We all know by now that finding ammo on the shelves or in stock is like finding a needle in a haystack anymore. With 9mm and 5.56 Nato hitting all-time price records, it’s time to get creative and find an alternative caliber to train with at the range. I will be the first to admit, my absolute favorite firearm to shoot is a well-sorted AR-15 with some sort of 9mm handgun.
I still have ammo for both calibers, but I have no desire to burn ammo I cannot replace. After about a month, I decided I was sick of burning my main source of ammo and instead picked up a new platform to train on. There are a number of calibers out there that can still be found for sale by the box and in bulk online. Let’s dive into my alternative gun build to beat the ammo crunch.
My Firearm Selection
When looking at firearm availability, it can be challenging to find anything semi-auto in stock at gun stores or online anymore. Back in October, I decided to snag an Arsenal Inc. SLR-107R in all black as my base rifle. Initially, I went back and forth trying to decide what caliber I wanted to use with two different methods of thinking to pick from. The first kind of thinking is going with the more available 7.62×39 caliber because it’s extremely cheap during normal times and even in elevated times it’s right around the price of 5.56 before COVID hit.
The second style of thinking is to keep it as similar to AR recoil as possible. Purchasing something in 5.45×39 would have considerably less recoil than the bigger 7.62 alternative and would be similar to the recoil impulse of an AR. Both are great choices but ultimately I went with the 7.62×39 version simply because I already had a few thousand rounds of Wolf steel cased ammo laying around. My base rifle came with a simple muzzle thread cap and polymer furniture. At the time of writing this article, both calibers are still available for purchase on a number of different websites. So far, 7.62 is anywhere from $50-100 cheaper per 1,000 rounds than 5.45 but looking at the big picture, both are considerably less than 5.56 and 9mm.
Now, most wouldn’t have to dump a ton of money into accessories, but I took this opportunity to build an AK I’ve always wanted, so it’s not necessary to spend much on accessories for your alternative ammo gun. I usually enjoy having an optic and light on my rifles, so I set my rifle up to be as similar to my other rifle as possible. I will include a list of accessories and links down below for anyone who wants to build something similar. There are endless possibilities for aftermarket AK parts and everyone has different preferences but this rifle was set up completely how I wanted it.
- Muzzle – Arsenal Compensator with 24×1.5mm Right Hand Threads
- Rail System – Zenitco B10m Bottom Rail and B19 Top Rail
- Top Rail – B33 Top Rail Replacement Cover
- Magazines – Arsenal Circle 10 Magazines from GunMag Warehouse
- Optic – Trijicon MRO Low Mount Variant
- Light – SureFire M300 Mini Scout Weapon Light with Dual Pressure Switch
Why Am I Doing This?
I know some of you will be curious why I’m doing this. The short answer is I love shooting and trying new drills. I don’t plan on slowing down my range days as a result of higher ammo prices. I would rather adapt and keep shooting than sit at home when I have free time. Let’s say you spend $4-5,000 on 5.56 typically a year. Right now, that will get you roughly 5,500 rounds in today’s market. Now if you buy something like my Arsenal AK, you’ll be spending around $1,200. You can buy roughly 10,000 rounds of 7.62×39 for $3,800 you have left after purchasing a new rifle. If you decide to just buy 5,000 rounds you would have roughly $1,900 left. It doesn’t seem logical at first but if you really crunch the numbers, it starts to make a lot more sense.
The AK platform is an effective alternative to something like our beloved AR-15, but it does take some getting used to. Everything seems a bit clunky and oversized compared to the AR platform, but it has a certain level of quality to it. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse than other systems but it’s definitely unique and when you add in accessories it really becomes a capable tool. One of the best things about this build is shooting ammo that’s roughly 35 cents a round instead of 70-90 cents a round.
There is a significant saving over time especially if you shoot a lot instead of paying the high prices of popular calibers. Probably the biggest switch people will have to make is learning a new weapons platform. It may not be exactly what you want to do, but it’s nice to be able to go out and shoot without paying 2-3X times more than you normally would.
Even spending a ridiculous amount of money on a rifle, and buying 2-3,000 rounds, there’s still a good chance you will pay off the rifle over time with the savings you have by switching calibers. It’s never a bad idea but if you shoot a decent amount and want to continue training, I would say it’s a great idea to switch weapon platforms rather than stop shooting. Dry firing and practicing reloads can only do so much but keeping your skills sharp at the range is still the best way to go.
Let me know what you guys think about buying an entirely new weapon system to keep shooting. I will be the first to admit my set up was very expensive and overpriced for what it is, but I took this opportunity to build a gun I always wanted to have. Having a simplified basic version of the rifle is a great way to save money and actually pay off a rifle with the difference in ammo prices. Is this something you guys have thought about or done as well? Let me know in the comments below what you guys think about changing styles to continue shooting at the range. If you have questions feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.
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