How Much Ammo Do I Need for SHTF?

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Last Updated on November 13, 2020

A common question when preppers begin the process of accumulating supplies and knowledge is how much ammo do I need for SHTF? Of course, if you are someone who would never own any firearms, the question is more likely to people like me, how much ammo do you need? Because anyone with a gun, in their opinion, doesn’t need it, and any ammo except maybe a single box of .22 calibre to shoot the occasional varmint is too much. They also believe that the firearm you have and that box of ammo should also be registered with the local sheriff and kept under lock and key preferably at the Sheriff’s office. End Rant.

For the rest of us who are legally able and willing to keep firearms (for now) and who don’t have a problem with firearms, I wanted to give my take on how much ammo to keep securely in your home should you need it for some doomsday scenario. The typical emergency preparedness scenario is not a limited disruption in services or power like what you can expect from a weather event like a hurricane.

Although, there are a lot of cases recently where Hurricanes disrupt a community for years. (Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, Katrina) so to some of you, this could be a real SHTF scenario in its own right. I am not really speaking to this threat, but you can glean some information for those who do find themselves in a natural weather caused event I think.

My scenario for this post is a real SHTF type of scenario where for whatever reason, any resemblance of normalcy has been thrown out the window and there is no Rule of Law or Law and Order is severely diminished. Economic Collapse, Mutant Zombie Bikers from Mars, Global pandemic; pick one. The point I want to get to is if the stores never opened again if you couldn’t walk down to Walmart ever and get more ammo; how much would you need on hand before the collapse?

Let me first preface this with the following. Everyone’s situation is different so this is just my idea of the recommended minimum amounts. If I haven’t taken into account some of your realities, please let me know. I think this post can be a forum where we can all get more perspective from others out there.

Next, this is not assuming you are going to bug out into the woods. I can already hear people saying “How are you going to carry all of that” and I completely agree that you would never be able to on foot. I am not planning on bugging out; this is my minimums for bugging in. Additionally, there will be people who say things like, what if you get killed and you have all of that ammo? The bad guys are going to get everything you have. True, but I could get killed falling down the steps or eating some bad spaghetti sauce and the bad guys would get it anyway. Any plans I make are for living, not dying. I think it’s stupid to plan for dying. Let the people burying you worry about that.

In addition to magazines, it helps to think of how much ammo

How Much Ammo Do I Need?

So, to get to the point, I mentioned in another post the Top Five Firearms You Need to Get Your Hands on, so that is my battery of arms. This included one Shotgun, One Battle Rife, One Long-Range (Hunting) Rifle, One pistol and One small game rifle. For these weapons, I have the following recommendations.

  • Shotgun
    • Small Game – 500 rds.
    • Defensive – 500 rds.
  • Battle Rifle AR or AK – 2000 rds.
  • Long Range Rifle – 500 rds.
  • Pistol
    • Defensive Hollow Point– 1000 rds.
    • Practice (Ball) – 2000 rds.
  • Small Game (.22) – 2000 rds.
How Much Ammo Do I Need for SHTF? - The Prepper Journal
For the ultimate in capability, look into reloading.

I will go ahead and explain my reasoning for these numbers and please feel free to comment with your own opinions and suggestions. I am just like every single other person in the world out there. There aren’t any SHTF experts so it is just opinions all around. You may have a lot of experience in the Army, or the Police Force but that doesn’t make you an expert any more than anyone else.

Shotgun – This weapon has two uses so the count is fairly high. 500 rounds each for hunting game and defending your home should last a long time.

Battle Rifle – This to me is your go to weapon of choice in any type of SHTF scenario and your magazines will hold more than just about any normal magazine of any of my other choices. A decent combat load is 12 magazines at 30 rounds each (12 X 30 = 360) and that is just what you can carry on you in your vest or LBE. 2000 to me is the minimum I would strive for.

Long Range Rifle – Again, this pulls double duty along with the Shotgun. A well sighted .30-.06 or .308 can reach out and touch a lot of people at a respectable distance if they are handled correctly. This can be the weapon that bags deer for dinner or picks off a zombie at 600 yards.

Pistol – This weapon is not as powerful as the battle rifle, but it will be on your side more often I imagine. Spare pistol ammo can be bartered in a pinch, but only if you have more than your minimums.

Small Game – This is my .22 and it can be used to practice with, take smaller game and varmints if you are a good shot. This ammo is still considerably cheaper than just about any other too.

Now that I have my ammo minimums out there, how do you get started? I would download our Ammo Inventory Spreadsheet if you have Excel to keep track of and budget. If you had all of these calibers and had zero ammo I would try getting a little of everything as your finances allow. Don’t stock up on rifle ammo and forget everything else. Use the spreadsheet to help you plan your shopping trips to the Gun Show or buy online from sellers like or I have ordered personally from both of them and been very satisfied with both the price and speed of delivery. Even if the price is much higher now.

What should you do when you have the minimums on this prepper checklist? You can keep going to further ensure you will have enough or move on to the other preps that you need to check off the list. As long as you have the minimums I would spend my money on other necessities before I add more ammo.

How many magazines do you need for each weapon?

That is another excellent question. I would say 4 magazines for each pistol at a minimum and 10 for your battle rifle. Think about how you will probably be carrying this gear and start small but have an end goal in mind. Thinking of doomsday preparation, I tend to think of worst-case scenarios even though I believe and profess you have to start small. Magazines could be banned eventually and extra magazines could turn into a barter item. If in this dire scenario I am painting you would even consider bartering for what would likely be a key piece of your survival.

You don’t have to worry about shotguns. Rifle magazines are less than pistol magazines oddly enough. Sites like Gun Mag Warehouse frequently have good sales. I would say 4 magazines for your long-range rifle too but that is only after you get everything else first.

Have some ideas of your own? Id love to hear them in the comments below.

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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Great article. Love the redesign of the site, Pat.

My question concerns storage. If you have the recommended 5 firearms and the minimum (or higher) ammo counts you’re going to need a safe, secure place to put it all. Would you recommend a dedicated room (or closet) in your home with a security door and maybe double sheetrocked for fire rating? Or is the expense of a good quality storage locker, such as a Liberty safe a worthwhile investment (they can easily run into the $1000’s)?

Pat Henry

Thank you very much Larry! We are still tweaking some issues but I really like the new format and think this shows the content much better. Your question is an excellent one and its the same one I have been asking for years. I think a safe is the only option that makes sense. Liberty safes are pricey as you say, but there are alternatives out there that while they might not have 12 hours of fire rating, will keep your firearms and ammo as secure as you can expect. No safe is going to be unbreakable, but for the… Read more »


I took my old gunsafe, upgraded to a much better one, and made the old safe my ammo storage place. Worked out great! I have several thousand rounds in it, and the lock is solid (I have two kids). I upped the storage capacity by taking some scrap lumber and building shelves to go in the ammo safe, optimized for ammo storage. I also stored some ammo in a separate .50 cal milsurp ammo box–a mix of shotgun, rifle, pistol, and .22 lr. So I can grab that box and go if I need to and have enough ammo for… Read more »


slightly off topic, but about the basic battery of arms IMO you need 2 carry guns, very similar to each other. such as a Glock 19 and 17, or a government length 1911, and a commander, or just two of the same. if you ever use your carried weapon and the cops are still around, you will most likely be with out it as the situation declines. if the SHTF in stages, LEO will be on the job in the beginning, and it would be honorably for you to loose your sidearm cause the paperwork was sitting on a desk… Read more »

Pat Henry

I agree that you want to have options and one option that is very important is redundancy. You are right that you don’t want to have your only firearm taken. I also recommend having different calibers just in case too.


I think your method is very sensible Pat…(and yes I now this conversation happened 4 years ago)….i would LOVE to have 3 of everything but the average prepper is a middle class American…preps can get pricy when you still have the here and now to fund and feed. 2 of everything would be AMAZING but for 2 PMags can get a 50lb bag of beans….so i might have to do with 10 instead of 12….(you know what I’m getting at)….

In any case….i think your methodology is VERY sensible. Thanks for this article.


I have to say that what you have listed for ammunition and extra magazines is almost exactly what I have. I’m a bit more to the plus on Ammo, but right on for my magazines for all my weapons….it’s almost as if you did your article based on what’s in my vault! Freaky!

Pat Henry

Thanks for your comments Viking2217,

I think its a pretty decent amount that covers a lot of bases and glad to hear someone agree. Keep stocking up!



Yah me too except I have reloading supplies in the event ammo is unobtanium, save money, develope loads to my particular firearms barter or special requirements. I have 2 or more guns per caliber and figure in a SHTF event I decided to average out how many reasonable minded people in my city of 70k +/- would be like me, I looked at the city population, race and age groups to help me determine my needs. These are to help in determining gangs, mob mentality minded people etc. You could go even further by disabled, city crime type and rate… Read more »

common sense guy

You are an idiot

Let's not be so hasty to kill

Your population count equals around 80,000 people, but you “conclude” 200,000 rounds of ammunition. You must be planning on missing around 2 out of every 3 rounds while killing every single other person in your city. Why is no one else thinning the herd, and why are you so set on murdering so many people.


You must be a liberal… You put words in his mouth and ask how many people he wants to kill. How about a better answer like statistics show that there are dozens of stray shots in battle for each hit. That 20,0000 is therefore more like 500-800 kills or 1/160 of the population or less than 1%.
So… Why did you vote for the Hildabeast and are you over the loss yet???


Better triple your ammo and guns.

Jim Ansell

the answer should be More, because you can never have to much, in bug in scenarios especially. Bug out I suggest light above all else. My M-6 scout is perfect, good for small game, can be used for large game, and also self defense (see PDX1 ammo). 100 rounds of 22lr, and 25 .410 makes for easy, light escape, also you could throw in a Judge for a hand gun. If you prefer a larger round Imight suggest a Savage 24V 30-30 over 20 gauge, but it is heavier, and so is the ammo, also not as easy to obtain… Read more »

Pat Henry

I know what you mean Jim! I am personally in the More zone right now as I have the minimums for my top calibers so I want to build that reserve now. Bugging out is an entirely different animal you a right, but even then you have to deal with supply. Where are you bugging out to? Will you even be allowed to take your weapons with you? Do you have a resupply point once your ammo that you carry is gone? Lots of other problems with that approach too, but I would rather be on the side of having… Read more »

Jim Ansell

resupply is fairly easy enough, I found that 3 alternate routes to you BOL with supply drop sites concealed is the best option. I prefer 12×6 PVC insulated inside is the best option. 100 rounds of .22lr, 10 rounds .410, datrex bars and a life straw, wrap that up in a 3mm 55 gallon garbage bag 0xygen absorbers wraped with 550 cord and insulated with cotton batting, seal up, bury upright next to a fence post. Low signature, easy to find, burried 6-12 inches could dig up with a knife, but i prefer my e-tool. of course the ammo is… Read more »

Pat Henry

Sounds like a good plan Jim. One of the posts I want to do in the future will be an in depth article discussing cache’s just like this. Great information.


Bam Bam

Used a JIC to stash my 599 moss and rounds… Tube leaked water through the wing nut. Very disappointed .


Greetings, round count appears to be all right, however a suppressed 22lr would be used for most everything. I would suggest at least 3 Ruger 10/22’s. Have you ever shot a suppressed .22? ,sounds like popcorn popping, actually all you hear is the action of the bolt. I would have two for use and one for parts. In a SHTF situation, I doubt game wardens will be concerned what caliber firearm is used for game. A .22LR can take any game in America with enough rounds on target. Anyone can easily carry 2000 rounds of .22lr in a backpack. Something… Read more »


Your numbers are similar to mine, except I go by caliber. ie: 2,000 rounds of 9mm 2,000. rounds of .40S&W The idea being one carbine and one sidearm sharing the same caliber–the “Cowboy Theory” For example, my 9mm setup is a Glock 17/Sub 2K sharing the same mags. This is for bugout on foot–light but effectively armed, small foot print, concealed carry. My MBR and backup MBR are both 7.62 — 3,000 rounds, all milsurp because it’s cheap (17cents a round) is hermetically sealed, lasts forever and is 100% reliable. As for .22LR, I have lots because its so cheap.… Read more »


I personal am still getting up to the minimums I would like. I do however feel that the minimums that I would like to have on hand are: 3,000 Rounds of 9 mm ( I currently have 2) with 6 clips for each different gun 1,000 Rounds of both types of shotgun rounds (In my area game birds seem to be the best option) 4,000 Rounds for my battle Riffle along with eight 30 Round magazines. 10,000 Rounds of .22 would be ideal, even if I haven’t obtained my .22 riffle yet As for storage I have it mostly in… Read more »

Pat Henry

Than you Doug!

Ugh, moving every two years?!! That would stink. For me, I am still working on my minimums for a couple calibers. My goal is to get them all to minimum and then raise the minimums again and go from there.



Ammo will be currency when SHTF, so I suggest people stock up on Ammo because you can’t never have enough.

been there done that

I’m new to prepping so I need some advice I have a AR15 1k rounds, a 45 C 1K rounds, 357C 1k rounds and a 40M 1K rounds. My questions is this, should my next weapon be a shotgun or a 30 06/308? Or do I buy some more ammo for the AR? What’s the min. I need for my AR? I have 6 months food and 500 gallons of water. What else do I need?
Thank you

Pat Henry

Hi Mike! It sounds like you have most of the basics covered at least from my perspective. So, you have to decide what you think you will need/use more. The high caliber rifle is really suited to taking out large game animals and humans at a considerable distance. Do you live in the city? Shotguns are better defensive options in my opinion than a rifle when we are talking about close quarters. What else do you need? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but it comes down to your situation really and what you have to… Read more »

William Snapp

How about a 556 incert in a 12 guage shotgun?


I wouldn’t discount a air rifle. It would be a nice substitute for small game hunting and wouldn’t give away your location. Ammo for them are cheap and easy to store. I have a nice ruger break barrel that is rifled and very accurate. I would use it for all small game hunting and save other ammo for defense.


Ammo and Mags: Min: For your main battle rifle, i.e. AK-AR-CarbineM1 or whatever: 2000rds and 20mags – plus 1000 rds for breaking in rifle and practice: And these are bare mins. Min: For your pistol, i.e. XD, Glock, SW, 1911, Sig, etc: 1000rds and 10 mags – plus 1000 rds for breakin and practice: And this is bare min. You can’t get enough ammo or mags is the bottom line. If you don’t use it all, fine, butthe extra ammo and mags, if any, will be like gold for bartering. Lastly: House safe: Maybe but only for a pistol or… Read more »


I know this article is a few years old, but I would like to add my input. My counts are as follows: 9mm: 500 .22lr: 5000 ar15/ak/mini 14 etc: 1000 12 ga: 500 .00 slugs: 50 My reasoning for having way less handgun ammo than you is because this is my last line of defense. Aside from bartering purposes (I would never, ever barter my ammo away), this is my ammo count I would have. I would not count a hunting rifle seperate from my battle rifle. This is just my personal feeling on the matter of course. I would… Read more »

infidel 2

Good on ammo, etc. Problem: no electricity, high heat/humidity. Humidity at 70% in storage area. What is best way to preserve ammo and guns in these conditions? Would a gun safe help? Working on an alternative storage with AC on a timer but it will take a few months. Heat/humidity already unbearable.

Timothy Reid

What about using a food vacuum system and desiccant?


I know this was posted a while ago. With ammo barely reasonably priced and Hillary possibly getting in soon, I would say get all thst you can as well as all the primers, powder, bullets, moulds, wheel weights and dies that you can. Ammunition should be good for trade as well as lighters, alcohol etc…

I fear that our demise is upon us. I never thought I would think these things and I pray God stays His hand, but I think this country has made its decisions and now it’s time to pay.

Nancy Gladkin-Hessler

…. And the GOOD NEWS is…! Taa daa! Hilary’s history. As for myself and dear hubby, we reload, and we couldn’t be happier. Supplies are plentiful when you know where to go, and now that we’ve voted a ‘reprieve’, we should have more time to do all the prepping we will need before the 4 years are up. As Nate says; stock up now.


The Hildabeast was vanquished. Long live the Trump empire….


Like the article but don’t really agree with numbers I think those are great numbers for beginners. Shot gun you say 500 each I would say 1500-2000 for hunting just BC you’ll never know when stores open back up 500 is great for defensive just considering all your other firearms. The battle rifle I would move up to 5000-10000 and that seems like a lot but take into consideration while I served in the military our battle load was 198rds split between 7 magazines and it goes quick if in a gun fight also take into consideration other members in… Read more »

Tape Stockton

carrying all those weapons and ammo is just foolish, in a real no BS BO situation you will loose 90% of your weapons and ammo guaranteed. You do not need all that, there is going to be plenty of weapons and ammo laying around that you can just pick up from prior of fire fights. I’m carrying my Colt AR and about 2000rds in a bandolier and my Glock 17, for the first couple of weeks so much will be laying around.

lane johnson

Caches.. Nobody is going to be lugging around 5 or more firearms and 10’s of thousands rounds of ammo. For those bugging in, it would be wise not to have all you’re supplies in 1 area (I’m sure many have realized this). Sure in a post shtf situation there will most likely be weapons and ammo laying around to be picked up (would be a fool not to take weapons and ammo from a attacker once taken out, if its available). I’m far from an expert, but other than my hunting rifle (.300 wsm) all my weapons are in the… Read more »


As a former Vietnam Veteran, USMC, avid rifle and bow hunter, and one who does much serious inquiries into different subjects, persons, advice, etc. Here is my suggested ammo and weapon considerations including minimums. 1. AR or AK – 4000 rounds min. and 36+mags min. [ An AR for those who are familiar with this weapon or are x-military. This weapon takes some time to master it. An AR takes 500-1000 rds to settle its best barrel accuracy and to break in the weapon and yourself to its functions and malfunctions] [An AK for those who don’t have the time… Read more »


This is a question that could be debated quire a bit I also have some spare weapons and ammo for the inevitable relatives that will come crying. I have a Tavor and 3 AR-15s, and also plan on heavier M1A1 and PTR rifles. Don’t forget 22 ammo for your 10/22 rifle. I like the tactical solutions model with 20 rd mags. Also plan on arrows for your bow.

Mark Siegmann

best blog I have ever seen its the best

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