Jeff Cooper’s book, To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, contained a chapter titled: The Role of the Five. The focus of this chapter was to offer insight into the five categories of small arms. These included the pistol, rifle, carbine, shotgun and machine pistol. (Cooper noted that a machine gun took a full-size rifle cartridge and was a crew-served weapon.) Here, we sort of play on that essay, but focus on the role of the five most prevalent cartridges in use today. A man equipped with a battery consisting of firearms chambered for these is equipped for just about anything.
.22 LR: For 130 years, the .22 Long Rifle has been the most popular cartridge. It has no recoil, it’s not very loud, it kills way out of proportion to its size, and you can get handguns and long guns of all sorts of configurations chambered for it. The .22 LR is ideal for small game, for teaching new shooters, and for plinking fun. The only thing worse than not having gun chambered for the .22 LR might be having never had parents.
.223 Remington: Now possibly the most prevalent centerfire rifle cartridge in the world, the .223 Rem. is misunderstood and underrated. Some consider it suited only for law enforcement and military use against human adversaries. Others think should be used on nothing but varmints. Truth is, the .223 Rem. will cleanly take deer and even black bear at moderate range, and it’s ideal for predators, including those of the two-legged variety. It’s also quite possibly the best all-around cartridge for the rifle it was originally intended for, the AR-15.
.308 Winchester: You could argue the American rifle started with the .30-30 Winchester, and after the Great War became the .30-06. For most patriots, either of these will do most anything needing done, but the .308 Win. has become more popular, you could argue, because it is better. It hits harder and shoots flatter than a .30-30, with very little increase in recoil. It will kill anything a .30-06 will, but will fit in a smaller and lighter rifle. With the right bullet, placed in the right spot, it will handle anything in North America.
9mm Luger: Cooper was not a fan of the 9mm cartridge, but today it is the self defense, law enforcement, and military pistol cartridge of choice. Bullet engineers have figured out how to maximize the moderate linear and high rotation velocity the 9mm delivers to its projectiles, to create wickedly performing ammunition, fully capable of meeting FBI requirements. You can get a 9mm in just about any size and style handgun you like.
12 Gauge: Yes, there are other gauges, but for all-round versatility they cannot compare to the 12. With light loads, you can shoot trap, skeet and sporting clays. With field loads, you can take small game, upland birds (turkeys included) and waterfowl. With buckshot, you can defend your home, fight felons, and even kill a deer. And, with a slug, you can pound to the ground or at least change the mind of just about any critter. There’s a reason the 12 gauge has been the No. 1 – behind the kitchen door – gun for more than a century.