Bullets for Barter: Good Idea or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

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Do bullets make sense for bartering?
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So many articles have been written on the subject of bartering for preppers from many different viewpoints. Bartering is seen by many as the natural method people will use in order to conduct commerce when the grid goes down. If the economy collapses, as some fear and our money supply disappears, people will go back to trading goods or services they have for goods and services others have. It makes sense on the face of it, but I personally don’t think we will be quickly setting up shops outside our homes and offering our wares for a long time – possibly decades after any hypothetical collapse.

In a true collapse I can certainly see the importance of bartering after SHTF. I think to facilitate bartering, it makes sense to have some items you can trade although I tend to believe the time it will take for society to first, right the ship after something as cataclysmic as a collapse could be measured in years. Most, if not all of the average prepper’s survival supplies would be gone by the time Bartertown was set up. By the time rules were established, even informally for trade you likely wouldn’t have anything left to trade anyone.

This goes down the same path as storing precious metals. I think if we have a functioning banking system after a collapse you will possibly have a place you can take your precious metals and cash them in for the local currency. I do not think you will, any time soon, sit down with your neighbor and trade him a few silver coins for a horse or a new suit. Not at least until your neighbor can take that silver somewhere and get something else of value for it. The problem I see with precious metals is that nobody will know what they are worth and everyone holding precious metals will assume they are more valuable than they truly are. Not to mention how hard it is to make change from Gold or Silver Coins. Sure there are smaller denominations, but do you have any? Will the person you are trading with have any?

Do bullets make good bartering items?

All of my preconceived notions on Bartering aside, I am writing this post today because I have heard at least one other blogger and possibly some of the commenters on our site say words to the effect of “Don’t barter Ammo because it could be used against you”. I starting thinking about that concern and wondered if I had it all wrong before. I personally have recommended ammo as a good bartering item and now there was someone who says they have a ton of experience telling me that what I was thinking was wrong.

It isn’t like I know everything, so I starting considering that perhaps this blogger was right and that I shouldn’t plan on bartering ammo in the first place but the more I thought about it, the more I feel convinced that you should be no less safe bartering ammo than you are bartering a carton of cigarettes.

I think the default position of how bullets for barter or some other items like liquor or tobacco products, is a riskier proposition neglects a few other key points to consider that I wanted to share with the readers of the Prepper Journal today.

It isn’t what you are bartering, it is how

The assumption I think many people on the Bullets are bad bartering items side of this argument make is that if someone knows you have ammo, they will barter for ammo, load their pistol, or other favorite SHTF weapon and point it right back at you. Now you are at their mercy since they have ammo and they will take everything you have and possibly rape your wife and children in front of you. Could that happen? Sure, it is possible, but if that is how you are conducting bartering then you aren’t very wise in my opinion. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have even survived long enough to make it to bartering if you were that clueless.

Maybe I am wrong, but I don't see anything remotely resembling the open air market and free trade happening for many years after a collapse.
Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t see anything remotely resembling the open air market and free trade happening for many years after a collapse.

OK, so the hypothetical scenario is that we have just lived through The End of the World as we Know it. Banks closed a year ago, the government collapsed, several nukes went off somewhere in the country, but you haven’t been able to get reliable information for months. You are barely surviving because you had 2 years’ worth of supplies stored and have connected with 4 other families in a mutual assistance group. Your garden is constant work but is feeding you all nicely. The other members of the MAG have brought their own supplies and a modest homestead environment is allowing you all to live in semi-reasonable comfort and security.

Now, some stranger, maybe it is even someone you know comes to your fence. He just happens to have something you are looking for; a car battery. You place it on the multimeter and see that it still has some life in it so you ask what he is willing to trade for it. He says he will take a box of shotgun shells. Since you were a good prepper and stored up a generous supply of ammo before the collapse, this is a trade you can make and reason it is fair.

The element of risk comes into this equation from two places. First, the knowledge that you have ammunition could put you at risk from people who want more ammo and will try to take it by force. The second place is the trade you are considering right now with someone who plans to kill you with the ammo you are going to give him.

These aren’t wild stretches of imagination. I will readily concede there will be desperate people, but I think in this situation people will be just as desperate for food, medical supplies, tobacco, whiskey, livestock, basically anything of value. Sure, someone can’t’ turn around and kill you with a tomato, but if society has devolved so completely, every interaction and transaction is going to carry some amount of risk.

Don’t make bartering mistakes

I think if you have stored thousands of extra rounds of ammunition for the express purpose of bartering, that you would be a very fortunate person in the right circumstances. Of course, having a supply like that could invite someone to take it from you. Having the ammunition or the whiskey or the tobacco or toilet paper is only half of the problem. You have to set up the trade itself in a fair, safe way to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of. If you have any supplies, you will need to guard them even if you aren’t planning on using them for barter. The days of leaving the house for several hours without a guard would be over.

I would not go into any transaction like this without backup. Someone should be watching your back any time you make a trade like this. You will likely need more than one backup as someone will need to   stay with the person you are bartering with while you or someone else retrieves the ammunition that is hopefully hidden safely in your house or offsite somewhere.

The person you are bartering with should never see your supply nor know how much you have left. I think it might also be good to have someone observing from a higher vantage point, possibly hidden in the trees wearing a homemade Ghillie suite. If this sharpshooter saw the man trying to shoot you, they could step in from a couple hundred yards away and end the life of the man who was just trying to kill you.

I think bullets above almost all else would be highly valuable during a SHTF event. If you have more than you need, why not try to use them for barter? I believe with the right precautions, almost anything can be traded. Bullets immediately following a collapse will be more valuable than gold for preppers. By taking steps to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of, you can trade any extra stock you have, get things you need in return and possibly help someone live for another week.

What do you think?

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Bobcat-Prepper
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Bobcat-Prepper

It seems to me that bullets have a special place in a prepper’s inventory: they last for decades, and can improve both the food and the security situation. This makes ammo important to both the owner, and anyone else who gets wind of their existence. No matter what the size of my inventory, I would be reluctant to trade away ammo, because you never know “how many you need” in the future – will this disaster last a few weeks, or for years? Sometimes you can’t tell, and so I wouldn’t trade away anything that couldn’t be replaced or substituted.… Read more »

LWJ
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LWJ

How many firefights do you plan on getting in? Do you really need 3,000 #5 12 gauge 3 inch bird loads? Ammo will be worth something, I would not take your food because it could be laced with something.

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

Isn’t that just like fearing the woman with the starving child begging for food? SHE could be out looking for people to attack . . .

LWJ
Guest
LWJ

Live by the Sword die by the Sword Mike. The more engagements you find yourself in the more likely your going to catch one. Not to mention how many preppers actually go out and hunt?? Having all the ammo in the world is not going to do you a bit of good, if you don’t know how to find the game, kill it, process it and then bring it home.

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

I served 22 years and had a confirmed kill count over 60 by 1976. I have caught “one” as well… I am quite sure some protein will present itself while kicking my door…

LWJ
Guest
LWJ

Ewww. I don’t think I would try to nibble on an intruder….If it makes you feel better I was not around in 76!!!

Pat Henry
Guest

I understand what you are saying Bobcat. I guess my point was just general to the concept of Ammo. I agree that on the scale of value, my ammo might be higher than just about any other thing. However, if I had an abundance and nothing else to trade, it could work provided the appropriate precautions are taken. Like I said, if it’s that bad that we have descended to barter, I am sure people will be more on edge.

Richard
Guest
Richard

I think that you are mistaken about the barter economy. If the banks close, people will use cash – paper money. Most people don’t have much of that on hand so they they will try to tough it out – eat what you have, find a replacement for toilet paper, be hungry, get by on less water, and so forth. And a day or two after that they will be talking to their neighbors and they will start to trade stuff. There will be mistakes, people will get cheated, robbed, hurt, and killed and it will get more organized. I… Read more »

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks for your comments Richard, and I may be wrong. Only time will tell.

I don’t doubt that people will trade, but I just can’t see streets lined with small stores for a long time. Certainly, if people are so broke they are trading their goods they are able to make (which is gonna take a heck of a lot longer than a couple of weeks) there certainly won’t be strong iron doors. That kind of infrastructure takes years to set up.

Richard
Guest
Richard

I expect to see something like a farmer’s market or gun show – a place where people meet to trade. If it has tables for goods there may be a small fee, if it has security, maybe a bigger fee – so much a day for one table. I would expect signs on tables saying “have …” and “want …”. People with something to trade will walk around with a sign. I have seen guys at gun shows with a slung rifle and a flag stuck in the muzzle with a make model and maybe price. I agree with your… Read more »

Mike Lashewitz
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Mike Lashewitz

Gold and silver are a commodity needed in manufacturing. They are also hoarded by the wealthy. Never forget the power of greed.

Richard
Guest
Richard

I was going for two points. First, after TEOTWAWKI manufacturing is not going to be a popular sport. Second, unlike India, China, or Pakistan the US doesn’t have a broad base of people who are familiar with gold or silver as money. If you ask the average person on the street how much a gold double eagle weighs or its face value, most will say, “what is a double eagle?” A small number might know that it is a $20 gold piece. And an even smaller number might know that it weighs an ounce so its value is roughly similar… Read more »

Mike Lashewitz
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Mike Lashewitz

Precisely! However .999 pure silver used to make colloidal silver works well as an anti viral to fight illness. Yes their values will serve much better when the rebuilding begins and the criminal elite banksters are rendered equal with the poorest of us.

YaRt
Guest
YaRt

Again, from actual history of a real economic collapse that happened in the past 25 years, an author of a diary of events in the Argentine collapse said people traded small gold rings and gold chains not gold eagles or bullion. I have done my share of guessing what I think will happen post TEOTWAWKI but history is the best teacher. Search for stories from the people who actually lived through one.

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

A family member lived through Bosnia… Small denomination silver coins and gold may help but ammo is worth more during those times.

EgbertThrockmorton1
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EgbertThrockmorton1

Many years ago, prior to the “Great Ammunition Depression”, I started storing and acquiring a great deal of .22LR ammunition for the express purpose of barter. The ,22LR caliber is the most prevalent caliber in existence in handguns and rifles today within the US. To mitigate any “risk” associated with barter, I have placed FIVE rounds only, in small sealed(love our food saver) bags and will only trade/barter/sell five rounds at a time. I determine the value of what is to be used for barter. Those with the “gold” make the rules. While we have substantial quantities of .22LR stored… Read more »

Pat Henry
Guest

Great comments Egbert and that is a strategy I have heard repeated elsewhere. It makes it easier that .22 ammo is so much (relatively) cheaper still than the other calibers.

LWJ
Guest
LWJ

What if I were bartering with you, and I had a medicine that you and yours needed? However I wanted 5.56mm instead of .22 LR? Would you part with it then or would you still cling to your beliefs that ammo is the “golden cow” and not to be parted with? Or would you instead be willing to try to take that medicine by force? The only thing that sacred is the lives we are trying to protect. Bullets are just another tool.

EgbertThrockmorton1
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EgbertThrockmorton1

I’ve never put a whole lot of stock into the “internet WHAT IF” scenarios. I’m comfortable in the scenarios under which I would barter ,22LR ammo,as stated above, regardless of what other ammo someone demanded or wanted. I can tell you this, IF, you were insisting on some other ammunition other than what was being offered, we would be bartering at all. You can make whatever “what if” assumptions you wish to do, till the cows come home, “What if” scenarios are internet war gaming and little else.You can choose to do whatsoever you wish with your preps and I… Read more »

LWJ
Guest
LWJ

You also have to be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. 5 rounds of .22 LR would be wonderful to somebody who has nothing. You have to learn how to Hagel and barter or else your not going to get far at all in the trade game…So how much for your MRE M&MS???

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

Well ya got me on that one. I’m NOT a chocolate fan at all, (yeah I KNOW I don’t have any taste!) so chocolate will go pretty cheap as I personally have ZERO use for it. You’d have to deal with my wife on that one, and she IS mean when it comes to HER chocolate!

LWJ
Guest
LWJ

The luxury items we take for granted, will be In high demand for certain people. Candy , fresh fruit, Copenhagen etc. I would be willing to barter for these types of things to boost morale. Nothing like giving the kids candy on Christmas with a gift, to bring some semblance of happiness to them. Or throw my brother a can of longcut to produce a smile. Hell my wife would worship me in the APOC if I could find her some Fruity type shampoo and conditioner!!

NRP
Guest
NRP

Well said Egbert.
NRP

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

Woulda Coulda Shoulda, don’t go there you will never be prepared…

BobW
Guest
BobW

I’ve said otherwise here previously, but in the near-after, I can’t imagine trading ammunition to anyone I didn’t know ‘before.’ I see that as a degree of risk avoidance. From what I know about my neighbors, most will not have very much if/when something goes down.

I don’t envision trading much of anything until the die-off has run its course. That’ll leave the prepared, the ruthless, and the resourceful to deal with.

Pat Henry
Guest

Right, I think it will be really hairy for a good while and during that time I don’t personally see anyone trading anyone for anything. They will be too busy trying to survive.

Kula Farmer
Guest
Kula Farmer

Bad idea,
IMHO
Pretty much going to act like im barely getting by, the absolute LAST thing ill trade away is ammo,

Pat Henry
Guest

I hear you Kula, but what if you had a surplus of ammo but needed other supplies?

Kula Farmer
Guest
Kula Farmer

I guess it would really come down to who it is and just how badly i need whatever it is,,,,
We have tons of un armed liberals in the extended neighborhood and on the island, lots of old school residents all armed, those i could se trading with, most anyway, but some people i would not trade anything with no matter what the circumstance, in fact some i will have to mentally prepare to remove them as they will be a problem for the whole community, sad and scary thought but true and serious,

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

What? Unarmed liberals demanding to have an equal share of ALL YOUR preps, just because of their “moral judgment” prevents them from preparing for a day of scarcity?
My bubble about Hawaii is now burst, Kula. Thanks!!

BobW
Guest
BobW

The concept of unarmed is a bit of a joke, Egg. What are they going to do, beat your door down with their fists and a whole lot of righteous indignation? They might not be armed when they are deciding a house-by-house search and confiscation are a great idea ‘for everyone’, but there will sure as hell be armed types when they come for it.

I’ve been thinking more and more about how a M249 might be the ultimate bug-in prep. Too bad they aren’t legal…

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

Well, if “legal” means we cannot afford the tax stamps and outrageous cost of legal 249 ownership, I agree, but they are legal in Class 3 states, thankfully where we now live.

Illini Warrior
Guest
Illini Warrior

Like most of the hypothetical scenarios it all depends – bartering ammo it depends on whom you are dealing with …. a doctor that just provided service or a high school buddy you’ve known 20 years … or a traveling peddler that’ll be dealing the ammo outside your area …..

Also, most of the talk centers on bartering ammo that you have stockpiled …. you and/or your group might acquire oddball ammo and even weapons thru adverse confrontations with raider types …. it’s unwanted materials for materials that will benefit your conditions ….

Pat Henry
Guest

That is a great point! If I come across ammo for calibers I don’t have, that would go directly into the barter bin.

S. Cullen
Guest
S. Cullen

Personally Pat, I won’t say your wrong….But I would only barter ammo as a last ditch, desperation action for something that was far more important to me…like perhaps food or water. WHY???? Well my thinking would be like this…. Say I had 1,000 rounds of ammo….(pick whatever caliber you wish) ….and I needed food…. Person #2 had some food and needed ammo…. So a transaction might be possible….BUT I would have to assess who person #2 was…a neighbor or someone who I might never see again…. If I provided ammo to a neighbor said neighbor would then be in position… Read more »

Pat Henry
Guest

True enough, but if you had more than a thousand rounds and you were going hungry, it would be different, right? No point in starving to death with 500 rounds of ammo locked away.

S. Cullen
Guest
S. Cullen

LOL….Can’t eat bullets….
I might barter ammo as a last resort…barter some but not a lot to one person…and make sure I had substantially more than someone else .
But I would only barter ammo as a last resort…..

Thomas Paine in the butt
Guest
Thomas Paine in the butt

There are a lot of pros and cons to any barter transaction. I might try for something else before ammo but it’ll have to be situation dependant.

I too think organized commerce isn’t going to be set back up very quickly. But for every Bartertown in the Mad Max wastelands I think there will be 10 Carson Citys circa 1880s.

Pat Henry
Guest

I think we will get back to that point too Thomas, but how many years did it take for Carson city to get to where it was? It certainly didn’t happen overnight and it did happen with people who were already used to living a certain way, with certain skills. If we have an event horrible enough for the big reset, I think that will be many years coming.

Thomas Paine in the butt
Guest
Thomas Paine in the butt

I agree with you that in general it’ll take a long time before there’s a semblance of rule of law.

Without going into a novel length dissertation on human societal evolution, I think how quickly local areas establish order will largely depend on the people, location and access to resources. And after general rule of law been reestablished there will be large areas ruled by the Humongous and cities ruled by the Duke of NY.

BobW
Guest
BobW

A #1! I try, but I just can’t see Dodge City/Carson City circa 1880 as realistic. I imagine some small towns with a strong local leadership will circle their wagons and band together, but those will be few and far between if it completely falls apart…and they will be far out in the bushes. Reality is that it will be far easier for the Duke of New York to seize control of major tracks of land than it will be for Marshall Dillon to organize the townsfolks in defense of their town. Too many sheep, not enough men of iron.… Read more »

Thomas Paine in the butt
Guest
Thomas Paine in the butt

Me thinks my analogy for generic town “one horse town” might’ve been too specific.

BobW, your explanation is pretty much what I’m thinking and “worthless eaters” almost caused coffee to shoot out my ears.

BobW
Guest
BobW

I don’t think it was too specific, Thomas. I understood exactly what you were getting after. The frontier town concept makes too much sense. It isn’t about location so much as size. Even small cities will be near impossible to manage without a large security force. In times where most folks generally follow the law, there is a need for x number of LEOs per person. In a time where there might be local law, but no overarching law, the number of LEOs needed to protect the populace would likely be x^2 (thats X squared). The ratios would be much… Read more »

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

National “average” of uniformed armed patrol LEOs, is supposed to be 1 per 10,000 population. Throw in the bloated bureaucratic nincompoops and it’s significantly lower than that. IN the community where we now live, (just under 70,000) very spread out, we AVERAGE 4-6 patrol officers on duty at any given time. Response time in our area(more rural than suburban) for a 911-call-for service, crime-in-progress runs about 9 minutes, still within the accepted national average of between 6-9 minutes for GET HELP HERE NOW! calls. Add into the mix that m any if not most municipalities and counties will NOT have… Read more »

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

I have never thought of myself as a “rancher” with TWO German Shepherd Dogs, but hey….might work.

BobW
Guest
BobW

Thanks for the assist, Egg. I agree that LEO activity as we know it will be a thing of the past. I was thinking more along the lines of frontier law, vice bureaucracy based law, but your observations are well founded. I agree that the term ‘worthless eaters’ will be subjective. Would I really turn a truly solo 6 year old away? No, I would not. Kids are a very different kind of subject that would not be a part of that defining population. At the same time, kids will be required to contribute. Even little ones can bring value… Read more »

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

Just remember every one of us is going to be visited by criminal government lackeys.

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

Mike,

I agree IF, they turn out far more competent and efficient than they are at present. Even they are going to have to scramble for fuel and food to make their visits. I wouldn’t want to be one of those lackeys trying to make the “visits”.

Mike Lashewitz
Guest
Mike Lashewitz

I guarantee it will not bode well but I do have a recipe for “Fried Green Tomatoes” chili… Watch out for them “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” hard shelled peppercorns.

BobW
Guest
BobW

I’m pretty sure liberals don’t taste like chicken.

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1

If I/we are forced by circumstances to have to dine on Liberal/Prog/Marxists, I do believe I will starve to death by choice.

Bolofia
Guest
Bolofia

Pat, I have to agree with your notion of using ammo for barter purposes, but with some pretty stiff constraints revolving around trust and security. First, there is no such thing as “enough” or “surplus” ammo. I have to assume that no one will be manufacturing any more for a long time to come. To be honest, an “adequate” supply would be far more than I could possibly carry, and there is no upper limit – regardless of caliber. Second, trading away ammo in the calibers that you need could be the equivalent of trading long term security for short… Read more »

Pat Henry
Guest

I don’t disagree and you bring up some very good points that I didn’t really get into. I do think ammo would be one of the most vital supplies you could have – one of the reasons I do try to build my own supplies as much as I can. I just don’t discount bartering ammo out of hand. It would need to be a very special situation as you say.

Stephanie Johnson
Guest
Stephanie Johnson

Don’t draw attention to yourself unless necessary ! Behind that one person begging to trade could be 50 – 100 mauraders. You may be prepared to fight those numbers. I would only trade if it were life & death.

Stephanie Johnson
Guest
Stephanie Johnson

Well a lot of good ideas here and ” scenarios.” I just hope you guys have some real “Street” experience. That’s going to be a commodity you can’t barter.

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks for the comments Stephanie and you are right. Street sense will help you more that a whole closet full of ammo.

Stephanie Johnson
Guest
Stephanie Johnson

Yeah I just have this visual of a guy sitting under a tent with all his little pre-packaged ammo …

YaRt
Guest
YaRt

Beg to differ but studying history from the 1990’s during the Argentina economic collapse, barter markets popped up quickly not “a long time – possibly decades ”

GRAY/BLACK MARKET
Once the SHTF the black/gray market will take no time to appear all around you.
In my country, gray markets were even accepted in the end. At first it
was all about trading skills or craft products for food. Districts and
towns would form their own barter markets, and created their own
tickets, similar to money, that was used to trade.

Source: http://www.survival-spot.com/survival-blog/argentina-collapse/

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks for the perspective YaRt. I have referenced that video and FerFal before on this site.

OK, fair enough. The barter market is established quickly after a collapse. The question remains. Would you barter bullets?