If you enjoy the shooting sports as much as I do then you have no doubt been affected by the ammo shortage. There are many theories out there as to why the shortage occurred and how it can be fixed, however it seems that few know the true answers.
What we do know is demand + prices have steadily increased while supply has seemingly plummeted. For the millions of us that own .22 caliber rifles/pistols the ammo shortage has been especially critical. What was once one of the most readily available and inexpensive cartridges has become undoubtedly the scarcest and most sought after.
Rather than spending time and money running around trying to locate .22 ammo, I have been enjoying different and more easily available alternatives. In the past .22 cartridges sold for approx. 4-5 cents a round and recently I have seen boxes at gun shows going for upwards of 15c/round. Unless you are reloading it is unlikely you would be able to get down to those prices with any other common cartridges.
The following calibers are about as close as you can get to affordable shooting while still being able to locate boxes at your local store.
17hmr – Effectively a necked down .22 Magnum Cartridge the 17hmr was introduced by Hornady in 2002 and is as fun as it gets. A laser beam out to 200 yards the 17 “hummer” flies out of the muzzle at 2550 ft/second & packs approximately 2x the punch as a .22lr at distance. 28cents/rd.
7.62×54 – According to Wikipedia one of the oldest cartridges still in service at 120 years in 2011. That is a ridiculously long time in the ever changing and evolving world of guns + ammo. A legit 1000 yard round that is easy to find and because of army surplus continues to be easily available. 24cents/rd.
7.62×39 – The ole AK-47 round. Tested the world over and will more than likely never go away. Hits hard and can be effective out to 300 yards. Again because it is a military oriented round it likely will continue to be easy to find. 25cents/rd.
.223/.556 – The chosen round of the US Military you should be able to find this about anywhere. A proven shooter across the world this little screamer is versatile. Accurate enough to be deadly out to 600-800 yards yet small enough that an average person can still carry hundreds of rounds easily. 40cents/round.
12 Gauge – King of the Road as far as I am concerned in terms of price, availability, and versatility. Self-defense and hunting rounds will be more expensive but you can still get birdshot for under 25cents/round.
9mm – Coming in at .30 cents/round the 9mm is one of the most affordable pistol cartridges that is still considered a legit man stopper. The 9mm can be paired with a carbine style rifle for higher muzzle velocities and effectiveness at distances greater than 100 yards.
Whichever calibers you enjoy always maintain safety as your top priority. Keep your skills sharp by practicing at least 1/month and take care of your guns through cleaning and proper storage.
Most importantly have fun and remember to always be a responsible advocate for firearms whenever you go.