Getting around .223 shortages.

So our foes succeeded in making rifle ammunition too rare to use for recreational shooting. Most people are now shooting only to zero their new guns, to function test and to get familiar with the manual of arms. The rest of the ammo is reserved for our favorite varmints. But regular practice is important, so consider two workarounds.

The first is a rimfire conversion kit. Fairly cheap, doesn’t require a new rifle. These have been around since the 1960s but the more recent designs are rather more reliable.

The magazine supplied is interchangeable with the standard Black Dog Machine mag supplied with SU22 and Sig522. The kit comes with a bolt hold-open kit. Swapping the parts takes less than a minute.

This is how it looks installed.

Now for the down side: limited accuracy. 22LR projectiles are just a tiny bit undersized for .223 bore size. The kit also has over an inch of freebore, and once the bullet finally contacts rifling it gets over-stabilized. Ideal rifling for 40gr bullet is about 1:16 and slower than that for 30gr. AR15 barrels range from 1:12 to 1:7, with most towards the fast end of that range.  60gr Aguila SSS actually shoot more accurately, but might not cycle the action. Short case also causes some high pressure gas escape from the ejection port.

Accuracy is perfectly acceptable for 25 yard rapid fire practice — around 3″. Point of impact is lower than .223 — and that is the other inconvenience with conversion kits is the need to adjust sights when switching calibers. So this works great for getting used to your rifle manual of arms, less well for precision marksmanship. For accuracy, a dedicated rimfire upper would do better.

This shoots 2″ or better groups at 100 yards, and can be fitted with its own sights.

Correct twist rate and bore diameter coupled with minimal freebore add up to a more accurate upper. The only down side is the higher cost than the conversion kit, but that would be quickly compensated by the difference in ammunition cost.

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25 Responses to Getting around .223 shortages.

  1. MAJMike says:

    Good points, all. However, in the San Antonio area, I’ve noticed an extreme shortage of .22LR ammunition. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but its not available at any of the usual places.

    Fortunately, I’ve been buying ammunition and magazines over the years and have a sufficient supply for the time being. But the future looks bleak.

  2. John says:

    Sorry to break it to you Oleg, but .22 rimfire is even more rare nowadays than .223. At least on the Eastern seaboard and in the South .22 disappeared at the same time as 9mm, .45 auto, .308, and .223. CCI must be producing at full blast/3shifts and still can’t keep up with demand, the other companies can’t be doing much better. Sure it’s cheaper, but if it’s not available it’s no better than having no primary ammo. And the conversions you mentioned? They’re great – if you can find them. Some manufacturers are two years backlogged already. Two -years-. What am I to do till then? .22 conversions are great fun and help save money, but please do not offer them as an alternative to the ammo shortage – they are part of it.

  3. Robert says:

    Great if you already owned a lot of 22

    • Oleg Volk says:

      Don’t most people? More people have a couple of bricks of .22 laying around than a case of .223.

      • MAJMike says:

        Yes, but feeding the Ruger MkII and the 10/22 can put you through a brick fairly quickly. I’ve been practicing/warming up with the HK .45c or the Springfield XD.

        Sadly, my .22LR supply is drying up. I may have to cut back radically on my shooting to save my ammunition stash.

        • MAJMike says:

          Dammit. What I meant was that I warm up with the Ruger and then practice with the HK or the XD.

          Sheesh. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  4. Scott says:

    To start, I must say the texture of your photography and the articulation in your commentary have made me an appreciative reader. Thank you. Second, there is agreement with the previous comments. Here in Utah you can find almost all calibers of ammo except for .22LR. There are also some AR .22LR conversions uppers to be found at the local gun shops, but no ammo available. This leads me to conserve shooting any of my “laying around” .22 bricks until I can see some future resupply. Otherwise I agree with you, there is good accuracy in your post and a .22LR AR upper in my future.

    • Walt says:

      Not sure where “can find almost all calibers of ammo except for .22LR” out here in Utah. 9mm’s evaporate faster than they land out here too.

  5. JCR says:

    I started smelling a rat in August 2012 when the first reports of the DHS big initial purchase. Immediately, I went about researching a .22 kit for my AR and the dealer I buy all my gear from recommended I got a Ruger 10/22. At the time, fortunately, the price was right for a brand new 10/22 and I took the leap. Now I definitely do not regret it. I understand that people want to go through the manual with their ARs but if you can buy a dedicated 10/22 for a decent price (rather impossible now) why not buy it? At any rate, are there any reports of bore damage, since the .22 rounds is so much smaller? Doesn’t it bounce around at least once or twice before it goes out? Great blog!

    • Oleg Volk says:

      The bore difference is 1/100″ and doesn’t result in bouncing. Also, soft lead cannot abrade steel of the barrel.

    • cover72 says:

      Good to know. Here in Europe, first the Federal American Eagle vanished, now the 525 round economy pack supply seems to be running somewhat low. Seems I’ll have to buy what I can before the shortage spreads from USA here…

  6. Bob says:

    To go along with what the others have said, .22, 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, .223, 308, 7.63×39 have all been impossible to find for the past 6 weeks here in Chattanooga. Even 45 Colt is getting hard to find, and what is out there has gotten expensive.

    • matt says:

      similar story here in the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham area. .45, 9mm, and .223 are out there, if you look hard enough, but nobody’s got .22LR.

  7. herddog505 says:

    Ditto all the other comments: it’s a great idea… IF you can find one.

    I should add that, while the conversion kits are not so expensive, one is just about as well off to buy an M&P 15-22 than a 22LR upper.

    One thing is certain: if / when the current lunacy ends, Ma Herddog’s little boy is going to be stockpiling. If nothing else, it’s a good investment for when democrats get into power: I could have realized a tidy profit had I decided to sell my stash of 5.56, 7.62×39, mags, etc.

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  9. Publius says:

    As .22LR gets hard/impossible to find, I’m keeping up trigger time by shooting an air gun. Nope, it’s not as satisfactory as Real Iron, but: (1) it’s cheap, (2) available, and (3) I can fire it indoors.

  10. Paul Koning says:

    Re mags as an investment: be careful there. While the 1994 grandfather rule allowed you to sell grandfathered devices, the 2013 edition does not. It’s written to allow you to keep grandfathered items, but not to transfer them to anyone else.

  11. Zhytamyr says:

    I purchased the CMMG dedicated .22 upper for my son’s AR a few years ago. The magazine that came with it (a CMMG clone of the Black Dog 26 rd mag) was completely unuseable and I had to dremel and fiddle with it for days to get it useable. The upper was out of spec and would not take BUIS or any other accessories without a great deal of play. The price point of the CMMG .22 upper is unbeatable compared to the competition but the quality is (as of 2 years ago) not up to snuff. Spend an extra $100 and get a much better upper- or buy a Ceiner for like $120.

  12. Mr Galt says:

    I came up to Canada for the weekend (Ontario) and happened to venture into a sporting goods store. There are ample supplies of all sorts of ammunition, including those good old familiar bricks of CCI 22 LR. for about $8 apiece. This appears to be a U.S. problem – likely caused by crazed horders.

    • Paul Koning says:

      As the saying goes, are you crazed if they are really out to get you?
      Can U.S. citizens buy ammo in Canada?

      • Mr Galt says:

        “Sort of” is the answer. If you have a hunting license, or “invitation to shoot” at a club, then “yes”. If you live in a border state, you can also apply for and get a “PAL” license in Canada (a small test is required). With one of these, you can make the purchase. OR, if you have a friend/relative – that could be another way. :-)

        By “crazed” I mean – several hundred million rounds of plinking ammo being scarfed-up in a couple of months – yeah, sorry. I think that is a bit crazed.

  13. Paul Koning says:

    Thanks.
    Several hundred million rounds is only a few rounds per US civilian owned gun.

  14. Sammy Taylor says:

    We bought a pair of Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22s instead of dedicated uppers.
    http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_750001_750051_757786_-1_757784_757784_image

    Relatively cheap and you end up with a whole additional gun instead of an upper which has no utility when not paired with your lower. They are reliable, accurate, and offer every training advantage of the dedicated upper. If you already have your ammo stores, it is a lot more palatable to shoot some of your .22 stock than the 5.56. You probably paid 1/10th the price for the .22 and likely have much more of it on hand.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I agree. I have an M&P15-22 here and it’s very reliable and fairly accurate. Pity the lower won’t take centerfire uppers.

  15. me says:

    Yeah. This. Here in Michigan there’s been no .22 LR for sale anywhere at any price for over a month. The gun stores, the department stores, nobody’s got one single round, and everybody says “we don’t have any, we can’t get any, we don’t know when or if there’ll ever be any more available”

    It’s rather bizarre. They manufacture two billion rounds of .22 LR a year. That is five and a half million rounds a day. Where’s it all going? Wal-Mart has none, the distributors have none, the middlemen have none, there’s none to be found online at any price.

    I know at least some of it is walking out the back door of the Wal-Mart without ever coming into the store. You just have to hand a wad of cash to the right clerk, who’ll hide it instead of putting it on the shelves, and call you when it comes in. That is where the .22 LR ammo is coming from that speculators, price gougers, and scalpers are flipping on Gunbroker, trying to get a hundred bucks for a $19 550 round bulk pack of Remington floor sweepings.

    And I suspect, but cannot prove, that a lot of middlemen and distributors are sitting on inventory, waiting for prices to rise further.

    (and before someone brings up the “free market,” let me remind you that there isn’t any “free market” in firearms or ammunition here in the USSA and hasn’t been since around 1934. If you doubt me, just try getting a CNC machine and some aluminum barstock and whittling out some AR lowers and selling them out of your garage without serial numbers, a manufacturer’s FFL, or all the other infringements that have been imposed. Go on, try it. I bet I can guess what’ll happen. Can you? So there’s no “free market” here.)

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