How Much Ammo Is Enough [in 2021]?

The struggle to find and afford ammo continues in 2021. As such, I'm revisiting the question of "how much ammo is enough" and share how my ammo goals have evolved with the current market conditions.

I shared my ammo acquisition priorities as the ammo crisis started towards the end of the first quarter last year. Honestly, I had hoped the shortage and high prices would be short lived. However, it wasn’t and I think the market is going to continue to get worse for the foreseeable future. As a result, I’ve spent a little time thinking and rearranging my ammunition priorities.

Before getting in the details, please note these are my priorities based solely on my opinion, experience level, and activity goals. Feel free to take notes and use them as a data point as you develop your own priorities and goals.

Defensive ammo is my number one priority. I suspect it’s probably also the majority of other folks top priority. I think having three magazines filled with quality defensive ammo per defensive firearm is a good starting point. Five filled magazines for defensive pistols with single stack magazines. If I was limited to revolvers for defensive use, I think a full cylinder and five filled speedloaders would be a good place to start.

So how much defensive ammo is enough? That’s a much harder question to answer and depends a lot what one thinks might happen. There is no question that folks are worried about civil unrest unless they haven’t been paying attention to current events. As a result, many folks have been panic buying and stockpiling ammo in preparation for some sort of Red Dawn or revolutionary event. Frankly, as much as I like the idea of having several thousand rounds in inventory on hand, the current market conditions make that goal pretty much unobtainable for the average person.

Right. I still haven’t answered the question. Let me try again. Regardless of what I think might or might not happen, I strongly believe the current ammo market will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future and I want to hedge against that. What do I mean by that? Well, defensive ammo is a consumable. Even if it isn’t fired, several experts have advised me to avoid unloading and reloading defensive rounds as repeated loading into the chamber can lead to two problems: 1) projectile setback or 2) primer damage. Given I unload and reload my EDC pistol almost every day (for either dry or live fire practice), this could become a problem over time if the ammunition shortage continues and ammo is consumed in this manner. As a result, I think having a thousand rounds of defensive ammo per defensive firearm is a good goal as that allows for daily practice for up to over two and half years without loading the same round more than once. Some folks might think that’s too much. I also think two thousand is a better goal. Others might think that’s not enough. That’s okay. As I said, these are just my current goals.

What about ball ammo? A lot of folks have been buying up ball ammo. In my opinion, I think ball ammo is only suitable for practice, training, and recreation. It’s also fine for participating in competitions. Although, serious competitors rely on match grade ammo. Bottom line is I don’t think it’s a good idea to stockpile ball ammo with the intention of relying on it for defensive or hunting use. I say this because ball ammo has been flying off the shelves and almost everyone I talk to mentions how they just aren’t doing much in terms of live fire practice or training. In many cases, folks are telling me they aren’t doing any life fire activities. I get the allure of buying ball ammo over defensive ammo because even today ball ammo is priced lower than defensive ammo. It used to be that you could get four, or even five, times as much ball ammo than defensive ammo for the same amount of money. Today that ratio is much lower given the going current market rates for ball ammo compared to defensive rounds. For example, 9mm ball is going for about 90¢ per round where quality hollow points are going for about $1.35 per round. I’m not saying don’t buy ball ammo. Rather, I’m suggesting that buying ball ammo should be done with the intention of developing or maintaining shooting skills (unless one can still afford to use it for recreational purposes).

So how much ball ammo is enough? Again, I’m hedging against prolonged and worsening ammo market conditions. Unfortunately, I was a little short sighted when it came to practice ammo last year and I’m playing a little catch up. My current goal is to build up inventory to keep five thousand rounds of 9mm ball, fifteen hundred rounds of 5.56, and a thousand rounds of 308 on hand. I arrived at those numbers by figuring out the number of rounds I use per month to maintain my current level of skill with my defensive weapons and then multiplying the round count by 24. The challenge in reaching this goal is that I haven’t stopped practicing and continue to consume the inventory on hand. The truth is I may need to reduce live fire practice further and reduce the inventory goals depending on how fast the ammo market worsens. Hopefully, my market outlook will be incorrect and I will be able to practice more and increase the inventory goals to include enough ammo to attend more training courses, but I’m not holding my breath.

Hunting rifle ammo is also disappearing with the exception of less popular cartridges. Since it’s disappearing I think a good goal is to have enough ammo on hand for at least a few seasons. While hunting ammo can get pretty pricey, my experience and observations leads me to believe that having a hundred or two hundred rounds is sufficient for several seasons. Honestly, I rarely go through a box of 20 rounds per year. I’ve also observed several hunter friends who only buy a box or two of their ammo right before a season starts and don’t keep any more on hand. Those same friends struggled to find ammo this past deer season. For that reason, I think keeping several seasons on hand is a good idea. I suspect a similar goal for handgun and shotgun hunting ammo is probably a good idea.

The struggle to find and afford ammo continues. I hope this post has given y’all something to think about and hopefully assisted in your own practical inventory goal setting. I also hope this post isn’t causing any of y’all to go and start panic buying all the ammo you can find.


  1. My question to everyone hoarding ammo is, “Can you take it with you if you have to move?” If not, it may become someone else’s ammo storage. I keep an ammo can of my major loads (9mm, 7.62, 5.56), and a brick of .22 and shotgun shells. I could throw them in my truck and hit the road if needed. Some of the folks hoarding ammo don’t live in places that are what I consider a compound. Many of them probably need more ammo because they don’t know how to shoot well. It’s like a lucky rabbit’s foot to them. They feel protected because they have it, not because they know how to use it. It’s the common fallacy of preparedness similar to someone carry a firearm, but never having fired a round through it. Maybe I am ranting because I am frustrated by the hoarding.

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