Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Bug out Bag should NOT be an ammo cache!

bug out bag ammoI have always believed that in an emergency situation, speed is your friend. I have written articles in the past (on another website) stressing the need to keep your Bug out bag/Get home bag, light weight. Ounces = pounds, pounds = pain. The faster you get to your destination, the safer you will be.

I tell folks to strip away a lot of the accessories they have packed, including bulk ammunition. Inevitably, that causes a few raised eyebrows.

But wait you say! We as Preppers are a group that believes in being prepared for all situations. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that you may find yourself in a situation where you need to be armed with the ability to adequately fight back? Won’t you need plenty of ammo?

Yes….and no. I have no qualms about having the means to protect yourself. The 2nd Amendment guarantees that. And I myself believe in having sufficient ammo stored away. But trying to carry a large quantity of ammo in an emergency setting will cause you more harm than good. Let me explain.

The main purpose of your bag is to be able to move safely and efficiently out of a danger zone. You are most vulnerable while on the move. And I’m not talking about roving bands of marauders that so many people envision. I’m talking about being susceptible to the elements, to fatigue, to stress; being vulnerable to the unknown. Those will most likely be your enemies early on.

At home (or bug out location) you are not as exposed. You will hopefully feel safer and more secure in familiar surroundings. The more rapidly you can get there, the better off you will be.

And if there is danger up ahead? Well, speed and stealth will be your biggest allies in these types of situations. No one ever died by sneaking out unseen….unheard.

During this time, you want to avoid open confrontation and conflict if at all possible. The added bulk of excess ammo only hinders this.

My son plays a video game called The Last of Us. It is a post-apocalyptic setting where you must use your brains to survive a zombie type outbreak. (Although they are not zombies). I played the game some with my son. What I liked most about this game is that in numerous situations, you are better served by avoiding combat and instead using stealth and speed to escape. Many times direct confrontation leads to you and/or your companion being injured or killed.

This is absolutely true in real life in a SHTF scenario. The difference being is that in real life, you do NOT get to restart from your last saved game.

Ammo is measured in grains, and it takes about 7000 grains to equal a pound. But that does not include the cartridge the bullet is in, the magazines needed to fire the ammo, the packaging of the ammunition itself, etc. So carrying 200 plus rounds of  ammo could easily add several additional pounds of weight to your bag. That many rounds aren’t exactly quiet, isn’t always easy to transport, and is going to slow you down. In my opinion, it is totally unnecessary.

Yes, unnecessary.

Thanks to Hollywood, so many people have an unrealistic view of what a gun fight is like. Arnold and Stallone might use thousands of rounds and dozens of explosions to take down their enemies, but in real life situations, the majority of gun fights (outside of protracted military engagements) are not that way. Most last between 3-10 seconds and less than 10 rounds are fired.

America’s most famous gun fight, the Shootout at the Ok Corral, lasted about 30 seconds and had 31 rounds fired by the 9 people involved. None of them were carrying hundreds of rounds of ammo, and the Earps knew they were headed to a potential gun fight!

You can point to the bank robbery shootout in North Hollywood. Sure, it lasted 44 minutes and almost 2000 rounds were fired. But that was an anomaly. It made worldwide news because it was so unusual. More than half the rounds fired came from the robbers themselves. And the 750 rounds or so that were fired from the police? Those came from over 300 different officers that were on the scene.

More importantly, what did the civilians in the area do? They took cover and then got the Hell outta Dodge!

Keep in mind that in an emergency situation, you may not have a clear and accurate picture of what is really going on. What you think could be an end of the world event may not be that. Despite all the tragic and chaotic situations that have happened in the US, we have never had a situation where the rule of law was not eventually restored.

Anarchy may rein for a time, like it did in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. But at some point law and order will be restored. And at that point, you will be held accountable for your actions. Shooting your neighbor because he was on your lawn an emergency situation may not end well for the neighbor or you! In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “Lucy, you have some ‘splaining to do!”

I would urge you to learn the laws in your area. As a police officer, I get asked questions all of the time regarding the use of deadly force. In my state, we have the “Make my Day” laws, which give a person the right to use deadly force to protect themselves and others when they reasonably feel that their life or safety is in jeopardy. But the amount of misperception and misunderstanding of these laws by the general public is a concern to me.

Even if you are found innocent by a jury of your peers, who wants to endure a potentially lengthy and expensive trial? Remember Bernhard Goetz? The NY “Subway Vigilante”? He was found innocent of his criminal charges. But 12 years after his shooting he was successfully sued for $43 million. He eventually had to declare bankruptcy. (I’m not saying that was right…just that is the way things are.)

My point is that most shoot outs do not last very long, do not have many rounds fired, and might be avoided all together. If you are bugging out and find yourself in a gun fight, you should be looking for an avenue of escape as opposed to going toe to toe with an unknown number of armed assailants. The BEST way to survive potentially violent conflict is to avoid it.

I would absolutely urge everyone that the use of deadly force should be used ONLY as a last resort when you have NO other options. You are better served with speed and stealth than with bullets!

No nation ever prospered from prolonged warfare.
–Sun Tzu

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About James L

A police officer in Oklahoma, James is a gun enthusiast and certified police instructor. In his off time, he is a single father who enjoys playing with his kids and watching football.

Come visit his Preparedness site at Plan and Prepared


  1. Yeah, one thing I learned doing long-distance hiking is that those ounces really add up. After a few hundred miles, your thinking about each item in your pack changes from “That could be useful” to “Will I die without it?” and you really pare down your equipment. Especially if you’re in a situation where you’re going to have to carry substantial amounts of water, you’ll regret every extraneous ounce. Not to mention, more weight means higher calorie requirements means more food you have to find or carry or suffer from perpetual hunger (which you probably will anyway if you have to backpack for any substantial distance).

  2. Interesting that you mentioned “Katrina” as an example of “law and order” being reinstated, or more correctly imposed eventually after a disaster. That even should give many a “prepper” pause in their visions of gun battles, lawlessness, and especially dealing with authorities post “SHTF” as well as causing all of us to have some thought and concern as to the eventual authorities response to a disaster.

    The imposing of “law and order” was done, in Katrina at least, in a military fashion by troops (both military and LEO’s) that were brought in from other area’s who forcefully stripped firearms from apparently law abiding citizens as well as looters and criminals, violated numerous civil rights such as search and seizure protections, and otherwise forced their will upon the area.

    Post disaster the lawlessness and amount of criminal or violent activity will unfortunately dictate how violent the response is from the eventual intervention of County, State, Federal of even International Government Forces. IF the natives are “peaceful” then you’ll get peaceful aid workers helping out those affected by disaster, handing out food and water in nice orderly lines. However if there is widespread looting, criminal gangs, or god forbid “warlord” style gangs then the first responders are likely to be heavily armed, and heavy handed troops sent in to force civilization back onto track. This would defiantly cause most law abiding and “civil” preppers to instead want to avoid authority in the tormultious period when they are attempting to restore order something easier done when you can slip away. (Not to mention being stocked for war could be hard to explain if you were searched by LEO’s or Troops who were responding to an event)

  3. My own experiences have shown me how much I need to cut back on my bug out supplies. I’ve got two young children, a wife with chronic back pain, and some foot and knee issues of my own that have developed over the last couple of years. Multiple family outings have showed me that I may have to carry children in an on-foot bug out scenario. My wife has very limited supply and child-carrying capabilities.

    What this means is that, if bugging out on foot, I can expect to be able to carry the equivalent of a day pack to support four people. While not ideal, I’m at least glad that I have tested my family’s capabilities in advance and can now plan around our limitations. This is much better than learning these limits the hard way in a disaster where time counts. Test your equipment. Test your plans. Things won’t go the way you expect they will. Discover what doesn’t work now.

    Meanwhile, I work to improve my family’s capabilities. I am exercising and getting medical help to bring my load-bearing capacity back to what it once was. I take my children on hikes and am trying to help them increase their endurance. We are making the best of our current situation and working to improve it.

    • I think knowing your limitations is a huge advantage and will help you in the long run. You know what areas you need to work on.

      You would be surprised what you can fit in a day pack. But for four people it’s all about prioritizing.

  4. Mike Schneider says:

    “No nation ever prospered from prolonged warfare.” –Sun Tzu

    You mean except for all those nations and nation-like entities that measure “prosperity” in terms of *power* rather than money. Such as Islam and Russia, both of which have taken the Orwellian maxim “War is the health of the state” to places not even that author envisioned.

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