There is an economic concept, the law of diminishing returns, that can be applied to your life. The law of diminishing returns refers to a point at which the benefits are less than the amount of effort invested. This applies directly to ammunition stored for personal use and firearms as well as general prepping supplies.
I should add that I detest the term prepper, as it is defined using modern vernacular and is seen as a negative to many. Rather I am someone who considers that even though I may never need insurance, it is a wise idea to have it.
When it comes to prepping it is possible to have too many things and by default cause issues with both storage and distribution of the items needed. Ammunition if it is not stored properly does age rather poorly even if it is sealed in spam cans. Food regardless posted shelf life must also be stored in a relatively climate controlled environments.
In fact, there is very little that has an extended shelf life if it is not stored in a climate controlled environment. Look at the packaging for any dry frozen or dehydrated food supplies, store between temperatures are listed on the package.
Temperatures are somewhat important for ammunition, however, the real killer for stored ammunition is moisture. I do not suggest leaving ammunition in your car during an Arizona summer, the temperatures reached can negatively affect performance.
However, in personal testing with ammunition stored openly in magazines and original packaging as well as loaded in magazines I have found that overall the temperature variations rarely affect the ammunition by itself, though with un-crimped hand loads I have found it causes greater issues than crimped loads both factory and not.
What has always been the hands down ammunition killer is moisture and the subsequent corrosion that occurs.
Except for personal defensive ammunition I have on me at the moment and in my house for use at a moments notice, my ammunition is stored in watertight cases that are also somewhat airtight. I use desiccants inside the ammunition storage containers as a way to reduce the free oxygen and moisture amount even more.
With my testing and others, I have found that ammunition stored this way can be good for many decades, especially when temperature extremes are prevented. When it comes to defensive ammunition you should be rotating this every 6 months or so. You are not rotating it because it compresses in the magazine and becomes oval or for any reason other than your carry ammunition by default is carried on your person.
This means that it is subjected to temperature extremes and humidity, sweat and general degradation that occurs with carry ammunition.
My Bare Minimum Recommendations
For this purpose, my suggestion for long-term storage is a minimum of 250 rounds of defensive ammunition per defensive firearm in the house. This takes a rotation of 30-45 rounds every 6 months for handgun and between 60 and 240 rounds for the rifle and lastly 12-24 rounds for the shotgun if you have or use one.
Personally, I prefer buying a half a case for handgun and a full case at a time once a year of premium defensive ammunition. This covers needs for the firearms in use as a defensive tool at my house and keeps a decent supply for practice and storage as well.
With very few exceptions I keep all of my magazines loaded, modern Magpul magazines can be kept loaded fully and older NATO/STANAG magazines loaded at 28 for rifle and one round short for magazines not in current defensive rotation for the handguns.
This is not to reduce spring tension, instead, it is specifically because many older magazines do not seat easily or fully in a firearm that has a closed bolt or closed slide.
I am not going to argue the merits of learning how to count your rounds or other similar approaches as these are foolish and outdated approaches that at least will add steps that will only confuse you under stress and at worst get you killed. My suggestion is, use proven modern magazines and firearms.
How many rounds of non-defensive ammunition should you keep on hand? This is where the law of diminishing returns really comes into play. Ammunition weighs allot in quantity, for instance, a 30 round magazine of 5.56 or .223 weighs approximately 1 pound.
Whereas a loaded 8 round magazine for a 1911 weighs around 9 ounces and a 15 round Smith and Wesson M&P magazine or a loaded 15 round Glock magazine will weigh around 8-9 ounces. Two defensive magazines for your handgun will end up weighing around 16 ounces and a single 2 ¾ inch 00 buckshot shell will weigh a little over one ounce by itself.
Unless you train regularly with your bug-out bag and a full load out of ammunition, I highly doubt you will be humping more than 3 or 4 magazines for any great distance.
Does this mean you shouldn’t keep more than 120 rounds on hand? Absolutely not!
In fact, I recommend at a bare minimum having 500 rounds of quality range ammunition for practice and long-term use. My suggestion is to avoid big box store ammunition, I do not mean specific ammunition retailers and resellers, I mean Walmart, Big Five, and other similar large box stores ammunition.
What is made for them will ALWAYS be a reduced quality than even military and law enforcement training overruns! Big box ammunition is loaded with far less QC being applied than is done with the more expensive yet better overall ammunition that is available.
If you reload, and this is something that takes great patience and dedicated time and effort to do well, store supplies for as much as you may need at current training use for 2-3 years. This can be applied to factory new loads as well. I like having several months at a bare minimum stored away, with my maximums being around 5 years at my current level of use.
If you go to the range and shoot 150 rounds a week, then calculate based on this number. If you carry defensively and do not train with at least 50 rounds a month, please remember a very simple reality, shooting is absolutely a perishable skill.
Certainly, many people get lucky and have used firearms successfully with little or no regular training or any real training. However, you will find a much greater level of success if you at least keep your basic skills sharp with 50-100 solid rounds downrange once a month.
I have taught and worked with law enforcement officers and soldiers who refused to practice regularly, leading them to have to shoot their generous qualifiers multiple times just to maintain employment!
Next, it is important to understand that you and your wife will not be taking on an armed group of marauders even with your multiple trips to FrontSight timeshare and firearms training facilities. I know that the Dr. who owns that training facility has told you that because you are a diamond member you are now better than Rambo, the reality is…you will still be best served with not clearing your house and avoiding issues whenever possible!
This is why individual focused training on your own and or with experienced real-world instructors is best. This means that you need to have additional amounts of ammunition available and stored safely and properly. What you will need much of your ammunition for is hunting, getting rid of predator or scavenger animals and potentially defense against two-legged marauders.
All of my ammunition except what is currently in use is stored in a dry, temperature controlled environment. What is currently in use is also kept dry and cleaned and maintained to promote longevity and 99.9% function when it is needed!
So before you have 50,000 rounds delivered, make sure you know why, how and what you are storing it for. Some places have passed laws recently regarding how much you can legally have. Be sure you follow the local laws whenever possible or whenever morally necessary. A few simple guidelines I use as a disabled middle-aged man with a family and some added individuals in potential problem times.
- What can I carry by myself
- What can I keep safely secured
- How much do we use monthly multiplied by each person using monthly and 2-3 years minimum for EACH firearm
- Use only what works best in each firearm for each required use, (hunting firearms/defensive/ etc.,)
- What can my group carry
- What can my family/group keep safely secured
As always use your head, ask yourself why you are doing or considering doing anything and by all means, avoid falling into the age-old trap that is doomsday prepping. Yes, this approach has been around since before the bronze age and is largely due to a time when humans did not have working networks for trade and exchange.
Certainly, being prepared for this is not a terrible idea though it will take more than stockpiling ammunition and can be extremely cost prohibitive to all but the most wealthy of us.
Free the mind and the body will follow…