We all recognize that there will be a scarcity of resources in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. One of the things that almost everyone preparing for such a contingency stockpiles is ammunition. Stored ammunition is a viable, but short term solution. Sooner or later factory ammunition will become scarce. Whether that is in days, months, years, or decades, reloading becomes the next most viable option. Powder, primers, and projectiles can bring new life to previously fired cases. I recommend that everyone store powder, primer, and projectiles, but sooner or later these too will get scarce.
There are things that we can do now to make our reloading capacity last well beyond that of the average reloader. We all recognize the value of arming ourselves with firearms chambered with commonly found cartridges. In the United States you are far more likely to find .30-30, .308 and .30-06 than you are to find wildcat ammo or nearly obsolete ammo such as 6.5mm Carcano, 6.5mm Japanese, 8mm Lebel. These later three are all military chamberings, but they are not found in quantity. When your supply of stored ammunition becomes depleted you are far more likely to find both factory loaded cartridges and reloading supplies for more common cartridges. At least you are until everyone with those commonly chambered firearms starts scrounging for ammo. What then? If you have the capacity to mould your own projectiles that is an excellent start, but what else can you do?
Another option is to cannibalize components from other ammunition. This will provide jacketed bullets, as well as otherwise wasted powder and primers. I will not attempt to list safe loads that can be created with cannibalized components. The potential combinations for even a single cartridge like 308 are nearly infinite. But suffice to say that if you are willing to do a little research now you can develop safe loads from a variety of sources. For instance, if you are shooting a rifle chambered in 308 and need to build ammo for it. You can steal powder, primer, and projectiles from 30-06 cartridges. The reverse is also true. Components from 308 Winchester can feed a 30-06 because both cartridges utilize projectiles that are .308 inches (7.62mm) in diameter. Similarly if you own a rifle chambered for ammunition with a .311 projectile like 7.62×39 (AKs and SKS), 303 British (Enfields), or 7.62x54R (Mosin Nagants) you can load projectiles pulled from any of the cartridges in that list.
This is where the blinding flash of the obvious comes in. If you own a rifle with a bore size slightly LARGER than the most common projectiles. You can utilize not only all of the proper projectiles, but ALSO all of the slightly SMALLER projectiles safely.
NEVER try to do the reverse. DO NOT load larger projectiles in smaller bores as this will create dangerous pressures.
But you can safely build cartridges that go bang and kill down range without causing danger to the shooter by using slightly undersized projectiles.
For example rifles chambered for .303 British, 7.62x54R and 7.62x39mm cartridges all have .311 bores. They can not only use all the projectiles made in .311 but also all those that are truly .308 The accuracy will suffer because the smaller projectiles do not grip the lands and grooves of the barrel as tightly, but ammo which can be cannibalized includes .308 Winchester, 7.62×51 NATO, .30-06, .30-378, etc.
If a multi-generational recovery period follows TEOTWAWKI, there will be a period when those armed with the slightly larger bores will find reloading components much more readily than those with smaller diameter bores. This could be a decisive advantage.
As often expressed here – knowledge is the key to quality of life beyond bare survival. With a little research now you can develop loads that give you an edge in the future when you may need it most.
JWR Adds: Use caution and common sense when cannibalizing loaded ammunition for reloading components. As with any other reloading operation, always wear safety goggles. Never use an inertial bullet puller to pull bullets from any cartridges with explosive bullets! (Velex bullets, Spotter or “Spotting” rounds, Pomeroy bullets, Raufoss loads, et cetera. Even some incendiary bullets are shock sensitive.) Any salvaged powder should be properly labelled and packaged in sealed metal cans. (Never glass jars!) Also, salvaged powder from one lot ammunition should never be mixed with powder from other lots of ammunition. It should all treated as if it has a faster burning rate–and loaded as such. (Very light loads, and work them up gradually, watching for signs of excess pressure such as difficult chamber extraction, deformed/separated cases, or deformed/”backed out” primers.) Use extreme caution when attempting to de-cap live primers. This should only be done in an absolute emergency, and then it should only attempted with primers that are not crimped in primer pockets, and of course only with substantial safety precautions!