Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trade Goods: Ammunition

Ammunition is one of the mainstays of prepping. Firearms become expensive, fairly fragile clubs unless you have the right cartridges to feed them. Ammunition is also a “dense” way to store value -- it takes up less space and weighs more than an equivalent worth of water or clothing. With the exceptions of rimfire cartridges and those made of aluminum or steel, most cartridges can be reloaded more than once and will retain some value even after being used.

Primers, powder, and bullets can be made from locally available materials much easier than brass, and having the equipment to reload could be a viable source of “income” after TSHTF. Properly manufactured and stored (see Erin's post on ammunition storage), ammunition has a very long shelf-life. I'm shooting some stuff that was loaded for use in WWI (which makes it almost a century old) with very few misfires; about the same rate as I see from the stuff made during WWII. One of the advantages to shooting old calibers is that some of them were originally loaded with black powder, which is simple to make.

Trading Ammunition
When trading for (buying) ammunition, get the best that you can. Anything that is dented, corroded, or otherwise damaged should be looked at as a source of components (bullet, powder, etc.) only. Small dents that don't interfere with the cycling of the firearm will usually pop back out when the bullet is fired, but larger dents will prevent a proper gas seal around the cartridge and could be dangerous to use. Corrosion weakens the brass and, depending on the type of firearm, could create a ruptured or split case, which requires special tools to get out of the chamber.

When selling ammunition, be aware that the buyers are likely to come back for more. I'll cover safety/security in a bit, but you should only trade what is surplus to your own needs. As an example, I have ammunition on hand for firearms that I no longer own. It is in calibers that will not fit any of my other guns, so it is surplus to me. If someone else could use it in their guns, it would be worth a lot more to them than it is to me. Unless I were to happen upon a truckload of .22LR, I don't think I'd be willing to sell that caliber; it is so useful and common that I wish it was reloadable. Since it's not, there is a finite supply once the factories stop. Supply and demand will make it one of the more valuable commodities in a very short time.

Trade is based on a lot of things, but trust is one of the main ones. If there are no lawyers or courts around, be careful of cheating your trade partners. They may respond in ways you won't like, and have no method to redress. Knowingly selling someone defective ammunition is about the same as shooting them yourself, since it is likely to injure them or cause them to become injured. Taking a shot at a wild hog and having your gun blow up in your face or jam with a bullet half-way down the barrel is not a good way to stay alive.

Why Trade?
Whenever someone mentions using ammunition or weapons as a trade good, it generally evokes one of two responses:
  1. You can never have too much ammo! Never trade it.
  2. Why would you give someone the bullets to kill you?
The first response is generally true. It's hard to accumulate too much ammo -- but not impossible. If you're getting ready to bug out and not return, or if you are relocating for other reasons (i.e. your shelter is no longer suitable or is damaged beyond repair) you may have to leave things behind. If you have several tons of ammo, you can either trade it for something easier to transport, destroy it, or attempt to hide it. In that situation, I'd trade ammo for fuel or a vehicle rather than create a noisy fire that would draw attention.

The second response is quite common, and one that is often seen on prepper sites. It makes sense if you're staying in an area where you are not secure and there are people who you don't know or trust are around. Roaming bands of drug-crazed mutants are generally considered a good reason to find a better place to live, and I would suggest keeping your interactions with them to a bare minimum. Trading with people like that is a no-win proposition.

Security Revisted 
There are situations where you may consider trading ammunition, however. Going back to my post on trade basics, there are four general situations in which trade occurs between people. Each has special requirements for both the buyer's and seller's safety.

Buyer is mobile, seller is not
Buyer: As long as the buyer is able to get to and from the seller safely, and trusts the seller to not rob/kill him, there is no reason to not trade for ammo. 

Seller: The seller will need to have security on hand in sufficient quantity to dissuade would-be robbers. Being stationary means you will be able to plan and implement defensive measures, but will also require them. You're a target, regardless of what you're trading.

Seller is mobile, buyer is not
: If you're set up in your compound and you have a trade caravan that stops by every so often, buying ammunition from them should be safe. Random visitors should be treated as potentially hostile until you get more information. Trust is hard to earn, and a lone wanderer could be a scout for a large group. “Casing the joint” is nothing new, and I don't expect it will disappear any time soon.

Seller: If you're a traveling salesman, you'd best have a secure route laid out. The further away you are from a crisis in time and distance, the safer you should be. Another possibility would be stopping by a settlement while traveling and trading excess ammunition for food. Knowing your buyer will be a big help; otherwise you'll just have to trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Pick up and move on if you are physically able.

Both buyer and seller are mobile
Since both are mobile, they will have the same concerns with safety/security. Getting to and from the meeting point will be half of the challenge; the other half will be the meeting itself. Trade is most dangerous just before and just after the negotiations begin. If you're coming to trade, you have something of value and are a target to some; iIf you're done trading, you will have something of value on you, so you're a target once again.

Trading ammunition to a sociopath is not a good idea since they will have no problem killing you and taking everything. Use your gut as well as your head. If something feels “off” or wrong, back away from the meeting and get to safety.

Both buyer and seller are stationary
This gets back to the definitions from last week. Transporting things of value can be a challenge, and ammunition is no different. Small quantities can be hidden in other cargo (one of the good things about being it being a dense medium), but large lots will have to be transported under guard. Communications and safe transport will probably resemble the drug trade of today. Depending on the quality and quantity of “law” still present after a crisis, smuggling skills may be worth knowing.

Final Thoughts
Trading ammunition is another of the various parts of prepping that isn't black and white. There are a lot of gray areas you need to be aware of and to plan for. The danger of “giving someone the bullets to kill you with” can be avoided by trading only with those you trust. I would have no problem at all trading surplus ammunition with my extended family or tribe, because I trust them and I want them to survive any bad times as well. 

Trade without politics is also more personal; without the “rule of law”, there is no way to coerce someone into trading with you. Hang that “We reserve the right to refuse service” sign with pride, and pay heed to your instincts: they could be worth your life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to