Four Letters Re: One Common Caliber for Retreat Rifles and Handguns?

I would like to add a comment on the viability of the “same caliber pistol and rifle” concept. The .357 Magnum offers an interesting choice for a survival rifle.
In a revolver, the .357 is certainly powerful enough to be considered a defense caliber by most folks. The 16″ barreled Winchester or Marlin lever action rifles can push out a 180 grain slug at close to 2000 fps with handloads, making it usable on deer out to 150 yards or so.
Loading up light .38 special loads makes this rifle capable of taking small game without destroying all the meat.
The .357 is easy to load with tools like the Lee hand loader, and runs just fine on cast bullets. Depending on the load, you can get over 1,000 rounds of 38 Special out of a pound of powder, and store everything you need to cast and load in a 50 cal ammo can.
Depending on your needs and whether you think you’ll be spending a long time away from civilization, having an easy-to-sustain weapon for game getting and home defense could make sense.
A 10-shot lever action is certainly not a substitute for a modern battle rifle, but it’s easy to shoot and not intimidating to women and young shooters.
Just my $.02 – J.N.


Mr R
Interesting post on pistol cartridges in carbines. Since becoming a regular reader, I’ve taken up reloading. I have a couple observations about handgun & long gun combo as a novice.

The concept makes sense to me, from the versatility standpoint. When I started looking at what we had and what we might get, I settled on the .38 Special /.357 magnum revolver plus Marlin 1894 carbine combo. We already had revolvers for those cartridges. The ease of reloading and obtaining components for those calibers was attractive. The Marlin carbine is robust, easy to carry and shoot, respectably accurate up to 100 yards ( even for my middle-aged eyes, with iron peep sights) …. and Corbon manufactures a “heavy” 200 gr round designed for light game. Various powder and bullet combos coming out of the Marlin’s 18″ barrel make it a pretty decent round. As a reloading novice, I noticed that Alliant 2400 worked well for both .357 hot n’ heavy rounds, as well as for intermediate 7.62 x 39 mm rounds. Again, some commonality in supplies drew us.

As you note, a good bolt gun, or good semi-auto intermediate-cartridge gun ( AR-15, SKS ) is surely going beat a “handgun” round, but we felt that those needs could be addressed later, and they were. We got bolt guns ( CZ 527 ) that launch the 7.62 x 39mm round, enhancing the ability to use that round, and conversion uppers (Olympic Arms ) that will allow the .223 / 5.56 NATO ARs to fire the same 7.62 x 39 cartridge.

Following the “path of simplification and versatility” works well for us You are on the money again, particularly as regards 9mm / .40 S&W “long guns” Their price, versus a Marlin 94 carbine is pretty much a dead-heat. If I can effectively load .38 Special /.357 Mag, anyone can. Light loads ( .38 Special) are are great for 2″ revolvers, and the heavyweights ( .357 ) work well in medium and large frame revolvers and the Marlin. We can all handle their recoil.

Novice observation: We looked at accuracy/reliability/cost for our bolt guns, and settled on the CZ, and Savage. The Savage line (Model 110 series) has ” package guns” with low-cost scopes already aboard and bore-sighted, and they are acceptably accurate. We got very nice Bushnell 3200 Elites in both regular and Firefly reticles at (The best prices we could find, believe me) and they are as accurate as will be needed. Their 110-line has both 30.06 and .308 packages, covering the cartridges I assume most folks will have or are planning on.

Your emphasis in [your novel] “Patriots” on self-illuminating (tritium) sights and scopes is one that readers should have burned into their consciousness and purchasing plans. Batteries die. Replacement batteries may not be available, and they have to be installed, maybe under stress. Why bother [when you can get tritium lit scopes that don’t need batteries]?

In a pinch, the small ( 1.5″ ) red light sticks ( try Botach Tactical ) can be carefully affixed to barrels, giving low-light capability–better than none. Luminescent paint can be applied to rear and front sights. Anything trumps nothing. I’m currently re-reading “Patriots”. Thanks for the info. Best Regards, – MurrDoc


Great subject. Anyone that desires cartridge commonality out to check out the Beretta Storm Series. Now certainly weapon choice is one of personal preference and typically based on purpose, familiarity and geographical location. If one is looking for a true defensive weapon with some crossover potential for sporting than I believe you out to at least give the Beretta CX4 Storm series a serious look. Not only does the carbine, CX4, come in three different cambers (.45, .40 and 9mm), Beretta has a matching cambered handgun. Additionally, the magazines are cross platform compatible. Yes, the .45 ACP magazine used in the CX4 carbine will also fit the Beretta’s Cougar 8045 handgun. Other positives on the CX4 would be its lightweight, easy to mount accessories, easily converted to accommodate a right or left handed shooter, easy to break for cleaning, easy for a non-armorer to remove and replace defective components. Some negatives would be trajectory, range and limited steel site adjustment capability. Semper Fi, – Richard N.


The recent “One Common Caliber for Retreat Rifles and Handguns” letter got me rethinking the ideal of caliber commonality. Not handgun and rifle in the same caliber – but the ideal of only one rifle caliber for everything. In a perfect world, this would be the most efficient use of money and time and gear redundancy. One would own one rifle caliber and one platform, say, several M1As and a boatload of .308.
But this paradigm is predicated on the assumption of unlimited amounts of inexpensive ammo, to feed the requirements of ongoing practice and training. Four years ago, this made perfect sense. Back then, I bought many cases of the Portuguese .308 milsurp at $150 a case. At that price, I could keep five cases around, and burn through a case a year for practice and training. But now, with .308 milsurp pushing a surreal $500/case – and worse, the prospect of the supply literally drying up – I’ve had to shift gears. I can no longer shoot much .308. Now, I’ve reverted to “hoard” mode in that caliber. [Even] .223 has been following a similar price trajectory.
As a result, I’ve been motivated to diversify rifle calibers, somewhat against my “caliber commonality” philosophy. For example, the AK-47 isn’t my favored platform, although I have one – but cases of 7.62×39 can be had easily for $160. So I bought five cases of that, and am looking to buy a second AK-47.
In the years ahead of perpetual wars and hence perpetual military-caliber ammo shortages, I think we need to be flexible, even at the cost of losing commonality, and accruing redundant ammo stockpiles. It’s important to have ammo, not just for a rainy day, but for the ongoing duties of practice and training. – Don in Philadelphia

JWR Replies: The current ammo shortages and the recent hefty price increases do indeed put a new spin in preparedness planning. If a large quantity of inexpensive non-corrosive ammunition in a caliber like 8×57 Mauser, 7.5 Swiss, 7.62x54R, or 7.62×39 become available, then folks should seriously consider stocking up (to the tune of several thousand rounds all at once, preferably all from the same lot), and then buying one or two guns in that caliber. These would preferably be either pre-1899 Federally exempt antiques (such as those sold by The Pre-1899 Specialist), or via in-state private party sales (sans paper trail). These rifles and their corresponding ammo would be designated for use as “secondary/training” arms. Watch for upcoming sales at the major surplus ammo dealers such as AIM Surplus, Cheaper Than Dirt, Dan’s Ammo, J&G Sales, Midway,, Natchez Shooter Supply, and The Sportsman’s Guide.