The idea of a SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) scenario can be unsettling. While hoping for the best, it’s wise to be prepared for a situation where societal norms break down, and self-reliance becomes crucial.

Ammunition is a vital consideration in preparedness, but how much do you actually need?

There’s no magic number, and the answer depends on several factors.

The usual questions pondered are the timeline for when the preparation process of accumulating and collecting supplies and knowledge to face this problem should begin and how much ammunition is needed to be stockpiled when SHTF.

The truth is, it’s often more beneficial to focus on stockpiling a moderate amount of ammo in a few calibers rather than spreading yourself thin across a variety of calibers with limited ammunition for each.

This approach allows for greater versatility and ensures you have a usable stockpile for various situations.

This guide examines the complexities of ammo stockpiling for SHTF. We’ll explore factors influencing your needs, look at specific calibers, and provide crucial storage and safety tips.

Remember, ammunition is just one piece of the preparedness puzzle. We’ll also explore additional essential supplies and skills to consider for a well-rounded survival plan.

A handful of ammunition (Image source: DVIDS)

Planning for the Unknown

The first step is understanding the “S” in SHTF.

What kind of disruption are you preparing for?

Here are some possibilities:

  • Natural Disaster: Hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters may disrupt supply chains for weeks or months. Ammo could be used for hunting small game or deterring opportunistic looters.
  • Economic Collapse: A severe economic downturn could lead to shortages of basic necessities. Bartering with ammo might become a reality.
  • Social Unrest: Widespread social unrest can lead to a breakdown of law and order. Self-defense becomes a primary concern.

Each scenario dictates different uses for ammunition. Hunting, defense, and even bartering are all possibilities in an SHTF situation.

Skill Level Matters

Your proficiency with firearms significantly impacts how much ammo you need.

A skilled marksman needs far less ammo than a beginner, who might require more practice rounds to become proficient.

Let’s Talk Ammo: Hunting and Defense

While predicting the exact amount of ammunition needed for a future emergency is difficult, setting a realistic minimum based on potential hunting and defense scenarios is a good starting point.

Let’s look at specific calibers and estimated quantities for both hunting and defense:


  • .22 Long Rifle: This versatile and lightweight rifle is excellent for small game hunting and varmint control. It’s also a decent training tool for beginners. A good starting point is 1000 rounds, with a mix of practice and hunting ammunition.
  • Shotgun: A true multi-purpose weapon, the shotgun can take down larger game like turkeys and deer with buckshot while also providing home defense capabilities with birdshot. Consider 500 rounds of a mix between buckshot and field loads for hunting purposes.
  • Big Game Rifles: Designed for larger prey like deer and boar, big game rifles pack a punch. 100-200 rounds of hunting ammo should suffice. Remember, proper sighting and responsible hunting practices make these rounds last a long time.
hunting rifles
Stowed hunting weapons (Image source: DVIDS)


  • Semi-Automatic Rifles: Some view these rifles as ideal for defense, but 2000 rounds might be excessive. Consider local laws and the practicality of using such a weapon in a defensive situation.
  • Handguns: Compact and easy to maneuver, handguns are ideal for self-defense within your home. Popular calibers include 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP due to their availability and effectiveness. Aim for 1000 rounds of defensive ammo for your handgun. This should be more than enough for most self-defense scenarios, assuming proper storage and responsible use.

Beyond the Minimum

These are just starting points.

You might choose to stockpile more ammo based on your risk assessment and comfort level. However, remember that ammo is just one piece of the preparedness puzzle.

Don’t neglect other crucial supplies like:

  • Food: A minimum of a 3-month supply of non-perishable food is recommended.
  • Water: Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days. Remember: Potable water is essential to sustaining life.
  • Shelter: Having a plan for secure shelter is essential.
  • Medical Supplies: Basic first-aid supplies and any necessary medications. Consider the long-term need for prescription medications before SHTF

Storing Your Ammunition Investment

Think of your ammo stockpile as an investment in your preparedness. It should be maintained for long-term use.

Without proper care, you will decrease the shelf life of your ammo, thus wasting your own investment.

Here are some key points for proper storage:

  • Cool, Dry, and Dark: This environment maximizes shelf life.
  • Proper Containers: Avoid overloading containers or using flimsy packaging. Consider using ammo cans or desiccators to control moisture.
  • Security Measures: Hide your ammo securely to prevent theft.

Sharpen Your Skills, Not Just Your Stockpile

While having ammo is important, becoming a proficient shooter is equally crucial. Invest in firearms training to improve your accuracy and handling skills. The more adept you are, the less ammo you’ll need to rely on in a crisis.

Laws and Regulations

Always research and comply with local laws and regulations regarding ammo storage and limitations. Some jurisdictions might have restrictions on quantities or specific calibers.

(Image source: DVIDS)

Final Thoughts

Remember, the goal is to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, but hopefully, you never need to use your stockpile. Here are some additional tips:

Focus on Practical Needs: Prioritize stockpiling a minimum amount of ammo for essential needs, then focus on acquiring other necessities. You can always add to your stockpile later.

Practice Makes Perfect: Regular practice with your firearms improves accuracy and instills confidence. The more comfortable you are with your weapons, the less ammo you’ll waste in a stressful situation.

Beyond Ammo: Research and invest in other preparedness resources. This could include learning basic survival skills, wilderness first aid, and alternative methods of food procurement. Knowledge of gardening, foraging, and water purification can significantly reduce your reliance on stockpiled supplies.

Community Matters: Consider building a network of like-minded individuals you can trust who share your preparedness goals. Having a support system can be invaluable in a SHTF situation. Sharing resources, skills, and knowledge can strengthen your overall preparedness as a group.


Stockpiling ammunition is a crucial aspect of preparedness, but it’s not the only one. And stockpiling is not the same as hoarding. Stockpiling is a proactive, positive approach to preparedness. Hoarding is a compulsive and excessive behavior that can hinder daily functioning and ultimately prevent you from achieving your goal.

By understanding your needs, practicing your skills, and focusing on a well-rounded survival plan, you’ll be better equipped to face any challenge that may come your way.

Remember, knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness are just as important as having the right ammo.

This article was originally published on July 23, 2017, and has been reviewed and updated by the SOFREP News Team.