Ammo Price Inflation and Revisiting How Many Rounds You Should Store

Ammunition prices have jumped 300 to 500 percent in the past 18 or 24 months, making it harder to stock up. Here’s the best way for new preppers to proceed.

Stacks of different calibers and brands of ammunition

Basic 9mm ball ammo is currently selling for roughly $1 per round, or $45 to $50 a box on places like ammoman.com.  But at least it’s available (or was at the time of this writing).  What hurts is that I used to buy bulk ammo for about a fourth of that, 28 cents per round, less when it was on sale.

Similarly, basic Winchester white box 5.56 is going for $1.20 a round, up fourfold from what I used to pay.  A couple years ago, it was easy to find a case of 1,000 rounds for about $300, or 30 cents per round.

Today, the tiny .22LR is selling more than that, about 36 cents per round.  I have receipts showing that I purchased the same ammo on sale for 6 cents a round.  In other words, a box of 325 rounds I bought in 2017 on sale for $19.95 is now $120.  That’s a six-fold increase.  And many of us remember when a brick of 500 rounds was $10 or $12, although that was around the turn of the century.

In August 2019, I bought 400 rounds of Prvi Partizan PPU 125 grain .300 blackout rounds for $199, or 50 cents per round.  Today, I can’t even find loaded ammo in .300 Blackout.  It must be a low priority for the manufacturers.

Even the popular 12 gauge shotgun shell has gone up in price, with target and other light loads gong for close to 41 per round while buckshot is closer to $3. 

Ammo costs have jumped 300 to 500 percent due to high demand.  That’s some serious inflation.

Revisiting How Much Ammo You Need to Store

Given the current ammunition shortage, let’s take a look at the minimum amount of ammo you should have stored in your stash.  Here is what I recommended back in April:

  • 2500 or more rounds of .22LR. and 6 magazines
  • 500 or more rounds for your pistol with 6 magazines
  • 2,000 rounds for your AR and a dozen magazines
  • 500 for the shotgun, broken up between slugs, 00 buck, rounds for turkey, steel shot for waterfowl, and 7.5 shot for small game and practice

If you are not sure why you need these specific rounds, read our article on the best survival gun.  And obviously, if you don’t own a .22 or an AR, then don’t buy ammo for it.

Since building this stash today will cost at least four times what it would have a couple years ago, you can be forgiven for not rushing out and buying it all at once.  Plus, many stores are limiting you to one or two boxes of ammo per visit.  If you are new to prepping and cannot afford or cannot find ammo for your survival armory, I’d say modify your stash to look like this:

  • 500  to 1,000 rounds for your .22.
  • 300 for your pistol
  • 1,000 for your AR
  • 75 rounds of buck shot, 25 rounds of slugs and 100 rounds of 7-1/2 shot.

Build your stash one or two boxes at a time every couple weeks and pay cash if possible.  Start with what you will most likely need, probably pistol or maybe 12-gauge. Spread your purchases between the guns, too. 

Four times a year, buy some more ammo and use your old stuff for practice.  You need to train or it won’t do any good.

Possible Outcomes

Once you have stocked up, one of four things could happen:

  1. Prices could drop, in which case you will be pissed you bought this much but happy you didn’t go with the original quantities.  I expect the prices to eventually retreat, but it may take a couple years, and that assume Biden doesn’t do something whacky like try to tax ammo or the country doesn’t go to hell in a hand basket.

  2. Prices continue to will rise, in which case you will wish you had bought more.

  3. The world as we know it will collapse and you will need every round you bought and desperately wish you had more.

  4. Nothing will change, in which case, you should slowly accumulate ammo until after a few years you are closed to our initial suggestions.

Ammo or Food vs Ammo for Food

When it comes to shopping for prepping goods, I don’t think guns and ammo are the first thing you need to store.  My recommendation is to buy food first and build your prepper pantry.  There are far more emergencies where you will need access to food and water than guns.  However, there are some situations in which a gun may save your life or protect your food (which, in the long run, may also protect your life).  The looter you scare off by racking your shotgun does not care if you have 50 rounds or 500, he just knows he wants to be elsewhere. 

While food will not protect you from thugs, your gun can harvest food.  You may even have a gun just for hunting deer, elk or whatever large game animals are in your neck of the woods.  The question then arises, how much ammo should you have for that gun?

I would recommend at least 120 rounds.  My suggestion is to buy at least three boxes are once from the same lot each time you shop.  That way, you can safely assume that all the rounds will shoot to the same point of aim.  If you change brands, bullet weights or even lots, you should sight in before hunting with the new load.

Now if you have three different hunting rifles, say a .270, a .30-30 and a .300 Winchester magnum, you don’t technically need 120 rounds for each gun.  Still, I’d go with t least 60 rounds per gun and maybe th full 120 for whichever caliber you use most.

In short, you can never have too much ammo. Or food. How you split it up is your call.

Primary Guns vs Secondary Guns

I will be the first to admit that I don’t meet the minimum criteria for ammo storage for all my guns.  Most of my ammo is for my battle rifle and the pistols I carry most.  I don’t have much .410 because this is not a gun I use much, and I am not a big fan of the cartridge.  Sure, it can be useful in harvesting small game, but I don’t consider it a gun I would rely on in a prepping situation. 

For the .45 Long Colt, I only have one gun chambered for it, a big revolver.  If I had a lever action rifle or a second gun, I would probably stock more ammo.  I have 150 FMJs for the .45 Colt and 40 rounds of high performance JHPs for personal protection.  I expect that’s plenty of ammo for an odd-size gun that is a singleton.  If I somehow use all that up, the revolver can shoot .45 ACP with full moon clips.  Those clips are cheap, so I have 20.   and I have 20 full moon clips, and I have more than 1,500 round of .45 ACP plus plenty of bullets for reloading, so I expect I can keep this gun fed for a long time if I need it in a survival situation.

Likewise, I have only 250 or 300 rounds of .357.  However, I do have over 1,000 rounds of .38, and the .357 revolver will shoot them just fine.

So to clarify, you don’t need 500 rounds for every pistol you own and 2,000 rounds for every rifle.  Those number are for your primary pistol and your main battle rifle.  Use your best judgment for secondary weapons in calibers like the .22WMR, .243. 8mm Mauser, etc. 

Quantity vs. Quality

If a neighbor or close friend came to me and needed 9mm, I’d give them a couple boxes of 115 grain FMJs because I have around 3,000 rounds. I would not give him jacketed hollow points because I only have about 250. Still, those FMJs are far better than nothing.  They go bang and when they go whizzing by, or into, the bad guy, he’s not going to stop and wonder what kind of bullet you are using; he’s going to do a quick mental calculus to decide if he is desperate enough to stay and fight or turn and run.

Do I prefer high-tech bullet designs that optimized for maximum terminal effect?  Yes, but I think that is most important in handguns (which are relatively weak man stoppers) and hunting rounds where you want to kill your game before it has a chance to run away.

Generally speaking, 55 grain FMJ 5.56 ammo is the least expensive of 5.56.  Unless you plan to hunt with it, I feel it is better to get 500 rounds of basic ammo rather than 250 rounds of slightly more deadly ammo.  With proper shot placement, your 55 grain FMJs should get the job done. And you can always buy the expensive stuff after you fill your basic requirements.

Storing Ammo for Barter

Right now, I expect I could trade a box of fifty 9mm rounds that I bought a few years ago for $14 for at least $50 worth of goods or sell it outright for $50 in cash or 2 ounces of silver.  Imagine how much more they might be worth after an economic collapse, or if the sale of military ammo to civilians is banned or taxed?  They might command a mighty premium.  When people talk about precious metals, they usually mean gold and silver, but in a post-SHTF situation, a combination of lead and brass might be more valuable than silver.

Then 9mm might be the most popular pistol round, but the .223 or 5.56 still rules the roost when it comes to modern sporting rifles.  (And for clarity, 5.56 guns can fire .223 ammo but guns with .223 chambers should NOT fire 5.56 ammo.)  Millions of M4  and AR-15 style weapons have been sold and they are going to need to be fed…

I am less convinced that .22LR will be a common trading item only because there is so much of it out there (between 2 and 5 billion rounds are made annually).  I think it is probably the most horded round of all time and that there are individuals who have 100,000 rounds or more stashed away. Maybe I’m wrong and all that ammo is getting shot up, but I think there may be lots of it available in a post SHTF scenario. Only military stockpiles of 5.56 could exceed it, and they are unlikely to share.

Whatever caliber you choose, I like the idea of holding ammo for potential barter.  When stored properly, it lasts forever, and I expect there will always be a demand for it. 

Author: The Pickled Prepper

The Pickled Prepper has been preparing for the end of the world for about 25 years and figures he’ll keep going until either it catches up with him, or he catches up with it.