Beating Ammo Shortages with Uncommon Calibers

posted on August 25, 2020

Shelves empty of popular calibers pretty quickly during periods of panic buying. Often, however, odd or uncommon calibers can still be found.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the world will have returned to some semblance of normalcy. However, due to the realities of the publishing schedule, it is being generated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by unrelated, widespread rioting.

Walking into the local neighborhood gun store right now will reveal a scene unlike anything we’ve seen since at least early 2013. After running out and buying all the toilet paper and rice they could, apparently bunches of gun owners then ran to make up any shortfall in their ammunition supplies. When they got to the gun shop, they often found themselves in line with first-time buyers who’d heard news that their local police departments were dialing back on non-immediate 911 responses or who’d discovered that local jails were releasing inmates early for fear of the virus sweeping through cell blocks.

Whatever the reason, these disparate groups found themselves in line at the ammunition counter and they all encountered the same thing: Retail stocks of common handgun calibers, such as .380 ACP, 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, were quickly depleted.

Well, let’s go over the utility of the handgun rounds left on the shelf in these times of hysteria.

Pocket Poppers
If your local gun shop is like most of them, the centerfire handgun ammunition is arranged by caliber. If you look at the top left, just past the empty space where .380 used to be, you’ll see .25 ACP and .32 ACP. These two cartridges are original designs of John Moses Browning dating back to around the turn of the last century. While .25 ACP—used in teeny, vest-pocket semi-automatics—is one of the few cartridges almost as bad for defensive purposes as its internet reputation holds, the same can’t be said of its slightly larger stablemate.

The .32 ACP was popular for decades as a police round in Europe and, in its FMJ configuration, is about the smallest and lightest-recoiling load to offer adequate penetration. Also, it’s available in older pocket pistols that can be scooped up cheaply even when panic buying is driving modern pistol prices through the roof.

Retro Revolvers
In the revolver ammunition section, .38 Spl. and .357 Mag. stocks may well have vanished or at least been heavily depleted. Most gun stores, however, will tend to keep on hand at least a few boxes of .32 Long or .38 S&W, and there’s less competition among your new ammo-hoarding friends for those. Feeding an old Victory Model Smith wheelgun might be a winning proposition in an ammo drought.

Cold War Survivors
The 7.62x25 mm (aka “.30 Tokarev”) and 9x18 mm Makarov handguns were plentiful on dealer shelves in the first decade or so after the Cold War ended, though not as much so now. While the .30 Mauser-derived 7.62x25 mm suffers from a lack of good defensive loadings, Hornady has offered its XTP and Critical Defense loads in 9 mm Makarov. More intriguing is the fact that Lone Wolf Distributors offers a 9x18 mm barrel for the Glock G42, making that little pocket .380 ACP a multi-caliber fallback in an ammo crunch. 

Esoteric Exotics
Among the last ammo stocks to be affected in a crunch are the “connoisseur cartridges,” like .357 SIG, 10 mm and .41 Mag. It’s an unexpected side benefit of owning a handgun chambered for a niche caliber.

These are some strategies for dodging the worst impacts of an ammo panic, which can reverberate through supply chains for months or even years. Keeping a handgun or two that can be fed when the common watering holes are dry can be a wise strategy.


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