Ever see those posts or articles where folks talk about what they think the ideal calibers are for ‘your survival battery’ or some nonsense like that? Predictably it goes something like this: .22LR, .223 (or 308 or 7.62×39), 45 ACP (or 9mm or .40) and 12 ga. There might be a few folks swimming against the current who will say things like .30-06 or .44 Magnum, but generally I would guess that when you look at anyones list of their ‘survival guns’ those calibers make up 90% of the entries. This post is the opposite of that. This post is the calibers that shouldn’t make up your little stash o’ apocalyptic guns and why. As always, this is purely subjective and you’re probably going to disagree. Fine with me, man….opinions are like fundaments..everyone has one.
The recent ammunition shortages are something everyone is aware of and its been blogged about quite a bit on the interwebs. I saw one argument for stocking up guns in bizarre calibers on the logic that all that was left at WalMart were the weird calibers of ammo (.41 Mag, 10mm, .32 Magnum) and therefore your guns should be in that caliber because when all the ammo is picked over those are the calibers that will be left. I usually try to have some decorum when disagreeing with someone but I gotta say, that’s a stupid argument. If the cartridge is oddball enough that its going to be ignored in a panic-buying craze it is probably also obscure enough that most stores won’t have it. Additionally, if the cartridge is obscure or cultish enough that theres such a small base of people shooting it, the selection of guns is probably going to be pretty dismal.
An example of what Im talking about. I had a buddy who wanted a .30 caliber semi-auto rifle capable of being quickly reloaded. Throw some ideas at me….M1A? HK91 clone? AK? AR-10? .30 Carbine? FAL? All good ideas, right? But he was adamant that the ideal gun to meet this criteria was a 1941 Johnson (the gun, not the outboard motor.) So for the price of two of any of those rifles I just mentioned he got a 10-shot .30-06 that could be fed with stripper clips and had absolutely zero aftermarket accessories and virtually no spare parts support. (His earlier attempt at .30 caliber perfection was a Remington 7400 with ten-round magazines.) Same fella thought that in a revolver the .32 Magnum was the perfect cartridge. So he bought a couple of Smiths and started reloading for the .32 Mag. Good thing because walking into the average gun shop and finding a good selection of .32 Mag ammo is a fools errand. His other choice of a semi-auto ‘battle rifle’ was a tossup – he had a Ljungman AG-42(b) in 6.5×55 and a Remington Model 81 in .35 Remington. Both will spit a bullet out the end of the barrel each time you pull the trigger but finding ammo isn’t exactly a walk in the park. For the money he spent on these dead-ends he could have gotten some very boring, but very easy-to-feed, firearms that would have made more sense logistically and probably been better adapted to what he was expecting to encounter. But, some folks have their own ideas….
Theres a handful of rimfires awailable today. Used to be you only had two to choose from – the .22 LR and the .22 Mag. (For a brief time Remington had a 5mm RF but that sucker is ancient history, a hundred years ago there were rimfires all the way up to .50 cal. And the Swiss used a .41 rimfire for quite a while in their military.) Now you have the two .22s and a couple .17 variants. Pretty much any of the other rimfires are superior to the .22 LR…the Mag and the .17 Mag have it beat for speed and flat trajectory but whats the most common of the bunch? .22 LR. A brick of 500 .22 LR is cheaper than a brick of any of the other rimfires, the guns are common as grass, and while the cartridge has some limitations we pretty much all know what they are and use it accordingly. The other rimfires are great, its just that when it comes time to scrounge ammo from under the seat of a truck, out of someones garage, or even off the ground at the local shooting range the .22 LR will outnumber the other rimfires exponentially.
5.45×39 is the latest incarnation of the AK series of rifles. It can be had on the surplus market pretty cheaply these days but it is still less common than its 7.62×39 parent. Additionally, far more AK (and SKS) variants are out there in 7.62 than there are in 5.45. If you can stock up on 5.45 to the point where the availability outside of your ammo bunker is unimportant, great….but given the choice between the two I’m going with the 7.62×39 over the 5.45. Yeah, the 5.45 is a better cartridge, but the better cartridge is the one you can actually find and the 7.62 is going to be more common, in my opinion.
.41 Magnum and 10mm Auto are great cartridges but have been relegated into the ‘niche’ or ‘cult’ category. I think Ted Nugent is on the right track, toting a Glock 20 around all the time. Great power, excellent trail gun. Ammo availability? Slim compared to it’s weak sister, the .40 S&W. When you don’t know where youre next box of ammo is coming from it’s a good idea to stack the odds in your favor by having something that youre more likely to find. .41 Mag is almost the exact same story – good caliber, thin selection of guns, good luck on the ammo.Really, if your auto is in something other than 9mm, .40 or 45 youre probably going to have a tougher time finding ammo than if it was in one of those calibers. Ditto for .38, .357, .44 in the revolvers.
.30-06? Im conflicted on that one. The only thing even close to being an acceptable self-defense rifle in that caliber is the Garand and I’d take any .308 MBR over a Garand any day of the week. Stuck with .30-06 I’d probably take the FN49 over the Garand. Its probably the most common cartridge around for a bolt gun, and the fella with a Garand will probably never have trouble finding ammo. This is a case of a good cartridge, just a bad choice of guns available. I go with the .308….it’ll do pretty much everything the .30-06 will in weights up to 165 gr. But is available in much better firearms.
If you’ve got some time to kill, pick a list of your favorite cartridges for the particular apocalypse you predict, and go visit five random gun shops or hardware stores…ones you’ve never been to. See if they have your favorite calibers in stock as a standard item they usually carry. If not, maybe its time to rethink what youre planning on going to the zombiefest with.
I’ve got some favorite cartridges that enjoy shooting (..44 Special, 7×57 Mau., etc.) but they are not even on the radar in terms of my long term logistics. When the wheels fly off of civilization I think I’ll be much better served with the guns chambered in cartridges I can actually find ammo for than with the guns that are chambered in pet cartridges that are ’special order’ at many gun shops.