From handgun and rifle ammo to shotgun shells, knowing what’s available will help you choose the best ammunition for your gun.
By Corey Graff, Online Editor
Choosing the right ammunition for a particular gun is something even experienced shooters struggle with. If you’re a beginner, getting confused by all the choices out there is understandable. Here are 5 tips to keep it all straight.
Tip 1—Keep it Simple
You don’t need to be an expert in cartridge nomenclature. No one’s going to test you on the four cartridge rim types (rimmed, rimless, semi-rimmed and belted).
You just need to put the right ammo in your gun. Dropping the hammer on the wrong stuff can cause serious injury or even be fatal. From there it’s all fine-tuning: matching the right ammo to your application—target shooting and practice, long-range shooting or benchrest, self-defense or hunting. The most indispensable resource on cartridges is Cartridges of the World, 13th Edition. Buy a copy and don’t look back.
Tip 2—Get the Right Stuff
Rifle cartridges can be either centerfire or rimfire. But you needn’t concern yourself too much with those classifications. More important is to get the right stuff.
Unless your gun is a real old timer, the caliber will be marked on the barrel. If you don’t know what caliber your gun is, absolutely do not attempt to buy any ammunition for it until a certified gunsmith has looked at it for you. If it’s marked “.22 Long Rifle” then you need to shop for .22 ammunition, or .22 LR ammo, for example.
Tip 3—Practice with Bulk Ammo and Save Money
If you’re just target shooting for practice consider saving money by buying bulk ammo or surplus ammo. For long-range shooting choose match grade ammo, which is decidedly more expensive, but very consistent shot-to-shot.
Tip 4—Get the Best Hunting Ammo You Can Afford
Hunting ammo these days tends to be very good. And ammo manufacturers typically use high quality game-stopping bullets in their offerings. Experiment with various brands until you find an accurate load your gun likes. Bottom line: No matter what you’re hunting, you have a responsibility to make quick and humane kills, so don’t skimp on hunting ammo. An excellent resource is the Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Rifles.
Shotgun ammo is designated by gauge—from the little .410 shotgun shells to the more common 20 gauge and bigger 12 gauge shotgun shells.
There is shotgun ammo designed for home defense and law enforcement use, as well as easy-shooting trap and skeet loads for clay shooting.
Of course, entire articles have been devoted to shotgun ammo designed for waterfowl, wild turkey and deer hunting. Terry Wieland’s Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Shotguns is a must-read if you’re interested in shotgunning and shotgun ammo.
Tip 5—Buy Factory Ammo for Concealed Carry or Home Defense
In your concealed carry gun, carry only factory ammo (as opposed to reloaded ammunition). Should you be involved in a self-defense shooting this will be more legally defensible in court. I highly recommend the Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry, 2nd Edition by Massad Ayoob, which has in-depth discussion on this and related legal issues, plus the best personal defense calibers and ammo.
Another good resource is Gun Digest 2014, which features a big section on the latest and greatest ammunition choices for each category.
Ammunition makers continue to push the performance envelope in all categories and types of ammunition. Do your homework and you’ll find a plethora of ammo types from which to choose.
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