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 Ammunition
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.
The .22LR round 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. 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.
The 9mm round is the single most popular handgun round in the world, including in the U.S. It’s used by everyone from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies to competition shooters.
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. 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 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 is the round that it shoots.
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.
The .308 is probably the most common hunting caliber in a country known for its massive numbers of hunters.
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. The ballistics of the round make it excellent for hunting, because it’s capable of maintaining its power over longer distances. It packs a punch and can carry that punch hundreds of yards away.
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 is the 12 gauge. They’re great for home defense as well as sport shooting. If you’ve never gone skeet shooting, you’re missing out. They’re also 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. The 12 gauge is extremely versatile, which is precisely why it’s so popular.
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.
That’s right, the .45 ACP. 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.
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 ACP 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.
The 40 Smith & Wesson 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.