When buying a new firearm in a new caliber, most shooters buy a lone box of ammunition along with the purchase. Some purchasers defend this choice by either thinking that is all they need or simply wanting to test-fire the gun before committing to a larger purchase. Still it begs the question: How much ammo should I keep on hand?
There is no œbest response to the question.
If the firearm in question is a handgun for personal defense, the shooter may want to purchase several hundred rounds of low-priced target ammunition to practice and a variety of defensive ammunition to see what works best. When an accurate and effective load is found, the shooter should buy more to ensure there is a decent supply on hand.
If, however, the gun in question is a rifle in a belted magnum for use on a hunting trip to Africa; the shooter may only be justified in purchasing a few boxes as 458 Winchester Magnum may be too much gun for use on a local coyote hunt.
The ammunition market can be a tricky one to navigate. Prices are driven by supply and demand and when large manufacturers are supplying the military during a war, civilian sales are put on the back burner. This has a trickle-down effect as the big suppliers of components (bullets, primers, cases and powder) will give priority to bigger consumers. When hunting season approaches, the same scarcity of non-hunting rounds is duplicated and prices tend to rise because more shooters are buying ammunition.
The late spring and early summer months tend to reflect the best prices on ammunition and those are the times to buy in bulk. Again, this is not a hard-and-fast rule and over the years rumors (supposed bans on lead ammunition, laws mandating a shelf-life for primers, the price of copper or brass fluctuating, taggants to be placed in powder, etc.) have caused manufacturers and consumers to hoard ammunition; driving the prices higher.
What quantity of ammunition does a shooter need to keep on hand? A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 1000 rounds for each caliber that is regularly fired. It may sound like a lot to some but consider times of civil unrest or disaster when cities and states have suspended ammunition sales.
One caliber which can be kept on hand in the thousands is 22 lr (long rifle). This is truly a great round to have. It is inexpensive, its size is small (several thousand rounds can fit in a shoebox) and it can be used for to hunt smaller game. In addition to the numerous handguns and rifles chambered in 22lr; there are conversion kits for existing handguns and rifles to allow the shooter to engage in target practice for a fraction of the cost of the bigger calibers.
Apart from the 22lr, there are a number of other calibers which can be purchased relatively cheap such as 9mm, 38 Special, 7.62X39mm and 223 Remington. Other calibers may be slightly more expensive, but can be found virtually in any sporting goods store such as 30-30 Winchester, 45 ACP, 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchester and 40 S&W.
Specialized ammunition, or ammunition that is not one of the more popular calibers, can be expensive or difficult to find anywhere except for mail order. If it is difficult to find now, that ammunition will be more difficult to acquire in the event of an emergency. Without ammunition, a firearm is not much more than an expensive paperweight.
Most of the above listed calibers (9mm, 40 S&W, 45ACP, 38 Special, 223 Remington, 308 Winchester) are regularly used by the military and police. For this reason, they are widely available and relatively inexpensive compared to other calibers of similar dimensions. Their availability and cost makes them attractive to shooters and in most instances, these calibers form the backbone of a shooter’s arsenal.
Another way to streamline ammunition buying is to have multiple guns in these calibers. This works cross-platform as well. There are rifles and carbines chambered in pistol calibers such as 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP as there are pistols chambered in rifle calibers such as 223 Remington and 308 Winchester.
Ammunition will store safely for a long period of time if kept in a cool, dry place. However, shooting is a deteriorating skill and will go away if it is not practiced regularly. Some people bring 1000 rounds to a range session and spend a few hours œtraining Others believe that after a short amount of time, the shooter is really just making noise and not practicing effectively. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the truth.
It is not uncommon to shoot a few boxes from a stockpile of several thousand rounds and replenish it as it is shot. Some shooters are of limited means and cannot afford one case of 1000 rounds at a time, so they incrementally œbuy it by the box every time they make a trip to the store.
Regardless of how the ammunition is purchased, it is better to œhave it and not need it, then to need it and not have it. If a shooter someday decides that they have purchased too much, they can always shoot it or sell it to another shooter.
Keeping a good supply of ammunition on hand alleviates the problem with shortfalls in the marketplace and represents a safe investment for times of crisis.