by Amy S.
I hate to break it to you, but a gun is absolutely useless for self-defense if you don’t have any ammo for it!
Well, I guess the gun isn’t completely useless. You could bluff and pretend there is ammo in it. Or you could smack someone on the outside of the head with it. 😉 But let’s all agree that a gun is going to be a LOT more effective if you’ve got ammo for it.
So, it is no wonder that one of the most asked questions in the prepping and survivalist community is, “How much ammo should I stockpile for SHTF prepping?”
As a general rule, you should stockpile 2,000 rounds of ammunition per caliber. More modest estimates put the number at around 800 rounds. Some preppers also give the smart advice of choosing firearms which use less-common ammunition because it will be easier to find.
But I don’t want to talk about how much ammo to stockpile. I want to talk about how to find ammo when SHTF and you’ve run out of ammo, it’s been stolen from you, or you simply can’t get to your stockpile.
Choosing your SHTF Rifle
If I’m thinking SHTF Guns and Ammo, I’m thinking in terms of ammo bartering, ammo reloading, weight and reliability in all environments. I’m thinking when SHTF there is no more ammo to be had. Everyone is going to buy as much Ammo as they can. Remember the panic buying in the first half of 2013? That was nothing! And with a box of 1000 rounds (5.56×45 Ammo – AR-15) costing more than $300 not everyone can afford stockpiling in time.
Option 1: Steal Ammo
I legally need to include a disclaimer that I am NOT recommending that you steal anything! I’m talking about total SHTF situations where you have run out of ammo for your gun.
Even in those SHTF cases, I still wouldn’t recommend stealing ammo. Because who the hell are you going to steal the ammo from? Obviously it will be someone with a gun – and you don’t want to steal from someone who could shoot you dead!
But stealing ammo is still an option. You might want to work on you lock-picking stills and learn how to sneak into places without being seen.
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Option 2: Bartering for Ammo
When SHTF, money will no longer have any value and bartering for goods will be the new currency.
While none of us can predict for sure what will happen, I’m guessing that ammo is going to be the new gold in this SHTF economy. It will take a LOT of goods to barter for even one cartridge!
Even if you think you have stockpiled enough ammo or aren’t worried about it for some reason, it still is a good idea to stockpile some bartering goods. You never know what item you might end up needing and having surpluses for bartering could help you out there.
Option 3: Make Your Own Ammo
First off, I need to point out that the terms bullet, ammo, and cartridge are often incorrectly used – even by firearm owners.
When people say “bullet,” oftentimes they really mean cartridge.
A cartridge is the complete package which consists of 4 parts:
When you fire, the primer is expended and sets off the powder which causes the bullet to come out of the barrel.
Casings can be used numerous times because they usually remain intact. However, you will need to replace the primer, powder, and bullet each time you fire your gun.
This said, it is possible to make your own ammo.
Step 1: Making the Bullet
When a bullet comes out of the gun, it will be too deformed to be reused as it is. Instead, you need to melt the bullet down and cast it. Of course, this is assuming that you are able to retrieve the spent bullet at all!
What if you can’t retrieve the spent bullet?
One solution is to find scrap lead and melt this down to cast. Tactical Review has a great video on how to do this using lead tire weights.
Step 2: The Primer
If you think you will need to make your own ammo when SHTF, then you should stockpile primers. However, it is impossible to make your own ammo primers.
I really love this video from Jon which shows how to reuse spent primers. Be warned that this may be dangerous to try and should only be used as info for SHTF planning!
Step 3: The Powder
Here is where things get really tricky with making your own ammo from scratch. You’ll need to have gun powder.
It is possible to make your own Black Powder – which is the traditional gun powder used by our forefathers.
I’ve got to be honest here. I am really queasy about the idea of making my own black powder. The stuff is explosive.
Even if you just want to practice making it a few times for SHTF planning, it might be illegal to make. So don’t be rash or do anything stupid.
Do your research before trying to make explosives like black powder!
With that said, the formula for black powder is:
75% potassium nitrate (5 parts)
15% charcoal (1 part)
10% sulfur (2/3 of 1 part)
Of course, the question is where the hell will you get these 3 black powder ingredients when SHTF! I’m not trying to be discouraging, just realistic. If you are serious about ammo security for SHTF, then you’ll probably want to stockpile lots of powder so you can reload ammo.
Again, be warned that powder is explosive so check the laws about how much you can keep at your home.
Step 4: Reloading the Ammo
Now that you’ve got your bullet, powder, primer, and casing, you are ready to reload!
The downside here is that you need to have equipment to reload a bullet. You’ll need:
- A reloading press
- Powder measure
- Screwdriver and Allen wrenches
- May also need: Lube pad, Vernier caliper, and bullet puller
A complete ammo reloading kit will probably cost you about $400. If you fire practice rounds regularly, it might be worth it to get one of these.
Most people who reload ammo do so to save money.
However, if you are really concerned for SHTF, then this might be a worthy investment for your safety and security.
How To Make All Natural Black Powder
You have stockpiled ammo. How much? It doesn’t matter. No matter how much ammo you have it will eventually run out. Maybe not in your lifetime, but your kids and their kids. Or hey if you are like me and don’t have enough money to go out and buy a million rounds of ammo then ammo depletion will run out much more quickly. So at some point the ability to make your own black powder will be more valuable than anything.
The good news is it is very doable. The bad news is that it isn’t a simple quick process. There are many recipes and where you live could impact which recipe you choose. Bad news is not all recipes are equal.
First a bit of unnecessary chemistry and physics. As things turn to gas their volume increases greatly. It is simply this volume increase that is so useful with black powder. As it burns its volume increases. But if it doesn’t burn fast enough it isn’t very useful. Because the volume increase does no good if it doesn’t generate high pressures and once the bullet is pushed from your barrel any gunpowder that has not yet burned will be wasted. Explosives are a category of chemicals that react fast enough to be useful in weapons and mining and other things as well. So we are looking to make something that not only burns like dry wood but goes through a similar reaction (yes burning wood is a chemical reaction of wood to air) in less than a second.
Point here is that all the recipes below will work but some will burn faster than others and you want faster. Ideally you want to use a recipe with sulfur. As this ingredient will greatly enhance the rapidity of reaction. And it is the speed of the reaction that is important when talking about firing a gun. Unfortunately for me I live in an area that I am not likely to be able to obtain this ingredient. So my black powder is not going to be as good as someone with access to sulfur.
So before you can make your black powder you need to determine which of the following ingredients you have the ability to make on your own. Here is a list with link on how to make each possible ingredient.
1. Saltpeter aka Potassium Nitrate
You don’t need each of these ingredients. It depends on your recipe. That is simply a list of ingredients for all of the recipes.
Here are some black powder recipes!
75 parts of saltpeter
15 parts of char coal, and (Parts given by weight)
10 parts of sulfur
100 parts of saltpeter
24 parts of char coal
45 parts of saltpeter
5 parts sugar
9 parts charcoal
Keep in mind that these ratio’s are not written in stone. Since each batch of your ingredients is likely to vary it is always a good idea before mixing the ingredients to run some test varying the ratios of the ingredients to find what works best. But these recipes should be a good starting point.
Note: This is just a list of ingredients so far. There is more to the process then just mixing the ingredients.
How to take your ingredients and combine them to make gunpowder!
Step 1 Ball mill each of the ingredients separately.
Step 2 Mix in the proper ration the sulfur and charcoal.
Step 3 Add isopropyl alcohol to charcoal/sulfur and mix throughly.
Step 4 Measure 1/4 cup (40 ml) of water for every 1/2 cup (100 grams) of Saltpeter aka potassium nitrate in an old pan. Add your potassium nitrate. Bring to a boil. Stir continuously. Add little bits of water at intervals until the potassium nitrate is completely dissolved.
Step 5 Add the charcoal/sulfur or sugar mixture to your pot of boiling potassium nitrate. To attain the proper recipe solution. Stir.
Step 6 Add the hot solution to your isopropyl alcohol. Stir together.
Step 7 Let cool. Quicker the better???
Step 8 Filter everything through a cloth to remove all liquid buy squeezing out the liquid.
Step 9 Begin to dry the gunpowder slowly. Do not use artificial heat such as a stove or oven.
Step 10 Press the Black powder through a fine sieve while it is still slightly damp. Then spread the small pellets out to dry completely.
Step 11 Store your black powder in a cool, dry place. Plastic or Glass containers with lids work great.
You are finished… Finally!
*Note You can substitute drinking alcohol or even water for isopropyl alcohol.
*Note The above steps are not the only way to do this. Some simply mix the ingredients and then wet with water, and push through a 16 hole per inch screen when damp. To wet it won’t go through the screen. To dry it will not stay clumped.
*Note The object of these steps is to get the potassium nitrate infused into the charcoal as much as possible. The sieve pelletizes the gunpowder. Gunpowder needs to be pelletized so that when the first part of the gunpowder ignites it can more quickly ignite all the powder at once instead of having to burn through the powder to ignite the rest.