Skip to main content

8 Calibers You Need to Be Reloading Right Now

8 Calibers You Need to Be Reloading Right Now

Can't find ammo? Act like an American and take matters into your own hands. If you can't buy it, make it.

Every munitions company I know is running around the clock, trying to catch up with the tremendous demand created in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting tragedy. I frequently get asked why there's just no ammo to be found- especially .22 Long Rifle, 9mm, .223, and so on. My opinion? In the feeding frenzy sparked by the tsunami of recently introduced gun control bills, folks bought guns first. Finally, supply is beginning to catch a distant glimpse of that demand, but all those folks who bought guns are now vacuuming up and stockpiling fodder for their tool of apocalyptic-survival-choice. So, there's no ammo.

Folks who get lathered up about odd and obscure calibers- ike me- are already reloading their favorite flavors. But when the fan kicks on and 100 percent natural fertilizer blows all over the neighborhood, 95 percent of Americans will need one of about eight calibers. If you're not reloading them already, start. It's your bounden duty to get started, and now. Here's a look at them:

9mm

More folks probably have a 9mm semi-auto squirreled away in some shoebox than any other handgun caliber. It's mild-mannered, accurate, and most handguns hold a whole bunch of cartridges. This makes for a self-defense gun that is easy to shoot and won't quickly run dry. It's a pretty forgiving cartridge to hand load. It's economical, too — you can get upwards of 1,700 rounds out of a single pound of powder. When choosing projectiles, find good practice bullets such as Berry's copper-plated projectiles, and as many quality hollow-point expanding bullets as you can afford from Hornady, Remington, Speer, etcetera. If worst comes to worst, use the hollow points on bad guys — a 9mm FMJ or plated bullet will pencil right through, probably killing your attacker but maybe not before he takes your peashooter away and feeds it to you. As for primers and brass, buy them where you find them. Primers can usually be found at a gun shop somewhere in your locale, but brass is tougher. The best source I've found is GunBroker.com, where once-fired brass can often be purchased online auction-style. Pick it up at shooting ranges, scrounge it off of your non-reloading cousins, and generally be a scab if that's what it takes to get your cases. That applies to most of the cartridges in this article.

.40 S&W

In the shadowed popularity valley between the 9mm and .45 Auto exists the .40 S&W; a fairly versatile cartridge with little to engender extraordinary loyalty, it's not quite as hard to find supplies as either of the others. That's not to say it lurks in lonely fashion on the shelves of every corner gas station — you'll still lay some rubber on the sidewalk finding adequate components. Like the other semi-auto handgun cartridges listed here, feed it with inexpensive plated bullets or FMJs for practice purposes, but load quality hollow-points for the times when it's all that stands between your dearly beloved and a crowbar in the hands of an intruder with uncivilized intentions. Brass? What brass? You should have been picking up all those empty cases you've created with such glee over the past years. Kidding aside, once-fired cases can be found on GunBroker.com.

.38 Special

Arguably the most widely used, popular revolver cartridge in history, the .38 Special also fits and safely shoots in the chambers of .357 Magnum revolvers — adding versatility to popularity. While it's not a dragon-slaying Magnum, it is easy for just about anyone to shoot accurately, virtue of low recoil and a rather civilized 'bang ' when the go-button is squeezed. Like the 9mm, it's economical to reload, and it's even more forgiving, since trimming to length is not vital to reliable function. Get a lunchbox full of hard-cast bullets for practice, and hollow-points with a lot of lead exposed at the tip for self-defense.

.45 ACP

In continuous use by America's armed forces in one branch or another for over a century now, the .45 is known for it's stopping ability. It's got some recoil, but not so much the average shooter can't learn to shoot it accurately — with diligent application. For those of us with big fingers, it's easier to reload than its skinny little hard-to-grasp siblings. One great beauty of the .45, it's an honest-to-goodness villain-stomper with premium hollow-point expanding bullets, and it's also pretty effective with plain old, inexpensive FMJ, cast or plated bullets. Boasting a blunt, broad frontal shape, those almost-half-inch projectiles hit hard and cause significant trauma even without expanding. My original intention was to list a source of reloadable cases for each caliber featured in this article, but 'Out of stock, no backorder ' was the mantra across the cartridge-case market. The .45 is no exception. Hopefully you've been hoarding the empties from your trusty pistol, or have a generous relative you can scrounge a few off of.

.223

Without doubt, this cartridge is the Belle of the Out-of-Stock ball. As most of you know, the aggressively targeted AR-15 so maligned by the gun control crowd shoots .223 cartridges. Everybody — and I mean everybody — is trying to buy .223 ammo and reloading components. On the upside, so many shooters own and shoot guns in .223 that empty brass is not too hard to find. An offer to reload for a buddy in trade for a percentage of his empties may score you a few hundred cartridge cases. Primers and projectiles are obtainable by diligent patrolling of the local gun shops, but gunpowder is almost impossible to find. I hope that will change by mid-summer, but who knows.

.308

The greater part of the so-called tactical rifles intended for mid-range use are chambered in .308 — including war-horse legends such as the M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A — and Remington's M24 sniper rifle. While it isn't particularly flat shooting, it is inherently accurate and recoils moderately. Whitetail hunters who don't shoot much past 200 yards use it with great success. While it probably ranks second in hard to find rifle calibers, it's not in the same mind-blowing category as the .223. Projectiles can be purchased at most reloading supply houses. They may not be exactly what you wanted, but they can be had. Primers barely pause between the shipping truck and the checkouts, but they too can be found. I even found new Hornady Match cases and once-fired Lake City cases online at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Obtaining powder will most likely prove to be the biggest challenge. Haunt your favorite supply houses, and when you catch a shipment coming in, buy in bulk.

.30-06 Gov't.

Though eccentric, hard-core shooters may consider the .30-06 a little mundane, it is in fact the world's most beloved hunting cartridge. It has the panache and subdued glamor of its history in defending freedom and justice through both World Wars. Easy to reload, it is capable of long-range target work and killing the biggest legal game in the contiguous states. Its greater powder capacity and long neck give it a subtle but significant ballistic advantage over the .308, though it is perhaps less forgiving in the accuracy department. Sierra's 190-grain MatchKing excels for target or tactical work when distances stretch past 600 yards, and about any quality 180-grain expanding bullet makes short work of deer, black bear or elk out to 300 or even 400 yards in the hands of a careful rifleman. Reloading components for the 30-06 are probably more available than for any of the other cartridges featured here, courtesy of the cartridge's long history among shooters. Garages across the nation hold Folgers's coffee cans full of empty cases, and surplus military powder is still commonly used. Gun shops will generally have components, with the exception of gunpowder. Don't currently reload the .30-06? Unthinkable. Don't even own a .30-06? Repent fervently and head to the local gunshop to join the ranks of real Americans.

6.8 SPC

I have heard from two very reliable sources the 6.8 SPC has been hard on the heels of the .223 and 9mm for reloading die and component sales over the past couple of years. I find that shocking because I'm not particularly a proponent of the cartridge — but hey, I can be wrong just like the next yokel. Purchase FMJ bullets for plinking and practice use, but you'll want your emergency magazines stocked with expanding bullets such as Hornady's 110-grain V-Max or Nosler's 110-grain AccuBond. Powder and primers can be found by actively patrolling local shops, and I've found quantities of once-fired brass on GunBroker.com. I tried not to include the 6.8 in this roundup, but in the end I couldn't leave it out. AR-15 guys are the shooters most thirsting for ammo, and the 6.8 is popular among them. Even if you don't have interest in the round yourself, it still behooves you to tool up to reload for it.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

While the 6mm-caliber cartridges that can be considered “great” are few in number, some have long and storied histories.12 Great 6mm Cartridges Ammo

12 Great 6mm Cartridges

Steve Gash - August 20, 2020

While the 6mm-caliber cartridges that can be considered “great” are few in number, some have...

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06.Get the Most Out of the .30-06 Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two decades.Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic Revolver Review Handguns

Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic Revolver Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - March 08, 2019

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two...

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol? Here's why.Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity Handguns

Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol?...

See More Trending Articles

More Reloading

The process of precision handloading begins with a rifle that's accurate; your whole setup will only be as good as your weakest link.Precision Reloading Guide Part 1: The Accurate Rifle Reloading

Precision Reloading Guide Part 1: The Accurate Rifle

Layne Simpson - September 25, 2020

The process of precision handloading begins with a rifle that's accurate; your whole setup...

For safe and reliable handloads, reloaders need to know what headspace is and why it's so important. Reloading 101: What is Headspace? Reloading

Reloading 101: What is Headspace?

Lane Pearce - March 26, 2020

For safe and reliable handloads, reloaders need to know what headspace is and why it's so...

The .350 Legend case is a straight-wall case with a slightly tapered body so that it will reliably feed in a bolt-action or semiautomatic rifle. It's also rimless and headspaces on the case mouth. According to its SAAMI specs, the maximum average pressure (MAP) is 55,000 psi, so unlike similarly shaped pistol cases operating at pressures up to 35,000 psi, .350 Legend cases are more likely to stretch when fired and resized.Reloading the .350 Legend Reloading

Reloading the .350 Legend

Lane Pearce - June 09, 2020

The .350 Legend case is a straight-wall case with a slightly tapered body so that it will...

For plinking, target shooting, and routine personal-defense needs, you owe it to yourself to try Berry's plated handgun bullets.Loading Berry's Plated Handgun Bullets Reloading

Loading Berry's Plated Handgun Bullets

Lane Pearce - August 03, 2020

For plinking, target shooting, and routine personal-defense needs, you owe it to yourself to...

See More Reloading

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now