What should you keep in your BOB, and how much of it? More ink has been spilled, more conversations started and more arguments ignited over this topic than anything else in prepperdom. A close second is the topic of guns and ammunition so it is only natural that the two often meet and mingle.
While scarce few preppers think you should not have a firearm of some kind for self-defense in a crisis, there are altogether too many who make the gun and its attendant ammo the starring role in preparedness, including the packing of the bug out bag.
On the other hand, facing down an immediate lethal threat with a paltry amount of ammo, or a possibly persistent threat in a longer term situation, is not a recipe for success.
In this article, I’ll make a case for how much ammo is appropriate for a bug-out bag.
As a quick aside, or disclaimer, rather, take everything I say on this with a grain of salt. There is no way I can anticipate or expound on every conceivable set of variables that affect your plan.
So if what I am recommending in regards to approach, assessment, planning or anything else drastically conflicts with what you know you’ll have to do, ignore it. That being said, I am confident that what I have to say will be applicable for a majority of preppers in the U.S..
For prepping in general, and especially when packing a BOB or some other container holding survival essentials, it pays to keep in mind the things you must have to survive.
Speaking broadly, we can go three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in severe climate conditions, three days without water and three weeks or more without food. Sure, you can nitpick those numbers all day and all night, but without getting off in the weeds you get my drift, surely.
There is one other need that is not quantified by any of the above factors, and that is security. Security is one of those human needs that you can almost forget about in good times, but when the time comes that you do need it, you need it most desperately.
Aside from defensive skills and training, one of the more important components in your security plan is weaponry. In our age, the firearm is the premier personal weapon and offers the most advantages when the chips are down.
Of course, no gun is worth much without ammo and each, and that brings us to the meat of the question: how much ammo is enough? How much should I carry in my bug out bag?
Weight, Weight, Weight
Unless you are brand-spanking new to prepping, you will already be well acquainted with the adage to pay attention to ounces you carry, lest they become pounds.
A difference of even a few pounds in your pack can make a big difference on both body and the pack itself. Heavier packs mean you’ll expend drastically more energy to move the same distance in the same time frame.
Loading a pack with more weight also increases the chances of a mishap, either from a slip or stumble or some minor disaster like a blown pack wall or busted strap. You must justify every ounce you carry against your energy budget and your material needs!
News Flash: cartridge ammunition is heavy. A loaded AR magazine weighs about a pound. So does a couple of pistol mags or a few revolver speedloaders.
Bigger calibers weigh more, so you hard dudes who just have to have your .308 are going to pay the piper. It is tempting, in the face of societal upheaval or raw uncertainty to literally or figuratively “load for bear” but doing so might endanger your overall chances of success.
You want to avoid fights, but in case you can’t have enough ammo to extricate yourself from one and have some leftover for bagging game (if possible) to put meat on the dinner table.
Remember Objective When Bugging Out
Give yourself a gut check and think real hard about what it is you are trying to achieve when bugging out. If you are bugging out at all, it means you either cannot stay where you are without substantial risk in the face whatever crisis is pending or ongoing, or the situation has deteriorated so much that safer pastures must be sought.
Ideally, you will be bugging out to a prepared or at least known location, and in the case of the former one you have stashed more survival goodies and commodities at, ammo included.
In such an instance, you want to carry only enough ammo to handle likely threats assuming you act intelligently to avoid trouble.
If you set out to “put boot to ass” along the way with nary a though given to how that will affect your outcome you need to do two things: One, take a big running start and slap yourself and, two, come back to reality.
Your objective is to survive, not vanquish every looter, criminal and marauder. That means, hopefully, no running gun fights, no pitched battles and no set-piece shootouts.
How Much Ammo is Enough?
Not as much as you may be thinking. Using myself as an example, I carry a primary and secondary firearm as part of my bug-out kit.
My “actual” primary, my EDC pistol, becomes my secondary in a bug-out event, and my long gun stashed with my BOB becomes my primary. As a rule this is a rifle (AR-15), but depending on circumstances in my life it could be replaced with a shotgun.
The rifle will have two or three 30-round magazines, tops. That’s 60 or 90 rounds. My pistol will have three spares in the BOB, 54 additional rounds that bring my total to 90 rounds for the handgun including what I carry on my person habitually.
If that does not seem like a ton of ammo, it isn’t: most of my bug-out ammo will be vehicle-borne, and if I have to ditch the vehicle or lose access to it all I will have is what is in the BOB when I head out on foot.
I am completely confident in my ability to make tracks, fast, and head away from chance encounters with people in such circumstances while I move toward my next BOL or safe harborage.
Again, I am in no way out to dole out hot lead and death. Each cartridge is a precious opportunity to solve a problem that has gone out of its way to get me.
Yes, in a gunfight you may very well be going through ammo like candy corn on Halloween, but your mission (if you want to call it that) in a bug-out situation is just to break contact and get away from the threat.
That might take the shape of filling a scumbag in with a few screaming 5.56mm rounds, or cracking off half a mag of pistol ammo in their general direction to suppress them or catalyze their attack.
At any rate, the above load will be enough to get you through a handful of short, sharp engagements, which, assuming you are rolling by yourself or in a duo/small party, is all you are able to deal with anyway.
Overloading your BOB with ammo is not optimal, and fending off human threats is likely not of primary concern for most. Ammo is heavy, and considering you cannot eat it, you must carefully justify every single round you plan to store in your bug-out bag.
Careful analysis and pre-planning should include the caching or pre-emplacement of ammunition stores to alleviate the burden of carrying large quantities of heavy ammo.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.