Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Questioning Common Caliber Wisdom

Modern Survival Online did a post recently questioning the conventional wisdom. Though I consider .38 special/.357 mag a common caliber (probably behind 9mm but narrowly ahead of .45 acp and .40 in the real non gunnie world) his point is valid. I have been stewing over it for awhile until today Tam talked about the availability of 5.45 commie which made me want to chime in.

Since common calibers are something I promote it made me really think. First I got to thinking about what makes a caliber common. A few characteristics come to mind:

1-Wide commercial availability. If a small place like a hardware store sells ammo  what they will (normally) have is a pretty common guide. This varies slightly regionally but 12 gauge, 9mm and 30.06 are common while 16 gauge, .357sig and .204 Ruger are not.

2-In the closets/ ammo cans of a large number of average people with whom you could potentially cross level or trade. The stuff your paranoid neighbor, gunnie uncle or whatever are likely to have. Odds he will have a 12 gauge or .308 are higher than that he will have a .300 blackout or 6.8.

3-Modern ammo made in the USA (or wherever you live) is available. If importation was restricted this stuff would become unobtanium even though it's all over the place today. This affects the economy of a lot of old WWII surplus rounds putting them on par with conventional hunting rounds in terms of economics. It is a bigger problem for 5.45 commie and some other rounds that aren't (to my knowledge widely) available in the US made variety at all.  If you choose to go this route stock ammo DEEP. I'm talking closer to pallets than cases because there is a viable possibility you may never be able to find it again.

4-Total rounds available. The sheer amount of a given caliber of ammo in a specific region. This is interestingly different from the first two because it may include military calibers that aren't really used by civilians. Example .50 BMG is not in many gun stores and few people have a gun in it. However there are millions if not billions of rounds stored away at various military installations and a few larger police departments. While admittedly rounds not widely on the market are uncommon by definition in the race to the bottom this gives it an advantage over a round like .408 CheyTac.

I think these criteria are more or less listed in terms of importance. While it isn't exactly quantifiable we could arguably rate these from 1-10 (or whatever) then add them up and divide to get a number. Stuff like .22lr and 12 gauge would probably be 10 but .475 Linebaugh would be more like a 2.

As it relates to the current firearmagedon:

-Since everybody is scared about evil black rifles being messed with this means the ammo associated with them (.223, 7.62x39 and .308) are naturally in high demand. You CAN GET THEM but just at sucky prices. It seems like around here in Southern Arizona bulk pack type .223 (55gr PMC, etc all) is going for 80 cents to a buck a round with more desirable (M855, JHP's etc) ammo going for 85 cents to a buck and change a round. .308 is running at least a buck a round. However you can get it. Since the supply is larger somebody will eventually be induced to sell at the right price.

Conversely there is simply no 6.8 or 10mm auto to be had locally at least without swapping a nubile 18 year old daughter or something else of comparable value. If there are 7 boxes of an uncommon caliber in town it's a lot less likely you can get your hands on 4 of them.

-Any time you try to buy something that is in high demand it's going to cost you no matter how common the item is. Hot pizza is worth more when the pizza joints have closed down. A bottle of Jim Beam is worth more after the liquor stores and bars close. If there are a bunch of hungry folks who want to drink more both are going to cost you dearly. It's simple economics.

-To me the answer to this is to stock enough to ride out the occasional bad 3-6 months. Have some doomsday ammo but put aside a few boxes for range duty to get you through a dry spell.

-Sure like Tam said getting an AR upper or AK in 5.45 commie could give you an option  but you would have to be putting a lot of rounds downrange to break even on the initial investment. Personally since it's a nitche item I wouldn't buy it at the expense of an AK in the common 7.62x39 or another .223 AR.

Anyway those are my .02 cents on that. Thoughts?




11 comments:

Anonymous said...

My thought on this...

- Go with what you've got or are comfortable with.

- Go in a "common" caliber. 9mm & .223 for military. .40 for LEO. Ammo is where you can get it. Hope it doesn't come to this.

Anonymous said...

We all use common calibers, .22, 9mm, 30-06, .308, .223, etc. However, we have a few oddball calibers for specialized tasks (i.e. 35 Rem for bear, elk, etc.) and for those calibers, we have a reloader, dies, primers, bullets, powder, etc. to make about as many oddballs as we'll need.

Ryan said...

@7:54, Makes sense. It's not that I am totally against oddballs. They have a place but it's in addition to a basic setup of common guns. A .35 Rem for bear is great, a .35 Rem as your only rifle not so great.

Aesop said...

IMHO, oddball calibers are foolish, period, unless someone is stocking in Ryan's mentioned pallet-load quantities. (Along with components, dies, and asstd. reloading equipment as well.)

My go-to Top Choices/What I Can Find If It's Findable Anywhere - listed in my personal preference order - are:

.22LR
.223/5.56
12 ga.
9mm
.308/7.62x51
.45ACP
.38/.357
.30-06
7.62x39
.40SW

I don't even have weapons nor ammo in all of those, and the only other stuff I have are cowboy action guns (.45C and .45-70), purely for that purpose and their historicity. I wouldn't feel outgunned with "just" a .45C sidearm and a .45-70 long gun, but they wouldn't be my first choices for a Zombie Apocalypse, or what have you. But Doomsday Survival isn't the only reason I acquire firearms, nor probably does anyone else.

There's little sense having a gun without ammunition for it, so I doubt I'll be adding the firearms in those of The Nine above that I haven't got at this point. I simply don't need the extra logistical burden. And when you factor in magazines, parts, cleaning equipment, reloading, accessories, etc., it IS a burden.

So the *only* thing that makes sense to me for either acquiring such a weapon, or one in even less prevalent calibers,(or more likely, a suitable-calibered upper receiver) would be exactly the Lego-building Mix & Match category that the AR platform fits in, because having an upper in a caliber you don't normally use or stock yourself could mean the ability in a long "problem" to have a gun that'll shoot what, or whatever, you might find, for a relatively small investment. Versus having a fantastic high-tech club and tons of mags, parts, and accesories, but no ammo.

But that option falls on my list somewhere long after having 2+ of everything important, plus enough ammunition just for that.
Which, considering the things like food, power, seeds, medicine, tools, etc. etc., that I also want/need/oughta get is pretty far down indeed.

Like if either I inheritted a weapon and I'd rather not sell it (or couldn't be bothered with the hassle), or because I'd hit the 30-state Powerball Lotto, or somesuch.

Commander_zero said...

I had a post similar to this a while back and someone opined that having a weapon in an oddbal caliber was a *good* strategy because then when the zombies are marching down the street and the ammo stores are picked clean, all the ammo left will be your oddball calibers. This amazingly short-sighted foray into naivette fails to take into account that if a caliber is unpopular enough to still be on the dealrs shelf during WW3, it's probably unpopular enough that no one will be carrying any to begin with. Who is going to buy a case of .41 AE or 7-30 Waters to stock on their shelves when no one buys the stuff to begin with? Obviously, reloading opens up a few possibilities but youd simply be better off with the 'common' calibers. Given your situation, you'd obviously be very well served to follow the US military calibers and US military platforms.

Anonymous said...

Even the used to be common as hell Russian bolt ammunition has become somewhat scarce, but if you scored early and were smart, you have a pretty good bolt gun for not a whole lot of money. The Tokarev semi pistol was also a bargain, a case going for just over a C note, the handgun for $200ish. For military designed handgun too.

I really don't see the need for over 2000 rounds per firearm that you own. If you are engaged with THAT much shooting, you are going to be killed long before you use it all up. You will be equipping someone else with your stuff. Your family - thats GOOD! Your killer - not so much.

Truth is ugly, but its still the truth.

Ryan said...

For guns whose intended purpose is not defensive more ammo definitely makes sense. .22lr comes to mind.

I don't think you are going to burn through that much ammo in fights but that doesn't mean you will not use it. Practicing a little bit to stay proficient takes rounds. Re zeroing a scope that got bumped takes rounds. Training up your cousin from the city takes rounds. Spotting some ammo to a poorly equipped friend takes rounds.

Also without ammo a gun is a poor excuse for a club and I would rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

Ryan said...

Zero, We lean heavy towards .223 and 9mm for a variety of reasons.

James NZ said...

'sucky prices' living in New Zealand, i just brought a box of 20 .223 hornaday and it cost me $50! each time i pull the trigger i can't help but think 'there goes $2.50

Ryan said...

James, Oh my. Can you get the stuff to reload down there?

Stickmaker said...


I have an interest if firearms which can shoot a wide variety of ammunition. One of my revolvers is a New Model Blackhawk in .327 Federal. It can shoot five different cartridges, one of them the .32 ACP. (That last is semi-rimmed, and some .32 revolvers can chamber it.)

Yeah, that's four uncommon cartridges and one of questionable utility. This is far from my only gun and most of the others are in much more common cartridges. Also, .32 ACP is something which you might actually find at Wal-Mart and gun stores.

There are plenty of revolvers out there which can fire more than one cartridge. There are even some autopistols which can be converted to a second and maybe third load with ease. I just wish the SIG P-250 I bought had worked better.

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