Choosing a Firearm Caliber – Common vs. Uncommon?

With the recent string of attacks on our Second Amendment freedoms, the supply and demand model has reared it’s ugly head.

With the possibility of removing or simply restricting our freedoms to own and use firearms, everyone that ever thought of getting a gun has come out of the woodwork and started a feeding frenzy. Add in the fact that others were already regular purchasers of firearms, and you’ll find that we’ve flooded the market with buyers, increasing demand, driving firearm prices through the roof. Guns that I’ve had my eye on, particularly those with high capacity capability, have seen a drastic increase in price.

But that’s not the worst part.

Since, without ammunition, every long gun is simply an awkward walking stick and every handgun is a poor hammer substitute, all of the new gun owners also started buying ammo. This decreased availability, causing everyone to start buying up whatever ammo they could find.

Yes, I’ve heard about DHS buying up millions of rounds of ammo, but don’t they do that every year? The NOAA purchased 46,000 rounds, but they have 63 armed agents in charge of the National Marine Fisheries Service that are required to qualify twice a year…that’s less than 800 rounds per agent, less than what I have in 9mm. Hell, I’ve shot that much in a single day easily with the wife and a friend or two along! I believe that the hype around the government buying up ammo is being perpetuated by the folks jacking up the prices…and profiting from the fear.

Whatever the reason, there is a shortage right now. And this leads me to the point to this meandering tirade. Is it a good idea to go with common calibers (.22, 9mm, .223, .308, 12ga), since ammo would be more readily available, or should you go with oddball calibers(.17HMR, .40, .243, .270, 20ga), so you’ll have something not being used by everyone else?

The argument for common calibers works well…in theory. Everyone should have a box of 9mm by now. So much of the stuff has been sold, you’d think we were arming ourselves for Read Dawn III. Not that I have a problem with the masses have lots of ammo, I just can’t find any priced reasonably anymore. If the world ended tomorrow, a la “The Walking Dead”, I should be able to raid any house and get common caliber ammo.

But the possibility of my brother turning into a zombie and chasing after me to eat my brains is pretty far-fetched. (Plus he’s vegan. What DO vegan zombies eat anyway? Cauliflower, maybe? Sorta looks like brains!)

So in reality, if I wanted to, oh, say, go shooting to keep in practice, I can’t go to my local WalMart and pick up a brick of .22s, or a box of 9mm, or any of the calibers I mentioned in the first list…but you know what they DO have? Most of the oddballs I in the second list.


I stopped at Gander Mountain this morning, and walked through the ammo section. The operate over 119 retail stores in 23 states, plus an online and catalog business for hunting, fishing, boating, and other outdoor sports. They have some pretty hefty buying power, particularly in the firearm industry. You would think that ammunition manufacturers would lean more towards letting them fill orders before a WalMart, since WalMart  teds to lean a little towards anti-gun.

What did Gander Mountain have on my “common” list?

Some 12ga shotgun shells in slugs and duck loads and three boxes of .22 blanks for starter pistols.

What about the oddball list?

Racks of each and every one I listed, as well as others like .220 swift(!), .22-250, .357, .45 Long Colt, and .44Mag. They even had some .38 special, though I saw a group of folks corner a manager about finding some .38 Special +P rounds with zero luck.

Right now, supply and demand has the common calibers demanded out of reach. The less-in-demand oddballs are still available, and guess what? Prices aren’t that inflated on them. I picked up a 50 round box of Hornady .17HMR for $15. A pretty good price, even in time of plentiful ammunition.

Bullet Caliber Comparison
(Click to enlarge)

My choices for calibers are based on two simple premises. Overlap as much as possible, and have some variety. By “overlap”, I mean have multiple weapons that fire the same ammunition. For instance, a Ruger Mark II pistol and a Ruger 10/22 both shoot .22 rimfire ammo. I also have a 9mm pistol along with a Marlin Camp 9 – both shoot the same 9mm ammo.


Then I also have the .17HMR. While I don’t have a handgun that fires that caliber, it’s on my radar to pick up. I also prefer 20 gauge shotguns since the wife and kids can handle them better than a 12 gauge. Plus ammo is a wee bit less expensive. My high-powered rifle caliber of choice? The .270, not the .308. And to wound it all out, I have a  .357 Rossi Model 92 lever action “cowboy gun” that the ammo works just fine in a .357 pistol, both with the added benefit of also being able to use .38 Special ammo. Talk about versatility!

And I won’t tell you that you cannot find ANY common caliber ammo right now. It’s out there. But it is priced higher than I’m willing to pay. Luckily, I have a few rounds put aside, you know, just in case.

So in closing, I’m going to go with Forrest Gump on my final answer of going with common or uncommon calibers, “I think both”.


  1. Buy it cheap and stack it deep! I’ve been buying ammo a little at a time for years…back when surplus .308 was $0.15 a round I bought some here and some there. And now I still have some. Same with .223, when Wally World had it $7.57 for a box of 40 rounds I’d buy a couple of boxes each payday….52 weeks of that adds up, and price wise dollar cost averaging usually works to your advantage. Heck, even one box a week adds up. And now I am not too worried about ammo, as I have a bunch on hand. Except for .22. My kids go through that stuff like it’s popcorn or something…..

    I’d feel better if I could find primers….reloading is where it’s at now, with ammo so expensive.

    But odd calibers are great to have for just these situations. 12 gauge, .300 WSM, and .300 Savage are all that’s available here in New England…

    1. .308 was $0.15 a round

      So long ago, it seems like that was when gas a nickle 😛

      But you are buying ammo the smart way, a little at a time. I was doing that, then fell out of practice for some reason….too late now!

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