How Much Ammo do I Need for SHTF?

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A common question when preppers begin the process of accumulating supplies and knowledge is How much ammo do I need for SHTF? Of course, if you don’t have any firearms, the question is more likely, how much ammo do you need meaning the person like me? Because anyone with a gun in their opinion doesn’t need it and any ammo except maybe a single box is too much. That box should also be registered with the local sheriff and kept under lock and key preferably at the Sheriff’s office.

For the rest of us who are able to keep firearms (for now) and who don’t have a problem with firearms, I wanted to give my take on how much ammo to keep. The typical SHTF scenario is not a limited disruption in services or power like what you can expect from a weather event. Although, there are a lot of cases recently where Hurricanes disrupt a community for years. (Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, Katrina) so to some of you this could be a real SHTF scenario in its own right. I am not really speaking to this threat, but you can glean some information for those who do find themselves in a weather caused event I think.

My scenario for this post is a real SHTF type of scenario where for whatever reason, any resemblance of normalcy has been thrown out the window and there is no Rule of Law or Law and Order is severely diminished. Economic Collapse, Mutant Zombie Bikers from Mars, Global pandemic; pick one. The point I want to get to is if the stores never opened again, if you couldn’t walk down to Walmart ever and get more ammo; how much would you need on hand before the collapse?

Let me first preface this with the following. Everyone’s situation is different so this is just my idea of the recommended minimum amounts. If I haven’t taken into account some of your realities, please let me know. I think this post can be a forum where we can all get more perspective from others out there.

What are the recommended minimums in your favorite calibers?

What are the recommended minimums in your favorite calibers?

Next, this is not assuming you are going to bug out into the woods. I can already hear people saying “How are you going to carry all of that” and I completely agree that you would never be able to on foot. I am not planning on bugging out; this is my minimums for bugging in. Additionally, there will be people who say things like, what if you get killed and you have all of that ammo? The bad guys are going to get everything you have. True, but I could get killed falling down the steps or eating some bad spaghetti sauce and the bad guys would get it anyway. Any plans I make are for living, not dying. I think it’s stupid to plan for dying. Let the people burying you worry about that.

How Much Do I Need?

So, to get to the point, I mentioned in another post the Top Five Firearms You Need to Get Your Hands on, so that is my battery of arms. This included one Shotgun, One Battle Rife, One Long-Range (Hunting) Rifle, One pistol and One small game rifle. For these weapons, I have the following recommendations.

  • Shotgun
    • Small Game – 500 rds.
    • Defensive – 500 rds.
  • Battle Rifle AR or AK – 2000 rds.
  • Long Range Rifle – 500 rds.
  • Pistol
    • Defensive Hollow Point– 1000 rds.
    • Practice (Ball) – 2000 rds.
  • Small Game (.22) – 2000 rds.

For the ultimate in capability, look into reloading.

I will go ahead and explain my reasoning for these numbers and please feel free to comment with your own opinions and suggestions. I am just like every single other person in the world out there. There aren’t any SHTF experts so it is just opinions all around. You may have a lot of experience in the Army, or the Police Force but that doesn’t make you an expert any more than anyone else.

Shotgun – This weapon has two uses so the count is fairly high. 500 rounds each for hunting game and defending your home should last a long time.

Battle Rifle – This to me is your go to weapon of choice in any type of SHTF scenario and your magazines will hold more than just about any normal magazine of any of my other choices. A decent combat load is 12 magazines at 30 rounds each (12 X 30 = 360) and that is just what you can carry on you in your vest or LBE. 2000 to me is the minimum I would strive for.

Long Range Rifle – Again, this pulls double duty along with the Shotgun. A well sighted .30-.06 or .308 can reach out and touch a lot of people at a respectable distance if they are handled correctly. This can be the weapon that bags deer for dinner or picks off a zombie at 600 yards.

Pistol – This weapon is not as powerful as the battle rifle, but it will be on your side more often I imagine. Spare pistol ammo can be bartered in a pinch, but only if you have more than your minimums.

Small Game – This is my .22 and it can be used to practice with, take smaller game and varmints if you are a good shot. This ammo is still considerably cheaper than just about any other too.

Now that I have my minimums out there, how do you get started? I would download our Ammo Inventory Spreadsheet if you have Excel to keep track and budget. If you had all of these calibers and had zero ammo I would try getting a little of everything as your finances allow. Don’t stock up on rifle ammo and forget everything else. Use the spreadsheet to help you plan your shopping trips to the Gun Show or buy online from sellers like our sponsors Crossfire Ammunition or Ammo Club.

What should you do when you have the minimums? You can keep going to further ensure you will have enough or move on to your other preps that you need to check off the list. As long as you have the minimums I would spend my money on other necessities before I add more ammo.

How many magazines do you need for each weapon?

That is another excellent question. I would say 4 magazines for each pistol at a minimum and 10 for your battle rifle. You don’t have to worry about shotguns and rifle magazines are costly too. I would say 4 magazines for your long-range rifle too but that is only after you get everything else first.

Have some ideas of your own? Id love to hear them in the comments below.

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  • Larry

    Great article. Love the redesign of the site, Pat.

    My question concerns storage. If you have the recommended 5 firearms and the minimum (or higher) ammo counts you’re going to need a safe, secure place to put it all. Would you recommend a dedicated room (or closet) in your home with a security door and maybe double sheetrocked for fire rating? Or is the expense of a good quality storage locker, such as a Liberty safe a worthwhile investment (they can easily run into the $1000’s)?

    • Thank you very much Larry! We are still tweaking some issues but I really like the new format and think this shows the content much better.

      Your question is an excellent one and its the same one I have been asking for years. I think a safe is the only option that makes sense. Liberty safes are pricey as you say, but there are alternatives out there that while they might not have 12 hours of fire rating, will keep your firearms and ammo as secure as you can expect. No safe is going to be unbreakable, but for the average person they will work fine in most situations I think. Tractor Supply and Lowes frequently have really nice safes on sale for less than $600. I am sure shipping isn’t included in that though.

      There are other problems though like space. What if you live in an apartment? Right now, for some people that dedicated closet might be the only option you have. In that case I would suggest diversifying the locations of your stores. Weapons should always be secure, but you can stash ammo in various places. I always try to keep magazines for each pistol stored in various locations so that no matter what room I am in I have something to use if needed beyond what the normally loaded magazine already provides.


    • Jeff

      I took my old gunsafe, upgraded to a much better one, and made the old safe my ammo storage place. Worked out great! I have several thousand rounds in it, and the lock is solid (I have two kids). I upped the storage capacity by taking some scrap lumber and building shelves to go in the ammo safe, optimized for ammo storage. I also stored some ammo in a separate .50 cal milsurp ammo box–a mix of shotgun, rifle, pistol, and .22 lr. So I can grab that box and go if I need to and have enough ammo for each piece. The to-go box has a lock on it (you can buy them as an aftermarket gadget).

  • emclean

    slightly off topic, but about the basic battery of arms

    IMO you need 2 carry guns, very similar to each other. such as a Glock 19 and 17, or a government length 1911, and a commander, or just two of the same.

    if you ever use your carried weapon and the cops are still around, you will most likely be with out it as the situation declines. if the SHTF in stages, LEO will be on the job in the beginning, and it would be honorably for you to loose your sidearm cause the paperwork was sitting on a desk waiting for a signature.

    • I agree that you want to have options and one option that is very important is redundancy. You are right that you don’t want to have your only firearm taken. I also recommend having different calibers just in case too.

  • Viking2217

    I have to say that what you have listed for ammunition and extra magazines is almost exactly what I have. I’m a bit more to the plus on Ammo, but right on for my magazines for all my weapons….it’s almost as if you did your article based on what’s in my vault! Freaky!

    • Thanks for your comments Viking2217,

      I think its a pretty decent amount that covers a lot of bases and glad to hear someone agree. Keep stocking up!


    • ftg

      Yah me too except I have reloading supplies in the event ammo is unobtanium, save money, develope loads to my particular firearms barter or special requirements. I have 2 or more guns per caliber and figure in a SHTF event I decided to average out how many reasonable minded people in my city of 70k +/- would be like me, I looked at the city population, race and age groups to help me determine my needs.
      These are to help in determining gangs, mob mentality minded people etc. You could go even further by disabled, city crime type and rate and so on.
      Males: 35,326 (49.1%)
      Females: 36,622 (50.9%)
      age 65+ 10% No real threat
      under 18 29% partial threat
      under 5 8% no threat
      Median resident age: 33.0 years
      33,461 46.5% White alone
      27,641 38.4% Hispanic
      6,079 8.4% Asian alone
      2,464 3.4% Black alone
      1,574 2.2% Two or more races
      2,920 .4% Other race alone
      2,280 .3%American Indian alone
      2,100 .3%Native Hawaiian and OtherPacific Islander alone
      I concluded 20k rounds of 10 different calibers .22LR to 8mm to 12 ga

  • Jim Ansell

    the answer should be More, because you can never have to much, in bug in scenarios especially. Bug out I suggest light above all else. My M-6 scout is perfect, good for small game, can be used for large game, and also self defense (see PDX1 ammo). 100 rounds of 22lr, and 25 .410 makes for easy, light escape, also you could throw in a Judge for a hand gun. If you prefer a larger round Imight suggest a Savage 24V 30-30 over 20 gauge, but it is heavier, and so is the ammo, also not as easy to obtain more.

    • I know what you mean Jim! I am personally in the More zone right now as I have the minimums for my top calibers so I want to build that reserve now. Bugging out is an entirely different animal you a right, but even then you have to deal with supply. Where are you bugging out to? Will you even be allowed to take your weapons with you? Do you have a resupply point once your ammo that you carry is gone? Lots of other problems with that approach too, but I would rather be on the side of having to pick and choose what to take than wishing I had something.

      Thanks for commenting,

      • Jim Ansell

        resupply is fairly easy enough, I found that 3 alternate routes to you BOL with supply drop sites concealed is the best option. I prefer 12×6 PVC insulated inside is the best option. 100 rounds of .22lr, 10 rounds .410, datrex bars and a life straw, wrap that up in a 3mm 55 gallon garbage bag 0xygen absorbers wraped with 550 cord and insulated with cotton batting, seal up, bury upright next to a fence post. Low signature, easy to find, burried 6-12 inches could dig up with a knife, but i prefer my e-tool. of course the ammo is specific, but you get the idea. rinse repeat…

        • Sounds like a good plan Jim. One of the posts I want to do in the future will be an in depth article discussing cache’s just like this. Great information.


  • Bam Bam

    Used a JIC to stash my 599 moss and rounds… Tube leaked water through the wing nut. Very disappointed .

    • Was the weapon ruined? I looked at those a couple of years ago and thought they were a good idea. Sounds like I am better off sealing my own 4inch PVC tube if I am going to create a cache.


  • Wally1

    Greetings, round count appears to be all right, however a suppressed 22lr would be used for most everything. I would suggest at least 3 Ruger 10/22’s. Have you ever shot a suppressed .22? ,sounds like popcorn popping, actually all you hear is the action of the bolt. I would have two for use and one for parts. In a SHTF situation, I doubt game wardens will be concerned what caliber firearm is used for game. A .22LR can take any game in America with enough rounds on target. Anyone can easily carry 2000 rounds of .22lr in a backpack. Something you should be concerned with and not mentioned is protective masks and bullet proof vests. Vests can last far beyond their expiration date which is usually five years, (five years is a liability time period for L.E.). The actual vest protective cycle can last much longer. however the average police issue vest will not stop a .308 or any large caliber rifle round for that matter. . Bugging out is really stupid, unless you live in a major high census urban area, then you are screwed and it does not matter. The key in a SHTF survival situation is to make it at least 90 days.

    • Thanks for your comments Wally1,

      Yes, I doubt game wardens would even be working, much less care in a SHTF scenario but you are right about the versatility of the good old .22. I have 2 of them myself but no silencer.

      I don’t know that I would want to have that as my only weapon though for big game/people. I know you said that if you put enough rounds on target you could kill anything, but for a large bear or elk, I don’t know if that is realistic. I would rather put one .30-06 through the animal than try to hit something, possibly moving with a .22. They are excellent for smaller game though.

      And, I agree about protective vests and we just started a new contest where you could win one on the Prepper Journal!


  • Keith

    Your numbers are similar to mine, except I go by caliber.
    ie: 2,000 rounds of 9mm
    2,000. rounds of .40S&W
    The idea being one carbine and one sidearm sharing the same caliber–the “Cowboy Theory” For example, my 9mm setup is a Glock 17/Sub 2K sharing the same mags. This is for bugout on foot–light but effectively armed, small foot print, concealed carry.

    My MBR and backup MBR are both 7.62 — 3,000 rounds, all milsurp because it’s cheap (17cents a round) is hermetically sealed, lasts forever and is 100% reliable.

    As for .22LR, I have lots because its so cheap. Again I employ the matching pistol/rife combo.

    • Thanks Keith, good strategy.

      Looks like Ammo prices are leveling off so I need to purchase more myself. Knowing my luck, some idiot will do something stupid and then the politicians will set off another buying frenzy.


  • doug

    I personal am still getting up to the minimums I would like. I do however feel that the minimums that I would like to have on hand are:
    3,000 Rounds of 9 mm ( I currently have 2) with 6 clips for each different gun
    1,000 Rounds of both types of shotgun rounds (In my area game birds seem to be the best option)
    4,000 Rounds for my battle Riffle along with eight 30 Round magazines.
    10,000 Rounds of .22 would be ideal, even if I haven’t obtained my .22 riffle yet
    As for storage I have it mostly in a closet that has a key lock.
    Personally my biggest issue is the fact that we due to jobs have to move every 2-4 years and packing up and transporting guns across state lines gets to be taxing as well as the safe concerns.
    great article though thank you

    • Than you Doug!

      Ugh, moving every two years?!! That would stink. For me, I am still working on my minimums for a couple calibers. My goal is to get them all to minimum and then raise the minimums again and go from there.


  • KomeVa

    Ammo will be currency when SHTF, so I suggest people stock up on Ammo because you can’t never have enough.

  • been there done that

    I’m new to prepping so I need some advice I have a AR15 1k rounds, a 45 C 1K rounds, 357C 1k rounds and a 40M 1K rounds. My questions is this, should my next weapon be a shotgun or a 30 06/308? Or do I buy some more ammo for the AR? What’s the min. I need for my AR? I have 6 months food and 500 gallons of water. What else do I need?
    Thank you

    • Hi Mike!

      It sounds like you have most of the basics covered at least from my perspective. So, you have to decide what you think you will need/use more. The high caliber rifle is really suited to taking out large game animals and humans at a considerable distance. Do you live in the city?

      Shotguns are better defensive options in my opinion than a rifle when we are talking about close quarters. What else do you need? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but it comes down to your situation really and what you have to consider. Have you read our series on Prepping Supplies you might need? http://www.theprepperjournal.com/2014/02/26/preppers-list-of-supplies/

      What is in your EDC? Do you have a concealed carry permit? Do you have a bug out plan?


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  • Jon

    I wouldn’t discount a air rifle. It would be a nice substitute for small game hunting and wouldn’t give away your location. Ammo for them are cheap and easy to store. I have a nice ruger break barrel that is rifled and very accurate. I would use it for all small game hunting and save other ammo for defense.

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  • jarhead1969

    Ammo and Mags:
    Min: For your main battle rifle, i.e. AK-AR-CarbineM1 or whatever: 2000rds and 20mags – plus 1000 rds for breaking in rifle and practice: And these are bare mins.
    Min: For your pistol, i.e. XD, Glock, SW, 1911, Sig, etc: 1000rds and 10 mags – plus 1000 rds for breakin and practice: And this is bare min.
    You can’t get enough ammo or mags is the bottom line. If you don’t use it all, fine, butthe extra ammo and mags, if any, will be like gold for bartering.
    Lastly: House safe: Maybe but only for a pistol or 12g. to keep close by. All else should be put in waterproof containers or storage unit of some sort and either buried or hidden in a place outside of the home, but close, or where, if authorities “visit” will and can not be detected or found.
    The controversy between the 9mm, 40S&W, 45 cal: Has been going on for years. The DOD and the Army have just finalized their 2016 and beyond to be the 9mm.
    Why the 9mm. The now 124gr and 145-147gr JHP’s have now demonstrated that their effectiveness “equals” and in some respects, outdoes the .45 and .40. Wound and autopsy’s from all sources, including most city morgues, show the 9mm now to be the choice and it’s wound statistics are equal to or surpass the .45 and .40. Add to this the 9 ammo is cheaper, easier to acquire, and the 9’s are quicker to train for most given their smaller recoil and quicker reset. Sure, you might be a competition .45 shooter, go with it. But the bottom line is bullet placement, bullet placement, bullet placement. Given a 9, .40, .45 in the same place = near identical results. Fact.
    Some years back: New England cop was shot twice in the stomach by a .45: Drove himself 50 miles to a hospital.

  • I know this article is a few years old, but I would like to add my input.

    My counts are as follows:
    9mm: 500
    .22lr: 5000
    ar15/ak/mini 14 etc: 1000
    12 ga: 500
    .00 slugs: 50

    My reasoning for having way less handgun ammo than you is because this is my last line of defense. Aside from bartering purposes (I would never, ever barter my ammo away), this is my ammo count I would have. I would not count a hunting rifle seperate from my battle rifle. This is just my personal feeling on the matter of course. I would be using the 12 ga for hunting, and the slugs would be for home defense. As far as the battle rifle vs hunting rifle, I believe you can use a battle rifle for hunting purposes in a true SHTF situation. I know some will disagree, but I like to keep things simple. Good article.

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