How Much Ammo is Enough For SHTF?

bullets_mass_stockpileIf you have ever spent any time at all on a survival or firearm forum, you are bound to come across the phrase “Buy it cheap, and stack it deep”.  This phrase is, of course, referring to the amount of ammunition one should have if disaster strikes. After years in the shooting community, I have heard many reasons people stockpile ammunition for emergencies.  There are really only a few loons out there who prepare for impossible and downright foolish reasons.  One guy, I met really believed in an alien invasion followed by an Illuminati takeover.

By Zach Dunn a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Sure, there are always a few crazies, but there are many normal people who do have a fear of what could happen in our increasingly volatile world.  Like it or not, we have to admit that this is not the 1990s anymore and we are seeing an increase in danger daily. The economy can be compared to a savage ocean. ISIS is rampaging through the Middle East and their sympathizers are attacking innocent people in the USA, Europe, and Canada. Iran’s nuclear program.  The riots following Trump’s election.  I could go on.

shells_bucket_rifleIn fact, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the question, “how many rounds should I have on hand in case something happens?”   If you read the forums and even some articles, a lot of armchair generals and self-described “experts” say you need to amass 100,000 rounds per caliber, minimal.  And while 100,000 rounds is an impressive amount of ammunition, enough to fight a small war, it is completely insane to think you will ever need that much ammunition. Well, if you are going to invade a small Caribbean nation, go ahead and pursue your 100,000 rounds.  With the price of ammunition today, you’ll go broke.

Related: Surviving Alone

In all truth, it is impossible to see the future and know how much ammunition you will need.  My crystal ball stopped working a long time ago.  But I doubt you will be engaging in a firefight after firefight with gangsters or looters every day in a survival situation.  Even if you did, what are the odds of you surviving dozens of gunfights?  I have done my best to put together a realistic minimal goal for ammunition needs during a survival situation.  The focus here is of course hunting and defense.  


22_lrA .22 is about the most versatile firearm when it comes to food procurement you can own.  From squirrel to a feral cat, a .22 can put meat on the table for you and your loved ones during hard times.  I strongly suggest everyone have at least one reliable .22 for emergencies.  The bare minimal I believe you should have is around 1000 rounds of .22 ammunition.  Ideally, 2-5,000 rounds are best.  Buy .22 in bulk, in tubs of at least 500 rounds to purchase cheaply.

The Shotgun

shotgun_stock_ammoA .12 gauge or .20 gauge should be something every gun owner owns in addition to a .22 long rifle.  A shotgun can be used to kill waterfowl, turkey, game birds, and with a slug or 00 buck loads can be used to kill the larger game and be used in home or self-defense.  I strongly recommend pump action guns as they are by far some of the most reliable. To be wise, I would say one should have 2 barrels for each shotgun unless the shotgun is a dedicated home defense weapon.  If it is a hunting shotgun, you should have a longer “bird barrel” for shooting bird shot, and a smoothbore “slug barrel” for shooting slugs and 00 buck loads. I suggest at least 300 rounds of game loads such as number 6s or 7s, 50 turkey loads, 200 slugs and 200 rounds of 00 Buck.

The Big Game Rifle

If in addition to a shotgun and .22, you are blessed to own a game rifle, this can be a real tool in keeping your family fed.  If it all goes downhill, a game rifle can, of course, be used to hunt game, and it can also be used to hunt feral cattle, pigs and other such domesticated animals that tend to go feral in dark times. For every game rifle I own, I like to have at least 100-200 rounds of game loads. More if you can afford it.  If your rifle is properly sighted in, 100 rounds can last you years of procuring larger animals for food.

The Semi Auto Sporting Rifle

ak-74_ammo_prepIn the USA, this includes AR-15s, AK-47s, AK-74s, and so much more.  These are not the true assault weapon. In Canada, these usually mean the SKS, M1A/M-14, M1 Garand, and maybe an AR-15 kept for target and competition shooting.   A true assault weapon by the true definition is a rifle chambered in an intermediate cartridge that has the ability to switch between semi-automatic and full automatic gunfire.  In truth, the inner-workings of these firearms are no different than a semi-automatic hunting rifle.

Read Also: Quick Buyer’s Guide to Imported AK Market

These rifles are highly versatile and can fill the role of both home defense firearm, personal defense weapon, game rifle and varmint rifle.  If you only have 1 gun, one of these are your best options.  If you have a rifle with a detachable magazine, be sure you have at least 12 magazines.  That is my minimum. If the firearm you have is an SKS, M1a, Garand, or any other semi auto that uses at least a 5 round magazine, you probably have noticed they are bullet eaters.  In fact, a semi auto can eat more ammunition than a college kid eats pizza.

Photos Courtesy of:

John Woods
Joshua Engler

19 comments… add one
  • Gunslinger67 December 14, 2016, 10:51 am

    MORE!! The answer is always ….M O R E !!
    (unless you’re swimming….lol )

    • TPSnodgrass December 15, 2016, 7:40 pm

      ….or, on fire!

      I’m not yet “comfortable”, enough with any of my ammunition supplies at present. While I do have far more than most folks in the preparedness community, I cannot yet, rupture myself multiple times….yet, toting the amounts I need(want) to be blessed with that warm blankie of comfort.

  • Rothschild's Pet Poodle December 16, 2016, 10:00 am

    I always aportion my ammunition based on combat loads. Typical military combat load right now is 7 mags. The standard metal mag really only hold about 27-28 rounds, so roughly 200 rounds in a combat load. Now that is taking into account being resupplied reguarly and having more ammo on hand. You want to maintain your mobility as much as possible. If you are stuck in a firefight and expend an entire combat load in a SHTF situation, you really need to sick back think about how badly you just screwed up. To some extent the situation may have unavoidable, but seriously, what the hell are you doing? You have no air support, no resupply, no medivac, you have no business getting involved in a fire fight.

    Also, how many of you have actually lugged a full combat load around? Through rough terrain? My first combat patrol in Afghanistan I took 900 rounds of 5.56 belt ammo with me. Never again. And I was actually in a war zone.

    A relatively conservative amount is 1 combat load for every month you plan to sustain yourself. If that is 2 years, then 24 combat loads. Which is roughly 5,000 rounds, which will fluctuate based upon what you consider a combat load. Throw a buffer of a few hundred in there to be safe.

    I consider a combat load as many magazines as I am able to reasonably carry, fully loaded. I run .308 in an AR10 so my personal combat load is a little smaller than someone with a AR15, but then I won’t need to use controlled pairs ;)

    Food for thought

  • BamaMan December 16, 2016, 12:14 pm

    Smart money buys when markets are down.
    When Trump take office there will be a flood of ammo and AR 15 hitting the used market from all the people who have loaded up over the past 8 years and feared a Hillary regime in 2017.

    Buy buy buy…….it aint getting any cheaper.

  • Ray December 17, 2016, 7:14 am

    How much can you carry? ‘Cause if you can’t carry it and run away it ain’t yours. Survival IS NOT COMBAT. It better not become combat ether or you are D.E.A.D. Your FIRST SHTF or TEOTWAWKI plan should be “combat avoidance”. Pet Poodle: The basic load for an infantry rifle man in the Spanish -American war was 160 rounds. For WW1 it was 220 rounds and for WW2/Korea it was 176 for Viet Nam it was 226. Only Cherries and MG gunners/”A” gunners carry shit loads. The Marine Corp “table of combat ammunition use after action report” stated that on Tarawa the average rifle man only used 76 rounds for the M1 rifle PER DAY of combat. The heaviest recorded ammunition use of WW2 was the 14th recon. squadron who used up the entire 7600 rounds of the “basic load” of the 21 man mechanized unit in a day long fire fight with an SS battalion. They lost when they ran out of ammunition just before dusk.

    • Mike Upchurch December 23, 2016, 11:01 am

      As a marine in South Vietnam I personally burned through 160 rounds of 762×51(308) in my M-14 in an hour and half one Sunday afternoon before a cease fire was called. so when the SHTF you usually use when you run dry.

  • alfred December 18, 2016, 7:52 pm

    Hmm, basic combat load. My oldest son was a MP with the 1st Armoured Div during Desert Storm and he was telling me one time that their basic combat load was 6 mags or 180 rds for the M16 and 3 mags of 45 cal and I don’t rememeber how much for the M60 that he was using, but depending on the mission, their combat load would be double, triple, and sometimes 4 times of normal. That is in addition to what they were suppose to have normally, food, water, other assorted required equipment. He was a 60 gunner on a humvee.

  • Higherview December 22, 2016, 7:01 pm

    What about the handguns? You will have an handgun on you or within reach at all times (I’m sure you do now). The difference in cost of defensive ammo and “other” ammo, which can be used for practice, can vary significantly. As a minimum a person should have a few hundred defensive loads and a 1000 or more of the less expensive ammo. I’m never happy with a minimum, but if you are starting from scratch you might need to build up your cache over time (unless money is no limiting factor for you). Start with a few boxes of each and start stacking them as you are able.

  • Nick December 22, 2016, 10:07 pm

    I think “Rothschild’s Pet Poodle” has the best advice so far… one combat load for every month of projected SHTF. I have waaaaaay too much ammo, and his advice put things into a good perspective. I’ve stopped buying and will start burning up the excess with practice/training. It’s a good use of it. Thanks for the post, “Poodle”.

  • john-atlanta December 23, 2016, 10:56 am

    For Christians that believe and read God’s printed word, The KJV Bible, Book of Enoch, and the Apocrypha, you know how it goes down.

    Total civil war the world over, when it is done, there remains 7 woman for every man, God destroys 2/3 of the USA (east and west coast of the woman of Babylon), and then the fallen angels come back and basically have sex with anything that moves, while Satan declares himself God in Jerusalem. At that point in time, ammo combat loads do not count for much.

    Cities are going to become hell holes with roving gangs going door to door taking what they want.

    At the very end crops will basically rot in fields because there will not be anyone left to harvest or eat them.

    The followers of the anti-christ are going to hunt down to kill any that will not worship him, you have seen what the locust Obama has raised up are doing now to Christians and even fellow “Muslims”.

    Who survives untouched? Those that flee to the “deep woods” if you read the Apocrypha. That might be considered the best prepping tip of all.

    May I suggest if you put your trust in 100,000 rounds of ammo and have not seen a need to read your Bible in 2 years, you may anger and move God to destroy you more then an anti-gun, anti-meat, non prepping atheist that gets up everyday and is thankful for seeing the sun again one more time.

    • That guy December 27, 2016, 12:31 pm

      I mean you can put it that way but if you don’t survive the 1st part how are you going to flee to the deep woods

      • Jon January 17, 2017, 2:41 pm

        God expect you to pray to him for guidance, but he also expects you get off your butt and act. God helps those who help themselves and others.

  • john-atlanta December 27, 2016, 3:37 pm

    Once you empty that 1st 30 round magazine in SHFT you waited too long and will not likely survive untouched and will likely not be able to flee to the “deep woods”, unless God reaches down directly and helps your Exodus.

    Ever wonder why the insane elected leaders and “progressives” decided to make 100s of millions of acres (500+) of “deep woods”, monuments, and not available to the general public, that could not be developed or tread upon, or rode upon in their worship (followers of Andrew Jackson Davis) of (mother) earth?

    If you live on the west coast side of the Rio Grande or the east side of the Chattahoochee (Zech 13) and you have not moved by 2017-01-20 before the King of Babylon attempts to be sworn in, it is a mute point, imho. Because that is probably going to be the most dangerous moment (plus the next 12 month) the woman of Babylon has ever faced, because it was decreed for destruction over 4,000 years ago (Book of Enoch).

    Obama is NOT stupid, nor Satan who inhabits him, so, have you ever wondered WHY Obama would do things to greatly spur gun and ammo sales?

    There are many people that think Sandy Hook was a false flag event. One fact is it INCREASED gun sales.

    It is so you depend in FEAR on the God of forces and guns (materials) for your salvation, when the God of peace has already told you to flee for your lives.

    Revelation 18:4 (KJV)

    4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

    If you read the Apocrypha, then you know it is by fleeing to the “deep woods”.

    Fleeing with 1,000 rounds of 5.56 in a vehicle before SHTF is a reasonable goal, after SHFT on foot, no so much, imho.

  • Rastas McGee January 4, 2017, 6:58 pm

    If you stockpiling 22 ammo , your Ruger pistols and other automatics won’t shoot ” milk carton ” ammo. Make sure you use that for pumps , lever actions, and single shots. Just make sure what you save up works in your shooten irons !

  • Christian Gains January 6, 2017, 12:56 am

    Neither being an “Operator”, nor a “SPEC-OP”, I can only state what I’ve learned over the last 20+- years…”How much ammo is enough?” …. “Never enough!”

    Now, as the experienced gents here have stated, in a truly SHTF sitrep, you’d BEST NOT be having gun fights! BEST to stay AWAY from fights…even minimize your shooting PERIOD! QUIET & UNSEEN is the Supreme Directive.

    So, I too think “R.P.P” gives the most balanced suggestions…but, ALL of the above have valid points.

    And THEN there’s John Atlanta’s wise council: “Draw neigh unto God, and HE will draw neigh unto you!”,[James 4: 5 – 10] … “If ye ask anything in MY NAME, I will do it”,[Jn. 14: 13 – 14]. … “Trust in the LORD with ALL thine heart, and lean not unto your own understanding; in ALL of thy ways, ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, & HE SHALL direct thy paths!”,[Prov.3:5 – 6] …

    And, this means that you’ll also NEED your Bible…(two if possible…to share)…THEN read I Kngs. 19: 1 – 18,{esply. note vers. 11 – 13}; [“…a still small voice…”] … If you LEARN as Eliyah, (Elijah) did, you won’t NEED much ammo … but life WILL BE “interesting”… JMHO

  • john-atlanta January 6, 2017, 8:37 am

    I agree the most important thing would be two copies of your Bible, as towards the end, your “fellow” citizens will be burning and cursing them, while blaming you for all their troubles and trying to convert you to the anti-christ.

    Well, we (the woman of Babylon aka Liberty) have already come to this point when the woman of Babylon was defeated by the King of Babylon

    Daniel 4:17
    17 … the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men

    SHTF when this happens:

    30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

    Back in 2011 I wrote, for various reasons, that Russia and China would attack us 2018-01-20, I know think it will be 12 months earlier. Especially considering supposedly we now have no aircraft carrier at sea and Obama’s planted aircraft carrier comment in the 3rd debate.

    You could not pay me $1,000,000 to be in DC on 2017-01-20 when the King of Babylon looks up at that shiny newly redone Capitol with “Liberty” on the roof (under the same roof where Congress’s own stenographer warned them 3x God will not be mocked as they dragged her off), done just in time for him to be sworn in. As I think this is the most likely time for this thought to pass through his mind “by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”.

    I will hope onto the end for the grace of 1 Peter 1:13 and try to show it to others. But, seeing how they are assaulting police and we have crazy people sitting through church services (granted a WICKED shepherd) to slaughter 9 people or shooting up their own military bases or wiping out their own families (familicides are up 10x since Nov 2008 – 2 so far in our pagan new year and not even a week) you might make the case we are clearly 1/2 the way there.

    I would keep the sidearm on me and the long gun handy for those individuals that need killing. But, IMHO, that first 30 round magazine dump means you waited too long if your plan was to flee.

    If your plan is to defend the sheep from the wolves then by all means load up, but, we are NOT defeating the invaders. How from a distance to discern sheep from goats and wolves disguised as sheep, might be the real problem for anyone that chooses to protect the sheep.

  • Nailbanger January 12, 2017, 8:49 am


  • George April 20, 2019, 9:34 am

    I have finally realized the situation of our country with bureaucrat branches that really have no right to exist in this country colluding with not only media to demonize not only Americans but the leader we elected. But also colluding with China and other foreign enemies to subvert and destroy our Republic. I now stock up. The call may one day have to come regardless if we want it or not. It never hurts to be prepared. We have a duty to defend our President and our land. Hopefully our Generals will do something about this like they should.

    • John Brown April 20, 2019, 2:58 pm

      I hope our generals have enough common sense to do nothing, they swore to the free mason Constitution (that JESUS allowed to be put over us) to uphold it. They should only do things that are moral and legal WHEN the POTUS tells them to do it.

      You are not to take up arms against your civil government. You are certainly NEVER to take up arms against the USA’s government. You have a problem, vote. You have a problem, bring it to the light of day.

      Matthew 26:52 (AOB)





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