“The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.” Sun Tsu
Ammunition, something most of us have, the form of which depends entirely upon what is allowed where we live. For many of us, firearms are embraced and used. For others slingshots, archery equipment, and even blowguns. Many people have very different approaches to prepping, for myself it is a matter of balance, over the course of my lifetime I have learned to balance my approaches. As a child I was taught archery, firearms, trapping, tracking, stalking and even the use of slingshots. As I got older I continued to practice the use of all of these hunting tools.
Sun Tsu was clear in that he believed that soldiers were better for the ability to either use whatever they could get their hands on, or that they carry adequate supplies on their own person. Supply trains tend to slow an army down, and or any group really. It adds difficulty in that there are additional schedules to keep and routes to protect, maintain and be aware of. For preppers, relying on supplies coming is the last thing we really want. After all, shouldn’t we be prepared to the point where we do not have to rely on additional supplies, rather foraging as we go and having on our persons enough to get from one cache to the next?
For the purposes of this article, we will be concentrating on firearms ammunition. Specifically on what I have found to be the best ammunition for long-term storage and in accuracy, reliability and overall cost efficiency. In the past decade, ammunition has bounced around in both pricing and availability. At the moment it is both available and relatively inexpensive given current economic conditions. The following are several solid tests and sites available for good ballistics information. I have included one written result I published and recently updated.
- 9×19 Ammunition testing for self-defense by Jesse Mathewson
- Active Response Testing
- Lucky Gunner Ammunition testing
- International Ballistics Society
- Applied Ballistics
- Ballistics by the Inch
After ballistics, there are a couple other items that have to be addressed. How are you planning on storing the ammunition? Is it for practice, hunting or self-defense? What are your primary calibers? What are your pricing limits and abilities?
For instance, .45 acp is almost always two or three times the cost of 9×19 for practice and even self-defense ammunition. While it is proclaimed to be an amazing round and the only thing capable of stopping asteroids, the reality is that it is more difficult to shoot, more expensive (practice is essential for solid marksmanship) and in some cases actually less ballistically capable than solid jacketed hollow point (jhp) self-defense ammunition in 9×19. Numerous studies have shown that the bullet itself while important, is not by itself deadly, it must be compared with accurate placement, solid wound making capability and reliability of the firearm and round itself.
Death is caused by rapid exsanguination of the targeted subject, be it four-legged or two. This quite simply is loss of blood, unless you are fortunate enough to place a round severing the spinal cord from the brain, effectively destroying the brain stem, bleeding out is how everything dies when hit with a projectile weapon. Shock may occur, and there are other factors, however, death itself is almost always caused by bleeding out of the targeted subject. With this being said, any firearm is better than none, and a brick is better than a hand, etc,.
So how should we decide what is the best ammunition to store for the long-term and why? As an individual, I see ammunition as an insurance policy, as a result, I refuse to buy ammunition from Wal-Mart as over the past few years the sheer quantity they buy in and reduced pricing they buy at means that in many cases the ammunition sold will not be best quality. I have had several squibs, misfires and failure to fires, I no longer purchase ammunition from that location except for purely practice purposes and ONLY if I cannot get it anywhere else. I utilize on-line retailers to purchase ammunition that I know has a proven record and that has been tested by myself or others whom I have trust in.
For my 22 rimfire needs, the use of Aguila, Eley or if I must, CCI is more than enough. However, for stockpiling and storing I only use Aguila and Eley. Though the cost averages .08 cents through .14 cents for the rounds I prefer it is still half of what I spend on 9×19 and other rounds. I have never had a failure to fire from Aguila, Eley and very very rarely from CCI. Additionally, they are sealed with a thin coat of wax, or are crimped, meaning they will store better for longer even without solid cases surrounding them.
Rim-fire ammunition stores differently than center-fire ammunition due to composition. Most American made rim-fire ammunition utilizes the following per available patent data. “The priming mix of the invention contains dinol as the initiating explosive, manganese dioxide as the oxidizer, tetrazene as the sensitizer and glass as the co-sensitizer and is intended for use in rimfire cartridges such as .22 caliber cartridges.” (Patent number US 4689185) Eley and Eley primed ammunition uses a slightly more stable and more evenly spread mixture resulting in a peanut like odor when discharged. The differences are that Eley primers are lead based, though I would suggest washing your hands after shooting firearms and loading magazines regardless, this is simply another reason to do so. In Chemical Analysis of Firearms, Ammunition and Gunshot Residue authored by James Wallace, the name given the Eley priming mixture is called Eleyprime. It consists of lead monoxide and styphnic acid which alone are safer to handle and produce though before the end of processing a drop of water is added resulting in a chemical reaction that ends with lead styphnate. While chemically no different than most priming approaches, the process is different resulting in a more stable, even primed surface. And the resulting overall consistency from round to round.
Storing this ammunition away from water sources is absolutely essential, use good stable solid dry containers and silica packages during storage. Even though the popular Gator Country reality shows they flaunt their rusted rifles, I would go so far as to say, that not only is that unsafe it is quite clearly lazy behavior. Clean your firearms, and do your best to keep your ammunition (powder) dry and clean as well. I have friends that Barney Fife their ammunition, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that if you have the time. (Barney Fife had one bullet, which he polished religiously every day, several times a day)
When buying 22lr ammunition, remember, there are the types you can rely on, and the types that work well for hunting, storage and survival. What is your life worth? This of course, applies to all ammunitions regardless caliber. I know many people who absolutely love stockpiling corrosive com bloc ammunition because…”its cheap”. Obviously, they plan on having the ability to clean their firearms regularly and thoroughly as well as replace parts corroded due to not getting them clean enough. For myself, I simply do not want to have that many things to consider. I would rather pay extra now to prevent future issues. So when it comes to centerfire ammunition I test and look for the ammunition that works the best in the firearms I have, then I test its ability to sit under water for extended lengths of time or out in the cold, heat and more and still function. Obviously, if you reload you know that temperature and humidity affects a loads power overall. My loads at 3500 ft above sea level will not function the same or have the same POA if they were fired at sea level or at 17000 ft above sea level.
However, minor ballistic changes aside, what ammunitions do I recommend for storage? It’s easy really, I choose milsurp ammunition. For my 5.56/.223 carbines, I use IMI, PPU, GGG or Remingtons PMC as they are all crimped rounds. The IMI is readily available in 55, 62, 69 and 77 grains at the moment and while the cost is between .02 and .06 more per round than most ammunitions. I have found it to be the most stable round to round in testing as well as exceedingly accurate regardless of the platform. So I stockpile IMI ammunition, and do so by preloading magazines and using ammo canisters to store these preloaded magazines. For my 7.62×39 AKs, I only use Golden Tiger rounds, non-corrosive, accurate and sealed. Easily stored, again preloaded and in ammo cannisters. For my 7.62×51 or in my case the 7.5×55 swiss as I do not plan on using it nearly as much as the handguns and carbines, I have purchased several cases of South African ball/ Swiss surplus and sealed it into separate ammunition cases.
For defensive purposes the IMI 55 grn works really nicely as it does what it is supposed too and breaks apart in targets, the 124 grn Golden Tiger also works well, as it tends to tumble after hitting a target due to the length and bullet shape. For distance shooting, I also stockpile a few crates of soft point and hunting type ammunition for distance needs. And for handguns I stock 1-10 boxes of SD ammunition, so for every ten boxes of target/ non-specific sd ammunition I stock a box of SD ammunition and because I prefer CCI Speer Gold Dot for SD ammunition, I purchase Speer Lawman in the same bullet weight, allowing for less expense practicing with virtually the same round. Using desiccant packs and solid storage containers it is easy to ensure ammunition longevity. Do what you can to avoid temperature extremes, this alone is enough to cause instability and a shortened life span in ammunition. For instance, if you bury caches in different places, make sure they are 3 feet below ground level, this will allow for a fairly even temperature regardless what occurs above.
So here are my choices for ammunition for stockpiling, as you have already seen the reasons why I make the decisions I do, with evidence to support them, the list will be rather short, however, it was put together with allot of thought, testing, and research.
- Rimfire ammunition, get the best you can afford, preferably ELEY primed, or CCI ammunition. Remington also makes an ELEY primed round that is very good.
- Centerfire handgun rounds, test these fully for whatever handgun caliber you use. Test for reliability, function, and expansion as well as penetration. 12+ inches with full expansion is essential. I prefer CCI Speer Gold Dot in 115 or 124 grn and Hornady Critical DUTY 135grn, 147+ grns tends to be stopped easier by barriers and I noticed many of the rounds tested failed completely to open up when faced with barriers.
- Centerfire Carbine, Military surplus (NON-CORROSIVE) is essential, they are crimped, and sealed. My choices for 5.56 are IMI, GGG (Lithuania), Remington PMC, Federal milsurp in that order. For 7.62×39 Golden Tiger all the way. Never corrosive unless it is only used for NON long term storage plinking needs.
- Centerfire Rifle, Military surplus South African, IMI or Swiss depending on round used. PPU makes a VERY nice 7.62x54r round that I use in my Mosins.
- If you reload, CRIMP the cases, and you can purchase primer sealants as well. For long-term storage!
- Lastly, amount, I store on average 1000 rounds per firearm, this does not include practice rounds and the like. However, for hard use, 1000 rounds of premier ammunition in premier magazines per weapon. If you do the math on it, it’s actually a very small amount of ammunition. However, it is relatively easy to transport and properly apportioned can get you to the next step, where you use what you take from those who fight against you.
Obviously, while this is my testing, assumptions, and experiences it does mean that alternatives are not only possible they may be better, if you have rounds that are better overall (every listed category) please let me know. I am always open to testing and trying new things. Hope you enjoyed this review and as always, keep your powder dry.
Free the mind and the body will follow