Armed preppers were once derided as paranoid hoarders. Then, COVID happened. We saw empty shelves in grocery stores, lack of access to medications for chronic conditions, and mass civil unrest exacerbated by unemployment and politicking. In short, the pandemic gave us a taste of a real “SHTF” scenario. When it comes to preparing for natural or man-made disasters (or another end-of-days global infection), you need to invest in five things: food, water, shelter, power, and personal defense. That last one means having a stockpile of ammunition to feed your pistols, shotguns, and long rifles. Let’s dive into how to properly store SHTF ammo for the long haul, and take a look at how much you might want to keep around, just in case.
How to Store Ammo Long-Term
Three things determine whether ammo – once pulled out of storage after years – fires reliably, or fizzes out: Temperature, exposure, and moisture.
Ideal Temperature for Ammo Storage
Regardless of the caliber, casing, or powder, all ammo should be stored at 55 to 80 degrees (F). Colder temperatures can cause the sealant on primers to fail, and condensation can more easily form. The inverse is also true: Very high temperatures can exacerbate the effects of humidity and lead to rapid corrosion. Even in dry cold or heat, extreme temperatures can cause gunpowder to break down, resulting in misfires and unreliable cycling.
Keeping Ammo Dry
Two words: Desiccant packs. You probably know these as “dehumidifiers.” If you’ve ever found a small, cloth packet of plastic beads inside some packaging, you’ve seen a desiccant pack. These little perforated pouches contain silica gel beads, which absorb moisture in the air. They’re excellent at preventing a container of ammo from accumulating moisture. It’s best to invest in properly sealed containers for your ammo. That means something made of decent polymer or coated steel, with a rubber gasket providing a proper seal. We can recommend a few cases to keep things simple.
The Best Ammo Storage Containers
US Surplus M2 Ammo Can
The M2 Ammo Can is arguably the best ammo storage container available. It’s made from steel, it’s coated with a rustproof paint, it’s easy to carry, it can hold plenty of weight (up to 50 lbs.) and it has a reliable gasket seal with a sturdy clamp.
MTM .50-Cal Polymer Ammo Can
The MTM Ammo Can is basically a polymer version of the M2. It’s similar in size, and it features a rubber gasket seal with a decent clamping lid, carry handle, and padlock holes for basic security. Plus, MTM containers are made in the USA.
Pelican 1200 Case
The Pelican 1200 Case provides plenty of space for stacked rifle or pistol magazines, and its legendary toughness and pressure-equalizing seal make it a great choice for long-term ammo storage. This writer employs a few 1200s as his choice for ammo storage, having “tactically acquired” a few from his unit’s armory in prior years. Keep your ammo stored in any of these sealed cases with some dehumidifying packs, and it’s guaranteed to remain stable and ready for use for years, if not decades.
The Best Places to Store Ammo
First, let’s clear up where you shouldn’t store ammo. You should avoid any location wherein your ammo containers are subjected to wild temperature swings. That means no attics, sheds or garages. Basements without insulation or climate control should also be avoided. Besides temperature concerns, these three locations should be avoided for security reasons. Most burglars attempt to forcibly enter a home through the garage or basement, and auxiliary buildings are easier targets since they’re physically separate from the main property.
Indoors, Away From Sunlight
Spare closets, empty spaces under bed frames, and unused kitchen cabinets make great spots. These places provide stable temperatures, they’re easily accessible, and they’re not in vulnerable locations.
Keep It Locked Up
Locking ammo is as important as locking up your guns. Keeping ammo indoors means curious children or wayward guests can stumble upon your rounds. Discourage prying eyes and small digits by slapping some locks on your ammo containers (all the containers we recommend can be secured with padlocks).
How Much Ammo Should I Stockpile?
You can never have too much — as long as it’s stored correctly, that is. You should consider the minimum amount of rounds that’ll make you feel secure for the long haul in a true “SHTF” scenario. If Earth were hit by an X-class solar flare and civilization was sent back to the Stone Age, this writer would want enough ammo on tap to last the rest of his (probably shortened) life. So, how much ammo would one need to last, say, 20 to 40 years in a potentially high-conflict environment? We can answer this question – at least, we can ballpark it – with some real data.
Handgun Rounds Stockpile
Data collected from law enforcement shootings with handguns reveal that, on average, it takes 13 to 14 rounds to incapacitate a single threat. In a “SHTF” scenario, you’d want to avoid the public and venturing beyond your safety zone as much as possible. But war-game the idea that you’d need expose yourself at least a few times a month: Assuming you’re in a high-threat environment, you’d want enough ammo to protect yourself from multiple threats. Given the assumption you’re in this doomsday situation for the long haul, some napkin math says you’d want over 1,000 rounds.
That’s about 20 boxes of ammo (most pistol cartridges come in packs of 50). That amount of rounds can be easily stored in a single large container like the Pelican 1200. That’s also enough ammo to hone your marksmanship skills on a regular schedule, while still keeping more mags than you could ever hold ready to go.
Rifle Rounds Stockpile
If you’re like most preppers or survivalists, your mind automatically jumps to 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington, chambered in an AR-type rifle. Speaking from personal experience, it’s surprisingly easy to burn through 210 rounds (that’s seven 30-round magazines, the standard “battle rattle” load) when you’re in a real threat engagement.
You’d want at least enough ammo to replenish those seven mags through multiple threat encounters. Again, if we’re considering the potential for years-long conflict and severe social strife, it’s safe to say that harboring at least 2,100 rounds of rifle ammo is a safe minimum. Stored in typical 20-round boxes, this amount of rounds can comfortably fit in two .50-cal ammo cans.
Hunting Rounds Stockpile
Preppers lucky enough to survive on game in rural areas, rejoice. You probably need many fewer rounds to live comfortably, but you should still keep more ammo than you need for that trusty bolt gun. Data says that the average hunter expends between 3 and 7 rounds to take one deer. Assuming you’re living off game meat, you’ll want to take at least a few bucks or does to keep the fridge or salt locker stored. It’s safe to say that you’ll want at least 500 to 800 rounds of hunting ammo. Speaking of hunting: having reliable ammo and an accurate rifle is just part of the equation. See our top tactics for ensuring a successful hunt when survival is on the line.
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This content was originally published here.