Top Ten Must have Calibers for the “Apocalypse”

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A Brief History

On March 29, 1911, the Colt M1911 .45 ACP caliber semi-automatic pistol became the standard pistol of the US Army.  In the event of natural disaster, nuclear holocaust, revolution, or any other manner of “apocalypse” that may develop, you may need guns and guns need ammunition!  If you are going to stock up on any sort of ammo for the BIG disaster, this article is your list. (Obviously, it would be cheaper to have the ammo and only one gun, because as a wise man once said, if you have one gun you can get more.)

Digging Deeper

10. .308 Winchester/7.62 Nato.

A military round, rifles chambered in this caliber range from single shot to high capacity fully automatic, not to mention machine guns. Being a standard Nato loading makes it common in the U.S. and much of the world.  Accurate and powerful, this ammo can take down any North American animals (or zombies…) and has excellent long range accuracy.  This caliber replaced the .30-06 Springfield cartridge of the M1 Garand and ‘03 Springfield U.S. military rifles.  It combines a smaller and lighter cartridge case with modern efficiency to make it the equal of the heavier .30-06 ammo. It is also found in a huge variety of bullet types.

9. .44 Magnum.

The old Dirty Harry standby, formerly “the most powerful handgun in the world” is also very useful for survival. Much more common than more powerful newcomers, you are not only more likely to find guns and ammo in this caliber, but the .44 Magnum guns fire .44 special ammo as well.  There are also a variety of rifles in this chambering, especially lever action but also semi-automatic.  Surprisingly controllable, you should not be intimidated by its reputation and keep it in mind for when things go really bad.

8. .22 Magnum.

This big brother to the .22 Long Rifle is much more powerful and yet is also still small, light, and economical (compared to center fire ammo). Effective as a small and medium game round, it is also worthwhile as a self defense loading.  This round has rifles and pistols chambered for it, allowing you to have one cartridge for both long and hand guns.

7. .410 Shotgun/.45 Long Colt.

These two rounds are grouped together because of the recent popularity of revolvers, rifles, and derringers chambered to accept either of these rounds.  You can even mix and match in the cylinder, giving you great flexibility for hunting small game to self defense/big game acquisition.  The .410 ammo is much lighter and smaller than the 12 gauge and may prove to be more discrete when unfriendlies may be around. Recently developed self defense .410 buckshot and specialty rounds are also now available.

6. 7.62 X 39 mm.

The AK-47 cartridge must be doing something right because it is the most common rifle cartridge in the world. Not extremely powerful, it nonetheless has proven very effective against people, animals and objects.  Guns found chambered for this cartridge are usually equipped with high capacity magazines, a useful survival feature.  Be sure to find some hollow points for hunting, as the majority of rounds you find in this caliber are the full metal jacket type.

5. .223 Remington/5.56 mm Nato.

The round developed for the M-16/AR-15 type rifles, a wide variety of bullets can be found, light frangible bullets for small game, heavier hollow points for hunting, full metal jacket for general purpose defense and armor piercing for anti-vehicle/barricade use.  Tracer ammo is also readily available for whatever dubious reason you would want it for an apocalypse!  Easy to carry large quantities of ammo and large capacity magazines make this caliber a must have loading.

4. 12 Gauge Shotgun.

The incredible variety of ammo available for this most common shotgun bore make it perhaps the most versatile of all calibers.  Fine bird shot, heavy man/large animal stopping buckshot, huge slugs and specialty cartridges such as tear gas and less lethal bean bag and rubber rounds allow you to tailor your needs to any situation.  Drawbacks are that the ammo is large and heavy, firing it is loud, and you cannot just stick it in your belt or pocket when you are not shooting something.

3. 9mm Luger.

Widespread use around the world and now one of the most common police cartridges make the 9mm likely to be found when scrounging for guns and or ammo.  This caliber is a common submachine gun cartridge (and semi-auto versions) making it even more accessible and useful.  The large capacity magazines common to many pistols chambered for this round are also a plus when in a survival situation.

2. .38 Special.

Narrowly beating out 9mm Luger, this is another common and widespread cartridge.  Plenty of ammo and guns should be around if you need either, and there are many lever action rifles in this caliber as well.  A bonus is that these bullets will also work in any gun chambered for .357 Magnum, so the idea would be to get the .357 firearm and stock up on .38 special ammo.  Projectile choice even includes shotshells for close range snakes and small game.

1. .22 Long Rifle.

The .22 LR gives you the most bang for the buck.  The cheapest ammunition here, you can more affordably stock up on .22’s than any other ammo.  Additionally, it is the quietest, which can be important if you do not want to be heard for miles. It also has the least recoil, important if you have to shoot one handed or if smaller family members need to shoot it.  Not good at long range, properly placed .22 bullets can kill people (if needed), as well as small and medium game.  If there is only one gun or ammunition type you can have on hand, this caliber is the winner.

Question for students (and subscribers):  Tell us what you think of the list, and what ammo you think is most valuable in a crisis in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information to help you prepare for the apocalypse, please see…

Brooks, Max.  The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.  Broadway Books, 2003.

The featured image in this article, a photograph of a Colt M1911A1, is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.