Letter Re: Firearms Selection for Times of Ammunition Shortages

Dear JWR,
Last spring, with the ammo shortage clearing the shelves everywhere, I found myself in a position to expand my collection.  I decided on a Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, with the 7" barrel.  Legal for whitetail in my state, you see.  Having neglected to actually check the retail supply, I assumed that the shortage would be primarily the military calibers (9mm Para, .45 ACP, 5.56mm NATO, .308, and 7.62x39mm) with the civilian calibers being readily available.

Experienced wheelgunners are already laughing.  Took me a month to track down 100 rounds of basic .44 Magnum.  Eventually, diligent checking at Wal-Mart (I work nights, what else is open at 5 AM?) landed me another 200.  Over the rest of the summer.  Usually buying the one remaining box of 50 rounds.

Things started to loosen up a bit here, and I picked up a S&W in .357, as a friend had laid in 500 rounds of reloads a couple years back, and gave me  a box of leftover factory .38 Special.  I find it amusing that a box of 100 .38 Special costs about the same as 50 of .44 Magnum! Also, the local farm supply carries .38 Special and .357 Magnum, but not .44 Magnum or .44 Special.

Through this whole business, I have been impressed by the fact that the much-derided .45 Colt has been readily available at Wal-Mart, including a combination pack of 25 rounds of .45 Colt and 25 of .410.  My congratulations to anyone who had the foresight to buy one of the combination .45/.410 pistols.  That and .40 S&W were the only pistol ammo continuously in stock at Wal-Mart since April 2013, when I started looking.  Many of us originally chose 9mm pistols and 5.56mm or .308 rifles for for long-term ammo availability–ammo in military calibers is supposedly plentiful.  Lately, this has proven false.  Any first-time pistol buyers this year who purchased .45 Colt revolvers showed more foresight than I had. – Ethan A.

[JWR Adds: While .45 Colt (commonly but erroneously called ".45 Long Colt") is a fine cartridge ballistically–with plenty of power for self defense (especially if you handload), I generally recommend .44 Magnum for anyone desiring a large bore handgun. The key problem with .45 Colt is that it has a relatively narrow cartridge rim. So, when shooting swing-out cylinder revolvers with a typical rim extractor "star", you will occasionally get a cartridge rim stuck underneath the extractor, when you make the fired brass ejection stroke. This is a mere annoyance when target shooting, but it could prove deadly if it were to happen in the midst of a serious shooting affray.

The .410 shotshells (with buckshot or slugs) are a poor choice for self defense. So if you own one of the new pistol/shotshell long-cylinder revolvers, my advice is to keep it loaded with .45 Colt jacketed hollow points. Only load it with shotshells when shooting grouse or garden pests.]