The price of 12 gauge hunting ammunition has dropped back to near pre-ammunition bubble levels. Walmart had 100 rounds of birdshot loads priced at $19.97 a couple of days ago. That’s 20 cents per round or $5 per box of 25. Before the Barrack Obama ammo run, the ordinary price was a little lower, perhaps $4.50, with sales just before dove season as low as $3.00. On the other side of the coin, .22 rimfire ammunition, particularly .22 long rifle prices are at an all-time high. This is a classic bubble, and it will end, but no one knows exactly when . . .
Currently, .22 LR is available for about 10 cents a round. So, which is a better deal, .22 LR at 10 cents a cartridge, or 12 gauge at 20 cents? Both cartridges have their unique uses, advantages, and disadvantages. Next to .22 rimfire, 12 gauge may be the next most commonly chambered cartridge in the country. Most gun owners own a shotgun of some kind. Nearly every gun writer has noted that a shotgun is one of the most versatile and useful firearms ever made. Most gun owners have a 12 gauge, because it’s the most common and versatile of the shotgun gauges. Because of the economies of mass production, it’s also the cheapest shotgun ammunition.
For many people, it makes more sense to buy 12 gauge at 20 cents a round than .22 ammunition at 10 cents a round. Lots of the uses of the two firearms overlap even though the raw power of an ordinary 12 gauge load is equivalent to a dozen .22 LR cartridges.
Both are excellent choices for hunting small game. In fact, the shotgun is the more reliable gun for putting meat on the table. It’s designed for taking birds on the fly and rabbits on the run. It takes less skill on the part of the hunter to take game with a shotgun than it does with a .22 LR. For hunting, one 12 gauge cartridge is probably as or more productive than two .22 LR cartridges.
Neither 12 gauge (with bird shot) or .22 LR is the first choice for self defense. Still, both are commonly used, and used effectively because any gun is better than no gun in a self defense scenario. Here again, the 12 gauge has the edge. It has greater intimidation value due to the size of the hole in the end of the barrel(s). It has massive destructive power at close range, under five yards, where most self defense situations occur. And there are a number of ways that birdshot loads can be converted to expedient slug loads in an emergency.
That brings us to big game. Neither 12 gauge birdshot loads or .22 LR are the optimum choice for hunting large animals. Still, as with self defense, both have been used extensively and successfully. The wax and cut expedient loads for shotguns have been used to poach big game for decades. The use has been prevalent enough to rate a legal ban on their use in hunting in some states. The ban on these loads in Wisconsin led me to discover what they were and how they worked 45 years ago. I do not recommend them except for emergency use.
Even without the expedient slug loads, bird shot can down big game at ranges under five yards. My father once harvested a deer with a shot from a shotgun and birdshot at 4 yards distance. The shot to the head was an instant and humane death. I own a .22 LR that my father acquired during the depression. It was often loaned to neighbors for subsistence deer hunting; a “village gun” system where the owner of the gun received a share of the meat. My father said that it had been used to harvest over 200 deer.
While I don’t advocate breaking the law, in a survival situation, eating takes priority over the hunting regulations.
In terms of barter, or as a store of value, 12 gauge and .22 LR both have excellent barter potential, both store for decades without noticeable degradation.
.22 LR prices will eventually return to reasonable levels. The raw materials it takes to make one 12 gauge loads could be used to make 10 or 12 .22 LR rounds, indicating that it’s not raw material costs that are driving .22 LR inflation. While the bubble is still expanding, people should consider the 12 gauge as a substitute for the .22 LR round where possible. Two .22 LR cartridges for a 12 gauge cartridge is a pretty good trade.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.