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There’s something to be said for the KISS principal.  You know, Keep It Simple, Stupid. I’m certainly guilty of ignoring it in a lot of areas of life. Ammo isn’t one of them. I’ve chosen most of the guns I’ve bought (and avoided buying others) based on the desire to stock the fewest, most popular and (let’s face it) least expensive calibers. Not everyone follows that principle. Many don’t even give it a thought. Does caliber, availability and cost influence what you buy? Are you willing to hand load ammo for an esoteric gun you own? Does it even matter?


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  1. I found an unbelievably good deal on printer for my wife’s computer. Then she said, “How much are the cartridges?” Oops. No wonder the printers were on closeout.

    I didn’t even think about .45 rounds averaging 35 – 50¢ each when I bought my first 1911. The .22 conversion helps maximize my range time, but I still enjoy shooting .45s.

    • A while back I was buying printers on sale at Wal-Mart for $29.95, removing the ink cartridges and putting the printers out by the dumpster with a “New- Free” sign on them.

      Now I just refill existing cartridges, even easier.

      • Now they figured that, they’re puttting demo cartridges in then now. You only get about 100 pages with the demo/intro cartridge.

    • In most cases, the price of a gun is little compared to the cost of the ammo you will put through it during it’s lifetime. It’s hilarious what some people will go through just to save, what amounts to 1 or 2 boxes of ammo on a gun purchase.

      Cost of ammo definitely affects my decision. I’ve always like the .22 WMR, but for the price, you might as well move up to center fire.

  2. I’m with the author; almost all my shooters are in boring, cheap Wal-Mart calibers. Ammo price and availability is a big consideration for me. Even though I handload a lot, I doubt I’ll ever own a. 327 revolver or a Super Duper Short Magnum rifle…

  3. I’ve told my family, “We’re all standardizing on 9mm for at least one gun per person. If you want a .40 or .45 after that, then that’s OK, but we will keep at least 1 gun in 9mm.” That way, we can keep one stock-up supply, and then buy “play boxes” for other guns (like the .38s) as they come available.

    I am looking at a Beretta cx4 or Kel-Tec Sub-2000, to have a carbine that uses Beretta magazines. That will let me keep not only 9mm standardization but magazine standardization.

    The next standardization question is .308 versus 5.56. Neither kid is fond of the idea of deer hunting, but a rifle capable of taking a deer-sized target would fit the “wants” list once the carbine is purchased.

  4. I like them all, but have never bought a gun for which I couldn’t find ammo in a small town hardware store.

  5. Awesome graphic showing the various calibers. Can you provide a source so I can get a better copy to drool over?

  6. My family’s currently committed to the 9mm and the 5.56/.223, based almost entirely on the notion that these calibers are plentiful and relatively affordable.

  7. Hmmm. Ruger SR9c, Remington 870 12ga, Nylon 66 .22lr, and I’m looking to buy a Ruger No.1 in 30-06 or 7 mauser- yep, I’d say ammo plays a factor. No oddball stuff for me.

  8. I’ve recently bought into standardization. I got to a point where every one of my rifles and pistols shot a different cartridge. It just became too much monetarily to shoot so many diverse calibers. I decided to shrink my bevy of calibers into a more manageable lot. Now all my pistols shoot 9mm and I have a S&W revolver in .38spl. I pared down my rifles to .22, 30-30 and 7.62×39.

  9. Still thinking about this one myself. I really, really want a full size 1911 for my next gun, but my will will likely be getting a 9mm XD subcompact. The price of 9mm is so good that it’s hard to justify going to the .45, especially if there would be 2 guns that use 9mm. …9mm 1911s don’t count to me, if I got a 9 it would likely be an XD of some description unless I rent an M&P and really like it.

  10. Yes, I want to be able to shoot a satisfying amount i.e. achieve an endurable expense for the ammo. Sometimes that’s cheap factory ammo; sometimes that’s my own reloads. Premium factory ammo is used sparingly.

    If one is willing to deal with military surplus corrosive ammo (and its associated guns) then that’s usually available in bulk for less than one could reload it. For example 7.62 x 39 (AK-47), 5.45 x 39 (AK-74), 7.62 x 25 (Tokarev TT-33 pistol), 9 x 23 Largo (Spanish Star pistol).

    • Roger that! My only odd-caliber guns are two Mosin-Nagants and an AK-74 that shoot cheap Russian surplus: $85 for 440 rounds for the Mosins, and $135 for 1,080 rounds for the AK. At prices like this it’s cheap to stockpile a *lot* of ammo, and it’s not even worth handloading—the loose bullets alone would cost more than the entire loaded cartridge.

      The saying “If you’re not handloading, you’re not shooting enough” doesn’t apply to Russian military calibers.

      • The best thing about the Mosin is the cheap, cheap Russian milsurp ammo. It’s also the worst thing, since the ammo is extremely corrosive, which means we can’t be lazy with the cleanup.

  11. I handload, which saves a ton of money and allows me to experience a variety of guns & ammo I probably couldn’t afford if I had to go out and buy it all. The price is lower and the quality is better, which is a pretty hard combination to beat.

  12. Ammo availability and standardization with what you could reliably expect to find in an SHTF scenario absolutely affects my firearms purchasing decisions. If the military ever needed to mobilize armed citizen groups, I don’t think you could honestly expect them to provide ammo for non-standardized calibers and keep those calibers supplied. My top 4:

    – 9mm luger
    – .45 acp
    – 5.56 nato (.223)
    – 7.62 nato (.308)

    I own many many more guns in calibers not listed above, but the bulk of my ammo stockpile is in the “big 4” haha.

  13. I went with 45 ACP and .308 as my standard calibers.

    Ammunition cost isn’t much of a factor for me. If it costs more, I shoot less. My criteria is ammunition that is widely used.

  14. Until this year I stocked 9mm, 45 ACP, 22LR and 270. I wanted a new medium calliber rifle so I went with NATO standard 7.62 x 51. Despite the cost I go with standard military or police calibers because of the widespread availability of good ammunition.

    Our usual range routine is that each of us shoots a box of pistol ammo (9mm for her, 45 for me) and about 100 rounds out of 22 each from my Savage Mk II. Every so often we go to a place in Warrrenton VA to shoot medium caliber rifle at a 100 yard outdoor range.

    I would like to get a 22lr chambered pistol but my wife is annoyed about how much I have spent this year on ammo and my rifle. SIG makes a nice 1911 chamber in 22. If you want to shoot a lot of rounds that’s the way to go. I can get Remington Golden Bullets for $20 per 500+ rounds.

  15. I’m a huge fan of standardization!!! I started this several years ago, for no other reason than it just made sound logistical sense. 9mm, .45acp, 5.56mm, and 7.62×39
    are my stand-bys. With the number of quality carbines on the market, it seems logical to have the “pistol ammo” serve double duty. The 5.56 and 7.62×39 may well be the most plentifull rifle rounds made.

  16. “Does caliber, availability and cost influence what you buy?”
    Yes. 95% of the firearms I own are .308, .223, 9mm, 12 ga and .22. I also do a lot of reloading for the .308 & .223’s.

  17. Up until a few years ago, I never gave a second thought about the ammo a gun ate. Then one day when I realized I had again run out of ammo cans, I started counting and discovered various amounts of over 50 different calibers around (several of which I had no gun for, too many that I owned a gun for and hadn’t shot it in years). That led to what my wife refers to as the Great Purge.
    I settled on 4 center-fire rifle rounds, 2 rim-fire rounds, 6 hand-gun rounds and 3 shot-gun rounds. Everything else had to go, both guns and ammo. When it was over, I had room in the safe and empty ammo cans coming out of my ears! Over two years later, while I am often tempted, nothing has come into the house that I do not already own ammo for.
    Now, if I could only do something about the magazine and holster problem…

      • Do you know my wife? She was really happy to see all those guns gone, and all that money back. Even I needed to admit 3 different Mauser calibers and 3 different Japneese calibers and 4 different Russian calibers and 6 different Cowboy calibers and on and on, was getting a little stupid.

  18. this is a central aspect to ANY firearm that I have purchased in the past and will remain so in the future. This principle factored in my ak vs ar15 decision, I went with an Arsenal sgl21 because of the ammo cost and a piston instead of DI which requires cleaning more frequently . This is also why I went with a 40SW pistol vs a 45ACP because of the costs. 45 is just too expensive these days, pretty much $20 in MD lately. This is also why I love my 9mm G17 and my 22lr pistols. Aside from my Arsenal ( which is an Ak-103 on a saiga receiver i believe) , i am into modern types of firearms, so i can’t see myself hand loading 7.7x58mm for an Arisaka or other random WWII rifle. Reloading seems pretty great, but using hand loaded ammo voids gun warranties, am i right about this?

    • The correct answer to that is yes, but most gun manufacturers look the other way in most cases. I have sent back guns to Taurus, KelTec, S&W, and Ruger with problems that could have caused by hand loads; only Ruger even asked about it (then fixed it anyway).

  19. Glock 23 Gen 4 with barrels and other spare parts to allow reliable operation with 9mm, .40 and 357 SIG. 9mm is military standard and used by many PDs. .40 is used by most PDs. If I had to restock in a less than optimal situation, 9mm and .40 are the most likely service handgun calibers to be found. 357 SIG? I like and use it!

    • i’ve been considering a G23 gen 4 as my next acquisition,
      this was my thinking as well as an option for 9mm and 40sw as one’s two standardized pistol calibers

      • I’d certainly recommend it. For me, way more shootable than the Gen 3 equivalent.
        IF you run into any of the dreaded Gen 4 reliability problems (which I did), I’d recommend the following:
        –Wolff +10% mag springs (get the GTUL to disassemble those mags so that you don’t total one like I did trying to get it apart–still waiting for the replacement from Glock six weeks after sending in the damaged mag)
        –White Sound Defense HRED (great product and company)
        –make sure your extractor moves and drops out freely, no sticking in the the hole, and if it sticks, LIGHTLY polish or try a new one or hope it polishes itself within a few hundred rounds, as mine did
        Mine runs 1,000% now with .40 and 357 SIG.
        9mm: Needed Storm Lake to modify the conversion barrel to allow it to fit. Cool thing was they did it for free and I did not need to send the gun, just the conversion barrel with measurements of the stock barrel’s hood and a diagram created in PowerPoint. They machined it perfectly based on that.
        So the barrel fit, but extraction/ejection were not reliable. So I got a 9mm extractor (not too hard to change out extractors at the range if you’re going to be shooting 9 vs .40/357–just be sure you know how to tell the extractors apart and bring your Glock tool). Now it’s reliable, but brass goes everywhere, including my face. Tried different recoil springs (03 and 04, Glock will send you these for free if you call with any G23/G19 Gen 4 problem respectively) but no difference. Final step will be trying a 9mm trigger housing with ejector, which is en route. Hopefully that will finally give me a fully usable 3-caliber Glock.
        Oh, and I do recommend getting a Glock 357 SIG barrel as well. It’s my favorite caliber to shoot and it’s what I keep in the gun when I can get “the good stuff” ammo-wise.

  20. If it is a weapon I absolutely want, like my Ruger SR556 in 6.8SPC, I go ahead and order ammo and magazines. I had 2,000 rounds of 6.8 and 10 magazines before the rifle even came in to the gun shop. Normally I practice standardization. My humble armory is .22 LR, .32 ACP, .38 Special, .357 magnum, 9mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45-70, 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm, 12 gauge and, of course, 6.8 SPC. If the house catches on fire-run.

  21. I tend to stick to calibers I can buy at a typical Walmart. I figure that’s a reasonably good barometer of how common a cartridge is. My exception to that though, is .375 H&H and .50BMG. Neither are sold at a typical Walmart, but they’re relatively common in their respective classes and neither are something I could see myself shooting a lot of anyway due to their cost prohibitive nature.

  22. FMAWG (Fit Middle Aged White Guy) Says Yes! Everyone does subconciously, most do it consciously too. The ones that don’t, most likely end up being the seller of those like-new, used guns in your local gun shop’s used guns for sale display case.

  23. I have been able to avoid ammo creep, sorta.
    Rifles: 12 gauge, .308, .223, .22LR
    Pistols: .45ACP, .38 Special, .380ACP, 22LR

    My odd one out is the 38, I just don’t have the heart
    to sell my Smith & Wesson Heavy duty.

  24. Standardized on 9mm, .22LR and 7.62×51.

    My only exception: 7.5 Swiss. I handload that. GP11 is awesome stuff. Match-grade.

    I’m also considering 357 Sig. I know what people say about it, but I just like the idea of a 125gr bullet traveling at 1400+ fps, out of a semi-auto that isn’t a desert eagle. I have a weakness for Swiss guns and calibers.

    • DoubleTap 125-grain Sierra at an honest 1,450 fps out of a 4-inch Glock 32 barrel, reportedly acts in test media almost exactly like the vaunted 125-grain .357 Magnum out of a 4-6″ revolver barrel (some fragmentation with reliable 10+ inches penetration). Shoots great and others at an indoor range will think you’re shooting an AR15. 😉
      If you want deep penetration and great barrier performance, go with the full-power Speer Gold Dot. It’s what most PDs use and is basically responsible for the 357 SIG’s reputation as a nearly 100% 1-shot stopper (at least so far, and of course don’t count on that).
      For something in-between, there’s the Winchester Ranger, selected by the Secret Service and other agencies.
      Georgia Arms has practice ammo as cheap as $0.30 per round. If you need cheaper, get a .40 barrel or even a 9mm conversion barrel depending on the gun.
      I love how full-power 357 SIG feels to shoot. In my opinion, it has less torque than .40, more accurate and consistent, and it “feels” quick and responsive to me.

      • Wow, good info – glad to see another person who likes 357 SIG!

        If I do get a 357 SIG, it will be another P226. I’ve already got a 9mm P226. I haven’t studied up on it yet, but apparently 357 SIG is hard to reload, because the bottleneck casing expands on firing, and can go out-of-spec. Any thoughts on that?

        My main problem is that I can’t really justify 357 SIG to myself as a practical application. In home defense, a 9mm offers plenty of penetration, without the blast of 357 SIG. In concealed carry, I can’t imagine carrying a gun big enough to handle 357 SIG. As a SHTF-gun, a rare and expensive caliber like 357 SIG is not ideal. If I were LE or something, I’d certainly want it, but I’m just average joe, so…I’d only buy it…because I really want to? Hmm…

        • Man you think too much. 😉
          Re: the 9mm being “enough”:
          Every person I know or know of who has prevailed in multiple close range gunfights (LEO or military, several personal friends and read about many) prefers and carries more powerful calibers (.45, .40, 357, and in long guns 7.62 and 12-gauge), and none prefer the 9mm (except as a training round–more rounds for less $$). Some freely admit that it may not be a practical preference, given what the lab coats say about bullet performance. Jim Cirillo wrote something along the lines of (paraphrased from memory), “You can argue the pros and cons of different calibers, but when you’re eyeball to eyeball with a skel who’s trying to blow you away, and you’re pumping round after round into him, watching his eyes and wondering why they won’t close or fall, you’re gonna wish you had the biggest, heaviest, most super-explosive manstopper on earth that could quarter a man with one shot!” Maybe there’s a lesson there for the rest of us. . . .
          One ex-cop I know who did his duty in the revolver days speculates that the BOOM of the .357 Magnum may have had a demoralizing effect on perps that the POP of the .38 did not have, resulting in way more “psychological stops” with the Magnum, contributing to its stellar reputation (beyond its destructive wound ballistics). There’s more going on when bullet and flesh meet than what can be shown by gelatin test measures and autopsies.
          And hey, what if the world turns upside down and you wind up partnering for survival with some Secret Service or Texas DPS guys???
          Get the dang 357 cuz you can, you want it and the more people buy 357, the more rounds ammo makers will produce and the lower the prices will get relative to more popular rounds! Oh, I don’t reload, so can’t help ya there.

  25. Spot on about the effect of sound on a perp. Most bad actors are looking for an easy target. They will get out dodge if their target isn’t planning on being a victim. The boom of a 45 will make the run away, if they can, a lot faster than the 9mm pop.
    I also read that the studies backing the small and fast school of ballistics used flawed methodologies and excluded a lot of cases. I have seen the medical studies backing up the effectiveness data in the Military Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manual and they clearly support bigger is better. This has been the result from every study since 1904.
    Other than the 44 Mag, handgun muzzle velocity is irrelevant to stopping power because they just aren’t high enough to matter. Higher velocity makes a 9mm more accurate than the 45 at 50 yards but terminal self defense takes place inside 50 feet.

    • Do NOT want to start any sort of “stopping power debate,” but regarding “velocity doesn’t matter,” many people who have actually been there done that–and even many hunters–disagree. As I said, “There’s more going on when bullet and flesh meet than what can be shown by gelatin test measures and autopsies.” True, statistical studies of real world results may have insurmountable problems. However, simple ballistic gel tests based only on “average” autopsy results eliminate way too many variables to tell the whole story. These kinds of tests report final expanded diameter and penetration because these variables are easy to measure and compare. It’s useful data but not the whole story. Eliminating everything besides blood loss and CNS destruction throws out a lot of factors that cause people to change behavior in the real world. Gelatin represents an average resistance of human tissues and structures. Real structures, bones, different organs, etc. make big differences–as do how people experience various injuries. The idea that hydrodynamic pressures do not affect people below a certain arbitrary velocity threshold rarely found in handgun ammo is a gross and inaccurate generalization, especially as such factors as projectile shape (both initial and developing during penetration–“final” shape and expansion actually mean little as the projectile has come to rest and is doing no more work!) and presented angles can greatly affect hydrodynamic effects at the exact same velocity. Some organs/structures are more greatly affected by such pressures than others. In a nutshell, don’t be so quick to dismiss important variables just because some “scientists” have chosen to eliminate them in an effort to get to a simple and straightforward “unifying theory” of relative bullet performance measurement that, while useful, is woefully incomplete.

  26. Nope don’t care, I reload and have dies, brass and components from 223 to 460 smith and Wesson, some where close to 60 different dies. Even have a 12 gauge reloader, by lee. It cheap but being realistic 12 is so cheap I buy it and save husks in case SHTF.


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