How Much Ammo do I Need for SHTF?

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?

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.

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.

by Pat Henry

6 thoughts on “How Much Ammo do I Need for SHTF?

  1. I would suggest a BB Gun to. Rifle. 1 thing of BB’s size of a pill bottel 100’s and reuseable. and makes less nose then a .22 and still will kill small game (rabbit, squarel, ect.) and as i said the bb’s are reuseable.

  2. You should have only enough that you can carry easy. I only have 3 full combat loads ready to go at any given time. I store more, but if we needed to leave fast, 3 combat loads is enough.

    2000rds for AR or AK, I’m guessing this guy has never had to carry that much ammo. that is a lot of weight, and if you are bugging out you will also need water, food, survival items, and etc. It adds up fast. And in defense or bugging out you don’t have room for “practice” ammo.

    Even in combat a combat load is 7 30rd mags, which is 210 rounds. I usually carried 9 though. A SAW is usually 3 to 5 200 round drums or nutsacks (That gets heavy quick) and a M240 was around 1,000 round, but 2 people carry that. Remember carry only what you can. So either start rucking and get stronger to do what is said here (which you probably still won’t be able to) or start rucking and learn what your body is able to do.

    1. As the author stated, and you must have missed, in the article:

      “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.”

  3. If you’re going to “bug in,” everything depends on where you live.

    If you live in a city of even moderate size, surviving will depend on one of three things. The first possibility is that you survive the initial onslaught of violence and insanity until services are restored. In that case, you don’t need any long-range guns or .22 type guns. Your best scenario is to have several thousand rounds for your AR-15 and hope that you survive long enough to fire most of those rounds. The second scenario is that order is never restored and that you happen to live through the long process of almost everyone being killed in fights over resources. In that case, you may need ten or fifteen thousand rounds for that AR-15, and again, you’ll need some luck to be one of the last people standing no matter what your skill level. Once you reach the point of being the in the final group of survivors who are no longer shooting each other, then you can get all kinds of resources from scrounging through the remains of a city. The canned food will last for decades if only a few survivors are eating. The third scenario is that you survive the initial killing until the population is low enough that you can pack a truck and bug out. That’s likely to be another scenario where your AR-15 and 10,000 rounds will get you through the first wave and allow you to scrounge whatever else you need.

    If you live in the crowded suburbs of a moderate to large city, you’re probably looking at the same kind of scenario as you would in a city. Your advantage in that situation is that you might have neighbors who will contribute to mutual defense of the neighborhood. That defense is a tremendous advantage because more houses are likely to survive. If you were in an apartment in the city and the crazies set fire to the other end of the building, you’re unlikely to be able to escape at all, much less escape with enough ammo to live more than a few days. Again, your best hope is the AR-15 and 10,000 rounds.

    If you are in a rural area, then you are already “bugged out” to some extent. Whether you need to “bug out” further will be an open question, but you should have a vehicle that will take you further into the boonies and carry supplies of all kinds. If you aren’t in an urban or suburban setting, I see much less need for ammo for an AR-15. Battle rifles in typical combat are used by squads of soldiers who give one another supporting fire. If you don’t have that scenario, you need to hope that you aren’t fighting very many battles. In a rural or wilderness area, you won’t have as many targets if someone is attacking you, but if they are creeping up, survival will be based on your creeping skill and not the number of rounds.

    Once I’m thinking in terms of the rural/wilderness survival, I’m thinking of different numbers. I’m down to 1000 to 1500 rounds for the AR-15, and I hope that I won’t have to use most of them. In terms of a hunting rifle, I’m guessing that I’ll take an average of 15 big game animals per year at most. If I have 350 rounds for the hunting rifle, then I have 20 years of big game ammo. To survive 20 years without the help of civilization would be a best case scenario. I see little point in defensive shotgun ammo. Occasionally, I may need to take a shot at very close range with a handgun, but if that happens often, I won’t live long. I’ll deal with other threats at the AR-15 range. I hope nothing ever gets to defensive shotgun range. Some duck loads would be nice if I have access to ducks, but I’m not sure that traditional bird hunting is going to be effective. Ducks and some grouse can be stalked and shot with a .22. A dove doesn’t have enough meat to justify birdshot rounds. If I bothered at all, I would have maybe 200 rounds of duck loads or dove loads for when I wanted to treat myself. A good air rifle with 10,000 rounds for daily squirrel or rabbit hunting would be much more valuable than any shotgun. Accounting for misses, I’ll assume 5 shots per day for four days a week to harvest these animals. That’s 20 shots per week which is 1,000 shots a year. If I have 10,000 pellets, then I have 10 years supply. In addition to the air rifle, I’d want a good .22 rifle with 10,000 rounds. If something goes wrong with the air rifle, then the .22 gives me 10 years of the same kind of supply. If both continue to function, then I have 20 years. The .22 also gives me that extra power for animals that need a bit more than an air rifle. In terms of a handgun, I’d rather have a high-quality revolver in .44 magnum than about anything else. If people get close enough to me to use a handgun in self defense, then I’ve been stupid. I won’t survive that mistake more than a few times no matter what handgun I carry. I see the handgun as a last defense against a large predator that I encounter by accident, primarily a bear, but a wolf or mountain lion could be a possibility. In any of those cases, a .44 magnum moderately loaded should do the job well enough. Another option would be a 10mm with a stouter load or maybe even a .41 magnum. I hope that I would never have use for a 9mm or .38 special. Even a .45 ACP presumes a situation that I would have preferred to keep at AR-15 range.

  4. Learn to fish (trotlines, toggle spring sets, etc.) and trap in order to save your ammo and your life (both are quiet) and use your money for self-defense and large game. Videos on Youtube can get you started.

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