How Much Ammo Should You Have in Your Bug Out Bag?

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.

9mm ammo
9mm ammo

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.

This begs the question: How much ammo should be in your bug-out bag?

Considering long guns, you should carry at least 3 magazines for a rifle totaling between 60-90 rounds, or about 50 shells for shotgun. Concerning handguns, 3 to 5 pistol magazines totaling between 30-90 rounds is adequate for a self-defense load.

This load should include any other required ammunition feeding devices.

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.

But First…

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 Your 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.

My shotgun, if carried, has 40 rounds of buckshot and 14 slugs.

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.

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.

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.

Consider Space and Bulk

If you depend upon a shotgun as your primary weapon or a revolver as your secondary, your ammunition storage and carry requirements will very compared to magazine fed rifles and pistols.

The vast majority of shotguns are fed with single shells, one at a time and the same can be said for revolvers.

However, storing shells loosely means they will be difficult to access, difficult to account for and generally just get in the way. This counts too for loose revolver cartridges.

Sure, one may keep the ammunition in its factory box for convenience, but these usually don’t travel too well being pounded in a heavily loaded backpack.

A better option is to utilize cards, caddies and other shell or cartridge holders that will keep the ammunition secure and easy to access.

Revolver shooters might also wish to utilize speed loaders to keep ammunition moving to and into the gun at a good pace.

These various ammunition storage solutions and feeding devices add weight and bulk, however negligible, so make sure you account for them in turn when figuring out your required ammunition load.

Careful How Much You Take With You

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.

bug out bag ammo pinterest

updated 03/04/2022

11 thoughts on “How Much Ammo Should You Have in Your Bug Out Bag?”

  1. Cache that heavy stuff. Don’t get bogged down in the mog mile fantasy.
    Take some of it to a friends house for them to hold for you or better yet form a team that would support you even if you showed up empty handed or if they showed up to you that way.

  2. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH AMMO. If you go without a comfort for another couple of mags. So be it. Comforts can be acquired. With enough ammo.

    1. Food water and warmth are essentials and not comfort. These are your pound for pound requirements. Proper planning let’s you stash ammo along the route (primary and secondary) to you BOL. I agree never enough but bug out smart and get to next objective.

  3. Weight WILL be the major consideration to look at which should make you double think your choice in a bug out weapon. if you are not figuring on having to do battle then going with an AR or a shotgun or AK doesn’t really make sense as you are going to limit the amount of ammo you can carry as stated. If you were going with a .22 you could easy carry 1000 rounds. The situation will be different for everyone

  4. FIRST…every ounce counts. Picking your own items AFTER getting your more or less “Mandatory” MUST HAVE items…Water/Food/Etc. When deciding on your personal carry items Make every item you can have more than one purpose. Don’t forget any medications or spare eye glasses or contact lenses and a small bottle of solution for them….and spare Sunglasses. These should be on your Mandatory items among other things.

    THAT being said.

    You did not mention how many rounds/shells for a shotgun to have in the BOB.
    So…..What is the answer?

    You can slam .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO all you like. The 5.56 NATO was designed and created for the Troops to be able to carry more ammo at a lighter weight. No debating or arguing about that.
    BUT the …. The .308 can reach out further and is capable of taking any critter on the North American Continent with appropriate ammo and bullet placement.

    They might not own an AR or an AK….They could have an M-1 30 Carbine or an SKS or M-1A or M-1 Garand or whatever else.

    They might on a Bolt rifle or even a Lever. The lever rifle could be chambered in a handgun round. Such as .357 Magnum and a revolver in the same caliber also allowing to shoot .38 Special ammunition in both the rifle and the revolver as just one example. While not ideal, they can be made to work. After all, the idea is to get yourself to a Rally Point or a place with supplies and safety and NOT get into a firefight.
    Perhaps a compact “High Capacity” 9mm with no less than Two extra “High Capacity” magazines as a backup.
    Just something to consider…

    Only you can decide what fits your personal needs…and your personal tastes and what you can or cannot carry or want to carry and what is too heavy or too bulky or whatever may exceed our capabilities are.

    A lot depends on your personal preference along with your taste and proficiency and knowledge and capability with the firearms or whatever weaponry (if any) you have chosen to use,

    Perhaps a Ruger 10/22 or a Take Down 10/22. It can easily hold 25-30 round magazines that can be snapped and taped together with Duct tape. There are higher capacity magazines readily available. The .22 LR can be and is quite deadly with proper bullet placement. While I would prefer another rifle and caliber, I am only traveling from point A to point B where there is cache with supplies and avoiding contact to get there. I could make the Take Down or Carbine work. I do not recommend this to anyone unless they are highly proficient with the weapon.

    Eskimos take Polar Bears with .22 LR and I would never want to be in such a situation, NOR would I recommend anyone try it.

    I know you cannot cover all possible situations or scenarios. No one possibly could and overall i did like your article.
    With the exception of not mentioning the amount or number of shotgun type of rounds to have on hand and in the bag.

  5. I’d say the important thing to remember is that you are *not* a military force, and therefore should not be acting like one. A lot of the ammunition military forces carry these days is for “suppression” fire, i.e. keeping the enemy pinned down during a protracted firefight until air support and the big guns can be brought in to obliterate them. You and anyone who’s with you have no air support or big guns, and should be doing everything you can to avoid having any firefights whatsoever, let alone protracted ones.

    For best results, as others have already said, it’s best to cache your ammunition beforehand at your destination, and carry just enough with you on your journey for emergencies (e.g. for hunting if your journey takes longer than anticipated and you need some meat in your diet, or for taking out a few random thugs attacking you for your resources). If you encounter an actual military force or anything like it (e.g. a roadblock with dozens of well-armed guys manning it) on your journey, a road map and a pair of binoculars to help you spot and evade those forces (before they can spot and pursue you) will be more useful than all the ammunition in the world. The whole point of “bugging out” is to survive; hunting and killing bad guys is a military force’s job, not yours.

  6. If your reason for carrying ammunition is to “acquire” comforts, you will soon be summarily executed and your corpse will likely be fed to your intended victims’ dogs; which serves you right for being criminal predatory vermin.

    1. Exactly! The above posters comment did not pass me bye. Stated more ammo will get you more comforts basically. Guys like that, and those attitudes, will get a round to the base of the skull from behind, if I figure them out. People like that to me are as despicable as pedofiles, rapists and arsonists. Let’s call them what they are, predatory oprotunust murderers. They will be dealt with accordingly.

  7. For me on foot x10 30rd magazines = 300 rds

    Be the gray man. Jeans, t-shirt, hoodie, normal looking person with a hiking backpack
    Dont be a lone wolf

    God Bless

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