Monday, April 20, 2015

The Eternal Question: How Much Ammo?

I have searched the inter net for years with the question of how much ammunition should I have for each gun. I have yet to find anything that I feel I could follow so I will attempt to do it myself.
In the military on patrol you are generally given the standard load out of 210 rounds of 5.56 (7 magazines). I also know that depending on the location of the patrol, and how enemy contact has gone, has determined how much extra ammo a soldier will carry. If you’re going into a known “hot” zone you will carry as much ammo as you can stand! A soldier is unique because he can usually be “backed up” by others he is with, re-supply, artillery, and air support.
So you must decide why you need ammunition. Hunting, competition, target shooting, self-defense, or survival. Each of these will dictate a different amount you would want on hand.

With all of the scares these days from manufacturing capacity fluctuations, importation complications, the political climate, military supply demands, reports of huge government agency ammo stockpiling, wholesalers holding back, price fixing, dealers restricting sales amounts, federal agency threats to end certain kinds of ammo production, and all else, it is no wonder ammo consumers are in a panic mode to stock up.

Initially all shooters need to take a complete inventory of the ammo stores they actually have on hand. If you reload, then do the same for powders, brass, primers, and bullets. Know which calibers you shoot most and also the ones used the least. With this information in hand, one can better make decisions on what to buy and how much of it.

Can you determine how many rounds of ammo you use in a year under normal circumstances? For example, if you deer hunt with either the .300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) or the .35 Whelen. In a typical year of deer hunting you will fire less than five rounds of each cartridge. So, you would not be pressed to have a big supply of this ammo on hand.

Survival preppers on the other hand work to maintain a sizeable stash of ammo for those just-in-case events. Take your own pro or con approach to that line of thinking, but the ammo demands are real. Many preppers try to keep a minimum of 5,000 rounds of each of the primary cartridges they use. This might include the .22 rimfire, 12-gauge shotgun, .223, 9mm, 40 S&W, .45 ACP or others. This can make for a considerable cache of ammo. I know some preppers that keep 5 times that amount of ammo.

So, set your priorities on what to stock, at what level, and work on a realistic budget to acquire what you need or desire to keep on hand. Then you can proceed with your shopping strategies to build up your inventory to the level you want.

Before you set about shopping for ammo, decide what brands, types, bullets, loads, and other specifications you prefer to buy. You may need to standardize a few things. There are four major domestic brands of ammo, including Winchester, Remington, Federal, and Hornady. Even among these brands there are multiple offerings of bullet types, weights, and specialty ammo for hunting of all kinds of levels of game animals, self-defense ammo, target shooting ammo, and cheaper plinking stuff. Figure out first what exact load you shoot before you buy anything in quantity, though you may always want to test out some new loads by buying a box or two.

There are many other ammo brands as well, a sort of second tier as it were, to include brands like PMC, Speer, DRT, Magtech, Armscor, American Eagle, PNW Arms, and Buffalo Bore. This is not lesser quality ammunition, just not as well known in the overall consumer marketplace. You may never find these on a local dealers’ shelves.

Furthermore, there are several foreign brands of ammo that do not rate as well. Basically if a foreign ammo uses steel casings, Berdan primers, corrosive powders, and odd weights of bullets, then be careful trusting it as your primary ammo. Modern guns were not really intended to fire steel casings with just a lacquer coating on it.

Shopping for ammunition these days is made a lot easier and sometimes cheaper with the availability of the many internet sources that sell shooting supplies. The trick is to monitor these sites all the time to check what is in stock, what is the price, is it ever on sale, and what shipping restrictions or costs are involved. This may require signing up for email notices of supplier newsletters, sales flyers, and promotions of all kinds. It takes time to assess these and compare various sources against each other.
My favorite way to monitor not only prices, but availability is a website called I love this site! This site monitors about 80 retailers on the internet for ammunition, magazines, and reloading components. It covers 6 gauges of shotgun rounds, over 50 different calibers of rifle rounds, 30 calibers of pistols rounds, and 7 different rim fire rounds. It is pretty close to “real-time” too. It tells the price, the price per round, and whether it’s in stock. I’ve found it very handy. You can find ammo in large bulk amounts and some by the box. There is even a feature where you set your price per round and it will give you an alarm when that price is matched or under that set price. I absolutely recommend it and use it often.

Gun shows are another good source of ammo. They usually offer a good selection of ammunition at fairly competitive pricing, but rarely do I see it marked down. You just have to shop gun show tables very carefully and be prepared to buy if the deal is particularly good. If you hesitate, someone else will surely take advantage of it.

Though it is prudent to pick up a box or several of often used ammo as needed when you find it, it is better to buy high volume use ammo in quantity. Say, for example, if you shoot a lot of .223/5.56, then you can often find very desirable pricing if you purchase it by the 1,000 round case lot. Again, shop around. I think the internet is the best place for bulk ammo.

When you shop internet ammo sites, be careful of the shipping charges. Ammo is heavy and very often the shipping charges are too. If you watch carefully, there are some internet suppliers that occasionally offer free shipping. Strike while the iron is hot, or lead in this case. Be sure you take note of the shipping carrier, too. If it happens to be Fed Ex, you might have to be home to sign for it. If you work, that can be a problem.

I do notice that most internet ammo outlets now ship the commercial product brand packaging inside of another box with protective wrapping. Though a delivery driver has to guess what is in the box, it is not made obvious. It can be a little nerve wracking having them leave that box by the front door, but your neighborhood may be safe for this. Be aware.

So, don’t be perplexed or deterred about buying the ammunition you need. Prices go up and down all the time based on the paranoia climate of the country. Buy steadily, within a budget and it will add up. Stock some of what you have to have on hand, then be patient to buy more when conditions are favorable. Be sure to store all your ammo securely, safely, and in a climate controlled area. (See blog Ammo storage: Keep your powder dry! 9/19/2014) As I always say, “If you’re worried about the state of affairs in the world, just buy more ammo.”

Semper Paratus
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