Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 12: Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

What are the best rifle calibers to choose when you look at the criteria of ammunition availability and cost to shoot?  Yesterday, we looked at the availability of rifle chamberings for cartridge types across the market, by studying rifle availability on Gunbroker. This should correlate well with ammunition availability today. But what about 10 or 15 years from now - is there a way for us to find out what ammunition is likely to be available then?

In fact, we should be able to make a good guess at what ammunition availability should be 10 to 15 years from now, if we look at new rifle availability only. Indeed, the availability of new rifle chamberings should be a leading indicator of what ammunition will be available for today's rifles 10 to 15 years down the road, because it takes ammunition manufacturers a while to follow up. When looking at the differences between the global rifle market, as indicated by Gunbroker, with new rifle chamberings only, we should also be able to identify trends that will indicate to us which rounds are gaining or losing in popularity.

New Rifle Chamberings availability

Bud's Gun Shop is one the the largest firearms retailers on the net. More importantly, it allows the user to search for firearms by cartridge type, and gives a count of the number of results. It also separates new rifles (the very large majority of offerings) from used rifles (a very, very small minority). We expect that the chambering distribution at Bud's Gun Shop, after eliminating used rifles, should correlate tightly with what ammunition will be available 10 to 15 years down the road.

We should note a significant difference with Gunbroker counting. Where Gunbroker counts the number of available rifles on the market, Bud's counts the number of available chamberings. Therefore, Bud's probably under-counts the most popular calibers, where there are more chamberings AND people buy more of these chamberings. As an example, if the Winchester 70 Stainless Featherweight is chambered in 243, 270, 270 WSM, 308, 30-06 and 300 WSM, and if they are all available at Bud's, that would represent 6 chamberings with equal weight, yet we expect that more 243s, 270s, 308s, and 30-06s would be sold than 270s WSM or 300s WSM. Another possible source of statistical weakness is possible bias by Bud's management in making rifles available for sale. Despite these weaknesses, we still expect the statistics from Bud's to give us a leading indication on what cartridge availability should look like in the medium term future.

The picture we see at Bud's is different from Gunbroker in interesting ways. The original top chamberings identified on Gunbroker (223, 22LR, 308 and 30-06) remain high, but this time the top scorer is the 22LR, indicating a shift towards the use of more rimfire vs. centerfire, probably linked to the progressively higher cost of ammunition in the past 10 years.

Right alongside the top four, instead of significantly behind them, we find 243 (actual #2 scorer, even with the 308 and before the 30-06 and the 223) and 270 Winchester (right behind the 30-06 and 223) - clearly these two cartridges are gaining in popularity. Then, following fairly closely, are the 22-250, 300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08, 17HMR and finally the 204 Ruger, rounding up the top Twelve.

The differences in the two lists (all chamberings vs. new chamberings) are interesting in the shifts that they augur. The 243 and 270 are clearly on the upswing, along with the 22-250, the surprising 300 Win Mag, the sensible 7mm-08, and the almost brand new 204 Ruger, whose popularity is growing impressively fast (it was introduced in 2004). On the other hand, the 25-06 slips out of the top Twelve, and the 7.62x39 Soviet along with the old 30-30 take a dramatic tumble, with hardly any new chamberings.

Next we discuss changes in the distribution of chamberings across rifle categories... So come back soon!

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