In the “Land of Not Enough Ammunition,” how much ammo should you truly have on hand? There may be no precise answer; maybe it’s a thousand answers, but there really is a way to analyze what you need. Hoard it through impulse buying and you are truly blind; think it through and you’ll be king.
You need what is called a Basic Load for every caliber. Compute that on a one-year requirement – that is, if you could not buy, beg, or borrow any additional ammunition, what amount – per caliber – would last you the next 365 days to train/practice, hunt and defend yourself? Not all Basic Loads must be the same size; what you determine for 9mm is almost certainly not the same as for .30-06. All calibers require practice; some are great for hunting, some not; and for self-defense, some are better than others.
Second, you need a mechanism, on paper or in the computer, so you always know what you currently have. I use an extremely easy Excel spreadsheet that automatically adds or subtracts totals. Maybe it’s overkill, but inside each caliber, I divide that by bullet size and bullet type, because some rounds are better for self-defense than others, etc. If you have four weapons that fire the same caliber, you still only need one Basic Load for that caliber. Remember, it is much better to keep all calibers at Basic Load level, than to be short in several calibers, but way over in one.
Look at your requirements. Practice: I try to hit the range 1-2 times a week, but not always with the same caliber. For me, practice is maintaining muscle memory, so I pull the trigger the same way all the time, switch magazines the same, and improve accuracy so each pistol round I fire from 50 feet down to 7 feet is a disabling shot on an armed attacker. I find that I can do all that with 20-30 rounds of the same caliber per range session. Above that is fun, but doesn’t get improved results for me – if firing more rounds per session makes you better, have at it. So for 9mm, my annual practice requirements of 30 rounds, once per week, over 50 weeks = 1,500. I have better calibers for hunting, so that component is zero for 9mm. Even if we went to a worst-case scenario, I can’t see more than 500 9mm rounds for the year for defense (because I have other weapons that are good defenders also) so my total for 9mm = 2,000. It’s the same for me in .45 ACP.
Hunting for me includes regular hunting trips and local opportunities we currently have. I add in the possibility of food shortages that may drive people to shoot wild game for meat that they usually don’t now. That’s where the .22 Long Rifle comes in. When you have to feed young-uns, sportsmanship goes out the door, shooting pheasants and ducks on the ground is kosher, squirrels and rabbits are meals, and a .22 attracts much less attention than a 12-gauge. And yes, unless you are diplomatic about it, farmers could get really irate if you don’t negotiate, but concerning the 2nd Amendment, we’re all on the same team, so work it out before any triggers are pulled.
For traditional hunting-rifle calibers, Basic Load is very small compared to pistols. You need to annually confirm your zero and make sure the scope is aligned correctly. For me, 100 rounds per rifle caliber = Basic Load. Shotguns require you to subdivide rounds because what is good for pheasant (#5 shot) is not for geese (BB) concerning traditional hunting, and you’ll need buckshot for self-defense. Semi-auto rifles (what the media calls black rifles/automatic rifles/assault rifles) can be used for hunting or self-defense, require practice, and will have a higher Basic Load than a bolt action. Some oddball calibers, like 7X57R, could have a Basic Load as low as 50.
On my spreadsheet I record what I have and what I think I need per Basic Load, per caliber. Once I get to my Basic Load number, I stop buying that caliber. When I drop below Basic Load level, I write it down on a card, so I know what I really need to buy, instead of impulse buying. Don’t spend more on hoarding, buy a Mantis X10 Elite training kit good for pistols, rifles, and shotguns, dry or live fire. It, and other training devices, can save you thousands of practice rounds, just in case your numbers prove incorrect! But they won’t be because you have thought the numbers through.