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How Much Ammo Do You REALLY Need?

That is the question of the day, how much ammo do I need?  And to answer that question I must present you with another.  Enough for what?  Because enough ammo for self defense in public is not the same as enough ammo for a defensive action to protect your business or community.  Or even enough ammo for the bug out bag/vehicle.  Or what about enough ammo for the bug out/last stand location?  And finally, how much ammo do you need at home?  All of these questions differ in answer and vary by the man and the means.  So let me break it on down for y’all so we can continue to have enough ammo for what we need it for based on your economic means and scenario.   

There is one thing we must first realize: ammo will never again be back at the $0.18 per 9mm price point we enjoyed carelessly in 2019.  The market has changed too drastically, in too many ways.  The logistics, marketplace, and economics of the past almost 3 years is another series of articles all together.  But let’s just suffice it to say, prices are higher now, deal with it.  Don’t bitch about a situation and make excuses.  Fix it however you can.  So let’s go to work.

CCW in Public

By Chris.w.braun – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79169370

In the concealed carry self defense scenario in public we have the lowest round count needed.  And this will be based on a few factors.  Caliber, model and person carrying.  In the caliber realm, the smaller the round, the more you can carry.  That’s why it’s not conceivable or practical for the common man to attempt to conceal carry a Desert Eagle .50 cal.  Even though a hit from that round center mass, even if FMJ, will more often than not kill the victim before first responders arrive.  Follow that line of thought and you come to this: the question is, what’s the best weapon to carry to maximize effectiveness?  And to answer that question you look at what the professionals use.  

Defend like a Pro

In all of their Bureaucratic wisdom, the Federal Bureau of Investigation spent millions of dollars to discover that all modern pistols rounds can kill.  You don’t say?  Even though that result is a no brainer, there is another result we can take to the bank as sound practice.  They determined the best way to survive a firefight is not to have the biggest stick on the block.  It’s to have the most ammo in your stick, to minimize reloading.  That’s because the most important conclusion of the study was that the most likely time to die in a firefight is during reloading.  

And if you are a First Person Shooter gamer, you know this to be true.  Any FPS player worth their salt knows to tac reload after every encounter.  Keep a fresh mag in the weapon at all times.  You don’t want to get caught in the reload.  In real life the same principle applies.  So the Boomer with the Colt .45 sporting 8 rounds with one in the chamber is going to get smoked, statistically, by the Millennial with his 18 round 9mm.  All things being equal of course.  

Grasyl, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

And that was the caliber selected as the most effective round to be used by special agents in the field for the FBI, the 9mm.  This is due to the high standard round count and reliable terminal ballistics regardless of make and model of weapon chambered in the modern 9mm pistol round.  (9mm is second from the right.)

So how much 9mm?

And to answer the question of how much 9mm ammo do you carry, it depends on the task really.  But for standard concealed carrying in public, I’d say one or 2 magazines spare and on you is a good idea.  I carry a high capacity CCW and with 1 extra  magazine on me and one in the chamber, I’m sitting on 27 rounds in my day to day, out and about, or at the day job.  The ability to double tap a dozen folks and still have 3 rounds left, for me with my training, is more than sufficient.  I’d only carry a second spare if I’m forced to do something extremely dangerous where I think engagement by those meant to kill me is imminent.  Thankfully, I’ve never been there and hope to never be.  

Full kit Ammo needs

Now for the unlikely, but more likely in 2021, scenario of a constitutional and legal defensive action to protect your community or business from a riot or other criminal mob, the amount of ammo needed is greater.  This is basically going to be dependent on a few factors, but it all boils down to overall additional weight.  

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Audrey Ward, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

A full kit with a dozen magazines, comms, ballistics helmet, medical, and level 4 steel plate can easily add an additional 50-100 pounds of weight, kit depending.  This is why some modern minutemen in NDF’s (Neighborhood Defense Forces), Constitutional Militias, and the like, choose to abandon the idea of armor all together.  They want more ammo and will rely on training to survive.  Modern military special operators often make the same decisions.  Weight can kill, in the long run.  Quick and mobile is alive.  Static is dead.  

All about the Weight

A decent number of rounds on your person in this situation depends on your ability to tolerate the additional weight.  Physical fitness, frame, age, lots of things will determine the ammo count in this situation for you.  For me, a decently fit man in my late 30’s, I have a 6 spare magazine capacity for my carbine rifle and a 3 spare mag capacity for my pistol sidearm on my full kit.  Thats 211 rounds for the rifle and 65 for the pistol.  At my fitness and training level, that is plenty of solutions to the vast majority of problems.  You might say that’ll do Donkey, that’ll do.  Your number will vary.

Soldier Plate Carrier System Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In this realm I recommend .223/5.56mm, .300 BLK, or 7.62×39 for carbine calibers.  For the the DMR rig however, a modern .308/7.62×51 NATO rifle, like the FN MK.17, AR-10, KelTec RFB, or the venerable FAL is great.  Only a 20 round mag capacity here, and more expensive ammo.  But much greater range.  Up to and beyond 1,000 yards for most with proper optics.  

How about the Homestead?

Now for the home.  How much ammo should you have at your house? Honestly that depends on budget and if that is your “last stand” location or if you have a secondary bug out spot to escape too.  If the home is it for you, I’d say a couple thousand rounds of each caliber is more than enough.  A thousand you don’t touch, and a thousand you cycle through for training.  And then enough “defense” rounds to fill all magazines.  

The rounds you don’t touch are for Armageddon, alien invasion, civil war, what have you.  These can be a thousand defense rounds, or just high quality FMJ, whatever you can afford here. Training rounds need to be cheap, but not crap.  I’d recommend steel or aluminum casing for training to save a few dollars.  Go for broke on defense rounds though.  Those you need not skimp on.  Your life may depend on it.  

Bug Out Needs

And for the bug out bag/vehicle, I’d say no more than 1000 total rounds.  That is already in the realm of 30 pounds-50 pounds, caliber depending.  The best solution here is to have a separate set of magazines for this bag/vehicle.  Have them loaded up with defense rounds and maybe some extra, just enough to bug you out.  

Then it’s on to the bug out/last stand location.  If you are financially flush enough to afford a secondary hardened bug out shelter, then the ammo stores at this place is pretty much no holds barred.  Whatever can be afforded, secured, and kept safe and dry.  Depending on your last stand scenario I’d say a thousand per caliber oughta do it, but to each his own here.  

Self Reliant Ammo Reloading/Manufacturing

Common reloading rig. Photobucket, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And finally, a proper ammo article would not be complete without a bit on reloading.  This is a tried and true practice of salvaging spent brass casings and reloading them with fresh powder, primer, and bullet.  It usually only costs a few hundred dollars to get the equipment to get started.  With current states of logistics and manufacturing, there is ebbs and flows to all of the supplies for reloading.  Sometimes primers are hard to come by.  Sometimes you can’t find powder.  Casings are almost always non existent.  Yet bullets of common calibers seem to be in ready supply.  

However it is not impossible to find a method to make your own primers and make your own gun powder.  You can also melt down your own lead bullets in your home fireplace or bbq grill.  Lead melts at 622 degrees Fahrenheit, and bulk lead is dirt cheap.  Might not be a bad idea to stock up on this priceless commodity that is the source metal for almost all ammunition.  This is only for the most discerning of “preppers” out there.  Smelting lead into ingots for bullet manufacturing is the crème de La crème of self sufficiency.  Click the links to see how to do these tasks.  

Keep in mind, these are highly volatile, dangerous, and experimental methods, but when it’s the end of days, this may be all you got.  And when that day comes, ammo will be the currency of the land.  And having a reloading rig will be just as good as printing your own money.  Something to consider for the burgeoning apocalypse warlord like yourself.  

What do you think?

Written by Jason Gouffray

Jason Gouffray is the founder and chief instructor of Defensive Bravo LLC in Fort Worth, Texas. He received his initial formal firearms training from SOCOM Marine combat veterans and continues to train everyday. He utilizes the techniques, tactics, and skills of firearms professionals to enable common citizens to most effectively defend themselves. You too can Defend Like a Pro, with Defensive Bravo. Booking: https://shootingclasses.com/defensivebravo

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