> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Thoughts on Diversity of Ammo Supply & Omnivorous Firearms

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3/12/13

Thoughts on Diversity of Ammo Supply & Omnivorous Firearms

Diversification has shown to be the most successful survival strategy throughout history--it's why omnivores like humans do pretty well, it's why your investment portfolio should be diversified and it's why the military commonly plans using the PACE acronym--Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency.

The "common caliber" ammunition strategy - have all your guns in a limited number of readily available calibers--seems to, in many ways, fly in the face of good ol' diversification. If all your handguns are in 9mm and you run out of and can't replace 9mm, then all of your handguns are now expensive paperweights. Good job.

Lots of people have been running into this problem as of late, with .22lr, .223, 9mm and other common ammo choices disappearing from shelves. Their guns are in those popular calibers, and now they're unable to find any ammo for their guns.

When does it sticking with common calibers make sense? When might it be a bad idea?

Ammunition Supply Problem
I often talk about what I call Ragnar's Rule of Three's, from 80s survival guru Ragnar Benson, who extolled the wisdom of having three ways to accomplish any critical tasks. The task we're concerned with here is supplying ammunition for our firearms.

So, let's list out ways that you can solve this problem:
  • Have a large stockpile set aside in case of troubles
  • Purchase/barter for more ammunition
  • Reload your own - have the tools, components and skill
  • Scavenge more ammunition (not viable in many scenarios)
So, following Ragnar's Rule of Threes, a survivor would pick three and would expect to be covered in most scenarios. Each of those three methods would need to be duplicated for each caliber you wanted to ensure you had on hand.

If you've got three in place, then you can have all the advantages of ammunition commonality without worrying about running out of ammo. With two in place, I probably wouldn't lose sleep over it, either - a large stockpile goes a long way.

On the other hand, if you only have one method of feeding your firearms, you may find yourself exposed to troubles frequently.

The Average Gun Owner
The average gun owner doesn't reload, doesn't have a large stockpile on hand. He swings by Wal-Mart or the gun shop and picks up a couple boxes of cheap stuff on his way to the range. Scavenging (or looting) is not really an option--things are a bit crazy, but we're not at full on Mad Max by a long shot. With purchasing very difficult/expensive at the moment, the average gun owner is going to have trouble feeding his firearms.

He has one method for supplying his ammo (buying it), and if that doesn't work, he's out of luck. Having all of his guns in a limited caliber selection only makes that problem more likely and more severe when it happens. Diversified he is not.

Ammunition Diversification
As you can probably see, when you fall into that group of folks who can't/doesn't reload or have a large stockpile of ammunition, the whole common caliber strategy starts to make less sense. You've made yourself somewhat reliant on an outside source for ammo, and any interruptions to that source of ammo will leave you screwed.

If that's the position you've put yourself in, why would you pick ammunition that's most commonly hard to get a hold of? Why would you pick the same stuff that everyone wants and that is first to disappear from shelves during a panic? And why would you have all your guns run on the same ammo?

If you're dependent on outside supply for stocking ammo, it would be in your best interest to be able to use the widest variety of ammunition possible - not just one particular caliber, and especially not one particular caliber that is prone to panic buying.

Real world example:

Despite the shortages, SOME ammo is still in stock. Quick look shows .45 ACP, .357 SIG, 7.62x54R and .30-06 in stock at Palmetto State. All very good cartridges capable of shooting bad guys dead and putting meat on the table. Of course, if you had three pistols in 9mm and two .308 rifles, that wouldn't do you a lot of good, would it? But if you had two 9s and a .45 and a .308 and a .30-06, then you'd be in better shape, right?

Omnivorous Firearms
Now there are options out there that allow you to fire a variety of cartridges from the same firearm.

For their many downsides, a break-action shotgun and a small collection of chamber adapters would provide a survivor with an omnivorous firearm at a manageable cost. A break action shottie and under $200 in chamber adapters would give you the ability to shoot 9mm, .38 special, .44 magnum, .45 Colt, .22lr, .22mag, .410 and 20 gauge shotgun. Your overall effectiveness would be moderate, but things would really have to be grim if you could not buy/barter for any of that wide variety of ammunition.

Similarly, break action rifles like the H&R Handi-Rifle and the T/C Contender allow you to swap a new barrel onto your action and start shooting an entirely different caliber.

Similarly, there are rifle adapters that work fairly well in bolt action guns. The 30-06 to 32 ACP adapter is pretty common - here are three options from Sportsman's Guide for under $20 each. Other options are out there.

Some Glocks have a limited ability to switch between calibers. A .40 S&W Glock can, if I remember right, be converted to .357 Sig and 9mm with little more than a barrel swap and different mags.

The AR-15 can be converted to a variety of different calibers by swapping out the upper - most popular semi-auto handgun cartridges are an option, as is .22lr.

If you look hard enough, you might be able to find a Medusa revolver, a long out of production revolver capable of shooting wide variety of different cartridges in the .353 to .357 range - 9x18 Mak, 9mm, .380, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and more. Exotic, probably not very practical but very cool.

Less exotically, if you've often lusted after a particular firearm, but have dismissed it because it doesn't fit with your "core" common calibers, I'd take a second look at it. Especially if your core calibers are prone to panic buying frenzies and new gun is no. The slightly less popular cartridges seem to have had quite a bit better availability - .45 ACP, .357 Sig, 10mm, and even .40 S&W have all generally been easier to find in quantity than 9mm. Deer rifle and revolver cartridges, too.

Likewise, if you've got a gun or two or twelve that don't seem to "fit" with your core ammunition choices, I probably wouldn't sweat it too much, as long as you're not hurting for cash or ignoring other areas.

End Advice
It's probably pretty obvious that having a stockpile of ammunition is important, as is the ability to reload your own. That's the smartest way to ensure your ammunition supply, without really needing to get into a large collection of firearms or odd-ball multi-caliber options.

If you aren't or can't do either of those, you'd might as well be able to shoot the broadest array of ammunition possible, since your consistent supply of one kind of ammunition is uncertain. It might take a bit of creativity, but it certainly is possible.

25 comments :

  1. Significant distinction; .22lr, 9mm and .223 are all currently available they are just expensive. I could get as much of any as I wanted tomorrow were I willing to pay for it.

    One downside is that most ammo uncommon enough to surely be in stock is uncommon enough for most places not to bother to buy in the first place. Not many places stock .475 Linbaugh, 28 gauge or .416 Rigby.

    If you have the common calibers covered in whatever redundancy you think is necessary but still have money left to spend on guns then give it a go.

    The way this event has played out the boring big game cartridges have been largely untouched.

    A Mosin, a .410 (it's always been in stock here), a 30-30 and a 30'06 will cover a lot of bases.

    I do like the idea about a single shot and a few adapters. Not so great for plinking but good for a survival option. Granted hunting deer with a single shot 12 gauge shooting .40SW through an adapter is a bad scenario but that base would be covered.

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    1. Good point r.e. expensive versus unavailable. You get into too exotic of cartridges and you're going to have a very hard time finding any at any price.

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    2. You must be from a different part of the country than I am. I can't find .22LR ANYWHERE. Everything else is fine, but .22LR, nope.

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    3. Available online for a high price is more accurate. Local shops are cleared out, but GunBroker and forums have ammo, for the right price.

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    4. I agree with Ryan on this one. The reason the uncommon ammunition is in stock is because no one uses it. Go to Walmart while they may have 7mm or 30.06 in stock they only have 2 or 3 boxes. This ammo is not manufacture at the level 22lr, 5.56, 9mm, and 40 S&W currently are in this country. There is a reason for that it is called supply and demand. While it looks like a good idea right now you would be better off spending your dollars on the common ammo instead of some Exotic rifle or pistol that in normal times the gun dealers only keep 2 or 3 boxes of ammo for in stock while the common ammo is stacked deep in the store. The ammunition supplies will return to normal and when it does this conversation will be have forgotten. Everyone needs deep stores along with reloading capability at the minimum.

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    5. Ryan isn't disagreeing with anything in the post...are you?

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    6. That would depend are you a supporter of Diversification in the common caliber options or of Diversification into uncommon caliber options. If you are talking about diversification in the commom caliber such as having a 9mm,40S&W,and 45ACP pistol than we agree, but if your saying go get uncommon calibers like a 45GAP or 338 than yes I would disagree.

      You did say:
      Why would you pick the same stuff that everyone wants and that is first to disappear from shelves during a panic?
      Ryan said:
      One downside is that most ammo uncommon enough to surely be in stock is uncommon enough for most places not to bother to buy in the first place. Not many places stock .475 Linbaugh, 28 gauge or .416 Rigby

      So I guess I have to disagree with you that Ryan is disagreeing with you on the premiss of the uncommon calibers that you appear to be recommending. Maybe I am just reading your post wrong.

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    7. Probably not one of my clearest posts...written over a couple evenings with kids climbing all over me. Apologies.

      First up - if you have a deep stockpile of ammo in your chosen calibers and the ability to reload more of chosen calibers, diversification is not real important. Those are generally going to be a lot more important.

      Now, when I'm talking about ammunition diversification, I'm not talking about diversifying it truly oddball or exotic calibers like .475 Linbaugh or whatever. That would be silly, and we're hopefully smarter than that.

      I'm talking about looking at what other calibers are somewhat popular in your area, but maybe fall into a more second tier of popularity. Stuff that is regularly available in quantity, at reasonable enough prices, and isn't going to be the first to fly off the shelves.

      If you've got all 9mm for handguns, it might not be a bad idea to pick up something that will shoot another, probably slightly less popular caliber. .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38 spl, .357 mag, .44 mag - they've all had better availability, from what I've seen, than 9mm.

      If 12 gauge is plum sold out, you can often find 20 gauge in stock.

      .223 and 7.62x39mm are nigh impossible to get, but I'm pretty sure I could waltz into most sporting goods stores in the country and find a few boxes of .270 Win, .30-30 or .30-06.

      The more of these kinds of calibers you can shoot, the more options are opened to you.

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    8. AnonymousMay 18, 2015

      If you live in a shitty country like I do (brazil) where you can't buy ammo readily or firearms for that matter, you're pretty much doomed if you don't plan ahead. Reloading only if the Army issue the permit. Sure you can go the "illegal" way and get yourself in some trouble, dealing with BG in first place. We're restrict in ammo amount and calibers too. For me, choices are plain and "easy":
      - .22 rifle
      - 12 gauge pump action
      - .410 (only) handgun (Original taurus judge)
      - .22 air rifle >700fps
      - shot, powder, brass hulls, leather punches (for wad making)

      Reasons:
      - 22lr and pump shotgun, no reason needed, everyone should have one.
      - .410 only handgun can provide adequate energy (compared to the .38/380 we're only allowed) with 000 buckshot/slugs and can be easily reloaded even with BP.
      - .22 air rifle is perfect for small game/foraging and since it's silent and cheap, you can save your powder burners for when really needed.

      Also, slingshots, bows and trap help secure food and save ammo for defense.

      Best regards.

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  2. highdesertlivinMarch 13, 2013

    And yet another slant, in the current flow of things .I chose to sell a few of my "evil" guns in standard prepping calibres.I then proceeded to acquire several lever guns, and a single action dual catridge revolver.Now I have diversification in calibre, as well as political.IE unlikely that my CDW (cowboy defensive weapon) will be confiscated.I have not had any problem finding 30 30 ammo for these so far. In the same thought pattern, I am currently looking for a 3006 w/ iron sights.My personal justification, I need a designated hunting rifle.The heavy barrel tactical 308 is heavy lugging around.Good post thanks.

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    1. While I have a 30 30 as well I will never have the level of store that I currently have with my 5.56. It is just be to cost prohibited. The 30.06 would even be worse!

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    2. highdesertlivinMarch 13, 2013

      I hear ya 3rd man, my heavy stock is 223,308, and 762by39 as well as primers bullets and powder.In 2 weeks ive put back 300 rds of 3030 and will be happy at 500.Dare I say the most common rifle rounds in this country, available at every little shop BFE america 3030, 3006,.These are all 30. cal rds. Bullets powder, and primers can be used for all 3.

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    3. I have firearms in follow calibers 9mm, 40 S&W, 12g, 5.56, 7.62x39, 3030, 22lr. I think that should cover my needs present and future.

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  3. Good argument for common ammunition. LakeCity produce approximately 1 billion rounds of 5.56 a year alone for the military. That is why we use the 5.56 and not the 3030 or 30.06. Have not been able to track down the numbers for civilian production though.

    http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/SepOct10/spectrum_smallarms_ammo.html

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    1. highdesertlivinMarch 14, 2013

      Im not arguing against common calibers at all.Iff I see normal pricing on .223, 308,9, or 22 I will pounce.But as I have my ammo squared away in the "common", calibres I seek to diversify my stocks. I believe the ammo prices of old as well as availability are not coming back.So any ammo that is common will at least be a good financial investment.Provided you can buy now at non inflated prices.I also see you dont have any long range hard hitting calibres.You might want to trade me some 30 30 for some 308.

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    2. Barter could be an option with TRUSTED parties. Dove hunting is a popular sport in our area so a shotgun is very common in many homes. They follow the 'average' shooter mentality above 4 or 5 boxes purchased which will be mostly shot in the two weekends. So having extra 5 round boxes of buckshot and or slugs makes some sense - you will have some takers.

      Dedicated hunting gun - that depends on your terrain. High plains / desert shooting has further range than many areas, where the dog has to back up to bark. to me, a practical 'foraging gun' would be a combination rifle/shotgun, you are more likely to come home with something for the pot.

      I agree - lightweight carbines are far easier to carry. The Remington model 7 is a good place to start looking.

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  4. I've been cruising the sporting goods stores in my area every couple of weeks and I've yet to see a store that didn't have some .243 in stock. I'm thinking one of Remington's pump-action .243's and a few 10 round magazines for it might be a good investment.

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    1. With the right rifle/scope set up, .243 is an excellent long range round, too. Check out this vid from TiborasaurusRex:

      http://youtu.be/-O0Q6rpV0KU

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    2. Dang. That is some awesome shooting.

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  5. I like to keep it diverse, 257Robts, 308, 45-70 govt(an easy reload) I've noticed you aren't pushing black powder arms as a survival option, it's not going to be the best or first line of defense, but a 50 cal ball to the chest will stop just about anyone, and it remains a cheap and easily scavanged option. Plus the old school stuff can be made with piss, charcoal and sulfur.

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    1. I've talked BP in the past - run a search and you'll see at least a couple posts.

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  6. This also makes the case for firearms that aren't picky about what goes through them. My double barrelled 12g will feed stuff I'd hesitate to cycle through a pump gun, which is reassuring if I have to scavenge

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    1. Sounds like "Crazy Uncle Joe biden"

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  7. AnonymousJuly 26, 2013

    The S&W Govenor will fire .410 gauge, .45 Colt and .45acp. The .45 acp requires half-moon clips.

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