I recently asked the question, How much ammo do you carry (ie on your person). What about a similar question – how much ammunition do you keep for your various firearms?
I’ve asked that question of friends, and have received answers back ranging from ‘a few boxes (of 50)’ to one person who proudly declared he had 26,000 rounds – 11,000 rounds of his preferred pistol caliber and 15,000 rounds of his preferred rifle caliber, plus assorted boxes of other calibers as well.
And you probably know of people rumored to have over 100,000 rounds of ammo. That’s actually getting close to the point where you have to wonder exactly why they have so much.
This website has a survey showing how much ammunition its readers have. The result suggests an average gun owner may have between 1,000 and 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and 20% have more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition (you might want to save this in case you’re ever accused of being un-normal and unreasonable, assuming you have less than say 10,000 rounds).
Every time I read about someone being arrested and described as having ‘an arsenal of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition’ I cringe, because that can describe many of us. How big is an ‘arsenal’ of weapons, anyway? And who cares – there’s nothing that says you can’t legally own 100 guns as legitimately as you can own one gun.
The references to ‘arsenals’ of guns, usually followed by horrified references to ‘assault weapons’ and ‘multiple hand guns’ have nothing to do with a person’s innocence or guilt of anything, any more than may a reference to a person owning hundreds or thousands of movies or books or anything else.
As for ammunition, in some ways this can be even more sensitive a subject for the media. Whereas a person with many firearms might conceivably be a bona fide collector, a person with many thousands of rounds of ammunition can surely only be – as may be suggested by thinly veiled hints – not just an extremist and paranoid, but one of those crazy ‘white supremacist survivalists’ as well (why do we hear so little of black supremacists and hispanic supremacists – both of which are present in at least equal numbers?).
This can even be used against one in a law suit to do with your use of your firearm(s) in some situation or another. Owning an unusual number of guns, and a distinctively massive amount of ammunition, puts you on the defensive right from the start, and will be used to brand you as someone who is obsessed with guns and shooting.
And then there is also the concern about the ‘danger’ of storing thousands of rounds of ammunition. What say there’s a fire and you’ve got bullets going off all around the place? Might the exploding bullets accidentally kill some innocent neighbors or firemen?
Okay, so let’s look at these various issues.
The Danger of Ammo in a Fire
Let’s take the easiest issue first – the danger of ammunition in a fire. Have a look at this Youtube video which shows what happens when bullets explode from heat.
Mythbusters tested a .22 round, a .44 round and a .50 round in the video. All bullets exploded when they got sufficiently hot (about 500 F), and no-one denies that bullets will explode in a house fire.
But neither the .22 nor the .44 exploded with sufficient force to even shatter the glass in the front of the oven. The .50 cal round shattered one of the two layers of oven glass, but not the other layer.
The reason that exploding bullets are relatively safe is because the bullets explode in an unconstrained unfocused manner. The energy from the explosion spreads close to evenly in all directions. A cartridge fired in a gun has basically only one direction to focus its energy – down the barrel and out. A bullet being fired in/from a gun is dangerous of course; but loose bullets in a fire generally go ‘pop’ and neither the case nor the bullet are sent at high speed in any direction.
First, the casing tends to burst, and then the casing (because it is lighter) flies out faster than the bullet itself. Much of the energy is expended in bursting the casing.
Here is a second video where the same researchers tip a bucket of bullets into a campfire. Their conclusion – this is not an advised thing to do, but it is not lethally dangerous; indeed, one of the researchers thought that the flying casings and bullets might not even break your skin at close range.
This is perhaps why, although there are limits on the amount of gasoline you can store in your house/garage, there are typically no limits on the amount of ammunition you can store. Furthermore, if you are storing the ammo in a safe, while the safe may or may not sufficiently keep the temperature down, even if the bullets all detonate, their explosions will be contained within the safe.
(Note – an alternate point of view is that it is better to keep ammunition in an open space so that if a few rounds go off, the pressure waves from those rounds don’t make all the other rounds go off in a single big bang. That truly could become dangerous.)
So, in terms of safety issues, there is no reason, either in law or common sense, to limit the ammunition you store at home.
How to Store Bulk Ammo
Bulk ammunition should be stored in its original boxes or in plastic boxes that hold each round in its own space. The boxes should then ideally be kept inside ammo tins and if you want extreme longevity, toss in a bag or two of de-humidifier desiccant into each tin.
If the tins have good seals, and if you store them somewhere cool and reasonably dry, the ammo will probably last as long as you will, and maybe longer.
The Legality of Storing Bulk Ammunition
I’m unaware of any federal or state restrictions on how much ammunition you can own – except for Massachusetts which limits you to 10,000 rounds of rimfire, 10,000 rounds of center fire and 5,000 shotgun shells (if you want to go up to 3,000 rounds of rimfire, 50,000 rounds of center fire and 50,000 rounds of shotgun shells, you can get a permit from the local fire department – see here).
If you think there might be a state or local ordinance restricting how much ammunition you can own, you should check with your local police and fire departments (without necessarily blurting out ‘I’ve got tens of thousands of rounds of ammo at home’ as your first words!).
Another unlikely but possible constraint might be if you belong to a Home Owner’s or Condo Association or rental agreement. Any of these might have some ridiculous restrictions.
Valid Reasons to Have a Bulk Supply of Ammunition
Here are a list of reasons to keep in mind in support of owning substantial quantities of ammunition, and reasons why doing so is prudent rather than strange and suspicious.
1. Ammunition is cheaper when purchased in bulk. Case-lot prices (typically somewhere from 500 – 1200 rounds per case) is usually at least 10% cheaper than box-lot (typically 50 round boxes) quantities, and sometimes a lot cheaper – and if mail ordering (which is perfectly legal) you can not only get a better cost per hundred/thousand rounds, but might get a break on the freight costs too.
2. Ammunition is sometimes in short supply, and has been for most of the last four or more years. What with runs on ammo due to people stockpiling it (you’re not the only person to own a good quantity of ammo!) and the demands on ammunition manufacture placed by our military, there have been regular periods of shortage where you just can’t get any ammo, or where you are rationed to a box or two at a time. It makes sense to carry a decent quantity in case of future shortages.
3. If you have multiple calibers of pistols, rifles and shotguns, then even if you only keep 1,000 rounds for each caliber, you still could end up with 5,000 or more rounds just due to the number of different types of ammunition you require. Then if you also allow for different types of ammo – different loads and different bullet shapes – for each caliber, you’ve increased still further the total quantity of ammo you need.
4. A long weekend shooting, eg in a firearms training course, could see you go through 500 – 1000 rounds; if you and a second family member are both participating, that could be as many as 2000 rounds. When measured by this type of usage, owning thousands of rounds of ammunition does not seem excessive.
5. Ammo is easy and suitable to store. It takes up little space, and lasts a very long time (decades) when stored in a cool dry place. A thousand rounds of most calibers of ammunition take up no more space than a dozen cans of soda or beer.
6. Occasional legislative threats to ammunition purchase, either in the form of ridiculously punitive taxes, or new onerous controls on its purchase, or outright outlawing of ammunition, encourage a prudent person to stock up on ammunition while it remains affordable and freely available. In other words, the gun grabbers’ own actions encourage us to take prudent steps to ensure we have plenty of ammunition.
I write these comments having just read this article about a renewed attempt to pressure the EPA into declaring lead based ammunition illegal on environmental grounds. It seems, to me, like a valid reason to go out and buy another couple of thousand rounds, just for the happiness of having them.
7. Ammunition has gone up substantially in price in the past decade or so. Buying ammunition might be a good investment – it will probably never go down in price again and quite likely might continue to increase at a rate greater than that of regular inflation.
8. I generally buy my ammo at a gun show in case lots. The gun show only operates every month or two, and as likely as not, I can’t make it when it is being held, so if I get to visit three times a year, I’m doing well. Quite apart from anything else, that means I need to plan for four months of consumption, plus whatever I want to have as a minimum left over at the end of the four months.
9. Because you can. You don’t need a reason to own multiple DVDs or multiple books, and no-one is going to criticize you if you buy toilet paper rolls in bulk at Costco either. So why should you need a reason for choosing to own a bulk lot of ammunition? Shame on your questioner for asking you a question which is based around an assumption of evil intent.
Invalid Reasons to Have Lots of Ammo
Although there are no specific laws against owning ammunition in any quantity, there are plenty of other laws that can be ‘re-purposed’ to constrain your ability to own ammunition.
In particular, your actions can be deemed a public danger if you give any indication of being a ‘survivalist’ type. Yes, I know this is unfair, unjust, and all those other things, but it is what you risk in the imperfect real world, full of suspicious gun haters.
There was a case in South Bend, IN, in September 2007 where a person had his multiple guns and 79,010 rounds of ammunition confiscated after he told an ATF agent that he was worried about ‘imminent social collapse’ and said ‘You just have to protect yourself sometimes’.
So if asked why you have lots of guns and ammo, stick to the nine points above.
Here’s another case of a person with 30,000 rounds of pistol ammunition. But in this case, the man also was charged with the illegal possession of a high-capacity firearm, and if you read between the lines of the report, you’ll probably work out what the police were alleging.
Moral of the story : If you’re going to own large quantities of ammunition, make sure the rest of your firearms related matters are all totally legal.
You can probably store up to 10,000 rounds of ammunition at home without seeming like a total raving loon, assuming no legal prohibitions, and assuming you are able to cogently and clearly express ‘good’ and politically correct (!) reasons why you do so if questioned. Of course, you’ll find it even less controversial if you have only 100 rounds, and you’ll be utterly free of complications with zero rounds, but that’s not why you’re reading this, is it.
Keep our list of nine reasons to store bulk ammunition at hand in case of problems.