EDIT: The following is not to be construed as to how much ammo you should own, but rather, what is carried on your person. Our recommended absolute (that means if there’s just no possible way to get more, which there is as ammo is WAY more affordable now) minimum is to have 1,000 rounds per rifle and 500 rounds per pistol owned in reserve, which does not count that which you use to keep your skills honed, which should be about 750 to 1,000 rounds per year with your rifle, and 500 to 750 rounds per year on your pistol.
A good question posed that has numerous answers based on the conditions you may find yourself faced with.
Here’s a few basic questions to help you find out what’s right for you:
- Are you sheltering in place (SIP)?
- If so, would you be defending your home (and helping defend others) and staying in close proximity?
- Are you part of a Neighborhood Protection Team that might be posted to protect an area perimeter?
- Are you planning to GOOD on foot or in a vehicle?
- Important, because your equipment will most likely be set up differently for each scenario.
- What physical shape are you in?
- Have you practiced long walks with a full pack (ruck) and your LBE?
- Do you have a regular PT plan that you maintain?
- Do you ensure you don’t eat much (if any) processed food?
- Do you have a cache (or several) with a resupply en route to your hidey hole/retreat location?
The amount of ammo you should carry on your LBE/person depends entirely on the answers to these and other questions to get to the amount that would most likely work, but there are some general parameters you can use to start your evaluation. Doesn’t matter what caliber; a lot of people have the AK platform and the 7.62×39 or 7.62X54. For brevity, I’m keeping the scope of this Op-Ed to the 7.62NATO and 5.56NATO. Adapt from there to whatever caliber is your choice.
First, the platform you have is going to have a direct impact on how much ammo you can physically carry when balanced against your fitness level. Here and on other training blogs, the cry of, “MORE PT!!” is echoed regularly by bloggers and students after attending classes and learning first hand that being in shape is the foundation of being able to do what you need to do. So, take that in and let it burn in, real good. Get into the best shape you can get. Digression complete.
Back to the platform. 7.62NATO weighs a lot when you start putting loaded 20 round mags on your LBE (kit). The most I’ve carried is 13 (12 on the LBE; 1 in the rifle), and that was not typical. That’s 260 rounds. In the ruck I had another 200 rounds in bandoleers and another 4 mags on the outside of the ruck in pouches. 540 rounds of 7.62NATO is extremely heavy. So, back to PT if you’re chosen caliber is 7.62NATO. Long, long walks with a full ruck, LBE, and a rifle to get used to it is your requirement. As you go, move to inclines, rough ground, and so forth, because that’s what you’re going to be dealing with once you get out of populated areas. I carried the M-14 type rifle (civilian) doing training, walks in the hills, and on shooting excursions at local ranges for about 20 years before I realized I was getting to the age that I might want a lighter rifle and ammo so I could carry more during a SHTF situation, because truly, if S does HTF, you’ll be carrying all the ammo you need for the rest of your life….or so I’ve heard.
A realistic load (at least for me and my situation) was to go down to six 20 round mags on the LBE, one in the rifle, and still keep 200 rounds in bandoleers (complete with mag charging spoons pinned to each bandoleer) in waterproof bags in the ruck where I could get to them easily. 340 rounds was a lot more manageable to me with that platform. I still conditioned with ruck walks of up to 10 miles with the pack weighing anywhere from 35 to 80 pounds, depending on the training day/cycle. It helped, and still does. (Notice a pattern here on PT and fitness level?)
5.56NATO allows you to carry a lot more in the way of ammunition, and from reports from people who spent a lot of time in the last 10 years in Afghanistan shooting people, it does a really good job. Not quite as good as the 7.62NATO, but everything’s a trade off. With the 5.56NATO, shot placement is KING, which means you have to actually SHOOT WITH YOUR GEAR ON (I know, I’m digressing a lot) REGULARLY when training! Right now, I carry eight 30 round mags on my LBE, one in the rifle, and another six in my 3 day pack or ruck (along with 210 rounds in a bandoleer inside if my personal DEFCON is elevated). So, that’s a total between 420 and 630 rounds, situation dependent, and they noticeably weigh less than my full load of 7.62NATO when I carried it. Some guys like to carry 13 mags (390 rounds) between their LBE and rifle, and another 360 rounds in their rucks either in mags or in bandoleers. That’s 750 rounds! They are much younger and in much better shape than I am. I am working on the PT. Can’t do anything about the wear and tear of years lived, though. So, I carry less than they do. Plus, should things go South, I’m figuring I won’t be doing much ‘snoopin’ and poopin’; that’ll be for the younger guys.
Here’s the bottom line for how much you should carry: You have to figure out what works for you and balance it against the threat you’re planning for, your physical capabilities, your GOOD planning, projected daily activities, how fast and how far you think you’ll have to move, what resupply may be available along your route or at your future location. That’s why your pack list will continuously change to one degree or another as you learn and try to improve what you carry in the way of ammo and equipment in terms of Return On Investment for effort expended and the capability of the item in question to help keep you alive. If you were to reduce everything to a simple equation, it would be this: Ammo, water, food, essential survival gear/equipment, all else.
The one factor you can influence that will have the most bearing on how much you carry? Your fitness level. Do more PT!!