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:


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, 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

.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.


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.


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 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

Recent Videos

Shooting Times Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Get the top Shooting Times stories delivered right to your inbox.

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 and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now