Tyler and I were recently kvetching on Google Chat about the new price of magazines (bad) and the sudden unavailability of ammo (even worse.) The coolest AR race gun I’ve ever seen is currently sitting in my gun safe doing absolutely nothing, and Tyler may have to back out from a tactical shooting clinic, all because 5.56mm ammo is simply not available in the quantities we need . . .
Tyler would need 300+ rounds for the shooting course he’ll probably have to cancel, and I’ll need at least 500 rounds to review the drool-inducing Wild West Guns AR with the carbon fiber handguard, fluted stainless ported barrel and match trigger (drooling yet? I am, and I just had lunch) that’s collecting dust in my bedroom closet. I haven’t laid my hungry eyes on even 200 rounds of 5.56, total, in all the sporting goods stores and gun shops I’ve hit up recently put together. And what I have seen is mostly premium-grade (and premium-priced) varmint or target ammo for $1 a pop.
Those of us born without trust funds can’t afford to keep shooting much at prices like that. To keep the sport growing and to keep our shooting skills in tune (at least until the ammo drought clears up) I’m hoping that tactical/defensive shooting instructors and action-shooting competitions will open themselves to the use of more .22 rimfires.
I know that ‘realism’ will suffer when competitors are training and competing with sub-mouse guns with minimal muzzle energy and no recoil, but most (if not quite all) bigger-bore competition skills can be developed using .22s instead of larger calibers. You might not have any recoil to manage, but trigger discipline and sight picture skills don’t care what cartridge you’re firing.
On the defensive end of the training spectrum, situational awareness, use of motion and cover, and shoot/don’t shoot decisions are also equally caliber-neutral. As long as your .22 handgun has a similar trigger action as your CCW pistol and you carry it in a similar holster, your rimfire practice will keep your skills much sharper than shooters whose ‘centerfire-only’ practice dogma means they can hardly practice at all.
The ‘best’ solution to a problem, as George Patton famously said, is the enemy of a ‘good enough’ solution. And anyone who thinks 3-gun is ‘realistic’ in the first place needs to talk to a SWAT team member or Navy SEAL for a reality check anyway.
This might be our last chance (I hope not) but it clearly isn’t the cheapest time to be buying or shooting 5.56mm ARs and normal-capacity centerfire handguns. It may be a much better time to stock up on .22 rimfires and ammunition, however, while the panic buyers are busy shopping elsewhere. .22 gun and ammo prices haven’t been completely immune from the panic bubble, but they’re still in stock and prices haven’t gone up by anything like they have for ‘Black Rifles.’
But here’s the coolest thing about .22s: we all own them already! So even if you don’t run 3-gun and aren’t signed up for a shooting class, get out there and shoot those .22s. Any shooting is better than no shooting, and lots of shooting is better than a little bit of shooting. That way-overpriced $30 brick of Federal .22s will give you a lot more practice time and skills maintenance than you’ll get from one magazine of 5.56 and two magazines of 9mm.