Ammo Considerations: Base Line Possession, LBE & SHTF Load Outs: What Works?

Posted at AP on 6 June 18.

Just received a question on whether or not I still believed the minimum amount of ammo held in reserve (meaning, never used for anything but SHTF, and when rotated out, new stock is put in before old stock is removed) for each rifle and pistol owned should be 1000 and 500, respectively.  Short answer:  ABSOLUTELY!

DTG has always recommended the absolute 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.  I’ve upped shooting to 1,000 to 1,500 rounds per year with pistols and kept the rifle the same (I carry every day, and need to ensure I’m efficient, as should anyone who carries IMHO, especially now that ammunition is cheaper than it ever has been).

You might also throw into the ‘Reserve’ equation replacement magazines for all mag fed weapons.  DTG’s always recommended an absolute minimum of seven magazines for each rifle (7.62NATO will most likely be 20’s/5.56NATO, 30’s) for SHTF preparation and three magazines per pistol.  Dead minimum.  That number doesn’t take into account any you might load for your ruck/resupply, etc.  More on that, later.

Here’s a fictional example of what someone might want who owns 2 M4geries and 2 pistols:

  • M-4gery’s owned:  2
    • Ammo in Reserve:  2,000 rounds (1K for each M4gery)
    • Ammo for annual training: 1,500 – 2,000 rounds (presumes 2 shooters – if one M4gery is a spare, you could cut this number in half, but then again, why not simply switch out the ‘4geries and get in more trigger time?)
    • Total rifle ammo owned now:  3,500 – 4,000 rounds (and having definite plans to acquire more!)
  • Pistols owned: 2
    • Ammo in Reserve:  1,000 rounds (defense ammo, not FMJ (500 per pistol) – see above about acquiring more.
    • Ammo for annual training: 1000 – 1500 rounds (see above – presumes 2 shooters)
  • M4gery mags:  7 per M4gery
    • Mags owned now:  22 (still building supplies based on budget)
  • Pistol mags: 3 per pistol
    • Mags owned now:  16 (good to go for now – can concentrate on other needs)

While it might seem like a lot, it’s really not, unless you’re buying all of this at once.  If you’re just starting out, get it incrementally.  Look for ammo sales (they happen ALL the time).  Take a year to get your minimums up to par, and then every year, do the same and add to your reserve.  It’ll seem easier the 2nd year, because you’ll most likely have adapted your budget to include these essential items.  If you’re worried about shelf life, don’t.  There is NO shelf life on ammo.  I have some WWII M2 Ball (30-06) that still pops, and pops well!  (The only thing to remember about older ammo such as the M2 Ball is that it is corrosive, and when you shoot it, you need to clean your weapon thoroughly after the range, especially the gas system (if it has one).

Storage – All you need do to ensure you’re ammo will last in storage is keep it in a reasonably consistent cool temperature storage area and dry – consistency in temperature and low humidity is what lets ammo last longer than a lot of us will be alive.  Something else you might do is refrain from touching the ammo (unless you’re wearing rubber gloves) until you’re going to use it.  Doing so will keep the salts contained in your finger oils from corroding the brass over time, which is bad.

Caliber is irrelevant to the amount of ammo you keep in reserve.  It doesn’t matter if you choose a 7.62NATO, 5.56NATO, 7.62X39, 9mm, .45, 10mm, whatever.  The baseline is 1000 rounds per rifle and 500 rounds per pistol/revolver owned held in reserve as a minimum.  That means it’s the absolute smallest amount you should have.  Your plans to build up your ammo reserves incrementally should be a priority in your budget, because once S does HTF, what you got is what you got.

Same with magazines.  Find the sales.  Right now there are sales going on for aluminum 30 round mags for $7.99 with free shipping if you purchase 10 at once.  It’s a no brainer!  You don’t have to take them out of the plastic, either.  As far as numbers of mags go, you’re the judge on how many is ‘enough.’  Back in my youth, I remember the old timers telling me that if I bought a magazine fed rifle, I should spend half the value of the rifle on magazines.  Why?  They break, and a mag fed rifle without a functional magazine is a fancy looking single shot.  Mags are much more expensive now than when I received that sage advice, but it can be done without too much pain.  Incremental mag purchases, like ammo, add up over time, which is a good thing.  You can relax on magazines when you have 30 per rifle and 15 per pistol in reserve.

Next up is carrying on your LBE, Vest, or belt for SHTF purposes.  How many magazines do you carry?  It’s a good question 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 your situation:

  • 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?
    • In the event of a firefight, presuming you survived, would you be able to easily return to your home and resupply yourself?
  • Are you planning to “Bug To” a new location 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 “Bug To” location?
  • Do you have ‘way point’ safe locations with pre-positioned resupply available?
  • Are you leaving your home for the rest of your life?
  • Are you moving alone to join family/friends/security group or are you bringing your ‘precious cargo’ (family) with you?

And you do realize, don’t you, that no matter how much you carry, your primary objective is to avoid contact, right?  Getting into a fire fight is not going to work for you or your escorted family members.  Your key tactic is to be able to fight a delaying action, defined as trading space for time – giving you time to get further away (putting space between you and the bad guys).  Digressing a lot here, but it’s related.

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 ever 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 go a lot longer during a SHTF situation, because truly, if S does HTF, you’ll be facing the probability that you’re carrying all the ammo you need for the rest of your life….or so I’ve heard.

The last few years that I carried the M14 type rifle, 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 up to another six in my 3 day pack or ruck (along with 210 rounds in a bandoleer inside if my personal DEFCON is elevated) when I’m in peak shape.  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 but I 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.  I’ll be helping from a ‘centralized command location’ or pulling guard duty, or something less dynamic.  The point remains, however, don’t sweat having 5.56NATO as your primary round.  You can carry more and it will do the trick.

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,  That means experimenting while taking into account 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 (ROI) 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!!

So, now you have something to work toward.  Remember, the solution you choose for your own situation is going to have a definite impact on what happens when/if things go, ‘sporty.’

Choose wisely.

5 thoughts on “Ammo Considerations: Base Line Possession, LBE & SHTF Load Outs: What Works?

  1. anonymous

    Thank you, a lot of good information was found here. I have enough ammo for now, but clearly need to do more practice in actual shooting, especially defensive handgun shooting. I never was a military nor LEO so ammunition has always been a limiting factor (no access to unlimited ammunition supply). I’m your typical hunter – plinker – woods loafer type of person.

    Ammunition will become limited in some way in the near future is a gut feeling.

  2. James

    While any amount is better then nothing will say find the minimums a bit low!I say this while having plenty of monies at moment and being a paranoid person when it comes to availability!To those who monies a bit tight the smalls add,trust me,was wereI I and many started.I would say a regular perusal of gundeals/ammo seek ect. will help folks get stocked up quickly though remember to use some and get better shooting skills,rather a 100 rounds and know to a degree my skills and limitations then a 1000 and have trouble loading a firearm,if you can afford to,well….,BLOAT!You can see the ceiling of your dedicated closet,you don’t have enough ammo!This article a good reminder,should be reposted on say a monthly basis.

  3. Gunny

    Really? 1000’s of rounds?
    I have between 500 -800 rounds of 30.06 for all purposes in my home at any given time and I shoot it through a Browning Safari BAR.
    IMO…When/IF the shooting actually starts and the war goes hot, most Americans wont get 10 rounds off before getting waxed. Just the facts.
    Good Luck,
    USMC E-7 Ret.

  4. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Thank you for dropping by and offering your opinion. Who knows? You may be right. I hope we never find out. As to the the post, the 1K reserve per rifle; 500 round reserve per pistol is simply a recommendation. You’re surely free to keep as much or as little as you like. My years of service were 1973 – 1994.

Feel free to comment! Debates are welcome, so long as they add to the discussion. Ad hominem attacks, accusations, uncontrolled vitriol, thread hijacks, personal threats, or any comment that otherwise detracts from DTG's stated mission will not be approved or posted. Repeat violators will be banned.

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