Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

RIFLES

The “Other” AR-15 Cartridges

The AR-15 may well be the most important gun for preppers.
There is no doubt that the best cartridge is the .223/5.56, but there are other options.

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Ithink it’s safe to say that the AR-15 is the most popular centerfire rifle in America today. By far the top cartridge for this gun is the .223/5.56. It dominates the rifle and it should be the first cartridge of choice for any prepper buying an AR-15 style rifle for survival. That’s because it will be much easier to find ammo and magazines in a crisis situation, particularly ammo. This is the most popular centerfire rifle cartridge in America today, it’s a NATO round, and it’s used by law enforcement. That means if any ammo at all is available, it will likely be .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO. Smart preppers will have at least one gun for every member of their party chambered for the 5.56 NATO cartridges.

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L to R: .17 Remington, .204 Ruger, 5.45x39, .223 Remington, .223 WSSM, .243 WSSM, 6.5 Grendel, and 6.8 SPC.

That said, the list of available cartridges for the AR-15 is pretty extensive. You may want to look at a few more options. It makes sense to have multiple uppers or extra guns to handle various chores like foraging for big game. Also, you never know what you will run into for ammo. Suppose you are out of .223 ammo, but you run into a black market guy with a boatload of 6.8 SPC or .300 AAC Blackout? It can happen; both are popular cartridges. However, if you don’t have a firearm that can use these cartridges, they have no value.

Clearly you can’t buy a gun in every cartridge available, but it makes sense to have some back up with one or more alternatives to the .223/5.56 mainstay.

Of course, you can find the AR-15 in rimfires like the .22 LR or the .17 Hornday Magnum Rimfire (HMR), but it’s a centerfire gun at heart. Here is a look at some of the cartridges other than the .223 you can find in the AR-15.

.17 Remington

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When this cartridge was introduced in 1971 it was the fastest thing anyone had seen. With Remington factory ammo, a 25-grain hollow-point bullet has a muzzle velocity (MV) of 4,040 feet per second (ft/s) while the newer 20-grain AccuTip load is flying at 4,250 ft/s.

Bullet impacts at this kind of velocity turn predators into puddles.

While not much of a fighting cartridge, the .17 Remington would be handy for pest control. However, the ammo is very expensive, very hard to find, and can’t do anything that other cartridges can’t do better.

The .17 Remington is notorious for fouling barrels, and it requires specialty tools to clean and maintain. It really brings nothing to the table for a prepper, and unless there are other compelling reasons, like an offer so good you can’t refuse it, buying a .17 Remington makes little sense.

.204 Ruger

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The .204 Ruger is currently the highest velocity centerfire rifle cartridge in production by a major ammo maker. Hornady originated the cartridge and has the load with the fastest muzzle velocity. It’s a 24-grain NTX bullet with a muzzle velocity of 4,400 ft/s. The 32-grain bullets run about 4,200 and the 40-grainers move out at 3,900. Hornady also has a 45-grain bullet with a MV of 3,625 ft/s.

My AR in .204 Ruger has a 24-inch barrel. It will put most bullets into less than ½ MOA (minute of angle) and it absolutely wrecks coyotes.

This cartridge has moderate popularity, so ammo is relatively easy to find. It’s no better than a .223 for fighting, and the ammo is far more expensive. But if you are looking for an alternative, just to be different, it’s a good cartridge that runs well in an AR-type rifle. Or perhaps you have another gun, a bolt-action for example, chambered for the .204 Ruger and have a good supply of ammo. Then it makes sense to buy a gun or at least an upper in .204 Ruger.

5.45x39

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This was Russia’s answer to the 5.56 NATO and was developed in 1974 for use with the new AK-74 rifle. Hornady, Wolf, and TulAmmo all offer newly manufactured expanding bullet ammo. Wolf and TulAmmo have 60-grain HP bullets with a MV of 2,960 ft/s. Hornady loads a 60-grain V-Max at 2,810. All of these loads use a Berdan primed, non-reloadable steel case.

This is a decent fighting cartridge and at times ammo is cheap and easy to find. Right now it’s not, but that can change with the political winds. There are guns in AR-15 for this cartridge, and having one or an upper available is not a bad idea. Also, the AK-74 rifles are chambered in this cartridge.

Olympic Arms makes hunting rifles in all three of the Winchester Super Short Magnum Cartridges: .223, .243, and .25. Winchester makes the ammo.

Winchester and Browning no longer make rifles chambered in these cartridges, so the availability of ammo is limited and probably does not have a bright future.

All three would be deadly in a fight and can serve for foraging and hunting, but magazine capacity is limited. Also, in the guns I have used, reliability is a bit spotty with these cartridges.

If you happen to own the guns already, they will have a place in survival, but there is no compelling reason for a prepper to rush out and buy a new AR in a WSSM cartridge.

.223 WSSM

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Factory loads for the .223 WSSM drive a 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip bullet at 3,850 ft/s. That will stomp coyotes and bad guys flat where they stand. The 64-grain load has a MV of 3,600 ft/s and will work for hunting bigger game if you are so inclined.

I have taken several whitetail deer with this cartridge. While I do not recommend any 22-caliber for serious big game hunting, if I were to change that opinion this cartridge would be at the top of the list.

.243 WSSM

With a 55-grain bullet at 4,060 ft/s this is a varmint- and predator-hunting machine. Turn loose a 100-grain at 3,110 ft/s and it’s a death ray for deer and antelope.

.25 WSSM

This is a .25–06 in an AR-15 rifle. The 115-grain bullet exits at 3,060 ft/s. Deer, antelope, or black bear, they’re all covered. This could also work for long-range sniper defensive shooting if you have an accurate rifle.

6.5 Grendel

Created by Bill Alexander from Alexander Arms, the 6.5 Grendel is designed for precision long-range target work, but it’s proven to be a good hunting and defense cartridge as well. Ammo is offered by Alexander Arms, Hornady, and Wolf. Bullet weights generally run 120 to 130 grains.

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The popular Hornady ammo is available in two 123-grain bullets, the A-Max for targets and the SST for hunting. The MV is 2,580 ft/s from a 24-inch barrel and 2,350 from a 16-inch barrel.

This is a good cartridge, designed for the AR-15 platform. For long-range work using the AR-15, it’s a top choice. It’s also a good choice for battle as it hits harder than a .223.

Ammo is hard to find and expensive. But if you are willing to lay up a supply, this is a pretty good alternative cartridge for the AR-15. You will need magazines specific to the cartridge.

6.8 SPC

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The 6.8 SPC has a checkered history, and as far as I can tell, there are currently four different chamber designs for the cartridge.

It uses a .277-inch bullet, the same as the famed .270 Winchester. The Hornady load with a 110-grain V-Max bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,550 ft/s from a 16-inch barrel. They also load a 120-grain SST bullet at 2,460 from a 16-inch. Remington, Silver State Armory, Wilson Combat, and others have other ammo available with a wide range of bullet options.

This cartridge was designed for battle by experienced military people. It brings a bit more “whack” to the AR-15 rifle with little compromise. It can reach out at long range reasonably well and it hits hard in a fight. The 6.8 SPC is an acceptable cartridge for foraging deer-sized big game, particularly if you pick good bullets. I have taken several whitetail deer and a mountain lion with this cartridge.

I think the 6.8 SPC represents a very good choice as an alternative cartridge in the AR-15. Ammo is reasonably easy to find and affordable. While it was initially said that standard magazines would work, this cartridge usually requires dedicated magazines to operate reliably.

.300 AAC Blackout

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This one is new and in vogue right now, and just about everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. It was originally developed by J.D. Jones to use with heavy bullets weighing 200 grains or more, running subsonic and suppressed. He called it the .300 Whisper. If you are looking for a subsonic, suppressed AR rifle to use for foraging, pest control, and defense of your property, this is the cartridge for you.

Advanced Armament took the design, claimed it as their own, and called it the AAC Blackout. With a lighter, supersonic bullet like a 125-grain at 2,250 ft/s, it is getting a lot of interest as a defensive and hunting round. While there are those who will no doubt disagree, I am not a huge fan of this cartridge for deer or hogs. It will work, but the chance of a wounding loss is too high to depend on it for survival. However, for smaller game or home defense it is excellent.

This is another cartridge that is a very good choice as a secondary gun in the AR-15 platform. It plays well with standard magazines.

.30 Remington AR

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This is a necked down .450 Bushmaster cartridge, which provides ballistics that are similar to the .300 Savage. Muzzle velocity for a 125-grain bullet is 2,800 ft/s, and it runs at 2,575 ft/s for a 150-grain bullet. This is the highest performing 30-caliber cartridge in commercial use in the AR-15 rifle.

Remington has not done a great job of supporting this cartridge, and no other major ammo maker has made ammo. Ballistically it’s a good choice, particularly for foraging and perhaps for sniper work in defense of your home. But unless you stockpile ammo and magazines and/or handload for it, it might be better to pick a different cartridge for survival.

.300 Olympic Super Short Magnum (OSSM)

Olympic Arms developed a 30-caliber cartridge by necking up the WSSM case. They are reporting 3,040 ft/s with a 150-grain bullet. That means the cartridge is outperforming the .30–06 from an AR-15 rifle. This is a proprietary cartridge available only from Olympic Arms and probably has little value to a prepper.

7.62x39

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This is the cartridge that made the AK-47 famous. It’s been around in AR-type rifles for many years. The 7.62x39 has a 125-grain, 0.311-inch bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,365 ft/s from a 24-inch barrel. This makes it adequate for deer hunting if quality, soft-point bullets are used. Of course, its pedigree as a battle round is well documented.

This cartridge has always been a bit problematic in an AR-15 because the magazine design is incompatible with the cartridge design, but that is being addressed in guns like the new CMMG Mutant. The 7.62x39 is extremely popular, and ammo is plentiful and inexpensive. While it’s designed for the AK-47, a fine gun every prepper should consider owning, when chambered in a gun like the CMMG Mutant the performance is elevated to the next level.

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CMMG Mutant combines the AR platform with AK-type magazines and positive feeding.

The Mutant combines the best of the AR with the feeding of an AK to really make this cartridge shine. I have one, and so far it runs well and is very accurate. The Mutant uses AK magazines, which solves the problems associated with the AR and this cartridge. If you have the resources to do so, buying a CMMG Mutant makes sense for a prepper. It allows you to access the 7.65x39 ammo that is common in the United States but stay with the AR-style rifle. That gun is much better suited for an optic than an AK, and it’s inherently much more accurate.

I highly recommend that any prepper have a gun or two in this cartridge—either an AK-47 variant, an AR-15, or the Mutant.

From here we step up to the big-bores, which are covered extensively in another chapter. They have a place with preppers, as explained in detail in that chapter.