How long will your stockpiles of ammunition last?

By the Highlander

It’s a question many of us must ask ourselves, and while some have stocked more than others, it’s impossible for any of us to know, definitively, how many days, weeks, or months our ammunition will last. That can be unsettling.

There are many viable options for reusing, manufacturing, and otherwise prolonging your supply of ammunition, but I’d like you to consider another, often-overlooked option among them. It’s one of the oldest, most reliable weapons mankind has ever invented: The sword.

Now, I’m not suggesting you shed your munitions in favor of some Highlander-esque fantasy (just the sight of a gun is a deterrent to a hostile target). Instead, consider the premium that will be placed on ammunition after the collapse, and you start to see the appeal of the sword for certain situations.

For example, imagine a friendly neighbor who, today, would never dream of speaking ill of you, let alone harm you. Post-TEOTWAWKI, the same person, having never prepared tomorrow’s grocery list, let alone their own stockpiles of food and water, will suddenly become a real threat. So will several others.

But does each challenge for your resources require the use of a firearm to defend? Surely not. The sword (or blade) is perfectly suited for protecting yourself from the lesser threats you may encounter on a day-to-day basis: The unarmed, the physically weak, and the mentally unprepared.

Speaking of mental preparation, it’s also useful to spend some time considering your own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses for defending yourself after the collapse. It’s wise to stockpile firearms, ammunition, and whatever other weaponry you choose, but when it comes time to use them, what is your plan? When will you feel comfortable defending yourself with a gun? When will you feel comfortable defending yourself with a sword, hatchet, bow, or your bare hands?

Survival is about preparing both your physical assets and your mental capacity to use them. To demonstrate this, here is a flowchart I’ve prepared for myself to consider the use of each type of weapon:

If ever I find myself in that unfortunate situation, this preparation will help me make a better decision in the heat of the moment about whether to use up precious ammunition or repeal the threat with fewer resources.

Click for full-sized image...

Click for full-sized image…

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. even more important than what you do without ammo..If you bug out,how do you plan to move it? So many claim to have 100k rounds,you’d need a forklift and a semi to store/move it!! Then then thousands of cans of food,rice,wheat,beans,then a wheat grinder,3 generators,500 gallons of fuel…

    • Dean,
      With all of those preps available, you’d be better off planning to shelter in place (i.e., bug in).

    • David Murphy says:

      You would be surprised how little a years supply of food weighs for 2 people. I live about a mile from a lake and a couple of rivers and 47 miles from San Antonio about the same from Austin. There are places closer to those cities to hunt and fish than where I live. I plan on bugging in. Ammo is really heavy. 🙂

  2. Dean,

    Most of us plan to bug in, with bugging out being a last resort. Then we have caches already at out predetermined bug out location.

    See this post…

  3. Highlander & all,
    Whatever weapons assortment you decide to have on hand, make sure that you are relatively competent in their use. Quite often, merely brandishing a weapon will send the opponent off to look for other easier prey; however, sometimes it represents a challenge, which must be met with more than a bluff, lest things end badly for you. Once again, having stuff is not usefull unless you also have the skill to use it.
    It always comes down to skill, knowledge, and stuff; in that order.

    • JeffintheWest says:

      What Ohioprepper said. But I will also say that learning to use a sword, and a bow/crossbow, would not necessarily be a bad idea. They kill silently (barring any screaming) and they are endlessly re-usable.

      I actually learned how to fence in college (I needed a PE elective, and what the hell), and a sword is definitely a weapon where some skill pays off far more than you can imagine. While I’m no Olympic fencer (and frankly don’t like the foil anyway — I prefer the epee and the saber as being more relevant to actual combat), I can guarantee you I can take any untrained person flailing around with a sword in less than five minutes. Likewise, understand the tactics used with the sword you pick. A lot of people think a katana (“samurai sword”) is the be-all, end-all weapon of choice, but Europeans, when first confronted by Japanese samurai using katanas, routinely killed them using epees since the sword techniques were completely different and the samurai had no idea what to expect. As with any martial art, the “best one” is the best one for you — the one you are most comfortable with, and the one you can best use.

  4. axelsteve says:

    I am not into swords although I have a crossbow that needs some help. I may just fix it up before I need it. I would not go zombie hunting with it.follow up shots are too slow.

  5. harp1034 says:

    I have never trained with a sword so I really don’t know how to use one correctly. However, I have trained with a bayonet on the end of a rifle. I also like large bowie knives. 180 years ago a large bowie knife was the sidearm of choice for men on the frontier.

    • Kelekona says:

      I would think bayonet to be a good weapon of choice until there is no more ammo anywhere. You can go through the decision of stabbing or shooting while gripping the right weapon for either choice, and pull the trigger if the blade isn’t enough. (Or use the blade for the double-tap once the bullet has stunned.)

  6. I do not own any guns, but I do know how to use and have used them in the past in a life-threatening situation. I also know that others in my extended family that do have guns.
    However, I do like my bows and blades, and obtaining quality items along with practicing with them has been an important preparation for me.
    The standard Compound Bow with an effective range up to 50-yards, can allow for a more rapid delivery than a Crossbow, so the loaded Crossbow would be a follow through device before coming to the hand-to-hand level.
    Then comes the Katana, which offers a farther reach than the Kukri, which has a further reach than the straight blade knives.
    Practice increases your skill and knowledge of your limitations with each item. When it gets to be hand-to-hand, the unknown is the skills of the opponent.
    Vaya con Dios.

  7. JP in MT says:

    How much ammo is enough is quite the question. It really breaks down to two responses: 1- How much should I have on hand, 2- when can i expect resupply. Just look at the prices people are willing to pay for ammo right now because of their fear of little to no resupply.

    Number 2 is what drives my #1. If I think that I am going to have to last 6 months, and things will be intense, then I will need a lot of defensive ammo with some in the hunting/animal predator category. If it is going to be longer, then I need more of both. If I expect low intensity but longer duration, then less defensive ammo and more hunting ammo. So it goes along with how you envision a “collapse”, both in intensity and duration.

    Weapons are the same. Going to more “primitive” weapons (bows, crossbows, long knives, and swords) is great if you expect that “conflict” will outlast ammunition supplies, and resupply will be small or non-existent. Or you are a mulch-generational planner. I can only guess what will be needed and for how long. I don’t think any of us has the financial resources necessary to cover all the bases.

    Articles like this one bring out another alternative, that may very well give you options to go with your finances and mind-set.

  8. Blades are a very important part of prepping. One type of blade many over look and one that has been used for a long time and maybe longer than the sword is the spear. Basically a bayonet on a stick. I have a few machetes, swords of different types and a few blades that can be made into spears, and have practiced with them, I really like the cold steel bushman since it is a good chopping knife and has a hollow handle so it can be put on a pole and is very affordable. The Romans conquerd most of the known world at their time with the short sword , shield and spear.
    Now that being said firearms will still be a valuable tool but remember the 20 foot rule.

  9. Rider of Rohan says:

    Never bring a knife(or a sword for that matter) to a gunfight. Don’t you remember that scene in Indiana Jones where he pulls out his pistol and dispatches the sword expert? If someone is coming after your food or supplies, I would imagine they might have an effective weapon, so be careful. Do not rely on edged weapons when firearms are common. Later on, a good machete is both a nice tool and weapon. A sword not so much, but I understand where you are coming from.

    • I agree, RoR. As you say, guns first, but after one is out of more effective weapons, a big edged weapon is a lot better than a mop.

      By chance I picked up another used machete today at the local swap meet. Both big – 21 1/2 inch blade- and quite heavy with a fair bit of the weight out near the tip, I expect it will be quite useful for around the yard chores.

      As I said above, tho, for most jobs I prefer the Ka-Bar Black Cutlass Machete. It is short enough -11 1/2″ blade- to work in tight quarters and for convenient belt carry, but the very deep blade gives it a lot of weight for chopping.

  10. With respect, I’m pretty sure Betty White could take Chuck Norris 😉

    • A frag would take out all of them at the same time . Dont forget about ” area of affect ” type devices .

      Disclaimer : I’m not advocating making and storing such devices , however , having the knowledge of how could be a benefit if one found themselves in a ” situation “

  11. After reading Selco’s experiences in Bosnia , and mind you , he stated it was just for a year before things in his area got normalized because of US intervention . I would get as much as you can ………..period . He also suggests keeping your weapon array simple as far as calibers go , this is because you may need to take from the dead , and you want what will be the most likely to find . That Mauser may be your favorite rifle , but most of what your likely to find is .223 , 7.62×39 , 308, etc. Same thing with pistols , 9mm will be one of the most common if you have to scrounge .

    • G. L. Porter says:

      “9mm will be one of the most common”

      True, and actually the only reason I own a 9mm. Don’t like them, consider them ladies’ purse guns — I was one of those on the Army Staff back in the early 80s arguing against replacing the .45 with the 9mm popgun.

      However, it’s going to be the easiest scroungable ammo available, most likely what any attacker will carry, so I may as well have a decent platform to shoot it.

      Personally, almost all my SHTF firearms are either bolt action, revolvers or pump guns, since I’m not a gunsmith & don’t stock extra parts. I do have some semi’s, like the old M1 carbine, but won’t ever trust my life to something that can jam.

      Just a personal whim based on 21 yrs in the Army and a long time as a competition shooter.

  12. I’m too old for a sword or maybe just too lazy. I’d rather just start and end with a firearm. As far as having enough ammo and being skilled in the use of firearms whatever ammo I have now will probably have to do and my skill is low at best. My mental prep consists of walking through the steps (in my mind), most every night before climbing into the bed, of being awakened in the middle of the night by an intruder.
    Also go through situations I think may occur in SHTF scenario. A little weak but the best I can do.

  13. tommy2rs says:

    Get a machete and go out and cut grass, weeds, brush as fast as you can to see how long it takes you to get winded. That’s what using a sword in a fight is like. When you’re winded, gasping and unable to raise your arm any longer, you’re dead. The next day see if you can do it again or if the muscle groups used for this are too sore to work. I took fencing in college and have kept up with it by using my saber made in 1896 to workout with. Plus I cut brush most of the summer with machetes, brush hooks and ditch blades. These days I’m good for about an hour, tops, before having to take a rest. That’s the price of age and arthritis….lol.

    So I made pikes. Get a replacement long wooden shovel handle (or some hardwood dowels if you want them longer) and a 2′ section of rebar. Drill a hole in the end of the shovel handle about 6-8 ” deep and just a bit oversize for the rebar and then fill it with epoxy glue. Insert rebar and make sure it stays plumb as it dries. It can sharpened with nothing more than a file but a grinder is much faster. Rinse and repeat until you’re happy with the number you have. I heated and hammered out a simple leaf blade shape on a few but even with tempering just the sharpened rebar is stronger.

    Or buy an arrow hoe, heat the shaft red hot and hammer it out flat. Now you have a Barbed pike, though I cut the barbs off (resulting in a diamond shape) as they would ensure that you lose the pike when the barbs cause it to stick in the target.

    • When it comes to knives, I am a fan of the Bowie knife as well. A side effect of being born and raised in The Republic of Texas. Just not sure a short woman with short arms can defend herself with a knife. A pickaxe is a nice tool…Home Depot has a small one you can swing quite alot before you get winded. It is great for gardening, zombies, possums in the chicken coop, and lots of other stuff….I have to admit being intrigued by the pikes, Tommy. I do own a grinder, so maybe I will give it a shot.

      • Survivor says:

        Take a look at the youtube video TR provided. A short woman with short arms would be pretty devastating and the feller in the video shows how to get in close. Be advised the guy uses foul language in his presentation.

  14. My ammo supply will last as long as there are DHS agents walking around with ammo on them.

  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Has anyone else considered the Assengi short spear? Cold Steel makes one for the U.S. market. Appears to me to be pretty useful useful in tight spaces.

    • I’d recommend a blade in the style of the Roman gladius. There’s a “machete” in that style available through Amazon. I have one; it may not be weapon-quality, but I suspect it would function well enough. And likely it’s better metal than the Romans had.

      In terms of use style, the gladius and the Assegai are similar — short for closed-rank fighting.

    • Pineslayer says:

      j.r. in The Great State of Texas, I have that spear, very handy. I also have the Boar Spear, throwing spears, Spears made from the Bushman. I purchased a bunch of those Bushmans as seconds and have been giving them away as gifts to people in need. One little upgrade to the Bushman Spear would be to use a small eye screw to attach it to the shaft. You can easily tighten it in the field and attach a rope to it for harpoon play. CS’s Boar Spear is a beast and just the sight of it freaks people out, much like a 12 Gauge 🙂 Sharp pointy sticks have been settling disputes for a long time.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

        I 2nd you on those CS Bushman’s, they are practical ‘beater knives’ that do a lot for not a lot of money. I like them for DIY field made ‘pole knife’ for clearing shooting lanes from high tree branches. A shorter length handle for bush axe – yeah, those knives are practical down here too!

  16. Harold says:

    In a down and dirty fight, due to age and infirmary I prefer my trusty flamethrower. You can make one quite easily with a can of hair spray, wasp spray (two fold purpose as it works as a mace substitute) and a bic lighter.

  17. Well I keep a lot of ammo on hand, because I shoot a lot, so I haven’t noticed the current ammo shortage
    Good fighting blades should be part of the arsenal, I like a combo of Bowie (Cold Steel) and Hawk (SOG)
    In reality once the SHTF and we are in real fights, pretty much anything past one load out (Example:10-30 round mags for an AR, and 5 mags for pistol) is all you need, by the time you use it you will have either captured ammo, or you are dead. I’d highly suggest Lt Col (ret) Dave Grossman’s books “ON Killing” and “On Combat”, to understand the true nature of the toxic environment called combat

  18. OK, serious considerations of tactical decisions here… that flowchart was epic! Bonus points for working a Monty Python reference into it.

  19. Brad in South FL says:

    I have to tell ya my tomahawk is a very intimidating weapon! It is both fast, concealable, and can do a lot of damage. Nice to have but I wouldn’t want to be trying anything without at least a hand gun on me and a rifle close at hand!

    Stay safe all!

    • Survivor says:

      I have a tomahawk as well and have been experimenting with holding it down by the blade with the handle up. That way you have a slashing weapon (the blade) and a short, stout club (the handle). Add a knife to your off hand with the cutting edge up and you’d be able to gut someone pretty quick. The best defense is a great offense.

  20. One of the best bits of advice from the otherwise lacking “Zombie Attack Survival Guide” (It’s humor, not a prepper book) is that blades don’t need re-loading. Good to consider.

  21. k. fields says:

    Whatever edged weapon you’re considering relying on for self defense, be sure the grip is rough – almost to the point of being uncomfortable.
    Blood (when flowing) is incredibly slippery.

  22. Prepping Wife. says:

    I liked this article! Love the flow chart – good read and great thing to consider! I vote for this one!

  23. Ah, now… In the first place, very few of my neighbors are apt to be a problem to start with. Low population, and high level of self reliance.

    Second, I’m an old woman with poor upper body strength. My .45 and related cousins are far more effective. I hit what I aim at.

    And I have sons… most of whom live nearby and reload.

    No lad, we’re not going to be worrit about ammunition.

  24. Kelekona says:

    Is the throwing stick something to under-estimate?

    The naginata is a lady’s weapon, basically a slashing spear.

  25. Okay, I like the low tech simplicity of swords, but don’t you also need to wear a shield on the other arm to protect yourself against a skilled swordsman? And do a lot of weight-lifting to pump up those biceps to weild a sword really effectively? And maybe wear some metal armor or chain mail on your chest and thighs? And being mounted on a well-trained warhorse might be a good idea too so you could have the advantage of height and speed over an un-mounted opponent. Might also be a good idea to have your own personal squire to keep the sword, shield and metal armor rust-free and the warhorse groomed and fed and to help your get into the saddle. One perk would be you could expect to be addressed as “My Lord.” Of course you would have to be careful to stay out of range of those pesky crossbowmen.

  26. Exile1981 says:

    Problem with a sword is it is hard to find a good one, most of the ones you can find are more decorative than functional. You’ll have a hard time keeping an edge on it because of the cheap quality steel and it will likely break if you use it to perry anything. Instead I prefer a short machete, those are cheaper and they hold an edge and can be used for clearing brush besides as a weapon. Alternatively you can get a boar spear or regular spear as a weapon.

  27. melaniemcgee says:

    Up close and personal one could do worse than a framing hammer from your favorite big box store. Extends your reach by about a foot. Any part of it applied with force to any part of them would disable if not kill. Has the added advantage of being able to say, “Officer, that’s not a weapon … that’s a hammer.” Never runs out of ammo, doesn’t need sharpening, can open carry anywhere, and could even drive a nail with it.

  28. hvaczach says:

    My first choice is shoot till it goes click. Then I would move on to an atlatl, It allows you to remain at a distance to avoid the ultra violent hand to hand struggle, and it has to be somewhat unnerving to have someone chucking six foot long spears at you at 50 miles per hour. But if it gets close a short handled ax can be effective in as much as it helps you create inertia. Throwing tomahawks while I don’t own one have also been proven very effective through out history. the only problem with any of these is compared to a fire arm they rely upon lots of strength and a trained skill set to use and if you don’t keep practicing you will lose the skill. I fear that at the time of TEOTWAWKI we will notr have all of the luxery’s we have grown accustomed to and daily living is gonna be a very difficult task. It may not lend itself to several hours of weapons training a week. So I guess my point is having a back up plan is great but how practical is the implimentation.

  29. Daviid G. says:

    Just my two cents but I’ve grown to love my 26″ Estwing camping ax.

    • G. L. Porter says:

      ” my 26″ Estwing camping ax.”

      Great ax (long hatchet?), but I don’t like those leather handles on most of the Estwings (pretty as they are), and apply rubber sleeves over them, just like my sledgehammer & splitting maul.

      Incidentally, if anyone is planning on using wood for heat or fuel, you should learn about the Wood Grenade. Cheap, tho a bit hard to find, but makes splitting firewood very easy & quick, and you can usually do it inside near the fireplace instead of out in the weather.

      Looks more or less like a steel ice cream cone. You stick the point into the end of the firewood, whack it with even a small sledge, and it splits in two (some models have extra ribs and split into four, if you’re lucky).

      Lost my original, and when I finally found a Home Depot that had some, I bought six at about 5 bucks apiece.

  30. How much ammo do you need? I don’t think anybody will need thousands of rounds. I wouldn’t stay and fight a massive mob of people. I’d run, live to fight bother day. And when you’re running, you’re not going to be carrying thousands of rounds of ammo. It’s too heavy.
    If you have prepped, and are “bugging in” the last thing you want is to give away your position by shooting. Hopefully, you’ll keep a low profile and survive quietly.
    If you have run, or are “bugging out”, same thing. Only shoot as a last resort. Remember, once you shoot everyone knows you have weapons, and something worth defending.

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