Caliber Choices by R. Ann Parris
Like most things in life, there’s not a single be-all answer when it comes to caliber selection for preppers. We can pick a specific calibers from the wee .22 to the mighty 12-gauge and argue virtues and drawbacks all day. Some general categories can help us narrow down our top priorities, and thus which rounds most apply to our circumstances and expectations.
What we have to pay for ammunition should be high on the list of considerations. It’s not just establishing our prepper stash. We have to be able to feed our firearm to zero it and periodically check that zero, and develop and maintain muscle memory.
Depending on our use, there may be other costs, as well. Gear, accessories, spare bits, range time, and training all add up. When we work those tallies, we might find a more economical platform and caliber better suits us, at least for now.
Our field of choices might narrow solely because people we’re working or living with already have a certain caliber.
That can range from picking between the 2-3 standard rifle and pistols (or calibers) in a group, to being able to split large bulk buys with family and buddies to get better prices per round or split the costs of reloading for even less per round.
A particularly common caliber might appeal because in general “normal” times they’re widely available and generally affordable. They’re also more likely to be on shelves locally, versus having to order them in, and there’s usually a wider range of off-the-shelf bullet and powder combinations.
On the other hand, super-common calibers are also the ones that run off shelves early and then skyrocket in price during fear-based grabs.
Domestic v. Imported Calibers
For many of us, the domestic calibers are going to be the the NATO standards — 9mm, .45ACP, .223/5.56, 7.62/.308 — and the imports are going to be mostly the Russian and Chinese variants.
While the latter can be had inexpensively, especially as bulk orders, and can sometimes be locally available as well, it’s going to depend on exactly where we are and specific caliber.
One of the appeals of a common domestic caliber, especially NATO options, is even more availability — now, but also in a “later” or “after” scenario. Because they’re widely used in both the military-police fields and civilian areas, the theory goes, it increases the chance we’ll be able to find it.
If we go with an import, we rely on importing it — ourselves, or a local store we buy from. Especially if we go with an import our local stores don’t carry and that’s not particularly common, we’re significantly reliant on our stash and vulnerable to price increases and shortages while building that stash.
In many cases, the super-common “military” calibers that are also common hunting calibers offer us increased off-the-shelf variety in loads. For example: green-tip penetrators and a variety of weights in soft-points, both blooming and stabilizing hollow points, and a range of the typically less-expensive jacketed rounds and wadcutters.
There’s something to be said for the “oddball” calibers that stay on shelves during fear grabs. We do, however, want to be aware of the limitations. If we go too oddball, it can be hard to source even now — forget finding anybody else with it in a disaster if we have a housefire or a factory/train chemical leak drives us from our stockpiles.
We’re aiming for the things that are still common to own, but not too popular. We want to be able to tap any given 10-25 people at a range, in line for a hunting license, or picking up their pistol, and find at least one but maybe even two or three who own and use that caliber.
We do want to pay mind to local stores and trends, because it varies, but things like .22WMR instead of .22LR, .30-06 instead of .308, and .38 or .357 revolver instead of 9mm or .45ACP are common fallback calibers that give us a lot of the same functionality.
*Maybe I’m lucky, but super-duper common as it is, I have yet to find a shortage of 12-gauge or 20-gauge ammo — it’s usually in the same bulk or lack thereof during runs as before them.
While we’re balancing the cost and deciding if we even care about run resistance or import-domestic availability, remember, a caliber still has to do the job we’re trying to accomplish, whatever that may be.
We can’t tunnel vision only on the most effective caliber for that job, though.
The people around us who may also need to use that gun, and whether we can physically and financially practice with it enough to gain and maintain basic and necessary skills, still matter.
It’s a lot to balance. Because our situations, experiences, and expectations differ and our priorities differ, so will our caliber selection.