In a world where two is one and one is none, I don’t know why you would put all your eggs in one basket …
One of the trends I dislike the most among gun owners is consolidating calibers. Those who follow the trend are purposely narrowing their collection of firearms so that they’re all chambered in just a couple select calibers. I have one friend who only owns firearms chambered in 9mm, 5.56 and 12-ga. … that’s it! The thought process behind this is to choose the most popular calibers for all your guns, so you only have to keep one or two types of ammo on hand.
It’s a perfectly rational thing to do, but it’s flawed. See, the only-one-caliber strategy might work if you have a healthy supply of ammo to back it up. But currently we are in an ammo shortage in 223/5.56, and we have been since Israel was invaded. If my buddy wants to go shooting right now, he is left paying inflated local prices, or having to take his chances online.
A piece of advice if you have painted yourself into this corner—thus far, I’ve been impressed with the prices and availability of Two Birds Outdoors, which has consistently had stock at the lowest prices available all throughout the pandemic and after. If you need a popular caliber that’s suddenly in short supply, start looking there first.
What if I told you that with some careful curation in firearms you can multiply the capabilities of your firearms? You probably know that many firearms are capable of shooting different cartridges. Some chamberings naturally allow you to shoot completely different rounds like .410ga. and 45 Long Colt. Other firearms allow modularity, by changing barrels to shoot different calibers or cartridges with conversion kits. Lastly, with some different adaptors, you can truly have one firearm for the apocalypse that will let you shoot whatever caliber you run across.
We’ll start with interchangeable calibers. Since they are the same diameter, any firearms chambered in .357 Magnum can also shoot .38 Special.
When it comes to semi-autos most 10mm pistols can also shoot 40 S&W in a pinch. In the Rimfire arena, if you own a .22 LR you also have the option of using 22 Short. The general rule is that you can go down in caliber with a single gun, but not up.
For example, if you’ve seen Quigley Down Under (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?), one of the reasons Tom Selleck’s character Matthew Quigley uses a Sharps rifle chambered in.45-110 was that he could also use the same caliber 45, but shorter length cased loads in 45-90 and 45-70 in a pinch. If you make the mistake and buy the smaller chambering like a .38 SPL, the longer-cased .357 Mag. won’t fit. One of the most popular revolvers, the Taurus Judge, specifically uses cartridge interchangeability as a feature. With the ability to shoot both .410 bore and .45 LC, depending on your needs you can change from a revolver shotgun to a powerful self defense hand cannon simply by changing your ammo.
Modern modularity opens up a whole new world to shooters giving them plenty of options in calibers and chambering. When it comes to modularity, the AR-15 is unmatched. Just by replacing the upper barreled section, you can change your chambering and caliber to your heart’s content. Uppers are available in everything from .22 LR, 223/5.56, .300 BLK, 7.62×39, .450 Socom, all the way exotics like .6ARC or even the monster .50 BMG! Since the upper contains the barrel, bolt, etc., it pins onto the same lower with the trigger components.
Before the AR-15, the Thompson Contender was the Jack of all trades. It was a travesty when the break-action single shot was discontinued. Imagine you have an action that could be made into a pistol or rifle and had over 40 different chamberings. But just by breaking the action open and pulling the locking pin you could easily replace barrels and move from anything from .22 LR to 45-70 in less than a minute.
The downside was that when it was introduced in 1967 it cost more than most revolvers. And each new barrel was an added expense that further drove off mainstream shooters. We can only hope that with cheaper modern manufacturing someone revives the design, I could easily see myself hunting with a suppressed .300 BLK pistol.
Then we have semi-autos. There are two main ways of changing the caliber or chambering. If you have a larger caliber pistol like a Springfield XD chambered in .40 S&W, you can buy a conversion barrel in .357 SIG or 9mm. These conversion barrels are designed to fit the smaller round and still fit in the 40sw slide. These conversion barrels are made from most popular semi-auto pistol brands, like Springfield, Smith & Wesson, Glock, SIG Sauer, and more. The benefit is that with just a barrel change you can switch the chambering.
The downside is that depending on how funky your pistol is, you might not get 100% reliability. Furthermore, since the ejector is set up for the larger .40 S&W cartridge, 9mm ejection might be erratic.
A better method is to change out the slide and barrel with a caliber conversion kit. Since the extractor and breech face are specifically made for the intended round, you get better reliability. But even with a complete conversion kit, the ejector will still throw the empty cases differently than it would for a .40 S&W. Unlike most conversions, by changing the whole slide you can go up or down. For example, I am able to use the same 9mm sized XD frame with different slides and shoot .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 GAP, and .22 LR.
For true off-grid guns, I love shotgun inserts. Two companies, Chiappa and Short Lane Gun Adapters, make a series of inserts for 12-ga. break-action shotguns. With these adapter inserts you can shoot: .45 LC/.410 bore, 20-ga., 9mm, 22 LR, 28-ga., .38 Spl., .22 WMR, .45 AC,P and .40 S&W out of the same gun. For those who live behind the Iron Curtain (looking at you, California), a single-shot break-open shotgun eliminates the hoops of all those background checks.
Unlike the expensive Thompson Contender, these adapters can be purchased as a kit for around $299, or around $40 each à la carte. Short Lane Gun Adaptors also makes adaptors for other firearms like the .410/.45 LC Taurus Judge. I will note that 410/45 has been practically nonexistent ever since the start of Covid. The other practicality is that shooting a Judge is not exactly pleasant, so the chance to shoot either 9mm or .380 out of the same revolver is not only cheaper but provides great mild practice time.
My best advice is to give yourself options. While I would not recommend adopting every wildcat round out there, choosing some tried and true chamberings allows you to adapt as you go. Having both an AR15 chambered in .223/5.56 and .300 BLK, I have a solid chance of still being able to shoot.
As we’ve learned the hard way recently, even wildly popular calibers like 9mm or .22 LR can experience sudden shortages and price fluctuations due to world events beyond anyone’s control. Expect the unexpected. If you get a gun that’s not such a picky eater, you can keep it fed (and vice-versa, if you hunt) … even when the world is busy losing its mind.
James The “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!
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