Your ammo supplies: reload or stockpile?

I’ve stumbled (via e-mail) into quite the heated debate over what one needs in the way of reserve ammunition supplies, particularly if there are severe disruptions to what one can buy in the shops for an extended period.  (I’m sure many of us recall the “ammo drought” of 2013, and the instant shortage of M855 ammunition after a BATFE announcement that same year.)  I’m pretty sure we’ll see such shortages again, for any of a number of reasons – not least political disruption.  California is already forbidding bulk ammo sales from out of state direct to shooters, and from next year will require a background check to buy ammo.  (That will involve logging all ammo purchases, which inevitably means the authorities will build up a register of who buys what cartridges and calibers, and in what quantity.)  Other liberal states are sure to follow suit.  In the wake of tragedies such as the Parkland school shooting, there are always calls to restrict ammo supply, or set or tighten limits on how much ammo a shooter can store at home (some restrictions already exist:  here, for example, are the Massachusetts regulations), or whatever.

Given those realities, it makes absolute sense to build up a stockpile of ammunition in the calibers and cartridges one shoots.  I know some shooters take this to extremes, particularly those with full-auto weapons (i.e. licensed machine guns), who may shoot thousands of rounds during a range session.  Here, for example, is a video of the famous “Night Shoot” at the bi-annual Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Kentucky.  I’d guess that up to (perhaps over) a hundred thousand rounds went downrange that night, and a lot more than that over the entire weekend!

I know one machine-gun enthusiast whose ammo stockpile is, at the time of writing, just under a million rounds – and that’s the lowest it’s been for a while.  He’s buying more!

For those of us whose wallets won’t run to such a profligate expenditure of ammunition, we must work out how much to stockpile.  I wrote about this before, and I suggest you read that article before continuing with this one.  I think what I said then still holds true.  However, in the light of the changing political and social context, it’s time to revisit the subject, particularly because ammunition is becoming a political football.  Taxes and fees are easier for anti-gun forces to enact than gun control, where that pesky Second Amendment gets in the way of their desires.  See, for example:

I’m quite sure we’ll see more such attempts in the not too distant future.  If your ammunition suddenly becomes much more expensive, how much will you be able to afford when you need it?  I regard stockpiling a reasonable amount in the same light as setting aside emergency food and water supplies.  They’re all like parachutes – it’s better to have one but never need it, than to desperately need one but not have it!

It’s a sobering thought that an emergency ammo stash is more likely to be needed in certain parts of the country than in others.  We saw recently that left-wing administrations are quite prepared to hobble their law enforcement agencies in civil unrest or crime situations, if that suits their political agenda (see Baltimore and Charlottesville for recent examples).  If you found yourself in those cities at times like that, wouldn’t you (and perhaps your family and friends) want all the defensive capability you could muster?  I certainly would!  When the law is selectively enforced, we have little choice but to ensure our own security.

One of the big questions in the heated debate I mentioned is that of reloading one’s own ammunition versus stockpiling already-loaded rounds.  The reloaders insist (correctly) that they can assemble ammo much cheaper than they can buy it, and that if they run low, they can always sit down at the reloading press and crank out a few hundred more rounds.  Others (including myself) point out that when trouble comes, one is unlikely to have the time available to reload more ammo.  What one has on hand is, effectively, one’s total supply.  I’ve got no problem with reloading to build up that supply, but that only works before the emergency or after it’s over.  During it, reloading will most likely be impractical.  Also, if another ammo shortage hits, reloading components will be in as short supply as loaded ammunition.  (Many reloading components such as powder, primers, etc. are still in short supply after the last one!)

This applies even more to those who worry about TEOTWAWKI situations.  If any “prepper” or “survivalist” thinks they can reload at will during the zombie apocalypse or something like it, they clearly haven’t been in any long-term emergency situations.  (I have, even if only in passing.  Africa taught me that.)  You’ll be so busy scavenging for and preparing food, getting firewood, and doing the many other things essential to daily living – without the benefit of appliances, automation, supermarkets, etc. – that you simply won’t have time to reload.  If you study not-too-distant history (for example, the settling of the American West), it’s amazing how much time pioneers had to devote to the simple, ordinary, everyday aspects of life like those.  Even something simple like laundry, all done by hand at every stage of the process, could take one or two people several hours.  Automation has spoiled us.  Can you imagine a modern family, dumped without adequate warning or preparation into that sort of lifestyle?  Talk about a disaster . . . !

I’ve reloaded before, and found it an enjoyable hobby;  but I’m under no illusions about being able to provide for all my needs that way.  Even in my normal everyday life, being self-employed as a writer, I have to work hard, and I use most of the hours available for that and family needs.  I can no longer afford the time to reload;  so I buy what I think I need.

I think it’s not a bad idea to have available at least 100 rounds of quality defensive ammunition for every one of your primary defensive and/or hunting weapons, and sufficient magazines in which to load it ready for immediate use, plus up to a couple of years’ supply of practice and plinking ammunition.  Add to that provision for family and friends, and you can quickly end up with several thousand rounds.  Some have a lot more than that.  It all depends on how you assess the risk, and what you’re prepared to invest (in time and/or money) to alleviate it.



  1. WHile your point about reloading has merit, it takes less than an hour to reload 300 rounds. If you can't find that time once a week (and if you are shooting that many in a week in a SHTF situation, then you have bigger problems) then there is something wrong. Done at night, when inside, after the other pressing chores are done, I fail to see why reloading is all that much of a time sink.

    Tnis assumes that you have the components on the shelf, stored properly, of course….and that you can retrieve your brass for reloading. Yes, having ready made ammo is a better choice. But it isn't that time consuming to reload, either.

    And don't bet that you can reload for less than you can buy for these days. 9MM (some)is cheaper right now in bulk than the cost of components, especially when one factors in the time to put the pieces together.

  2. I would not use reloads for defensive rounds. It's a good way for an able prosecutor to paint you into a corner. If it's the zombie apocalypse, sure. Otherwise use commercial self defense rounds.

    Doesn't mean you cannot reload and use it for target practice, drills, etc.

  3. A number of interesting points. I'm not equipped to opine on the reloading question, but I do think I'll encourage the son-in-law to stockpile more ammo; Texas may be civilised but Austin is only nominally part of Texas and I have no confidence in our law enforcement agencies' willingness or ability to handle major civil unrest.

  4. Peter, weren't you advocating revolvers and lever action rifles in case semi-automatic firearms were made illegal? If this came to pass, I'd expect that ammunition would become hard to get as well. A Lee hand press and dies would be handy to have.

    If you were going Grey Man, that hand press and parts could be stashed in among your tools. It would take a search by someone rather knowledgeable to figure out what it was really for. The hand press would be in a toolbox with a rivet gun, the dies along with a standard tap and die set. The powder would be among garden supplies, the primers in with screws and nails. "This brass and lead, sir? I'm melting it down and recycling. See the crucible there?"

  5. Even something simple like laundry, all done by hand at every stage of the process, could take one or two people several hours. Automation has spoiled us. Can you imagine a modern family, dumped without adequate warning or preparation into that sort of lifestyle? Talk about a disaster . . . !

    Heck, much of the current world today spends quite a bit of EVERY day retrieving water for the household. Even if you want to go 'Full On Pillager', you have to make time to clean your tighty whiteys . . . :^)

  6. If you study not-too-distant history (for example, the settling of the American West), it's amazing how much time pioneers had to devote to the simple, ordinary, everyday aspects of life like those. Even something simple like laundry, all done by hand at every stage of the process, could take one or two people several hours. Automation has spoiled us.

    The time of that lower level of technology has passed, never to return. If government bans the wheel, then by doing so it dismantles its modern logistics for tax collection by which it feeds and houses enforcers which kill wheel-users. Absent the enforcers, wheel-using will resume. It's easier to learn to pull a trigger than to swing a sword, and overall net, technology has the track record of de-concentrating power.

  7. I started shooting around age 9. I started reloading in '77. I was an FFL in Kalifornia for near 20 years. My two cents.

    Stockpile ammo—absolutely. Look for deals. Midway recently had Magtech 9mm on sale, with free shipping, AND 500 rounds shipped in a brand new metal GI 30 cal ammo can.

    Reloading—absolutely. Stock up here as well. When ammo dries up, so will some (or all) reloading components. Reload to shoot and train now, while you can. Reload when and if you can. Save your stockpile for when you can't.

  8. Stocking up when I can. Break even on reloading is around 5000 rounds, before you actually start seeing a 'savings' per se, after equipment costs…

  9. Peter;

    Have you considered casting your own bullets? A great way to reduce costs even further. And if you use gas checks you ensure you won't lead the barrel.

    Gary W. Anthony
    MSgt, USAF, Ret.

  10. I learned how to reload from my father and uncles as a teenager in the 70's. They were into casting as well. I had one uncle who made molds and they tested their bullet designs. I currently shoot about 12K pistol and 1k rifle per year.

    When I moved away some 30 years ago I would still save my brass and when visiting have an afternoon in the reloading room. I could crank our 1500 to 2000 completed bullets in an afternoon. I was shooting less back then.

    I decided in the mid 90's that I needed my own press so I got a single stage Rockchucker. It took 4 pulls to produce a bullet unlike a couple of the presses on the farm that produced a completed round with every pull. About 8 years ago I stepped up and got a progressive press, a Dillon 550b and I can churn out 350-500 bullets per hour depending on the cartridge.

    The cost of match grade and self defense ammunition is high. I can custom tune a load for each of my guns that out performs match grade and is 1/10th the price. As far as the argument that hand loaded ammo will cause a problem in a lawsuit, that does not hold water. I am using the same projectile with similar ballistic characteristics that law enforcement uses.

    I keep what I consider an ample supply of loaded ammo. I reload every caliber I have with the exception of 22LR. I also have an ample supply of bullets, powder, and primers.

  11. Court Rules Second Amendment Doesn’t Protect AR-15, Assault Rifles and Large-Capacity Magazines

    "Someday there’ll be another liberal majority on the Supreme Court and that majority will surely declare “assault weapons” outside the bounds of the Second Amendment, whatever happens legally between now and then. You could have a mountain of lower-court rulings holding that the right to bear arms includes assault weapons, you could have umpteen Supreme Court precedents affirming that fact. The next liberal Court will flip over the table because gun rights is one of the litmus-test issues for which the justices will have been selected and appointed. It’ll be a replay of the conservative movement to appoint anti-abortion justices in the name of overturning Roe, but unlike the right’s picks, the left’s won’t choke when they get the opportunity. In fact, never mind assault weapons: The entire line of cases beginning with Heller’s assertion of an individual right to bear arms is going out the window as soon as liberals on the Court have the numbers."

  12. [Massachusetts District Court Judge William] Young wrote that Scalia "explained that ‘weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like’ are not protected under the Second Amendment."

    Never mind those colorful British solders on the famous battleground in Massachusetts, 2A is about duck hunting. 'These are not the droids you are looking for' is a perfectly valid legal argument.

    More than 10,000 AR-15-style rifles were sold in Massachusetts in 2015

    I'm sure all those Massachusetts residents documented by the instant check registration system to have bought these weapons did so to participate in the Bonfire of the Vanities. They wouldn't want to be empty-handed and feel left out on turn-in day.

    The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey put gun dealers and manufacturers on notice that her office would begin enforcing the state's 1998 assault weapons ban that prohibited copies or duplicates of AR-15 and AK-47 rifles.

    I can't wait to see TV coverage of the house-to-house raids. Maybe the AG is just shutting down the legal dealers, they can probably do that.

  13. I stand with the "stockpile AND reload" crew, if you can afford to do both. While I probably have more stockpiled than I could possibly use by myself (supplying others in my "tribe" will take care of that), there will be those – perhaps even myself, if I acquire a suppressor or two – who will need some sub-sonic ammo in various calibers, as well as loads for handguns and rifles that provide better, deeper penetration through various materials, for providing meat or pelts that hasn't been severely damaged by ammo that is too powerful, and for other considerations.

    A large supply of components, purchased over a period of years, will enable me to produce ammunition that meets a variety of needs.

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