As I anxiously await the delivery of my freshly-ordered Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0, in the awesome Flat Dark Earth frame color, in 9mm (which I’ll review here as soon as I get some rounds through it), I’m reminded of how easy it is to lose track of different guns in different calibers with different types of ammo, especially under the stress of an armed encounter.
If you’re like me and have several guns, the combinations of bullets in 9mm, 40 cal, 45 cal, 380 cal, or even .38 or .357 for revolvers can get a bit confusing as you look at the various ammo boxes in your garage or gun storage area.
I’ve grabbed some rounds off the shelf in a hurry to get to the range, only to find that I’ve brought the wrong bullets. This is stupid and a hassle when I want to enjoy some range time; it can be deadly in real life.
Different Types of Ammo: Be In The Know At All Times
When I was in the cops back in the Stone Age of guns and ammo, I had a .38 caliber revolver and so did the majority of cops I worked with.
Some more gun-savvy officers had .357 revolvers, but nearly everyone had revolver rounds in their guns and two six-round speed loaders.
My backup gun on my ankle was a J-frame S&W Model 36 snub-nosed Chiefs Special, with a five-round speed loader.
The idea was in the rare possibility that you and your partner got into a firefight, you could give each other rounds as necessary, or God Forbid, take your partner’s guns and ammo if he was injured or dead, to protect yourself and finish the fight if you ran dry or your gun somehow malfunctioned.
We were comfortable in the knowledge that although .38 revolvers varied by make, model, and barrel length, the bullets were universal and you could use each other’s in a life-threatening pinch.
As semi-autos came on the scene, starting with the Glock 17 and moving forward along the 9mm path, we saw cops still carrying wheel guns and some now carrying pistols.
Speed loaders became magazines and bullets were no longer interchangeable. Soon after, pistols became the duty carry standard (the Rodney King riots in 1992 and the Hollywood bank robbery shootout with LAPD in 1997 moved things along), and small-frame revolvers were relegated to backup weapon roles.
You still had some diehard coppers carrying wheel guns (and new three-pouch .38 or .357 speedloaders on their belts), but the shift was clear to the 9mm ammo side of the house.
Fast forward to the national movement across the country, when new Chiefs started coming aboard and saying, “We’re seriously outgunned by gangsters, mall and school shooting maniacs, and the cartels.
If you can qualify with it, you can carry it.” With haste, cops ran to gun stores and began buying up all kinds of interesting firepower, beyond the usual 9mm inventory.
The Standard Nine pistol evolved into .45s and .40s. (And still, even then, some old cops held out with their Dirty Harry M29 .44 magnums and Colt Pythons in .357; in cross-draw or shoulder holster rigs no less).
With this change in caliber came a new problem: bullets were no longer instantly interchangeable. What you had was different than your partner and your ammo didn’t fit each other’s guns.
Take all this back to your world. If you have a variety of guns in a variety of calibers, you must develop a hard and set routine for keeping your pistols, spare magazines, holsters, range bag, and most importantly, your EDC bag, organized and separated, ready to grab it and go.
I’ve carried around the wrong holster for the gun I wanted to carry that day, and the wrong ammo in my spare mags, because I’ve been careless about what gear went with what gun.
Since you cannot predict when you might need to protect yourself with your CCW, or if you will have to reload during that fight, you must be precise with your equipment and your rounds.
The spare mag in that holster on your belt, or in your EDC bag, or even in your ankle holster, had better match the gun you’re carrying.
If we agree with the US Navy SEAL Team warning about equipment that “Two is one and one is none,” you must always have a backup gun (and spare mags or revolver rounds) either on you or within rapid reach. Metal fails, finely machined parts break and bullets don’t always go bang.
Even when I’m carrying one of my usual 9mm pistols, or my .45, or my.380, I still have my Old Faithful .38 Chiefs on or near me.
My EDC bag has extra mags in the exact caliber I’m carrying, and a handful of five-shot .38 speed loaders (including one specifically marked with snake loads, since I live in the high country and those slippery rascals are everywhere).
aroseland1 shows us a video on bullet comparison explaining calibers and bullet measurements:
Good organization of rounds and guns starts at home too, not just when you’re mobile. Getting to the right ammo and the correct firearm for it may need to happen in low-light or no-light situations.
The safe and secure storage of your guns and the bullets for them should make it easy for you to get to what you need when you need it, with no fumbling around. This includes your home defense shotgun.
Many scatter gun owners have different rounds for certain field or hunting situations. You need to organize your rifle slug rounds separately from your various shot sizes.
You do not want a high-velocity slug or double ought to buck around piercing a door or flimsy drywall if that was not your express intention in a self-defense situation because you fished it out of the wrong box in an emergency.
No sense in firing a tiny bird shot at a meth-crazy hot prowl burglar because you loaded the wrong shells.
Store your ammo by category, mark the boxes with fluorescent tape so you can spot them in an instant, and pay attention to what you’re loading.
Do you know more about different types of ammo? Let us know in the comments below!
Check out this training for ammo and gun failures!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 27, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.