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.)