough ammo and you should have the ability to reload your own ammo, when the time comes ammo will be as good as gold but can I give it up that is the question I have to ponder upon!

  11. To add to Harold comment. Stockpiling is not the same as ammunition rations for the days outing. I go through more than 210rds at the range in one day. Stocking wouldn’t be what a soldier is equipped with for the day it’s how many crates of ammo are on the base for every soldier!!

  12. It depends on the task if it’s a routine parameter/ fence patrol and check 120rounds will do, hunting long range patrol/ recon, checking traplines ect 320 rounds is fine. Overall, all the ammo in the world don’t mean nothing what matters is marksmanship if you can’t hit jackshit all the ammo in the world won’t help you.

  13. Caleb: When I was in Vietnam (Security Police guarding the airbase fence line and aircraft), I carried 22- 20round magazines to work every night. That’s so if I did get into a firefight I wouldn’t have to have someone deliver ammo to me for a while.

  14. when as a paratrooper in vietnam our basic load was 21-20 round mags with 18 rounds each ,in one fight outside of hue i reloaded those mags 3 times in 13 hours.

  15. My suggestion is to first of all, load up your gear and go train with it. You might be surprised the weight your carrying if youre carrying a pack and body armor and tons of ammo. Ammo adds weight. Weight tires you out faster, and it also slows you down and makes you a bigger target in a fire fight. Like Wyatt Earp said “Speed is good, but accuracy is better”. If youre travelling light, youre going to be able to move faster and draw faster then your opponent, and that can be the difference between living and dieing. If Im within 25 feet of a guy with body armor and a SAW (for example) and Im wearing plain clothes and armed with my pistol, the guy with the SAW is going to die because I am going to deploy my pistol faster then he can bring up his weapon. 210 rounds per infantryman in a squad of people isnt too bad considering your squad will likely consist of at least one man equipped with a automatic weapon for covering fire, and pretty much all your buds carrying the same caliber of weapon. So if three guys are doing more shooting while say three more are doing more maneuvering, they can always re-supply the three “shooters” with their own ammo. For this reason, in my group we’ll call a tactical shooting club, we agreed to standardized calibered weapons except for specialists (specialists being long range marksman, and the “doc”, and the comms guy). Everyone is either armed with 5.56 AR platform rifles, and 9mm glock pistols. Most guys have mag pouches on the back of their vests as well as the front so anyone who runs out of ammo, can fall back behind you and reload. Again, you need to get out and practice carrying this type of weight. My suggestion is load up your tac vest / body armor, sling your weapon over your back and go spend an hour speed walking on a tread mill in the privacy of your own home. You dont want to walk around the neighborhood like this and scare the crap out of everyone.

    So, how much ammo should you have? IMHO based on my experience. Have all that you can afford! Even if its more then you can “carry”. Id say minimum 1000 rounds per weapon, more if possible. Why so much? Well, a weekend at the range I go through minimum 150-200 rounds. So, 1000 rounds is roughly 5 weekends at the range or about 3 months supply for me. If there is an ammo shortage for any given quarter of the year, it usually rectifies itself in 3-5 months. Ammo really doesnt go bad if you rotate it and store it right (even in volume). And in a crisis, you can ALWAYS barter it. Particularly in a SHTF scenario where you KNOW the average guy doesnt have a weapon and REALLY needs one!

    • Great comment. You brought up some really good points! I especially like the advice to train with the gear, standardize guns/calibers, and buy as much as you can!

  16. I’ve been a survivalist since long before the media made it a synonym for racist Nazi vermin and I have gone through so many phases of what to carry I can’t even count them. There is a very big difference between now (with rule of law) and after the SHTF. I will stick to the post-SHTF stuff here.

    How much ammo do I store? A lot, the writers description at the start of the article does not even qualify as ‘a little’ for me.
    How much ammo do I carry? 6 – 20 round mags of 7.62 NATO on my LBE 1 in the weapon and 6 + 1 – 12 round mags of .40S&W for my pistol.

    I am far beyond my days in the military and my health no longer permits me to lug 100lb+ in the field. I need my snivel-gear, food, water and other supplies if I am going to be away from my base for more than a day, which I might if I am going out to patrol, hunt, trade, whatever. I’m not going to a fight in most cases. In fact I plan to actively avoid fights, because fights are dangerous and I don’t have the a bunch of guys to cover my six, or to medivac my behind if I get hit. In fact, after The S hits the F any serious wound is likely a death sentence so I plan to actively avoid it. I see any situation outside my base (which is itself as inconspicuous and hidden as I can make it) as a recon mission. I want to sneak, peek and evaporate like a little tiny puff of inconspicuous smoke. If I have to shoot I want to shoot as little as possible and bolt, not Rambo it out with those Mutant Zombie Bikers. Guys who are packing hundreds of rounds of ammo like they just popped out of a Blackhawk and plan to pop back in an hour later are idiots who watch too many movies, and they will survive only if circumstances and massive amounts of luck permit.

    Real planning and a realistic understanding of what it means to be without the support of modern civilization is what really counts, not how many bullets you can drag around in your Mad MAX fantasies.

  17. One needs 3-4000 rounds per firearm. Lod Out is a different facet to it’s own. The 3-4k is the SA and Rhodesian Minimum Stockage. Given that few in States have yet a clue on how to prepare for issues / collapse.

  18. Greetings! I’ve been reading your web site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  19. M-

    Taking head shots sounds all well and good but is that REALLY going to happen. Sniping one or two may happen but the buddies WILL figure out where the shots are coming from and will will quickly find yourself taking torso shots and any shot you can and then moving to another position …lest you die in a pile of your own brass

  20. As a civilian, in a hit and run scenario against an overwhelming hostile force that holds the area that includes my home, I think my current weapons exist in order to obtain new, better weapons like those used by the hostile force that holds my area. That way their supply chain will feed my beast, and with every hit, I can keep them using their resources until a friendly force retakes the area. What I need today more so than weapons is knowledge. If I’m familiar with a variety of weapons and tactics, then I can be of use for a little while after the occupation begins. Hopefully, I’ll learn the rest quickly.

  21. This place sounds very curious! Do you have any ties to Transnistria or did you just happen to visit? You sounds quite knowledgable on the subject! Is it a stable peaceful place? Would you recommend visiting? Is it safe to go as a tall rich-looking European?

  22. […] How much ammunition do you REALLY. – Prepared Gun. – Guns; How much ammunition do you REALLY need? A “rule of thumb” to stockpiling ammo. By. needed 1,000 rounds of each caliber ammunition that I use or 10,000. […]

  23. […] How much ammunition do you REALLY need. – Prepared Gun Owners – Guns; How much ammunition do you REALLY need? A "rule of thumb" to stockpiling ammo. By. Caleb. So a little over 600 rounds per rifle in the house and around. […]

  24. […] How much ammunition do you REALLY need? A “rule. – How much ammunition do you REALLY need? A “rule of thumb” to stockpiling ammo. By. I will stick to the post-SHTF stuff here. How much ammo do I store? […]

  25. How much ammo does someone need to stockpile?
    1. Enough to train with
    2. Enough to have a sustained firefight (whether on foot or in a vic).
    3. Enough to barter with if SHTF.
    4. Enough to sleep comfortably at night after SHTF, knowing you can engage whatever threat comes your way……..Boom!

  26. I suggest buying / owning what you can afford. You won’t own it long enough for it to go bad. Keep it in a cool dry place under lock & key. Get your friends to all do the same. having a minimum of 5,000 rounds of each caliber is not going to break most people. Accumulate it over time if you have to. After all, what good is a firearm w/o ammo? You’ll never be sorry and you won’t have to worry.

  27. I suggest buying / owning what you can afford. You won’t own it long enough for it to go bad. Keep it in a cool dry place under lock & key. Get your friends to all do the same. having a minimum of 5,000 rounds of each caliber is not going to break most people. Accumulate it over time if you have to. After all, what good is a firearm w/o ammo? You’ll never be sorry and you won’t have to worry.

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