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The Importance of Extra Ammo?

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By Jason Herbert

Recently while reading James Wesley Rawles book Patriots I got to thinking… about a lot of things. The book details in very realistic fiction how fragile the U.S. economy is, and how quickly it could collapse. At that point our paper currency as we know it is absolutely useless, and people are resorting to any means possible to survive. The book is a great read and I recommend any open minded person who cares about their family and their future to read it.

After assessing my self reliance skills, my family security plan, our bug out plan, and just about everything else that I could control without spending any money, I started to think about investing in ammunition. After a bit of research and some thinking, I realized that there are several reasons why well-prepared people should stockpile extra ammunition. Here are the reasons (or excuses) to continue to make ammunition part of your monthly budget.


First and foremost of course ammunition is going to be important for security. In case of an emergency, I don’t want to have to use ammunition to defend my family and my home, but I have that right and will do so if necessary. I’m an avid sportsman and have quite a bit of ammunition for all of my hunting guns, which also double as my defense weapons. I mainly hunt with a 12 gauge for deer, turkeys, coyotes, and waterfowl, while using my .22 for small game such as squirrels and rabbits. However I mostly stockpile .22 ammunition for several reasons. One it is cheap, two it is once again becoming fairly easy to find, and three it is very versatile. A .22 can be used for hunting or for personal defense. I also stockpile quite a bit of buckshot, shotgun slugs, and bird shot for my shotguns. Also I keep plenty of pistol ammunition on hand- once again for self defense, I don’t do a lot of hunting with my pistol.

Although I do not own an “AR” style rifle… yet, many people do and they stock up on lots of ammunition for them for obvious reasons. If a personal defense rifle like that is purchased, be sure to have lots of ammunition for it. Otherwise like I said earlier, it becomes a very expensive paperweight.


Another thing to consider in the case of emergency is how valuable ammunition is really going to become. Without ammunition, a gun is an over-sized paperweight or club at best. In an emergency situation people will want ammunition to protect themselves and also to harvest game meat.  Something as versatile as .22 ammunition will be in high demand if the economy tanks and paper money is useless. Just about every sportsman owns a .22 and the ammunition for it will be very useful as currency. Also equally important are other calibers of rifle ammunition, pistol ammunition, and shot shells. When stockpiling ammunition for currency, consider what the local people use. In my area of the country almost everyone deer hunts with a shotgun, so slugs will be a popular choice. However, out west where everyone uses flat shooting high powered rifles, a 12 gauge slug may not be in demand as much as a box of .270’s. Also, where I live a person can survive on rabbits, squirrels and birds – so shot shells with bird shot will be valuable. These same shot shells may not be such a prized possession in the desert where there aren’t as many small game animals to pursue.

Not only is regular shooting a fun hobby and pastime, its also very important. Any survival expert or shooting trainer recommends that people shoot often, at least once a month sometimes every other if they’re really strapped for time. While ammunition prices are coming down, it’s always a good idea to buy extra to continue the shooting training and time at the range. “Perfect practice makes perfect,” and we all know that in an emergency situation the last thing anyone needs to do is be fumbling for their weapon or forgetting how to shoot it. Like anything else, muscle memory can be developed into proper shooting form with enough practice. Be sure to buy plenty of ammunition so that there are no excuses to not get practice in at the range.

For a family like mine full of hungry young kids, who don’t have much extra money to spend, reloading is a very viable option. Not only is reloading ammunition a lot of fun, but people can control exactly what combination of powder and bullet they’re putting into their shells. In my case, I used to reload a lot of shotgun ammunition when I was younger and I really enjoyed it. Like tying fishing flies, I felt that reloading shotgun ammunition was a great way to relax and pass the time on a cold winter evening. Now as a parent of four children who is constantly worried about finances, reloading is a very cost effective way to keep plenty of shotgun ammunition on hand. Other people reload rifle and pistol cartridges. I do not, but it is certainly a possibility for those who plan on shooting a lot of that type of ammunition. Be sure to properly price out reloading supplies vs. store bought ammunition. Sometimes the factories do have it down to a science and the store bought ammunition is more cost effective than the reloading supplies.


There are all sorts of reasons to continue to budget for and purchase extra ammunition. Hopefully we will never be in the situation where ammunition is required for defense, or that it is used as a currency. But if this type of situation does arise, I don’t want to be the one hawking all of my gold, silver, and firewood for a couple hundred .22 shells. I’d rather be on the other end that trading equation and benefiting from my preparedness.

How Much Ammo Is Enough?

Out of curiosity, I contacted the man himself, James Wesley Rawles through his website, and asked him “how much ammo is enough?” Here’s what he had to say:

“It is important to maintain balance in your preparations. Food storage, first aid supplies, and heirloom seed storage should be priorities. But after those have been taken care of, it makes sense to stock up on ammunition. As long as you store your ammo in sealed military surplus cans, there is no risk in over-estimating your needs, since ammunition has a 50+ year storage life if protected from oil vapors and humidity. Consider any extra ammo the ideal barter item. The late Col. Jeff Cooper rightly called it “ballistic wampum.”

For your barter inventory, I recommend that you stick to the most common calibers:

For rifles: .22 Long Rifle, .223, .308, .30-06 (and in the British Commonwealth, .303 British.)

For handguns: 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

For shotguns: 12 gauge and 20 gauge.

You might also buy a small quantity of the “regional favorite” deer cartridge for your area, as well as your local police or sheriff’s department standard calibers. (Ask at you local gun shop.)


I consider the following figures minimums:

2,000 per battle rifle
500 per hunting rifle
800 per primary handgun
2,000 per .22 rimfire
500 per riotgun

If you can afford it, three times those figures would meet the “comfort level” of most survivalists. In an age of inflation, consider that supply better than money in the bank.”

I want to thank Mr. Rawles for his sage advice. Be sure to constantly check back to our online store as ammunition comes in each day. We can always put it on back order for you.

Preparing for an emergency isn’t on everyone’s priority list, but it should be. I personally find a lot of peace knowing that in an emergency my family wont be caught off guard. As always be safe, shoot straight and have fun.

Images two and four and thumb are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jason Herbert

Jason Herbert is a happily married father of four, middle school teacher, outdoor writer, speaker, and personality. Growing up on a small farm in rural Michigan taught Jason the value of hard work and the appreciation for God’s great outdoors. Jason loves to hunt, fish, garden, cut wood, and exercise. The Herbert’s try to live as naturally as possible which has allowed Jason the opportunity to hunt for anything that can be eaten! Jason grew up chasing whitetails and small game and has now graduated on to becoming a local turkey hunting expert, fairly decent predator hunter, and a rather successful waterfowl hunter as well. When Jason’s not working or in the field- he’s right where he belongs, at home with his family. Jason credits God for all of his wonderful gifts and is constantly looking forward to his next outdoor adventure.

Comments (15)

  • PrepperConsays:

    March 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

    I too have read Patriots by JWR, and initially thought that ammo for barter was a smart idea.

    I have since changed my mind. I had a revelation that I likely would be trading with my local neighbors and community, meaning folks that are in my vicinity and are attempting to survive as I am. If they are out of ammo, they are likely out of other things as well.

    A human being, particularly one with a family to protect and feed, and knows who locally has enough items of a variety to be trading some of it, will become a threat to you.

    Why would I want to aid their effort to remove myself or my stored goods by helping to arm them?

    I believe it is more prudent to stock items for barter that are more useful and possess a less deadly potential than ammo, such as heirloom seeds, medical supplies, or even shoes and boots.

    • Gritr Sportssays:

      March 26, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      PrepperCon – you make a pretty good point, it would be tragic to trade ammunition with someone and then have them turn around and try to use it on you soon after. As medical supplies likely aren’t to be manufactured in mass quantity again for at least a while, I would be hesitant to trade them unless my stockpile was extremely large. Perhaps the best thing to trade is fresh vegetables out of the garden, or anything else renewable. Shoes and boots aren’t a bad call either, or maybe coats and blankets. It’s a thought provoking subject to say the least.

      • SD3says:

        March 26, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        On the other hand, providing (bartering) ammo to an otherwise defenseless person is a great way to make a new ally. Would you feel endebted (and perhaps grateful) to someone who gives you the capacity to defend your loved ones?

        I would.

    • ryansays:

      March 28, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Ammo is a barter item best left for long term disasters. Fuel and preserved foods are better barter items but do expire and are harder to store.
      People may know you have ammo but they don’t have to know how much. Splitting your stockpile in half a dozen locations would be a good idea. When bartering they can see a mostly empty storage space with a modest pile of mostly hunting ammo that they can shop. Even if they threaten you for a back up stockpile you can show them your 2nd smallest cache with enough reluctance to convince them that’s it.
      A more practical use for ammo storage is to avoid inflation and potential bans or restrictions.

  • Surly Old Guysays:

    March 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Don’t waste your time and money on shotgun ammo, or a shotgun. The ammo is bulky and heavy, it’s not sealed against the weather, and as a combat weapon it’s a poor substitute for a rifle.

    Likewise a .22 rifle. If you can find a cheap .22 pistol, it’s not a bad thing to have for slaughtering livestock or finishing off large game animals. In that case, throw a few boxes of cheap solid .22 in the case with the .22 pistol.

    Get a decent quality .177 pneumatic rifle — a spring-piston one, with iron sights — for hunting small game. It’s cheaper and quieter that a .22, and no one with any sense is going to waste ammo shooting at birds on the wing, the “sporting” way to hunt with a shotgun. Shoot them while they’re sitting on the ground or perched in a tree. No chance of breaking a tooth — when there’s no dentist to visit — biting down on a shot pellet that was missed while cleaning the game.

    .177 pellets have no primers or powder to go bad, and you can store massive quantities in a small space with no worries about performance dropping off or reliability being impaired by heat, humidity or the passage of time.

    5.56mm AR for defense. Get at least 15 magazines and at least 5000 rounds of ball ammo. M193 is good enough, M855 isn’t worth the inflated prices. You don’t need a $2000 “name-brand” rifle like a Colt or Noveske, but don’t buy the cheapest no-name gun-show special either. S&W MP-15s are not expensive currently, and seem to get good reviews. Iron sights are critical. Have a set no matter what sort of scope or red dot you may mount. Daniel Defense and LaRue make good back-up iron sights. Don’t go cheap on scopes or red dots, cheap ones are cheap because they’re made cheaply.

    A “hunting” rifle that can serve as a “sniping”/long-range rifle. Doesn’t have to be all “tactical” and you don’t need a truckload of ammunition, but it’s not a bad idea to choose something chambered in a relatively common cartridge. .30-06, .308 Win would be good. 6.5mm Swedish, 7.9mm Mauser are not bad, but ammo will be more expensive and harder to find. You want something that can hit a man or a deer at 500m and that can shoot through both sides of a car, a medium-sized tree or other likely cover in your area. Iron sights, and a decent scope — 6x, 8x or 12x, fixed power is one less thing that can go wrong — and stock at least 500 rounds for it.

    Everyday carry handgun. Doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Pick what fits your hand and works for you. At least 9mm is a good idea. Semi-auto has an advantage in capacity and it’s easier to maintain. At least 3 or 4 extra magazines — you’ll want to carry at least 1 extra in addition to the pistol — and at least 300 rounds of good JHP ammo. Beyond that, look for a cheap ball load that has the same bullet weight and velocity as the JHP load, so you can do at least a little training without shooting up your high-performance carry ammo.

    Cleaning gear for all the above. Bore brushes, toothbrushes, patches, solvent and lube.

    Prioritize, unless you’ve got the money to buy everything at once. Carry pistol, AR, air rifle, hunting rifle. Carry ammo for the pistol, pistol magazines, case of 5.56mm, half-dozen AR magazines, more 5.56mm ammo and magazines, air rifle pellets, hunting rifle ammo. More 5.56mm as deals present themselves. 10,000 rounds is not “too much.”

  • Brassrainbow556says:

    March 29, 2015 at 12:28 am

    I agree with you on most but not on the shotgun. A shotgun is the deadliest weapon on the battlefield. They are versatile. You can vary loads for hunting or defense. Slugs are good out to 200 yards with even a bead sight and will drop any game on the planet and likely any man even wearing the highest level body armor. They are realitively easy to maintain. Do not require cleaning to any degree near that of a rifle or a handgun. Ammo particularly 12 gauge is probably in half of the households in America so bartering for or scavaging will be easy. Presses can be purchased for 50 and you can make your own by the truckload for pennies on the dollar. It is easy to go to tire stores and garages and ask for tire weights or collect lead from a number of different sources and cast your own slugs and shot and reloading is simple. Also you can buy skeet, target or bird shot in hundred round boxes for $25 and make cut shells or better yet wax slugs for around 30 cents a slug. For home defense nothing kills more efficiently than a shotgun. You won’t walk away and certainly won’t be much of a threat if hit by a shotgun blast whatever type shell is used. The rest of what you wrote I agree with. Prep on.

  • Jasonsays:

    March 30, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Great feedback everyone! Thanks for reading and for the ideas.

    I hadn’t thought of a good pellet rifle yet… but will add it to my list.

    Billy, JWR would say you have plenty of .22lr- nice job saving up that much.

    Surly Old Guy- I too am looking into the S&W M&P sport- great reviews online from what I’ve seen and a decent price point. They don’t have a dust cover or forward assist. Anyone have an opinion on those two options?

    Ryan, I do not know the answer to your question- feedback anyone?

    Thanks again guys! I’m learning as I go and appreciate the ideas and advice.


  • Chefjonsays:

    April 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I’d never barter anything that could be returned in my direction @2500 fps. Better to stock up on booze and smokes (even if you don’t do either).

  • Prepared2Survivesays:

    April 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    For Rifle ammo both the 7.62×39 and 7.62x54R would be good calibers Mosins are CHEAP and accurate/ and the 7.62×39 fits AKs and SKS which people have a lot of. For me I would not trade ammo. It takes a split second to load a firearm and shoot me, what do I say ” You cant load until we are long gone ect.”? I prepare so in the event of a long term disaster I do not have to worry about trading as much. However if I had to trade I would trade booze/tobacco/renewable food/ ect Ammo and guns are off the table, I have a stock pile of cheap knives I would trade. Let us not forget Lighters ( scripto lighters are like 8 for $2) and while they are not as good as a bic beggars cant be choosers. I feel that also have a good solid bug out / prepping group will help prevent the worry of trading ammo to strangers. Just my thoughts/concerns let me know what you think!

  • Jasonsays:

    April 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Donald- good question and I honestly have no opinion. I’d get online and read feedback. I know my kids are always killing squirrels with their .177’s. But… as I’m writing this I think bigger may be better in this case. A .22 air rifle can take down some pretty decent sized game under the right circumstances. I know they can knock down a turkey. I’ve seen you tube videos of guys killing wild hogs with them and I bet if placed correctly, they could kill a deer too.

    As far as some of the other comments about trading ammunition- all very good points! I too am thinking about other currencies. I currently make all of my own beer and wine, and am also exploring bee keeping for honey. Recently I began to search for tobacco seed online to grow smoking and chewing tobacco. I do not use either- but they are and will be very valuable to others! I am also in the process of strictly planting non-GMO, non-hybrid, open pollination, “heirloom” vegetables from this point forward. I’m also starting to save seeds. Not only is eating natural how god intended us to eat… but in an emergency these seeds will be very valuable. GMO and hybrid vegetables will produce seed, but their offspring will not be as plentiful in future generations- if at all. I’m starting to grow my own wheat, and I already grow hops. My goal is to soon have homegrown AND homebrewed beer:)

    I like these conversations we’re having! Thoughts anyone?

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