March 2013

Will Ammo Become Currency?

Reader Gage assesses the current state of firearms and ammunition sales and sees mainline cartridges turning into investments. And lots of mail on what we do after Newtown.

Re “Firing Line,” February 2013
“Firing Line” in the February issue of Gun Tests was most entertaining. I, too, have recently seen people act irrationally when purchasing ammo and guns. I began buying ammo on a regular basis after the 2009 feeding frenzy, so I have plenty of ammo for all the guns I own.

This latest frenzy has confirmed one observation, and has led me to another. In an “end of the world as we know it” scenario, ammo will definitely become not just a valuable commodity, but it will also function as a currency. The second observation is the ammo you can find on a shelf when everything else is gone: 243, 270, 30-06, 22 LR, and 12- and 20-gauge shotgun shells.

Given that you can get rifles (semi-automatics, bolt action, and pumps), revolvers, and pistols chambered in 22 LR, it would not be a bad idea to have such firearms in your arsenal. The 22 LR is a pretty versatile round useful for taking small game. You will have more luck hunting squirrels and raccoons than a deer in an urban setting, and there are more of the smaller animals. People will complain that the 22 LR is a poor choice for personal protection. I don’t think anyone wants to get shot with a 22 LR.

I don’t know if this is an urban myth, but I heard that more homicides are caused by the 22 LR than any other caliber.
— Shawn Gage Oakland, California

All those people frantically buying firearms, ammo, and high-capacity magazines that they don’t need for personal use are going to be left holding the bag. The “assault weapons” ban has no chance of making it through the House of Representatives. Even the New York Times acknowledges this. So let your representatives in Congress know how you feel, then sit tight; the market will return to normal by summer.
— Brad F.

Re “40 S&W Tests: Black Hills 155s Are Best Buy,” Feb 2013
I loved the 40 S&W ammunition comparison, but please clarify what 20 inches of water penetration compares to using the standard ballistic-gelatin penetration test. The FBI only allows agents to use handgun calibers that penetrate 12 inches of ballistic gelatin, the standard depth of a chest cavity through and through shot. To my knowledge, the only semi-automatic calibers that can do that are the 45 ACP, 10mm, 40 S&W and possibly the 357 Sig? The 9mm just cannot meet that standard. I fully realize that only the government can afford to use ballistic gelatin. Us poor people have to use water to test our ammo. Thanks for all your hard work and great writing!
— Preston Johnson

According to ammunition expert Ed Sanow in Handgun Stopping Power, the book he wrote with former Detroit Police detective Evan Marshall, water does an amazing job of generating the same results, vis-a-vis penetration and expansion, as 10-percent ordnance gelatin. It just slightly overstates expansion and penetration. Take the expansion and penetration results in water, delete 10 percent, and you know what a bullet would do in gelatin. Even large police agencies using sophisticated gelatin techniques for ammo testing often doublecheck with water as a failsafe. Having done this for more than three years now, I would estimate that water penetration is often 10 to even 15% greater than gelatin. I think that 20 inches in water would translate to 18 inches in gelatin, but it could be as little as 17 inches.
— Bob Campbell

Mr. Campbell: You stated that the 155-grain Black Hills load was not on par with 180-grain Black Hills in expansion? The 155’s expansion was .71 inch, while the 180 was .70 inch. I and many other people read your work and use it in their choices on purchases. I enjoy the thoroughness of your articles; that is why this was glaring.
— Doug @ D & D Guns

I meant on a par in penetration. Sorry for the oversight, and thanks so much for catching this one. Knowing my brothers and sisters rely upon this information is a responsibility I take seriously.
— Bob Campbell

Re “Downrange,” February 2013
Todd, I never write to magazines, but I had to say your editorial in the February issue was the best and pretty much the only intelligent response to the recent shootings I’ve read. It’s up to all of us to do all we can to keep shooting safe and accessible. Restricting a certain type of legal firearm is not the answer. Sadly, reading the letters in this issue makes me wonder if the people buying black rifles right now are the ones who will help things. By now, you’ve probably heard about the mess in New York state. A case of overreaction that got rammed through the legislature in 24 hours by a governor who thinks he has a shot at being president. Hopefully, some of this [stuff] gets overturned.—Dave Allen

Todd, as a longtime NRA member and gunowner, my thanks to you for a fine editorial (“After Newtown”) in the February Gun Tests. It was spot-on. We — law abiding gunowners — need to quit preaching only to the choir and state our good case among those who do not own guns.
— Dave Clarke

Good article, except you made the same mistake the anti-gun media made. While the young man did bring an assault rifle to the school, it was left in the car and never used in the shootings. All were done with average capacity handguns, which is significant in the call for elimination of large-capacity magazines and “assault rifles.”
—John Pierce

I’ve seen some of the original reporting (NBC) that said only handguns were used. I’ve looked for the autopsy report from Sandy Hook Elementary School, but so far, I can only find people who have seen the report, and not a copy of the report itself, which would ostensibly identify which rounds were used. But at a public event, the coroner did say “long gun” rounds were used. If the readership can send me links that contradicts that, I’d like to see them.
— Todd Woodard

What change in our society correlates to the ever-increasing numbers of school and mall shootings? One thing that has changed is mass public access to ultra-violent computer video games, originally designed for the military to reduce a soldier’s natural inhibition to kill. These games are targeted at teens and young adults, and it is obvious that in some people games have been extremely successful in reducing or eliminating the inhibition to kill. Kids are acting out video games in the real world. These games encourage the operator to:

- Obtain weapons by any means possible.
- Shoot as many people as possible.
- Shoot victims multiple times.
- Carry multiple weapons.
- Carry multiple reloads.
- If one weapon runs out of ammunition, drop it and grab another.
- Wear body armor.
- Use booby traps such as bear traps.
- Kill yourself before being captured.
- Abuse women and children.

These are precisely the behaviors we are seeing carried out in schools and shopping malls almost weekly. These are not strategy games. The operator sees through the eyes of one of the participants in mass killings, directing the participants’ every move. Other participants speak to the operator, just as one person would talk to the other. It is not the 1st Amendment right of game manufacturers to turn our kids into mass murderers. From experience, we know that a certain number of kids will act out these games.
—John Coxe

And Now, How About an AR?
Hi Todd. Thank you for guidance on Fulton M1 Carbine. I bought one from the owner of Fulton — Clint McKee — as Ray suggested. Nice gun. Nice people.

I have begun the search for the best AR-15/M16/M4, in 223 Rem. To the extent possible, I want superior accuracy and light weight. Please suggest make, model, and where to purchase. I am willing to pay a premium if necessary for superior quality/reliability. I thought of returning to Fulton, if you recommend their version of M16, over other makers.
— M.W. “Woody” Offutt, IV Annapolis, Maryland

You might contact Ned Christiansen at Michiguns ( because he works on them all the time, and can build you whatever you want. He might have a suggestion, but his waiting list is about five years if you want one of his. Ned said, “Woody, you will never, ever go wrong with a Colt. They are still the gold standard as far as I’m concerned.” Clint McKee at Fulton will never sell you a lemon. If I were in the market for a production model, I’d look at the Ruger version. Gun Tests has approved a couple of those rifles in the last couple of years, and Ruger does not make any junk. —Ray Ordorica

Mosquito Bites?
You have probably done a gun test on the SIG Mosquito in previous issues, but I can’t remember your results. I sure hope it was better than mine. I have a SIG Mosquito that has problems — failure to feed, double feed, failure to extract, failure of slide to lock back after firing the last round, and sometimes the slide locks back with rounds still in the magazine yet to be fired. It was like shooting a single-shot pistol.

They give you an extra spring for the slide, that didn’t help! I have talked to SIG customer service, and their response is that this gun was designed to fire high-velocity rounds such as CCI Mini Mags, and that it was designed on German specs so none of the bulk ammo will do. The crazy thing is I was using CCI Mini Mags then. Customer service said they would be glad to check the pistol out for me, shipping it at my expense. This is a new gun!

I figure one of the reasons a guy buys a 22 LR is so he can shoot cheap... you know, plink! Shooting the higher-price ammo defeats the purpose for having it.

I shoot bulk ammo with my friends who have S&W 41, Beretta 87, Walther P22, GSG 1911-22, and a S&W M&P 22 pistol, and they all shoot just fine with it. This is very disappointing, because I have a SIG 228 and SIG 220 and so does my brother and son, and they are some of the finest, most reliable guns made.

I just expected the same quality out of the Mosquito as I did the others. What is the SIG Sauer slogan? Something like, “When it counts.” This one doesn’t! Is anyone else having trouble with the SIG Mosquito?
— Doc Hughes, Arkansas

Ray Ordorica tested the SIG Mosquito ($390) against the Whitney Wolverine ($280) in the May 2006 issue in the story, “A Brace of Full-Size .22 Autos: We Would Buy The Wolverine.” Ray called the SIG Mosquito ($390) a close copy of that company’s larger pistols. In the recommendation, he said, “Conditional Buy. We loved the feel of this pistol in the hand, but didn’t think it shot as well as it ought to have, all things considered.….” In the accuracy/chronograph sidebar, he noted that the light-recoiling Eley Pistol Standard ammo “was not fully functional in the SIG Mosquito as tested.”

Gene Taylor ran the test of the SIG Mosquito alongside the ISSC M22, $400 and the smaller-framed but ample Walther P22 ($400) in the May 2010 issue. Taylor wrote, “Our field sessions began with some fits and starts during break-in period, which were disregarded in our results. When the official firing sessions began, our testers began to have multiple problems with failures to eject and to feed properly. We stopped our evaluation, field stripped the gun, cleaned and lubricated it.

“The Mosquito was then returned to service. It was still experiencing intermittent problems when a premature detonation occurred. The round went off with an open breech, creating a notable flash and popping sound. Smoke belched from the muzzle, breech, back of the slide, and the magazine well of the Mosquito. Our tester was hit with particles on his unprotected forehead but was uninjured. We retrieved the ruptured case along with a small brass fragment, reviewed the incident, and closed our evaluation according to Gun Tests review policy.”

Later, we spoke with Eric Vonbosse, product manager for SIG Sauer, regarding our Mosquito’s malfunctions, and eventual catastrophic failure. He offered some insight into what might have caused some of our problems. Apparently, the German-manufactured Mosquitos have had chambers that were manufactured to a 22 Match CIP specification.

There is a tolerance difference with the SAAMI 22 Long Rifle specification that can cause an overly tight fit with 22 Long Rifle ammo. As a result, rounds fired in the gun could stick in the bore, causing failures to extract. Vonbosse explained that they had addressed the situation with their German factory, and that their Service Department now routinely checked the bore sizing in all Mosquitos sent to them for repair. When an undersize condition is noted, a finishing reamer is used to bring the suspect chamber into specification.

Vonbosse could not provide a ready explanation for the catastrophic failure, however, instead directing us to send the gun in for their service department to examine. —Todd Woodard

Gun Test Report Card Grading