Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Revisiting the ammo stash question

Following my recent three article series on the personal defensive rifle, I had a lengthy exchange with someone who (strongly) disagrees with me about how much ammunition one should keep in reserve, for when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller.  The gentleman maintains that one should store a minimum of 1,000 rounds per rifle, and at least 3,000 rounds per rifle to be "properly" prepared for a long-term emergency.  He'll accept 500 rounds per handgun as a reasonable limit.

I have to shake my head at those numbers.  For a start, this man has (or admits to having) nine AR-15 rifles and carbines in his extended family.  Right now, the lowest-cost 5.56x45mm ammunition I can find (brass-cased, not the el cheapo steel stuff, because the latter puts a lot of extra wear and tear on your weapon) is 38c per round for 55gr ball (M193), and 40c per round for 62gr (M855 - for an explanation of those codes, see the third article in my earlier series).  At the lower of those prices, 1,000 rounds will cost $380, and 3,000 rounds $1,140.  Providing those minima for nine AR-15's will cost $3,420 and $10,260 respectively.  Really?  He has that kind of spare cash lying around, to be able to afford that?  (Also, don't forget that every cent he's got tied up in ammo stocks isn't available to buy other things he may need just as much, if not more.)

His answer, of course, was that he'd built up his stocks gradually, over time.  Well, that's what I did, too, but even so, there's no way I could afford to stash 3,000 rounds per rifle (let alone find storage space for it).  It's simply not economically feasible for most of us.  As for needing that much in a long-lasting emergency, I have to ask how many gunfights he's planning to get into.  Let's face it, a US infantryman's basic load of ammunition is usually six 30-round magazines in his webbing, plus one in his weapon, for a total of seven magazines or 210 rounds.  That's to see him through a typical military firefight!  Just how bad are we expecting SHTF gunfights to be, and how often do we expect to encounter them?  In a survival situation, one would be much better served to avoid such clashes at almost any cost.  As Clint Smith succinctly puts it, "Incoming fire has the right of way"!  We'll fight as a last resort, not as a first choice.

(That's also a factor in choosing which round you want in your fighting rifle.  Sure, .30-caliber rounds such as 7.62x51mm NATO [also known as .308 Winchester] are more effective than 5.56x45mm;  but for a given weight, you can carry 30% more of the latter rounds than the former.  That's a not insignificant advantage when resupply is problematic.  Also, if you choose rounds that will be as effective as possible, the smaller cartridge is at less of a disadvantage.)

Next, there's the problem of having so much in the way of supplies and gear that it becomes impossible to move it.  In a real SHTF situation, the odds are very good indeed that at some point, you'll have to move to a new location.  What's more, you'll have to move everything you need - food, water, clothing, shelter, as well as weapons and ammunition.  Ammo is frightfully heavy stuff in quantity.  We can't expect to carry on our bodies much more than a soldier does.  If we do, we can carry correspondingly less weight in food and other supplies.  The lighter we travel, the faster and further we'll move.

As for traveling by vehicle, in a SHTF situation you may not have access to a suitable vehicle to move heavy and/or bulky cargo, or have much in the way of fuel.  My correspondent drives a ten-year-old F-150 regular-cab pickup.  Its cargo carrying capacity, as rated by Ford, is half a ton (1,000 pounds) in the load bed, or 5,000 pounds total capacity, including gasoline, driver, passenger[s] and cargo, plus the hitch weight of anything being towed.  Using his own example, 27,000 rounds of M193 ammunition would fill 27 fifty-caliber military ammo cans, and weigh well over half a ton.  That's the pickup's entire cargo capacity by weight, right there!  How does he plan to carry other essentials, such as his family, or food, water and clothing?

It can't be denied that in a real emergency, short- or long-term, the ammo we've got is all we're likely to get.  We won't be able to run down to the shops and resupply at will.  Therefore, I'll agree to an objective of storing 1,000 rounds per combat rifle, and perhaps 100-200 rounds per hunting rifle.  I'll also accept 500 rounds per combat handgun, and perhaps 50-100 for other handguns.  Of course, you can carry and use only one rifle at a time, perhaps with a handgun for backup.  If you have more weapons and ammo than you can carry, I guess you'll be leaving them behind when you have to move, or trading them for other things you need, like gasoline.

I'll add to those numbers as much .22 Long Rifle ammo as I can afford;  ten times as much per weapon, if possible, if not even more than that.  I'll use it in .22 weapons, or with .22LR adapters in my fighting weapons (they're available for AR-15's, Glocks and some other pistols).  It's far cheaper than full-caliber ammo, and almost as useful for training purposes, because you manipulate, aim and shoot the weapon in precisely the same way, no matter what round you're shooting in it.  It's also much quieter (and therefore easier to suppress) than more powerful rounds, which may be a tactical advantage in some situations.  I'll also use BB and Airsoft pistols and rifles, because that's an even cheaper way of maintaining your shooting skills, and teaching them to those who don't yet have them.

Do even those numbers sound too high?  If you haven't started stockpiling ammo yet, they probably do.  I'm afraid I can't help you there.  All I can say is, buy a box or two of ammo whenever and wherever you can, as your funds allow, in good times and in bad.  (In the past, I've tried to buy one whenever I went grocery shopping.)  You can also trade other things, or do chores for other people, in exchange for guns and/or ammo.  It's never too late to start.  If you don't have an ammo stash right now, it might be a good idea (if you can spare the funds) to lay in a case each of your preferred rifle and pistol defensive ammo.  They're not going to get any cheaper for the foreseeable future, and may get a lot more expensive, so you've got nothing to lose.

(Of course, if you can afford to buy more, go right ahead.  I won't say that's a bad idea.  If I could afford it, I might do the same.  However, for most of us, our funds - not to mention our spouses! - will impose a pretty hard limit on what's feasible and prudent.)



suburban said...

Speaking of suppressors they can’t reduce the sound of a supersonic bullet. If you want quiet you must use sub-sonic ammo.

Suppressors that attach to a firearm have all sorts of legal restrictions, but you can get most of the noise reduction of a good suppressor by firing through an open window from a few feet back into the room.

22 ammo that is called “standard velocity” is usually sub-sonic. There is also a speciality 22 ammo from Aguila called Sub Sonic Sniper that has a very heavy (twice normal) bullet on a short brass to make the overall length that of a normal 22lr round. It is quiet but hits hard.

Ritchie said...

Ammo supply is less of a problem for those who "own the factory." Component supply is a step removed from final demand and you can dial your labor cost to zero except for time. Plus, it keeps us out of the bars.
Out of an abundance of paranoia, I have updated my carbine ammo storage to include at least one mag loading adapter in each container, and a loaded mag on top, suitably downloaded for storage. Meanwhile, ammo boxes are a great help holding down the new tile on the bathroom floor. I never said that and you didn't hear it from me.

ADS said...

I view my fleet of ARs more as "parts kits for my main rifle" than individual weapons for which to stockpile.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

I also will step on the 800 lb elephant in the room, During a SHTF during a firefight, several things to consider, one I plan to win. 2 I will replace my stock from the poor dumb bastard that try to rob me and 3 with the most common calibers out there, that is a distinct possibility. You are also correct, avoid a fight if possible, it is counter productive. I have a couple thousand rounds for my 2 AR pattern rifles, I have several hundred rounds for my .40 cal pistols, because those are my "go to mattresses" weapons, my specialty, I don't have much ammo for those, because they are specialty rifles that I shoot once and a while. I would like to get more ammo for my Garand but right now, gotta wait. Have plenty .22LR's Many shooters have been stocking up since sandy hook, we got caught short, a little at a time. I honestly believe that equilibrium will be restored and people will step back from the abyss. Americans are habitually optimistic, it is our nature.

Eck! said...

I see two reasons for fire power...

One is maintaining the social contract, as in stay social
and leave me an mine alone, you don't get shot.
Many seem to think only about shooting people, prepare for
only that. Well maybe and most any thing will work once,
then every one hears it and knows you have it....

The other is day to day practical, part of that is hunting
for food or varmints. For that I'd likely get laughter...
Air rifles some available in calibers that deserve respect
as in .30 or .45 cal at better than 900fps. However .22
at 1000fps from a nitro springer will be a good hunter and
less likely to gather undue attraction. Most of those have suppressors, they aren't fire arms so, different rules.
That and 5000 pellets are cheap, easy to store, and so are
the rifles. Around here .22 at that power level takes
rabbit and larger easily. It puts down chucks that are
destructive to gardens. That and it would not be something
I'd want to get hit by. Most are accurate enough if you do
your part the target gets it.

What is needed still depends on the task, budget, and local conditions.


Innocent Bystander said...

Peter, since you quoted Clint Smith I will too: "I've never heard anyone in a firefight say they had too much ammunition." When one hears "click" instead of "bang" there's no "olly olly in free."

Years back, on the question of "how many magazines should I have for my new gun" Tam answered "more." The same applies to ammunition.

The issue for ammo is resupply; military users are assured of getting more, and even of having more airdropped if the resupply need is urgent. You, I and Harry over there don't have that luxury; when things go all sporty what we have is probably all we will have, save "battlefield pickup" ammo, because our "normal" resupply channels will be compromised, restricted by government actions, or simply drained because everyone will want/need ammo.

How one stores, and transports, heavy stuff is, indeed, a challenge; how much one's pickup truck can carry is a concern, but gasoline to make it run might be just as big a concern, not to mention the attention attracted by having a running vehicle when others don't. But having more "back at home base" and/or cached elsewhere, is not something to be avoided.

As for "regular carry quantities," a standard military loadout - usually - works: 6 mags plus 1 in the rifle (and, some of us have been known to stash 1 or 2 more in the 2-day "recce pack"). Without readily available support - additional troops, armor, air, rear echelon intel operations, resupply, etc. - a very stealthy "observe, forage, disappear" will be the recommended procedure, and engagement will be a last resort, but there will, certainly, be some engagements.

We had a 3-4 year window with cheap and plentiful ammo during which we could stock up, and some did, some heavily; we may have that again in 9-24 months if Democrats don't crater the economy; in the meantime, it'll be "stock up as best as one can within one's financial limits." I suspect the biggest impact will be on the cheaper training ammo - one internet seller went from $279/1,000 round case of 55 grain brass case 5.56 with free shipping to $419 and customer-paid shipping within 5 days of the new rush starting, and a similar price increase on FMJ handgun ammo, meaning it's still available - for now - just more expensive. One plus is most ammo makers increased production capacity substantially during the 3-4 year lull, so we may catch up faster this time; prices will take some time to drop, probably not dropping to where they were 2 years ago, so bargain hunting is the order of the day.

Peter said...

@Eck! - Agreed to all. Can you recommend a particular .22 air rifle, one that's accurate, powerful and reliable? If possible, let us know about a suppressed model, too. What about ammo - any recommendation about pellets? I'm sure many of us would like to know more.

tweell said...

My opinion on the three springer air rifles I've handled is as follows:

Crosman - tried a friend's Fury Nitro, it made AK-47's look accurate. Terrible trigger, and would shoot all over the place on a rest at 20 yards. Cheap both ways - cost and construction.

Beeman - I gave my brother my Beeman RS2 .177 springer. The 'scope' was next to useless and we took it off, but it isn't as if you need a scope for 25 yards or less. It's excellent for taking down pigeons and rats, not so much for rabbits or squirrels. It's quite loud, making as much or more noise than a regular .22 rifle. Would go through 1/2" plywood.

Gamo - Kept this one. Here's where air piston rifles become varmint rifles. The Gamo Swarm Maxxim .22 has a nice trigger and shoots quite nicely out to 50 yards. The scope is okay at best. This was quieter than the Beeman, around the same as my .22 rifle with subsonic rounds. Went through 1" pine at close range.

My favorite pellets are Crosman hollowpoints, LHP77 and LHP22. Cheap, available, and accurate. Your mileage may vary.

Eck! said...


First BB be it Co2 or pump-up is off the table for any
varmint use, low power not great accuracy due to smooth

Co2 is good for practice. Most are sub 500fps and BB
some pellet. I generally pass on those or shoot pellets.
If pellet look for rifled barrel (pellet only!).

Pump-up pellet rifles like Crossman or Beeman are low
power typically in the 600fps range in the .177, .22 and

For the basic break barrel air rifle, two types, spring
using a really heavy spring to supply the impulse power
and "nitropiston" as they use a pressurized air-spring,
more power, more reliable, less internal spring recoil.
Basically they are break barrel and single shot. Most
of them are rifled barrels and accuracy can be good
to match level. Price is up to the user, what have
you got.

You want more than 900FPS some over into the 1300 range.
All are built with silencer, default. Some however are
better than others. High velocity air rifles start to
sound like .22lr at the low power end.

I have a Ruger (I think really UMAREX) Impact MAX nitropiston.
With a light pellet about 1050FPS with heavier 19 grain .22
pellet more like 950fps. That's about 35FPE. Trigger is in the under 3 pound range and fairly crisp. Paid $180 from Wallmart.

Price range is in the $125 over $500 range with names like
Rugar, Umarx, Gammo and Hatsan among those I know and have
shot. You can pay more and get more up to the Walther
Olympic air rifles.

They are available in .25 caliber as well bigger pellets some
in the same velocity range.

Performance is generally how many FPS at the barrel higher is
better, and quality standards like any firearm. if you going for optics get good stuff for air-rifles.

Accuracy for most is good usually better than the shooter. I
happen to be a long gun person so 50 yards to a 1 inch group off
sandbag prone is what I do with a competent air rifle and a
good pellet. Standing at 25 yards to 1 inch. I figure that's
the level I have to be at to hit a rabbit every time. Since
its a one shot deal usually, better to be good. They are
like .22LR they eat everything but some better than others and
there is a large assortment of pellets of weight from 14gr to
over 20gr for .22 cal as well as shapes.

When I shoot that specific rifle for targets I use two
sheets of 3/4 ply with a 3/4 inch pine face as a backstop.
The pine of for lower power air rifles I have as they
can bounce off. I've punched lesser backstops
(1 sheet of 3/4") as a warning [RULE-4, whats beyond!].
These are serious enough power to produce severe injury.

Its use is as solution to chucks and rabbits. In the past I
used the Umarex .177 springer for that but took care to do a
head shot 15-20 yards for clean kill. The .22 takes chucks
out to the limits of property 60 yards. My sport is chipmunks
to 15 yards with the .177cal, sort of mini-sniping with fast
targets. All are to me garden pests.

Generally anything your looking at, go to PyramidAir for their
reviews and also others. Not all are created equal, and some
are good deals at low prices.

Hope I answered the question. Everyone has an opinion of best
air-rifle like any .22 or 30-06. Like everything caliber does
count and the .30cal and .45cal high power PCP is popular for
feral hogs where that hunting is permitted.

Pellets can be cheap flat nose "wadcutters" 250 for 8$,
precision heavier pellets maybe 250 for 11$ they all
over the map and always try several for best effect.
Note: Alloy pellets are generally lighter and and can
go supersonic and get unstable, they are worth trying.
Since they are cheap and small no excuse for not having
a large supply. Feed it why it shoot accurately after
trying many.


Eck! said...

>For the basic break barrel air rifle, two types, spring
using a really heavy spring to supply the impulse power
and "nitropiston" as they use a pressurized air-spring.<

As a note most people when they shoot a springer tend to
patterns. reason is the spring when it unload tend to twist
the rifle and most have a reverse recoil direction
(tends to kill most scopes too!). Correct hold for them
is artillery hold with the fore stock not gripped but
rested on the palm.

Yes the Crossman has a gritty trigger that made it
harder to shoot well.

Gamo was a good one too, seemed loud though.

Love a friends Hatsan, very light trigger and very good
finish and fit. It was also .25cal and had some punch.

For .177 springer [Rugar blackhawk, Umarex] at 1000fps
and heavy pellets I've taken rabbits squirrel and chucks
you have to do head behind the ear for a good kill.
It is good enough to do that IF I do my part.

I also use the Crosman hollowpoints, LHP77 and LHP22
also Gamo Raptor and Crossman Premier Pirannha.


Aesop said...

If you have more weapons and ammo than you can carry, I guess you'll be leaving them behind when you have to move, or trading them for other things you need, like gasoline.

Not at all. Blessed with that level of redundancy, I'd be caching weapons and ammo hither and yon, all within half a day to a full day's walk from main base. Points of the compass, hours of the clock face, whatever. Nine ARs? that means 5 with me, and one more a few klicks away, at each of four cardinal points of the compass, ideally on parcels of land I also control. Now all that ammo and weaponry is "pre-hauled", and needn't be disturbed unless the contingency plan is activated.

Salting buckets or pickle barrels of other necessities (food, water, first aid supplies, etc.) nearby would serve to diversify my holdings, and build in multiple redundancies.

Survivormann99 said...

“A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition.”— Rudyard Kipling

Beyond defending one's life with ammunition, it will likely become an extraordinarily useful barter item if the world goes feral.

Those who sit idly by now and refuse to pay current prices because they are higher than they were in January may be making an extraordinarily serious mistake. Who really knows just how bad things will be in four months? The phrase "second wave" is being used increasingly, and the experts seem to have gotten so many things wrong so far.

Nick Flandrey said...

Don't forget training someone ELSE to use a rifle or handgun. You need enough ammo for them to put in the range time, and if you can't get more that comes out of your total.

500 rd/ pistol is only 5 boxes, not even a shoebox full. Doesn't seem like much to me, when I feel like I barely shot at the range if I use less than a box. I've usually got a couple of pistols I want to put rounds thru... And again, training someone else, you need a bunch more rounds.

If you put a box thru every range visit, that's only 5 visits and then you are out with nothing left for sporty times.

More, more more.....


Peter said...

@Nick Flandrey: I agree on the need for training, but I'll be using BB or Airsoft guns for beginners, graduating to .22LR as they get better. Only after they're thoroughly competent with those will they move to centerfire rounds. That saves a bundle on the more expensive (and more scarce) larger stuff.

riverrider said...

my question to them is just how many firefights do you really think you will survive? the infantry has air, artillery, armor, medivac, and a backup division if need be. the only way a grunt survives long enough to expend his ammo is that his troops are executing fire and maneuver or calling in supporting fire on the target. do YOU have artillery? so you are stocking ammo for your killer to use on their next target.

Survivormann99 said...


I think that your perspective is a bit narrow.

Sure, it is questionable about how many violent encouters a particular person can survive, but that doesn't mean that his ammo will wind up being used by his killer.

His ammo (and food, and equipment, etc.) will be used by those he left behind and by those who will be thankful for his farsightedness. The warrior/leader/mentor might be dead, but his tribe will go on with a much better prospect of survival because of the choices he made in life.

Innocent Bystander said...

Apologies for chiming in again, but as interesting as this discussion is, it misses one rather important thing:

We're going to need this ammunition, and probably sooner than we think, so pontificating over the price increases, while perhaps useful from a psychological perspective, doesn't do much for being prepared when SHTF. (And, if you doubt the SHTF is coming, spend a few hours reading online about what's going on at the governor level in Blue states at the moment; that will metastasize, compliments of the MSM.)

Encourage the Noobs, if you know any, to get more ammunition, and especially to practice with whatever they bought, AND to learn about what they didn't buy. If you belong to a gun club, or manage a private range, consider creating a basic class for the Newbies to introduce them to other guns; the suburban couple who - finally - bought a 9MM semi-auto pistol could use a few hours of instruction on shotguns, ARs, AKs and other handguns. You won't build "shooters" but you can make them into "safe and competent gun operators" on different firearms. They came late to the party, so help them catch up.

As for practice with air rifles, certainly; I have three, plus two air pistols, and do so regularly, but I've never seen an RWS or Gamo with a 30-round magazine being used in a 3-Gun match or a holstered Beeman air pistol on a range at Thunder Ranch. There is a difference between "practice" and "training."

And, RE: Aesop's comment, above; add that to your plan. A well-oiled and vacuum-sealed rifle or pistol, with mags, ammo, etc. (see:Food Saver), in a false ceiling in Aunt Sally's guest room closet may just come in handy one day. A paint-spattered 5-gallon bucket in her basement with a three-year-old Sherwin-Williams label is a good place for some freeze-dried food and a LifeStraw or Sawyer filter. Pro Tip: Tell where it is only to those you trust implicitly, but tell someone; it's wasted money and effort if the only people who become aware of it are the remodeling contractors the next owner hires 20 years from now, or Aunt Sally's nephew sends the bucket to the landfill.

McChuck said...

The most accurate pellet shooters tend to use velocities in the 850-950 fps range. Above that, and the pellets start to destabilize, due to their design. The specific velocity depends upon the particulars of your rifle and the pellets you use.

Check out Mosh Dubber on Youtube. He's a professional vermin hunter in SA, and has won world championships for air gun shooting.

Michael said...

I will chine in on ammo and air rifles here. A Nitro break action is quieter than a springer of the same quality. The "Sprong" of my springer's is louder than the snap od supersonic pellets.

Like 22 long rifle rifles they will have their favorite ammo. I prefer to go with the heaviest and thus subsonic ammo mine likes. The stockpile it DEEP as it's cheap in a ammo can with a desiccant as so corrosion doesn't ruin it.

A decent nitro in 22 caliber is more than effective in garden pests and general cheap meat uses. Woodchuck stew has the nice flavor of revenge when you get that garden eater. Just know how to clean it of it's scent glands.

Teaching and keeping trained shooters with a good quality air rifle and air pistol as similar to your "Real" weapons is a very effective way to train. Peter has excellent articles here about that sort of thing. Sight picture, trigger control and general gun safety is easy to teach using air weapons. You know with a bit of work you can retro fit your air rifles with a sight to better mimic your "Real" weapons? Worthwhile in my opinion as quiet training is useful.