I wrote this a couple of years ago. But it seems worth sharing again since I use 22 as an example:
How much ammo should I have?
First and foremost I am a firm believer in “Buy it cheap and stack it deep.” I mean – c’mon, what other useful yet consumable item has 100+ year shelf life? Can you ever have too much ammo? Answer – of course not! And yet there are practical considerations. Most of us do not have the funds to buy ammo by the pallet for every cartridge we wish to keep on hand. Therefore, we must prioritize. Part of doing that is deciding how much of any given caliber (i.e. cartridge) is “enough” even if it is just “enough for now.” The basis for deciding how much is enough hinges on three questions:
* What is the intended use?
* How many people are you stocking ammo for?
* How long before you expect to resupply?
If you can answer these questions, then how much ammo to acquire and store will be obvious. Let’s eliminate the last question first. How long before resupply? Question: Do you think that an ammunition shortage or significant price appreciation is likely at any time in the future? I do. There is no political will to stop an ammunition manufacturing tax, or ammunition import tariff. I will leave that statement to stand on its own merits because I hesitate to give the gun grabbers any more confidence than they already have. Suffice to say that we shooters would vote the incumbents out of office during the next election. But even if we did so, governments are revenue sucking machines. No such tariff would ever be likely to be repealed. The domestic supply of cheap ammunition will evaporate over night just as it did for the steel core ammunition banned from import by executive order in the 1980s. Those cartridges which sold for 10 cents per round then, are now worth $1 each if you can find them.
Is it already too late? Popular 7.62x39 is already back ordered for up to six months at most suppliers. This backlog has been in place for months. I have not yet heard a reasonable explanation. If you agree that buying when a product costs less is better than buying at a higher price, or if you agree that a future ammunition shortage is likely - you probably want to store enough ammunition to last you at least a decade.
How many people are you stocking ammo for? Let’s start with yourself as the primary shooter and you can double the amount if you have a spouse who is an active shooter, triple if you have a child, etc. But for now, let’s consider just one shooter and let the rest of the math follow along in multiples of our one shooter calculations.
Now, what is the intended use? If you are the kind of hunter who fires only one or two shots a year, you probably aren’t concerned with storing ammunition anyway. If you are a recreational shooter (backyard plinker or competitive sportsman) you can calculate your usual usage based on how much shooting you typically do. Fifty cartridges per weekend might be considered a reasonable amount. Competitive shooters will easily burn through ten times that, but Jr. who goes through a box of 22 cartridges in an afternoon of tin can punching, or Joe who throws 50 shells on the skeet range is probably more typical. Some of us shoot more than that in one sitting (especially with high capacity magazines) but we may only shoot once per month. 200 cartridges one weekend per month works out to the same monthly total as 50 cartridges per weekend. So we’ll go with that estimate and you can modify the conclusion to reflect your own habits.
Fifty per weekend = 2,600 cartridges per year. A mere decade’s supply would be an unbelievable TWENTY SIX THOUSAND CARTRIDGES!!! But don’t be scared by the sticker shock when you start thinking about the investment required to put up 26,000 factory loaded cartridges for your 300 Win Mag. Chances are good that most of those cartridges will be pistol loads or 22 rim fire. In addition, reloading ammunition represents a huge potential cost savings. About half my shooting is done with 22 rimfire ammo. My son and I fire about 100 cartridges per month in one or two sittings. The total monthly cost for this is a mere $2 per month. I ask you – what provides more father/son entertainment per dollar? At a rate of one 550 round “brick” of ammo per paycheck it would take me less than a year to stockpile a full ten year supply of 13,000 cartridges. Let me say that again, if I bought just one brick of 22 ammunition per paycheck, I’d have a ten year supply of 22 ammo on hand before a year was up. As of this writing my local Wal-Mart has the best local price on 22LR ammunition. They offer both Federal and Remington brand hollow point, copper washed, loose packed cartridges in boxes of 550 for less than nine dollars per box including the sales tax. The grand total for a ten year supply would be $212 for twenty three 550 round boxes. That’s not a huge investment but you might get some unwanted attention if you take home that much ammunition at once. I’d recommend picking up one or two bricks per month and rotating your purchases between three or four stores. The remainder of my shooting is mostly centerfire rifle ammunition. For simplicity’s sake let’s assume that they are all 308 cartridges. If I buy in 500 round cases of full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition or reload soft point hunting loads the cost is less than 20 cents per cartridge ($20 per month). The current price for FMJ 308 ammunition is $100 per 500 cartridges. Buying in multi-case lots or reloading may lower your cost to nearly half that. Buying a case per month is an option, or even twice a year. If you buy a thousand round case above your daily use twice per year it would take six years to collect a ten year supply. If you have the financial resources to buy thirteen cases at once then you can be geared up immediately.
Before we leave the topic of intended use, consider that if (God forbid) your family needs to defend your retreat from armed attackers, you may exhaust an enormous amount of ammunition very, very quickly.
When can you expect resupply? In the case of continued price hikes, never at a better price. In the case of a ban, never at any price. There will never be a better time to buy.
Conclusions: If you can answer the three questions of: what use? how many? and how long before resupply? You can tweak the above examples to match your own objectives. They key concept is that stocking up now, to take advantage of a buyers’ market is prudent. The first step is recognizing that you have a need to store ammunition. The second is recognizing that this is the time to buy. The third is deciding how much you need.
What should we do? There is only one answer. Buy now. Buy for the ammo you plan to expend in backyard plinking. Buy for the ammo you plan to shoot or reload next year. Buy for the hunting loads that you plan to expend in the next few years to practice with for each season. Buy what you feel is prudent for self defense. Buy today, because tomorrow may be too late. If you don’t, who will arm the next generation of shooters – or for that matter the hunters coming of age in the next decade? We owe it to our children. If the sort shortage that I am talking about occurs, you will have invested in a commodity that has a hundred year shelf life at a fraction of the replacement value.
Reality check: Let’s take a moment to double check the reasonableness of my conclusions. Is a ten year supply of ammo really necessary? Is it worth the financial investment? Yes, if God forbid, you need that ammunition to feed or defend your family, you would gladly have paid ten times the cost in retrospect. But what if I’m wrong? What if I am running in circles yelling that the sky is falling? What if no ban or price hike happens in the next five or ten or twenty years? Will you lose anything at all by buying a commodity that you will use later? Quite to the contrary – if no change in the supply or demand for ammunition occurs, but inflation continues unabated (let’s assume just 2% inflation per year to be conservative) your investment appreciates 10% in monetary value in just five years. You probably would not earn 2% interest on funds in a savings account. If your salary did not go up every year you would be losing purchasing power. So even by this conservative estimate, you have nothing to lose. At the very worst, you invest money in a hobby that you love and retain the ability to defend those you care about. That sounds like money well spent to me – even if nothing happens.