Bug Out Ammo for Foraging & Fending

Whenever I teach hunter safety education classes in the fall ahead of the upcoming deer season, I almost always get asked two types of ammo for bug outquestions.  One is “What is the best deer rifle and caliber to get for my son or daughter for them to start hunting deer”?   The second is “How do you know what the best hunting ammunition is to buy for deer hunting”?   Both good basic questions any deer or any other kind of hunter ought to know.  For our purposes here this information not only applies to prepping plans and long term survival in the Bug Out wilds, but sustaining ourselves with much needed protein food.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The good news is today there is plenty of superb factory ammunition available, if you can afford to buy it.  Still, hunting and survival go hand in hand for many, so you have to have some hunting ammo for the pursuit of game meat.

Filet Campfire Legends From Fact

Many a deer camp or Bug Out fire ring debate has raged well into the night over the subject of picking the best ammo for how to choose ammo for survivalhunting.  You might as well try to pick the best ever issue of Playboy magazine…for the articles of course.  During such oral arguments many highly varied opinions will fly, but some don’t go very far only to crash and burn.  As they say though about certain parts of the human anatomy, everybody has an opinion.  True that.

Of course, preppers are not exempt either from holding varied opinions on varied subjects. Hunting ammo should not be one of them.  In the business of prepping though we should listen to every angle presented.  We might just learn something new.

However, some opinions on foraging and fending ammo are based on factual knowledge, and others are just woodland legends about how Ole Grampa Jed shot 200 bucks using nothing but Ream-m Good ammunition.  Now there is some truth to developing a faith for a brand or type of survival hunting ammo that has a proven track of reliable performance.  Once you find it, never break the tradition.

I have found that in my own Browning 300 WSM A-Bolt using Winchester Ballistic Silvertip, 150 grain ammo with a Leupold scope.  For whatever reason of mechanical chemistry that rifle, scope, and ammo combination cooks up every time the trigger is pulled, I seriously do not know.  I do know that particular set up has thus far taken ten bucks and five does in sixteen shots.  Oh, I missed one buck year before last.  The sun must have been in my eyes.

Trial & Error Rites Of Passage

The simple answer here is actually too simple.  Most prep hunters buy a new rifle, some box or boxes of ammo in different ammo for shtf huntingbrands, different bullet weights and configurations.  If you have the time and can afford it that is certainly one way to go.  It is a reasonable approach to the problem.  Hopefully if one tries enough different kinds of ammo, they will find one that will hit the target bulls-eye with regularity.  And then that translates into meat on the game pole.

Another approach is to conduct a little research first, then buy ammo.  Today ten thousand foot pounds of information can be found on the internet about ammunition performances, how to select the best bullet types and weights for different species of large game, and everything else one might ever want to read on the subject.  Reading is good.  You might actually learn something.  When in gun stores, pick up any free ammo catalogs or CDs.

Also Read: Ammo Type, Quality and Performance

If you happen to be stuck on both a caliber choice and picking ammo, then start with this maxim.  For deer hunting for example, the rule of thumb for minimum cartridge power to be effective is 2000 feet per second velocity at the muzzle and 1000 foot pounds of energy delivered at 100 yards.  If your Bug Out location features bigger game like elk or moose then pick loads accordingly.  If in doubt, go bigger if you can handle the recoil.

You might be thinking that this puts the 30-30 Winchester at the bottom of the scale, but remember this “lowly” round has shtf bulletscollectively killed more deer than any other cartridge ever invented so far.  However, it does not mean it is particularly smart to shoot at a whitetail at 200 yards with a 30-30.  On the other end, the 30-06 can do just about anything with a good solid bullet and precise shot placement.

Then when you have a new unfired hunting rifle or one you wish shot tighter groups after missing a deer or two, what is a reasonable course of action to find ammo?  First, I tend to rely on name brand ammunition that has a well established, long standing reputation for product quality, consistent accuracy, and well constructed bullets.  A quick survey of the major brand names on any gun dealer’s shelf will reveal several brands worth checking out.

Deer are soft skinned animals without a huge, bulky bone structure like an elk or moose.  Through and through penetration is not needed.  I recommend starting on the lower end of bullet weight and go with a pointed soft point type bullet that will have good expansion along with adequate penetration.  For a 30-06 class rifle, opt for the 150 grain loads first for deer.  Buy a box each of 2-3 brands in this category.  If elk is on the menu, then get a box of 180 grain.

Range Time

Some hunter/preppers think there is some magic to ammo shooting accurately in their hunting rifle without actually having toteotwawki hunting fire some of it.  Range time on the practice bench is the only way to determine how ammo shoots in your rifle.  Most deer rifles are sighted into the classic standard of 3-inches high at 100 yards.  Ballistic charts and computer ballistics programs can help you fine tune the idea sight-in range for the ammo you selected.

When you shoot at the range, this does not mean lying over the hood of your truck shooting at a cardboard box with an “X” drawn on it at some unspecified range.  It means shooting off a rest on a fixed shooting table at a target a known distance downrange.  There is no need to rush the process.  The idea is to get the rifle/ammo combination dialed in for accuracy.

Shoot several strings of three shots to sight in the rifle.  Work to get a grouping as tight as possible on the bullseye or at 3-inches high.  Let the barrel cool after ten or so shots.  For stainless barrels, more cool down is needed. When you are satisfied that you have achieved the best group possible with one brand of ammo, repeat the process using other brands.  Determine which ammo is consistently printing the best groups of all.  That is most likely the best ammo for your particular rifle.

Some shooters like to clean their rifle barrels between strings or certainly at the end of a shooting session and then try again.  If the results repeat themselves, then you are set for a real trial come the next hunting season.  The clean harvest of game is the ultimate ammo test.  Remember too, that bullet placement is the key, not just a big gun shooting big bullets.

We may think we have packed enough food stuffs for a Bug Out.  However, eventually you may have to forage for food.  Game animals can be found in any part of this country, so be prepared to hunt for extra food.  Select a solid rifle, a quality scope, and some ammo this is tuned in to your gun, so missing a deer or elk can only be blamed on one thing.  Best practice.

Photos by:
Daryl L. Hunter
Dr. John J. Woods

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17 comments… add one
  • Road Warrior October 13, 2014, 10:14 am

    Once you find that magic combination, it’s a wonderful thing. My. 1926-manufactured Winchester 54 in .30-06 will print perfect 1″ cloverleaf groups at 100 yards whether it’s hot, cold, dirty or clean with Federal 180-grain Classics. The trajectory path is great too: 2″ high at 100 yards is dead on at 200, 8″ low at 300. I handload, but really haven’t found a handload to match the performance of this one factory round.

    Another thing to think of when choosing loads is rifling twist. Using my old Winchester as an example, it was built before 150 and 165 grain bullets really were popular, so they shoot wildly out of that rifle because the rifling twist isn’t optimized for spinning lighter bullets a bit more slowly. Current AR-15s need to be watched too, because both 1:7 and 1:9 twist barrels are readily available and they will shoot the same weight bullets very differently.

  • Roger October 13, 2014, 10:58 pm

    Despite what grandpa claimed, he probably didn’t kill (or even hit)every deer/elk/large critter that he shot at. The greater the distance, the more effect things like wind, humidity, thermal rise, even the curvature of the Earth have on the path of the projectile. In my experience, hand loaded ammunition is usually the most accurate, since this allows the reloader to find the sweet spot of his individual weapon. Even a difference of a few grains of powder or different powders or even different batches of the ‘same’ powder or the weight variance of the projectile by even one or two grains will have an effect! But, that said, for the majority of us, buying a large quantity of a well-known ammunition preferable from a single patch is probably more than good enough for the average shooter (including myself). Please don’t forget that pulling that trigger successfully is only possible when you have put in the time and effort to learn both good marksmanship and hunting skills; skills that require frequent practice! Good Luck!

  • pantsupdontloot October 14, 2014, 4:04 am

    10,000 ft. lbs. of info on everything is about right these days. Personally I have a flaw in my personality that prohibits me from going in depth into most endeavors. Bottom line is I just don’t care, if it works then use it, if it doesn’t discard it. That’s me. Most people seem to be completely immersed in gun/ammo performance these days. The several deer I’ve harvested in my life were all killed with a 22mag rifle at short range. They tasted the same as if killed with a 30.06. Personal defense is another matter altogether though. For that I chose the 270 rifle and right now I can’t even tell you who made the thing but it is an excellent piece of equipment. The point is any 270 bullet will get the job done, at least that is the opinion I would have if you were shooting at me. The keltec ksg was a big disappointment to begin with, but keltec did repair the weapon at no cost to me and now it is totally awesome. My limiting factor on any self defense weapon[s] is carrying the ammo. Gosh that stuff is heavy.

  • Mike the Gardener October 14, 2014, 8:39 am

    Love the ruger 10/22 as well as the remington 870 .. I am thinking of going with a short barrel mossberg though for close quarters. Thoughts?

    • Pantsupdontloot October 14, 2014, 12:48 pm

      If you see two replies stating almost the same thing Mike, my apologizes. I think the first one got lost so here is the second one. This is just a thought, the mossberg is a good gun, but recently I purchased an ‘Escort’ which is made in Turkey. It holds 5+1 and is a remarkable piece of equipment for self defense [has a short barrel and handles 00 buckshot extremely good]. The price is only $270.00 plus tax and is ready for work the minute you walk out of the store. I also own a keltec which cost $950.00 and still had to buy $250.00 in additional accessories just to go to the range [pistol grip for the pump action, attached flashlight, and sights]. If i had it to do over again I would still buy the keltec too, simply because it is very comforting to know 15 rounds can be put downrange to stop intruders after teotwawki, without having to reload. When the ‘world owes me a living horde’ shows up at the door then we have one chance and one chance only to do it right. Always remember talking and shooting never mix except to get the talker killed. If you will allow a little more advise then let me add, my 270 is only for people that won’t go away and leave me alone. I am not trigger happy and do not look forward with joy to having to defend myself. Example, if someone or a group of people are 200 yards away from me and I can avoid them then they all is find, no harm done. But if they attack my home or camp after teotwawki and some survive to runaway then at whatever range they can be neurtalized is just fair game, so to speak. Thanks and keep on keeping on.

    • Jan Lapczyk December 14, 2014, 7:36 pm

      The Ruger 10-22 is a fantastic rifle for all basic needs. Purchase some extra magazines with varying capacities, for augmented uses. For .22LR ammo, I prefer CCI Velocitor 40gr CPHP or segmented. This round is useful for defensive and hunting small game. I try to use the same grain weight all the time, for whatever purpose. The segmented ammo is good for larger small game animals.
      Remington’s 870 is in all likelihood, the most versatile pump shotgun anyone can own as is the availability of parts, both factory and aftermarket. Be sure you have extra barrels for both upland hunting, slug and ‘sabot slugs’, and even possibly one for permanent scope mounting. Also have a few choke tubes for the barrels.
      Mossberg’s 590-A1 series, military grade with the ‘metal safety button’, is an excellent choice as well and in some ways even better; if you can find the heavier thick walled barrels/receivers. Understand that the safety button on the Remington and the safety button on the Mossberg, are placed differently. If you are a right hand shooter, the 870 is good, however, located close to the trigger itself. If you want ambidextrous safety use, the Mossberg surpasses the 870, if is is the ‘metal button’. Also, all your shotguns should be chambered in 3 inch, as you can still use the 2 3/4 inch shells.
      One other thought: I do not fear the man who owns 10-guns, because they all function differently… especially in times of mental/physical stress. I fear the man with 2-3 guns, who know how to operate each expertly!

  • Snake Plisken October 14, 2014, 2:25 pm

    While I enjoy shooting my larger caliber rifles ( caveat here, I don’t hunt large game anymore due to physical issues ) I still enjoy hunting small game like rabbits and birds.

    I’m curious, why didn’t you mention .22 caliber ammo? It’s one of the most abundant type of ammo in the USA.

    IMHO I believe that the deer population will be decimated in short order after a SHTF. The elk and moose will will probably be just fine because they reside in areas where it takes great effort to harvest them. Those folks will have access to horses and vehicles where they can make a great shot and have a freezer full of meat for the winter.

    The .22 will provide that squirrel or duck for the stew pot. Or a possum, racoon or ground hog.

    I know, it sounds gross to harvest these critters but you’ll eat them if you’re that hungry.

    Another issue: a large caliber rifle can be heard for miles once you light that baby off. You had better have a huge kill and move out quickly after dropping the food source. You are going to be attracting people you don’t want near you or your family.

    I also own a .20 caliber Benjamin Sheridan and a .177 Crossman for small game.

    Recently added a Browning compound bow to my preps. I still have to have it fitted to me. Another issue to get finished soon.


    Snake Plisken

    • John R October 15, 2014, 10:12 am

      Snake. I don’t know where you can find “abundant” 22 LR ammo. One dealer yesterday had 9 mm for $.20 a round, and the 22’s were $.17 a round. I have a large stockpile of 22’s, but I refrain from using them as I find it hard to replace. I agree it is the ideal ammo to use when the crap hits the fan. Small game eats well and the ammo doesn’t make a lot of noise. and you can grab the squirrels or rabbits and make tracks back to your shelter.
      It is getting to where to just go have fun shooting, it is about as cheap to shoot 9mm as it is to shoot 22’s.

  • BamaMan October 14, 2014, 3:48 pm

    Bug out day will make every day like opening day of deer season and within 30 days you can count on big game going away quickly.

    A shotgun to hunt birds, squirrels, and other small animals is ideal.

    Plus, preserving meat from large game will be tricky and “eating what you kill” each day might be a more realistic approach.

  • Bayou combat October 14, 2014, 7:32 pm

    What ever you consider shot gun or combat rifle make sure you have and can carry lots of ammo.consider the distant for that weapon .shotguns have limited range,but fifty to sixty yards for buck shot , shot gun slugs, they get the job done shotgun slugs are awesome .consider an AR15 or an AK47 lots of ammo can be carried along with extra clips.also if you do run out of ammo consider a sharp knife or hatchet for close quarters combat ,but learn how to use both.

  • pantsupdontloot October 14, 2014, 10:30 pm

    In reference to shooting game, unfortunately bamaman you are correct, in just a few weeks after teotwawki big game will be gone. We have done some experimenting with catching game with regular hav-a-heart-traps. We fix the trip so it is easier to spring and even quail will get themselve caught. We always let the birds, squirrels, rabbits, or whatever go, but thot we would throw it out there if anyone is interested. thx

  • Roger October 15, 2014, 12:26 am

    Food for thought? Don’t forget the most wide-spread and available protein source out there after SHTF, more than 7 billion strong! Homo Sapian! Much easier to hunt, not bad tasting with plenty of BBQ sauce, easier to lure in with promise of a free lunch (the government has been doing that for many years), and can even be clubbed to death in their sleep; saves your precious ammo! Unthinkable, not historically, sometimes maybe necessary? There is a reason that mankind’s population was so numerically low for most of it’s history, mainly the systems that were built up by exploiting finite natural resources often in ever increasingly complex ways; after SHTF would you be able to find, drill, and refine crude oil for example! Ultimately, survival may depend on adapting, using what’s available; even hunting”slow pork”! Good Luck!

  • Hershel October 15, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It actually was once a enjoyment account it.
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  • Studebaker Hawk October 17, 2014, 9:39 am

    Let me just say with the current Ebola problem and all I am buying ammo almost daily. I have approx 10,000 rounds stockpiled across 4 platforms. My trusty 22 from youth, a 9mm handgun, a Mossberg SD style shotgun, and an AR15. I have been growing/raising food now for 8 yrs. 2 large freezers are stocked full of our harvest.

    I want an SHTF event. The US especially is off the rails and a good correction will only serve to set things right.

    • irishdutchuncle October 18, 2014, 3:38 am

      be careful what you wish for, Stude.

      No sane person wishes for an SHTF, and niether do I.

  • Matt November 2, 2014, 12:09 am

    I think everyone is getting off track! My favorite types of bullets depending on what they are used for: 1) Hollow Points. 2) Jacketed Hollow Points. 3) Semi-Jacketed Hollow Points. 4) Slugs for Shotguns. 5) 00 Buck shot. 6) FMJ bullets.

    Then you have: Round nose, Spitzer or Pointed nose, Flat Nose, and variations on those.

    As for calibers/cartridges. For a SHTF event: .22lr and/or .22 mag for small game, a .12 gauge for small game and defense, a handgun caliber ; my personal preferences are: .357mag/.38 spcl, .44-40, .44 mag, .45 LC, .45ACP, .454 Casull, 10mm and .40 S&W., and any rifle caliber; my preferences are: .223 Rem/5.56mm, .243 Win, .270 Win, .30-30 win, .30-06 Springfield, .300 AAC Blackout, .300 Win Mag, .308 Win, .338 Lapua Mag, .35 Rem, .35 Whelen, .44-40, .45-70 gvt, .444 Marlin, 6.5×55 mm, 7.5x55mm, 7.62×39, 7.62x54R, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08 Rem, and .50 BMG.

    In the event of a SHTF It would be best to have at least 2 handguns, one or 2 shotguns and several Rifles. Why? Here would be my list: Handguns: 1 revolver and 1 semi-auto. Shotguns: 1 pump and 1 semi-auto. Rifles: at least 1 Bolt action, 1 lever action, and 1 semi-auto. In the rifles I would have a .22LR or .22 Win mag, then one of the hunting calibers; my choices would be: .270, .30-30, 6.5x52mm Carcano, 7.62x54R Because those are what I have at this time. I want to eventually get a semi-auto either an AR or AK style rifle in .223/5.56mm or .308/7.62mm or maybe one of the many other caliber/cartridges.

    I will eventually load my own ammo once I get all of the equipment. So that will cut down on having to buy factory ammo.

  • lance March 24, 2015, 1:14 am

    Browning triggers break like glass.


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