Outdoor Survival Gear, Skills, SHTF Prepping

How Much Ammo Do You REALLY Need?


I hope you would agree that stockpiling ammunition is important. After all, a gun without ammo is basically just a paperweight right? But have you ever wondered how much ammunition you REALLY need to stockpile? We’re going to tackle that question head on … and … I’ll give you some of my thoughts, because here’s a hint … it may be different for everybody. 

How Much Ammo Do You (Really) Need?

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?



NEVER Do This In A Gunfight

If someone threatens you with a gun, you should

never repeat the same mistake as he did here.

Doing what he did… relying on his guns…

could get you and your family in serious trouble.

Instead, do this when someone points a gun at your head.


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!”)

Hoarding Ammunition

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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