Most Common Ammo – Top Calibers

If you’re considering buying your first gun, you may be wondering what the most common ammo available is. Shooting a gun that comes in a popular caliber means that the ammo should be relatively easy to find when it comes time to stock up on rounds.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ammo on the market!

Most Common Ammo: Top Calibers

When people ask what the most common ammo is, they’re typically referring to the caliber of ammo. The most common ammo calibers are:

  • 9mm
  • .22LR
  • .223/5.56
  • 12GA
  • .38 Special

Let’s take a closer look at these calibers and why they’re so popular.

9mm Ammo

a box of the most common ammo 9mm and three rounds with the text click here to shop top 9mm ammo

The 9mm cartridge is easily the most popular handgun round in the world. If we’re narrowing things down to the U.S., there’s no doubt that the 9mm cartridge is the most sought after pistol caliber. According to the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report published by the ATF, gun companies in the U.S. manufactured over 3,700,000 9mm pistols in 2022. This is over 4 times the amount of the next most manufactured caliber of handgun. 

The 9mm is a versatile cartridge, popular for casual shooting, self defense, and competition. Law enforcement agencies across the country and the U.S. military utilize the 9mm cartridge as well. Nearly every modern gun manufacturer offers a 9mm pistol and you’ll have no trouble finding a selection of them at a gun shop. Even most pistol caliber carbines are chambered in 9mm.

The most common type of 9mm ammo for casual shooting is full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo like the Federal American Eagle 9mm FMJ 115gr. For self defense, jacketed hollow point (JHP) rounds like the Speer Gold Dot LE 9mm JHP 124gr. are a popular choice.

.22LR Ammo

three rounds and a box of 22lr

One of the most common rounds world-wide is .22LR ammo. It’s easy to find both pistols and rifles chambered in this rimfire round. As a smaller round, the .22LR has incredibly light recoil, making it a great choice for newer shooters.

Some people choose to use .22LR for self defense, but it’s also a great round for varmint hunting, plinking with friends, or competition shooting like Steel Challenge.

One of the most appealing aspects of the .22LR cartridge is its affordability. When compared to other common cartridges, the .22LR is much cheaper, often coming in at under 10¢ per round. With .22LR ammo so cheap, it’s easy to spend an entire day plinking. If you’re looking for an affordable way to shoot, start with our guide on the best .22LR pistols to find the right match for you.

Popular .22LR plinking rounds include the Federal Champion .22LR 36gr. CPHP and the Remington Thunderbolt .22LR 40gr. LRN.

.223/5.56 Ammo

a box of 5.56mm green tip ammo and three rounds

Thanks to the AR-15 rifle, .223/5.56 ammo is the most popular rifle round in the U.S. The .223/5.56 cartridge is popular for home and self defense, target shooting, hunting, competition, and for use in law enforcement and military agencies. While there are slight differences between .223 vs. 5.56, if the gun is chambered for 5.56, it will accept both rounds, which is why they’re often grouped together.

Some of the most popular .223/5.56 rounds are the green tip, M855 rounds used by the U.S. military, like the PMC X-TAC 5.56 NATO 62gr. FMJ ammo.

12 Gauge Ammo

a box and two shells of 12 gauge ammo

Of all the shotgun calibers, 12 gauge comes out on top in terms of popularity.

All of our choices for the best home defense shotguns shoot 12 gauge ammo, and for good reason. The 12GA is a powerful shotgun round used for competition, hunting, and home defense. While shotguns are fairly straightforward to use, their harsh recoil can make them unpleasant for shooters who have not mastered good shotgun shooting techniques. However, that hasn’t stopped the caliber’s popularity.

If you’re loading up for home defense, the best 12GA shotshells are 00 buckshot like the Federal Flite Control 8 pellet or the Hornady Critical Defense 8 pellet.

.38 Special Ammo

a revolver, ammo box, and three rounds of .38 special

If we’re talking revolvers, the .38 Special is at the top of most popular revolver calibers. While revolvers aren’t as popular as they were before the emergence of semi-auto pistols, revolvers are still a favored choice among concealed carriers for their compact sizes and ease of use.

When we talk about the .38 Special, it’s hard not to talk about the .357 Magnum. Many revolvers are chambered for the more powerful .357 Magnum round, but also accept the .38 Special cartridge. However, revolvers chambered for .38 Special will not accept .357 Magnum. There are several reasons a shooter would choose the .38 Special over the .357 Magnum. The .38 Special will have much more manageable recoil, especially when paired with slightly less powerful ammo.

We’ve previously covered the best .38 Special ammo for snubbies, which has some great recommendations for self defense ammo to use in short-barreled revolvers. If you’re loading up for self defense, it’s hard to go wrong with ammo like the Winchester 148gr. Super-X Lead Wadcutter. For casual shooting at the range, it’s hard to go wrong with lead round nose ammo like the Magtech .38 Special 158gr. LRN.

Most Common Handgun Ammo

While we’ve covered the most popular rounds, there are still some other common handgun calibers worth mentioning. 

Some of the most common handgun ammo cartridges include:

Most Common Rifle Ammo

There are also some common rifle cartridges worth mentioning as well:

Final Thoughts

shooting a .45acp pistol

If you’re a new shooter picking out your first gun, it’s not a bad idea to choose a gun chambered in one of the common calibers listed above. While the most common ammo calibers are typically readily available, during times of scarcity, they’re often the calibers that dry up first. That’s because so many people stock up on those calibers when they think ammo will become hard to find. 

Ultimately, you’ll want to find the right caliber for the type of shooting you want to do and that will have ammo readily available to purchase. Because no one wants to have a gun they can’t shoot!

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