Buying ammo by the individual box will be the least efficient and most expensive method; your goal should be to avoid this scenario as much as possible.
About the time the coronavirus pandemic began, we ran out of toilet paper. We never run out of toilet paper—my wife buys in bulk. However, the national toilet paper shortage of 2020 hit at the exact time my wife needed to do her quarterly toilet paper run. We managed to wipe through the near disaster, but now America is experiencing another shortage—an ammunition shortage.
This is somewhat shocking; I assumed everyone learned this lesson after the presidential election of 2008. Remember those ammunition shortages that never really stabilized until 2016? After President Trump’s election we went into what some in the firearm industry called the “Trump Slump,” where everyone seemed to move into a safe zone, thinking ammunition would always be inexpensive and accessible. Instead of buying more ammunition while it was cheap, it appears we just shot all the ammo we had.
Well, here we are again. Manufacturers are making ammunition as fast as they can, and some retailers are raising prices astronomically. This is happening mostly because humans, lazy like we are, fail to properly prepare for bad times. It also brings up the question of how much ammunition do you really need to have on hand at any given time.
A logical look at this is in order, and while you might think the ammunition shortage is similar to the toilet paper shortage, it’s not. You see, the use of toilet paper is directly controlled by the number of times you go to the bathroom each day. Short of widespread dysentery, that number is pretty much a constant. Moreover, toilet paper is not used in a recreational or training manner, and never will be unless, well, toilet-papering houses becomes the new standard for rioting.
With ammunition, it’s different. As demand increases, so does use. In uncertain times, folks begin shooting and training more so they will be better prepared. The more intense the shortage, the more intense the use. Given the current situation, which happens to be preceding a very important presidential election, the current ammunition situation has the potential to last for quite a bit of time. Are you ready for that? If you don’t have the ammo you need now, it might be the better part of a decade before you can acquire it without selling your soul or first born.
So, how much and what types of ammunition do you need? Obviously, it depends on your situation. According to my sources in the ammunition-manufacturing industry, sales always follow highs and lows. Savvy shooters buy ammunition when the demand is low because it costs less and more is available. I recently saw on social media where a guy went to the gun shop to purchase 9 mm ammo and the only thing on the shelf was a dozen boxes of .327 Fed. Mag. ammo.
Ideally, you should strive to always have about a 10-year supply of ammunition on hand. How much is that? Well, it depends on how much you shoot. Regardless, part of your cache should always be what I call “war chest ammo.” This is ammunition you might need if you really need ammunition—top-shelf, defensive loads for your primary handgun, rifle and shotgun. At a minimum we’re talking 200 rounds of rifle and shotgun, and about 500 rounds of pistol ammunition.
As demand increases, so does use. In uncertain times folks begin shooting and training more so they will be better prepared. The more intense the shortage, the more intense the use.
Now, I’m sure some believe that during a total societal collapse you’ll need even more ammo. That may be true but, in that situation, you’re going to need a lot of other survival stuff, too.
Most of us are limited in the funds we have to prepare for inclement weather, pandemics and civil unrest, and while you might be able to trade ammunition for important stuff, self-sufficient, forward-thinking folks will spend some of their money on an array of “stay-alive” gear, like ammunition, medicine, canned goods, fuel and yes, toilet paper.
You should also think about having backup guns in different chamberings than your primary guns. If the guy who could only find .327 Fed. Mag. ammunition had a revolver in that caliber, he could have walked out of the store with 600 rounds of usable ammo. The point is, while 9 mm, .223 Rem. and .308 Win. might be the most prevalent and best apocalyptic chamberings, it’s not a bad idea to have alternatives and ammunition in your war chest to support them.
Also, don’t think you’ll just become a reloader if the world goes sideways; the companies that manufacture bullets, brass, powder and primers will support the ammunition manufacturers—in bulk—first. This means reloading components will hard to find as well.
The other thing to consider is shelf life. If stored properly, ammunition should remain functional and reliable for the better part of a lifetime. However, if you buy a 10-year supply of ammunition at one time you’ll probably want to replace all that ammunition at the same time. It makes much more sense to buy and use as you go, while always keeping a 10-year supply on hand. This means you can take advantage of those peaks and valleys in sales. Just like a stockbroker buying low and selling high, buy ammo when prices are down and shoot as needed when prices are high.
As a society, we’ve became soft and unprepared for hard times. My grandparents canned vegetables every year; always more than they needed. It was hard work, but they did this because they’d lived through hard times and knew that hard times can happen without warning. If you’ve been to a gun shop in the last couple months desperate to buy ammo, you should rethink your preparedness plan to avoid the next shortage.
Consider this: In times of unrest and uncertainty, you will not eat more, and you will not need more toilet paper. But, you very likely could need more ammunition. Do you have enough?