Reconciling Ammo and Magazines, by Incisor

We are well-advised to maintain a reasonable supply of ammunition and magazines. But how do you reconcile the two? You probably have, or should have, questions like:

I have X number of magazines. Do I have enough ammo for them? How many times can they be reloaded, given the available ammo supply?

I have X number of rounds. Do I have enough magazines? Or, How many magazines can I fill?

These are reasonable questions. So, lets address them. You’ll feel a lot better when this simple exercise is finished, and it might even point out “soft spots” (inconsistencies) in your inventory of ammo and/or magazines that may need to be resolved.

Let’s look at ammo first. In JWR’s nonfiction book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It (page 237), as well as other authors, suggest the following minimums:

  • 2,000 rounds per battle rifle
  • 800 rounds per primary handgun
  • 2,000 rimfire rounds
  • 500 rounds per riot gun

All you have to do is sort, count, package, record, and store each type of ammo. Very straightforward.

But Then There’s Magazines

Magazines can be a bit more complicated, especially if you have several different weapons with several different capacity magazines. Having a magazine-fed weapon without enough magazines or without the time to reload them (in the midst of a fray) can render your firearm useless. In several recent SurvivalBlog articles as well as others, the suggested a minimum number of magazines is 10 magazines per weapon, but capacities are not listed. Recently, acquiring the desired minimum has been difficult because of several states imposing arbitrary bans on certain capacity magazines.

Being optimistic, let’s assume you acted quickly and were fortunate to obtain enough magazines to meet the suggested minimums, but you had to take what the dealers had available. (Desperate people do desperate things.) Others have acquired their magazines as finances permitted. So, for whatever reasons, you have ended up with an assortment of different capacity magazines. And as time goes on, you are likely going to acquire more, but they might not be similar. Further, you have several different magazine-fed weapons. How are you going keep track of the magazines and the required ammunition?

My Spreadsheet

I was faced with the same questions, so I developed a spreadsheet to sort things out. The spread sheet below allows you to track not only the number of magazines you have for each weapon, their capacity, and the number of required rounds needed to fill and/or reload them.

The first column is for the caliber and the kind of rifle, pistol, or shotgun. Several of my tactical shotguns are detachable magazine fed. The second column identifies the manufacturer of the magazine. (Not all magazines are created equal.) The capacity is straight forward and needed for computing. Because of the urgency in a stress situation and perhaps other people in your Mutual Assistance Group (MAG) needing to handle the weapons and magazines, I have marked my magazines with a metallic silver fine-tip marker for easy match-up.

The quantity on hand is the number of magazines. The last column is a line total of the number of rounds in the magazines on hand. Using the spreadsheet to compute the line totals of Quantity on Hand and Number of Rounds, as well as the column total of Caliber/Weapon categories quickly lets you know what you have on hand and perhaps what will need to fill-in those soft spots in ammo or magazines.




Brand Capacity Marking Quant. on Hand Number of Rounds

Feel free to re organize or redesign the sheet to suit your needs. I keep the inventory in a 3-ring binder with the List of Lists under “Security, Self-Defense – Firearms.”

Incidentally, I do not keep my magazines loaded out of concern for the springs weakening. Optimistically, I hope for enough advance notice to be able to load the magazines in time. If you feel you are not going to have enough time and want loaded magazines “at the ready,” but you are also concerned about spring fatigue, you can serial number each magazine, load several, and rotate the loaded ones. Keeping accurate records is a must. Perhaps loading odd-numbered magazines for odd-numbered months or years and then alternating with the even numbered ones for the same period might solve your rotation problems.

Now you have a simple way to reconcile your both ammunition and magazines to let you know just what you have on hand as well as to point out possible deficiencies. Also, when you your do your rotational Month-by Month audit of each preparedness category you’ll know your status instantly. (You do a rotational review to verify your inventory on several of the lists each month, don’t you?)


  1. Incisor:
    Some good advice I was given was –
    Ten mags per rifle, and
    Six per pistol.
    Some people might want more, but this is a good place to start.

    God bless!

  2. As magazine prices started to go up and talks of bans started again I started to put away extra springs and followers to repair magazines that I have that might go bad. You can find a spring and follower for around $2. I keep 20 magazines per AR. 7 for a basic load, the rest will be pre-positioned at LP/OP or other key defensive positions when activated.

    Something else I don’t see used or talked about a lot is stripper clips. All my AR ammo is placed on stripper clips and then packaged in a bandoleer, then placed inside an ammo can. Most bandoleers also have a guide safety pinned to it. When magazine need filled the stripper clips facilitate a quick and easy reload.

    If you stock federal 62 grain green tip and you buy the 420 round box they already come on stripper clips which is nice. Some other brands have 55 grain on stripper clips, as well.

  3. if you all haven’t tried the magpul glock mags, they are great…the only draw back is no round count holes on the back…but they are half the price and if nothing else, use them for range training…i’ve put a few hundred rounds through mine and not one issue…they work great…

  4. Ar15 mags can literally be bought for nothing. Palmetto often Is giving away 10 magpuls for buying ammo or a optic.

    10 per rifle is a minimum but honestly keep some loaded so you can rotate out.

    Most of 22lr are Tube feed so I don’t mind those. Its not a combat rifle.

    Oh make sure you use the mags in a stressed environment. You dont want to find out you have mags that are failing causing double feeds.

  5. I have wondered about the magazine spring issue for some 50 years (I got into shooting in my early teens……like, 11). As time passed, I worked in aerospace manufacturing where at least a hundred engineers were available to teach me about metallurgy, materials, structural shapes…..the wonders of the universe. I enquired about springs and got an ear full. Springs fatigue by being stressed and unstressed….a cycle. Each time the spring is compressed and released, that’s a cycle. Compressing them and leaving them in that state is not harmful, and to make the point, fully-loaded 1911 magazines have been unearthed at WWI battle sites and found to function just fine (with new ammo).
    Clint Smith, a firearms instructor of some renown, keeps storage tubs of magazines topped off, and recommends the same. So do other LE/Mil instructors. I keep a few dozen at the ready. I’ve never retired a magazine because of a spring.
    Ammo count: Understand that US infantry lug anywhere from 600 to 1,000 rounds of 5.56 in their load out on patrols over in the sandbox. In the Mideast, getting captured is not a good option, when you run out… die. There is no protection from international conventions of war there, or after SHTF.
    When a typical rifle squad makes contact, they typically get on the radio asking for ammunition and medical EVAC in about 20 minutes if the action is hot and heavy. Think about that. A squad running low after beginning the show with 10,000 rounds (not counting the belt-fed M249). I’ve heard similar numbers from Vietnam vets who were in the thick of it. Part of the problem is the presence of that full-auto selector on every infantryman’s carbine. One reason the Army issued 90% of the M-14 rifles locked into the semi-auto mode before the M-16 showed up. This encourages the rifleman to actually AIM the rifle. Round counts were much smaller with the 7.62, but far fewer rounds were needed to solve problems with that caliber. My daughters will chew through 1500 rounds of centerfire ammunition in a single handgun or carbine course over a weekend. And no one is shooting at them. Plan accordingly.
    Consider that the supply chain will fail completely in a serious national crisis. The round counts suggested here are very light in my view. This list might be used for one cache, not the total inventory. Fire, theft, consumption in a single fight would leave one wishing they had planned better.
    Magazine count: During the post-Sandy Hook era, Gabe Suarez sent me an email at 7am informing me that they had received a shipment of their Lancer knock-off AR magazines. $14.95. I phoned a dozen friends, telling them to order them right now, not after lunch, not after morning break……right NOW. I suggested 50 apiece. Most acted promptly. One friend ordered 30 at around 10am, but decided to order the other 20 at around 1:30pm. He called and discovered Suarez was out of stock. Eighty thousand (80,000) magazines went out the door in six HOURS.
    I’m light on the shotgun ammo because the shotgun is a niche weapon and not expected to see much use for serious purposes. If the problem is within shotgun range, and has rifles, you’re in a lot of trouble.
    Don’t forget to stock up on tourniquets, IBDs, chest shields and angio catheters (for tension pneumothorax)….if you expect this much trouble, you’re probably going to need these.
    With luck, you won’t need any of it!

    1. You beat me to the info on springs. Modern metallurgy means springs wear out from being cycled, not from being left in a compressed state over time. Maybe some older, cheaper magazines might have issues. Newer good quality should not. If it makes you feel better, keep them loaded and stock extra springs.
      There was an article floating around recently saying prepping thousands of rounds of rifle ammo was a joke, as hunters maybe needed 300 rounds over the life of a hunting rifle and in bygone ages soldiers carried 50-100 rounds. I laughed. Even IF you are lucky enough to be attacked by desperate, poorly skilled marauders with bolt action rifles, the last thing you want to do is devolve to a game of trading shots at each other from behind cover. I call this 50/50 and it means you are giving the other side an even chance, something that no good combat leader should allow. Instead, you should be pinning them in place with accurate fire while another element maneuvers on them. This doesn’t necessarily require a SAW but it WILL require ammo, and people with magazine fed weapons who are a bit anxious and loaded with adrenaline can go through a frightful amount of ammo very quickly.
      Now multiply that by how many such encounters do you want to be able to effectively repulse, with probably no resupply available? How soon do you want to be in the position that you have to start placing more risk on your people because you can’t afford to use the ammo for superior tactics?
      I agree that 2000 rounds should be considered the minimum. Obviously not all in one place, eggs and baskets and such.

      1. Chris W covers, most eloquently, points that I neglected to elaborate on, namely the adrenaline factor connected to magazine-fed military pattern rifles. “Frightful” is the perfect word to assign the quantities of ammunition that will be consumed by a family trying to keep what is rightfully theirs. Just look at so many police gunfights, which could more accurately be defined as firefights. In a recent police shooting in downtown Salt Lake City a month ago, there were over 225 holes in the suspected pickup truck and store fronts, all fired by police. That fight lasted a few seconds! [The police are ‘outgunned’?]
        John Farnam advocates what he calls The Walmart Rule. If he can’t walk into a Walmart and buy the ammo he needs, he doesn’t own it. No practical use for a .476 Herfenderfer Magnum. You will however, likely find mixed in with the broken boxes and trash on the floor of a looted and dark Walmart, some 9mm, 5.56, .45, .38 Special, and .40 S&W.
        The supply chain is very fragile, as any memory of the ammunition supply during the last decade will attest. .22LR ammo went from .03 a round to over .50 cents, just in the wake of a tragic school shooting. If you could find it!
        Expand your horizons…think 30,000 rounds….for 5.56, 7.62, .22LR, 9mm. EACH. It will never lose its value, and will only go up in price. I didn’t end up with these totals overnight….it took decades. Just seems like very time a Dem says “ban”, my wallet comes out. That 7.62 I paid $150 a case for a quarter century ago? It’s now worth $700.

    2. 90 % of the bullets Infantry fires, aren´t intended to hit the enemy but force him into cover – hold him down(even in Training the Sound of a bullet flying safely over your head isn´t a nice Sound, believe me that) take fom him freedom of movement and fire.

      OTOH how much of this ammunition was for the Squads machineguns?

    3. Thank you for mentioning Clint Smith. He says he has hundreds of loaded AR magazines on hand, some in every vehicle and some at home. He also says he loads them with less than 30 because, even though he knows the springs will not weaken, he is a belt and suspenders kinda guy. He suggests 25 rounds in each. FWIW.

  6. While in the army on deployment we always have our mags loaded. The only time we emptied the mags was for cleaning or we shot the ammo up. Now we usually had 10 mags for a combat load. Yes this was with body armor and all of our goodies. Yes we carried a lot of weight. But if it went bad you will he grateful for the extra mags. Now personally I think every rifle should have at least 10 mags. But the more mags you have means you have spares. Things do happen to mags. Dents in the body, bent feed lips, cracks, etc etc. Now with ammo, those numbers are good except for .22. You should have as much as you can buy. That is the best caliber for young and old, training, getting small game and most important trading. Remember how long it was before stores shelves were stocked with .22! It is the most affordable and easy to store. I am shooting my old supplies that is made over 40 years ago. They work great with no failures. I am using them in pistols, bolt rifles and my 10/22. My son will use 2-300 rounds at a time. Not counting myself or my daughter. I buy .22 the most, then everything else. Buy as much as you can, you will be thankful if you have it when they wont let you buy it.

  7. I would consider a color-coded system that might work. Maybe, using those round, colored stick-on labels ( like for a garage sale but without the price on it ). A label could be stuck on both sides of the magazine and matched-up with a firearm with the same colored label on both sides of the stock. You could write the last two digits of the year the magazine was acquired on each. Maybe another label with the number of rounds written on it? That way, you could easily match-up magazine and firearm very, very quickly.

  8. Oh, and another thing: I have been resisting buying CCI rimfire ammunition in the 100 round plastic boxes because they rattle. I buy nothing but cardboard boxes. CCI puts their .22 ammo up in them as well.

    1. Funny you should mention that. I was at Gander today and they had both plastic and cardboard.
      (Or should that be paper or plastic?)
      And the prices weren’t out of line, either.

  9. Great information! Gonna stock up on even more of everything including mags. Please b careful with your information your storing electronically or in binders and use lots of opsec! In the wrong hands the bad guys know what u got and may not stop till they get it all! Of course not if we have anything to say about it!

  10. Palmetto had [alloy] metal [mil=spec] AR mags for $8 a piece, free shipping for 10 so I bought 10 and split half with a neighbor, think I’ll have enough? Trekker Out

  11. Mountain Trekker Magazines:

    I remember buying a surefire 60 round mag before one of the runs, for 74 dollars, they are now going for $120 even on PSA website. Moral is,buy them cheap and stack them deep, they will always have a utility value and may increase in price depending on where you are.

    Also buy a few more every month, tangible item. Folks in MA that waited too long are paying 300-1000 for Pre Healey BAN AR lowers! my friends that listened are happy they did (I left) get what you can at todays prices (alpha strategy)

    look at JWR example of his HK Mag and Parts, they have an intrinsic and utility value, see also how he probably doubled his money on that California run he made before that stay ruling on magazines.

    this is year of the AR platform in terms of prices for mags, triggers, lowers even complete uppers can be sourced online for under 160!

    my advice buy a few more each pay period.

    1. Thanks so much for the copy of the alpha strategy! I’ve been hunting for a pdf of it for a while now.

      You’re spot on with magazines as a store of wealth though. Sinve ive had my HK91 magazines, 95% NIW, they’ve went up in value by several orders of magnitude; especially the steel ones. It sure beats the real rate of return on my savings account which is negative.

  12. Back in 1962 I was drafted and we spent lots of time on the range. We had old M1 Garands. What a great battle rifle it was. I could go thru a couple of bandoleers in a heartbeat on our assault course. We only had 8 rounds in each clip. So having lots of ammo is a must as well as lots of magazines. The big thing today is pray and spray — that is OK in certain situations. We were taught: “HITS COUNT”.
    Just remember get you family to practice an become familiar with their weapon and be able to put hits down range. Those who have been there know how much thing change when the rounds are coming your way. You can only know this if you have been there. I know us old guys are on our way out and can only hope when it hits the fan, our families remember what we tried to teach them.

  13. What about the difference between metal and non-metal magazines? I maintain a number of fully loaded magazines in convenient locations. I recently discovered and discarded a 30 round non-metal AR 15 magazine which had failed. It fit excessively tightly into the receiver, would not feed rounds without jamming and would not activate the bolt lock when it was empty. While I am not certain of the cause of the failure, I surmise that the case deformed under the pressure of a full load over a couple of years. In any event, I am switching to metal only magazines.

    1. James,

      I have a few plastic AR mags and for the most part I really prefer Metal ones. One issue I have is the plastic ones don’t fit in some of my pouches.

    2. Lots of companies make polymer mags, and while I own a few Hexmags, I prefer the Magpul magazine becuase it is is battle proven and the Gen 3 is USMC approved. The only part I have ever had break is the little plastic piece in the see-through window, so now I save a buck and get the model without the window.

      I’ve lived through the Clinton magazine ban — where a Glock 17 mag was considered “cheap” at $75 — and a couple subsequent shortages. Whether you prefer polymer or aluminum, my advice is to buy a case of 50 while prices are low.

  14. You can pick up the Magpul Gen2 mags pretty cheap, however, they don’t have the over-insertion tab and you can jamb up your AR. They make Gen 3’s for a reason. Never had any problem with them. Also if you forget your count and load 31 you will run in to problems inserting your mag. No problem on the flat range, but in the middle of something it will screw you up. If you have ten mags fully loaded you should be able to tell something is wrong when the top bullet in a mag is on the other side of the feed lips compared to all the others. You’re either short or overloaded.

  15. Check out CLASSIC FIREARMS site (as of 05/27/2019). They have PMAGs that are PAINTED with camo, colors, or designs, ON SALE FOR $8.88ea. On their search bar type in MDI (that is mike-delta-india). MDI is the company or distributor who painted them.

  16. Number all your magazines for maintenance purposes. If you have a bunch unmarked, you’ll never know exactly which one is giving problems. I numbered every mag at my Guard unit (500 of them), so if one number keeps coming up, I replaced it.

  17. I start from a different place than Incisor. I ask “what is a unit of fire for this weapon.” Since I’m generally not counting on ammo resupply in the middle of a fight, a unit of fire is very closely tied to what I plan to carry. For a 5.56 rifle, for me, that’s 300 rounds (ten 30 round mags). I then assume I’ll need double that number of magazines (to allow for them getting lost/damaged/etc.) and ten times that amount of ammo. So for that rifle I need twenty 30 round mags and 3,000 rounds of tested, reliable ammo. Note that doesn’t include ammo for training – 3,000 rounds is a “floor” I don’t want to drop under, and it also doesn’t include cheap 55gr FMJ (I only use that for practice).

  18. For those that are a bit Tech savvy, It never hurts to learn how to “Roll your own.” 3D printers are getting very affordable. I am not saying make your own lowers, but Magazines, and “other” parts, like followers. May be the order of the day.

    I recommend the Ender 3d printer and learning how to use it (Youtube is invaluable). At $250 new plus a few additional rolls of filament. You could have a larger supply of things that may not be available. There is a steep learning curve, just like being a gunsmith, learn to use your tools. This is a hobbyist type machine so be willing to know your limits. Also be willing to be surprised at what results you can achieve.

    Before everyone gets all up in the, “but they will not last! You might get 4-5 uses out of them before they start failing” Does it matter if you can make more? Are they going to be Magpul quality? No, but they will work. Remember that you may buy 20 mags at 20 bucks, then start investing in other options.

    Just think of all the polymer goodies the government recently banned because they are scary. Knowledge is power. Never fear knowledge.

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