This article is intended for shooters who, like me, can’t afford to shoot as much ammunition as they would like, or as much as they need in order to stay proficient. The answer isn’t exactly a secret, but I thought I’d talk about it anyway.
.22 Long Rifle ammunition has been in short supply over the past year or so, though it’s starting to become available again. I buy the Federal 525rd bulk packs at Wal-Mart for around $13.50, and also the slightly more expensive ~300rd packs of Federal AutoMatch, which functions very well in my ammo-picky Kimber .22 conversion for my 1911.
AR-15 conversion kits are currently available for around $150 including a 26rd magazine, while pistol conversions vary based on manufacturer and the model of pistol. Generally, they’re between $250 and $350, though you might find bargains on used kits. Rifle mags by Black Dog Machine are excellent and cost between $25 and $35. Pistol magazines – again, this varies by manufacturer, but I bought some for my 1911 from Brownells for $20 recently with my FFL discount. If you want to build a dedicated .22LR upper, Spikes Tactical offers excellent examples.
Many people believe that 1/7 twist barrels will cause 36-38gr 22LR ammo to be wildly inaccurate. I have found that 1/7 does reduce accuracy, but the weapon is still very functional for carbine training. Click this link for a video example.
I most often shoot at a small spinning target set made by Birchwood Casey that has an auto-reset function. The steel plates are 2.5″ in diameter, which provide more of a challenge to hit at 25 yards than larger targets. At that distance, these targets approximate shooting a 10″ plate at 100 yards, which is good training for either carbine or handgun. Generally, if you can shoot a smaller target with good accuracy, you will be able to hit a larger target with good speed and accuracy. I spend a lot of time shooting bullseye with small targets and my 1911 conversion, and this pays off when I shoot under more stress.
For those wanting the effect of greater recoil during training, or an inexpensive training rifle that could double as a duty rifle, Smith & Wesson 5.45 uppers and rifles are a great option, and ammunition is around $150 for a 1080 round tin at the moment. I’ve used my 5.45 upper in several carbine courses and even at 600 yard shoots, where the high ballistic coefficient of the .221 diameter bullet means that even corrosive surplus ammunition is surprisingly accurate.
I highly recommend attending pistol and/or carbine courses with centerfire weapons to build basic skills and learn drills, then maintain those skills and practice those drills on your own time with either .22LR or 5.45 weapons. This has greatly boosted my marksmanship abilities, because I can shoot longer and more often, and the cash outlay for an AR-15 conversion, a few thousand rounds of .22LR, and a steel spinner target will still be less than the cost of 1000 rounds of the cheapest 5.56 ammo.