How Much Ammo is Enough?
How much ammunition is enough? “All of it!” is not the correct answer… though it sounds fun.The fact is that defensive shooting skill development, reliability testing with defensive ammunition and practice all require a lot of ammunition. But just how much is, well, enough? What should you consider a bare minimum in each endeavor?
For many years, I have recommended that people shoot at least 200 rounds of ball ammunition through any pistol (without any malfunctions) before considering it reliable enough for defensive use. After that, one should shoot 100 rounds of the specific ammunition that one intends to carry through any would-be defensive pistol… again, without any malfunctions. It should be noted that you don’t need to give up on a gun if it doesn’t pass these tests on the first try. Some guns really do “break in” after some shooting and other factors such as human operating error, bad magazines, poor maintenance (lubrication usually) or other issues may cause a malfunction during a test. You can re-run either test as many times as you think reasonable. Eventually, repeated failures during either section should prevent you from continuing to consider that gun for defensive use.
When it comes to training and practice, I’ve been much less specific in my recommendations. Training recommendations involve many variables. Your specific needs are determined by your prior skill level, your natural coordination and athleticism, how well your gun fits you, and certainly, the training model or method that you are using can all influence how much ammunition you are going to need to use to get to an acceptable level of skill. It would be foolish for me to try to tell you specifically how much ammo you needor how much ammunition will make you proficient. I share some relevant experiences and observations on the topic:
- 4-500 Rounds Per Day of Training.
I have found that 4-500 rounds is a great amount of ammunition to expend for most people developing handgun skills under a quality instructor in a contextual appropriate defensive shooting program. Remember that Training is different from Practice. When you are training, you are learning new skills or learning to apply them in different ways. You need a high number of repetitions to begin to ingrain the performance of those skills. Whether you are starting from a blank slate or you have shooting experience, you need to be ready to dedicate at least one full day with at least 400 rounds ammunition to simply establishing the patterns of movement and the way it “should” feel to execute defensive shooting skills. This is the starting point that I and my team of certified instructors have successfully used with students for over 15 years.
- Front Load your practice with a significant amount of ammunition.
The concept of “front loading” means you are going to ensure that you get a significant amount of practice with new skills shortly after you learn them. Practiceis the act of ingraining and improving your already established skills. After practice, you should be able to perform your skills intuitively and fluidly even while focused on other things. If you have utilized different techniques in the past, it is especially important to get a high- number of repetitions to re-write your muscle memory. Under the conditions of a defensive gun use, you want your skills to be performed in an automated way. You should expect to expend more ammunition in ingraining your skills than you did learning them. Optimally, you will get frequent practice sessions over the first couple or few months following a class, shooting at least 100 rounds in disciplined practice each time.
- Maintaining your skills.
Once you have established and ingrained defensive shooting and gun handling techniques, your ammunition expenditure should be reduced dramatically. After the first few months of practice to reach what you consider to be an acceptable level of skill and ability to apply your skills, you can cut back your practice sessions so that you are just maintaining your skills. This may be as simple as a box of ammunition a month dedicated to specific defensive shooting drills and simulations.
Of course, just because you are only using a small amount of ammo to maintain your fundamental skills doesn’t mean that you might not be re-starting the cycle to add additional skills. Once you are satisfied with your performance level in one area, you might consider taking an advanced or specialty class… and you can always find plenty of things to do at the range for fun if you’re lucky enough that your budget and interest allow you more time at the range and more ammo to shoot.
It’s probably not a surprise that I recommend White box or USA Forged or Win3gun as the best choice for value in your practice or recreational ammo needs. I’ve personally shot many thousands of rounds of each... and watched my students do the same for many years.