What Is the Most Common Ammunition in the U.S.?

Most Common Ammo Types
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What Is the Most Common Ammunition in the U.S.?

Here's the easiest way to discover the most common types of ammunition in the United States: Wait for some kind of crisis, and then go to a gun store and see what isn't in stock.

You would be surprised how accurate that method is in determining what the most common ammunition in the U.S. actually is.

Whether it's times of pandemic or political upheaval, when things get uncertain in the nation, people often buy guns. And then they buy ammo.

Panic and pandemic buying aside, there are reasons you might want to know what the most common ammunition types are within this country.

Maybe you want to buy something a lot of other people want because it signifies it's a good quality caliber.

Maybe you want to buy something that's common in case of emergency so you have similar ammunition to that of everyone around you for preparedness purposes.

Or perhaps you want to know what the most common is because you actually want to buy something different from everyone else.

So, what is the most common ammunition in the United States? This is where the topic starts to get most interesting. The United States is steeped in gun culture; it's a part of our national DNA.

Thanks to that, there isn't just one "most common" type of ammunition. We actually have several.

Ammunition Depot's Take on the Most Common Calibers

This list is based mainly on the sales of the round as well as the sales of firearm types, but we've used a few other factors.

You might find a handgun round that didn't make the list that outsells a rifle round on the list, for example, because handguns account for more gun purchases than rifles.

When you consider overall gun ownership and the likelihood of people owning multiple guns, you find that even a round that technically sells more is not as common as another round that sells slightly less.

You're more likely to encounter someone with a hunting rifle caliber than certain handgun calibers.

Keep in mind this list is about commonality, not sales.

9mm Ammunition

The 9mm round is the single most popular handgun round in the world, including in the U.S. and is used by everyone from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies to competition shooters.

Popular 9mm ammo types include:

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ): 9mm FMJ ammo is, by far, the most common and features a lead bullet encased in copper or another hard metal and are primarily used for target or range shooting.

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP): 9mm jacketed hollow points feature a lead bullet with a hollow point inside but are still encased in copper. These bullets expand on impact, increasing stopping power, and are used by the military, law enforcement, and for self-defense.

Its stopping power and the magazine carry capacity of most guns chambered in the round make it a popular choice for home defense. Its light recoil and accuracy, even out of smaller, shorter barrels, also makes it excellent for defense as well as target shooting.

The use of 9mm handguns like the Beretta M9 and the Sig Sauer M17/M18 by the U.S. military and the venerable Glock 19 by law enforcement has popularized the round.

223 / 5.56 Ammunition

The AR in AR-15 might as well stand for “America’s Rifle.”

It’s one of the most popular rifles in the U.S. — if not the most popular. It's an excellent rifle for personal and home defense, target shooting and competitions.

It’s a very versatile and capable rifle, and .223 / 5.56 ammo is the round that it shoots.

Common Question: Are 223 and 5.56 Ammo the same?

While the two cartridges are modifications of the same platform, they aren't always interchangeable. 223 ammunition is compatible with a 5.56 rifle in most cases, a 5.56 can significantly damage a barrel and chamber when fired from a rifle only designed to shoot 223.

Millions of veterans as well as current and former law enforcement officers prefer this as their main self-defense firearm. They recommend it to their families and friends.

But here’s the thing: That isn’t even the only style of rifle chambered in .223 or 5.56. Sure, it’s the most popular firearm chambered in that caliber, but it isn’t the only one.

Which means even people who don't have an AR-15 may still need this caliber.

22LR Ammunition

22LR ammunition is extremely popular for small game and target shooting. It’s also an excellent choice for those just learning to shoot.

It’s such a common round in the United States that many people don’t even think about it as an actual round. It's not uncommon for Americans to consider themselves having never fired a gun if the .22LR is the only thing they’ve fired.

“Just a .22” is actually a very common answer to the question, “Have you ever shot a gun before?” here in the United States. It’s so popular that the most common way to find it available for sale is in “bricks” of around 500 rounds.

It’s still a top choice for target shooting and has always been an extremely cheap round to purchase — that is, until demand shot the price skyward on fears of nationwide anti-gun legislation a few years ago.

Additionally, 22LR ammo is very versatile and can be used in various firearms, including rifles, pistols, and even some revolvers. In fact, nearly every major manufacturer produces one or more firearms chambered in 22LR.

Crisis times will do that to just about everything, but thankfully the price has recovered and this remains a popular round for experts and novices alike.

12 Gauge Shotgun Ammunition

Americans love shotguns. Even politicians ignore shotguns when trying to introduce new legislation aimed at restricting the ownership of certain guns.

Joe Biden himself, a few years ago, very famously heralded the idea that Americans should use shotguns for home defense. There’s just something about a shotgun that we can all get behind.

You don’t have to be a good shot, and it doesn’t take a lot of practice to be able to use them.

The most common gauge to find a shotgun in are 12 gauge shotgun shells. They’re great for home defense as well as sport shooting. If you’ve never gone skeet shooting, you’re missing out.

The 12 gauge is extremely versatile, which is precisely why it’s so popular. It's great for hunting, especially for certain types of birds such as duck and turkey. 

Since 12 gauge is a shotgun ammunition, you can get a variety of shot types. That includes buckshot, slugs, small game loads and off-the-wall specialty loads.

Additionally, 12 gauge ammo is widely available for purchase online, at gun stores, or sporting goods stores, making it easy to find and is relatively affordable to purchased compared to other types of ammo.

.308 Ammunition

.308 Ammunition is probably the most common hunting caliber in a country known for its massive numbers of hunters. It packs a punch and can carry that punch hundreds of yards away.

The .308 is also the same as the 7.62x51mm NATO round. It’s a powerful and accurate round that has relatively low recoil for its size.

Key Takeaway: While 7.62x51 NATO and 308 Win ammo look identical, there are subtle differences between the two, boiling down to three key factors: Pressure Capacity, Case Sizing, and Chamber Dimensions.

The ballistics of the round make it excellent for hunting, because it’s capable of maintaining its power over longer distances.

The most important thing to note is that modern 308 Winchester firearms can safely chamber and fire 7.62x51, but not the other way around.

Honorable Ammunition Mentions

It’s entirely possible that your main carry caliber didn't make this list.

Let’s face it: There are a lot of very popular firearm calibers that go beyond the ones in this list. Even more interesting is that prior to around the 1980s, the 9mm might not even have made this list.

In fact, it likely would have been replaced by the Lord’s caliber.

.45 ACP Ammunition

That’s right, .45 ACP ammo.

It may not have made the top five here, but it’s number one in many people’s hearts. It's the caliber that is synonymous with both the 1911 and the Thompson submachinegun.

It's the caliber that helped win two world wars. It didn’t quite make the cut, but it’s still a fantastic round that remains extremely popular — and likely will for the foreseeable future.

.380 ACP Ammunition

Even though it doesn’t quite make the top five of the most popular rounds in America, it surely would make the top 10.

The .380 ammo is an extremely capable round because it combines enough power to be useable for self defense while still being small enough that it works well in pocket-size guns. It’s a daily carry for millions of Americans.

.40 S&W Ammunition

The 40 Smith & Wesson or 40 Cal ammo is an interesting caliber.

It’s often billed as the perfect mix between 9mm and 45 ACP. It’s the “just right” bowl of porridge in the caliber world because it has a carry capacity similar to 9mm but packs more of a .45 ACP punch.

Or at least, that’s what it’s apostles will tell you. And as with the .380, there are millions of them.

The Most Popular Ammunition

As we’ve said, Americans love their guns. Many gun-owning households have multiple guns in multiple calibers, and that’s one reason the U.S. has so many popular types of ammo.

That said, though, there is one that rises above the rest to become the champion: The main ammo in a country known for having lots of guns is definitely the 9mm.

The 9mm is the most popular, and therefore the most common, ammunition in the United States.

While it isn’t a runaway in terms of outselling its nearest competitor — which is the .223 / 5.56 — it’s still a convincing lead.

Are you surprised by any ammo that made the list? Did your favorite make the list? Are you one of the millions who carry a 9mm? Or do you carry something different?

Let us know in the comment section below! 

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.38 “snubnose” 2”barrel five shot revolver . Smith & Wesson 640 .RugerLCR also
Donald Moore
The 2nd amendment, is valid still today!!!
Can you explain where you got your data, please?
Good Morning Rick - This article was written before I started my employment with Ammunition Depot but this, from the article, may explain where the data came from : "This list is based mostly on the sales of the round as well as the sales of firearm types, but we've used a few other factors. You might find a handgun round that didn’t make the list that outsells a rifle round that’s on the list, for example, but that’s because handguns account for more gun purchases than rifles. When you take overall gun ownership into account and the likelihood of people owning multiple guns, you find that even a round that technically sells more is actually not as common as another round that sells slightly less. You’re probably more likely to encounter someone with a hunting rifle caliber than certain handgun calibers. This list is about commonality, not sales." We maintain a lot of data on sales numbers that I imagine were pulled from to draw the conclusions in the article.
"You don't have to be a good shot" to use a shotgun? How big is YOUR shot pattern getting from 15ft down a hall? Please exersise marksmenship everybody
.50 beowulf
.50 beowulf >=)
The Texas R.A.T.
45 Colt, always and forever!