Improvised Arms and Ammunition, Part 1

Currently, in many parts of the world if you need something, pretty much anything you can think of, you can just go to the store and get it or order it online. This includes one of my favorite things: guns and ammunition. Okay, well technically that’s two of my favorite things.

A Solution for Every Problem

While I am in no hurry for anything to happen that could cause the end of society as we know it (TEOTWAWKI), I still often consider this possibility. Because of this, I try to figure out what problems may arise and then determine solutions to these potential problems.

The reason I do this is because if I think about these scenarios and come up with solutions now, I can work out the kinks without the pressure of survival. It is much easier to develop a solution now than if I was to wait blindly until come what may.

The Key to Survivalism

Of course there is no way I can imagine every possibility for things that can go wrong. What I can do is use logic and reason to determine the things that will be needed most, and how to provide for that need.

After all, this is the premise behind the survivalist mentality. The key to survivalism is to have this mentality: the ability to adapt and change; the ability to see a need and create a solution to fill this need.

Take a Shot at It

In so thinking, I have come up with several ideas over the years all tested personally, that I refer to as “improvised arms and ammunition.” I have decided to share these ideas with you here and so you too will have this knowledge.

It would be too long of an article to do all at once, and so it will be broken down into weekly-(ish) installments. Some of you may already have this knowledge and more, so please, feel free to share in the comments.

Some may deem these ideas insane, some may find them clever. Regardless of this, if all else fails, some day you may have to resort to pulling one if these ideas out of your bags of tricks to survive.

The ideas range from making various types of improvised ammunition for your firearm, to making an improvised firearm, making improvised perimeter defense devices, to making your own powder. Most of the information is of my own mind. Some may be gleaned from elsewhere. I will give credit where credit is due. Every idea has been tested by me and I will give my opinion honestly, or it would not be worth sharing with the Sullivan readers.

One size fits all…NOT

One of the most popular firearms in America is the AR15 platform.

The AR15 is popular for several reasons:

  • Endlessly customizable
  • Several caliber options by merely changing the upper
  • Light recoil in its most common caliber (5.56/.223)
  • Ability to carry a LOT of ammo in (5.56/.223)
  • .22 LR conversion capability
  • Rifle or pistol configuration available
  • Millions made so parts are plentiful

Not everyone is a fan of the AR15, but we won’t go into all that. I like playing with mine in the comfort of my gun range or backyard, but it isn’t my first choice for SHTF. It’s not that it’s a bad gun, so much as the 5.56/.223 is a woefully underpowered round and the rifle is too delicate for guerilla style combat effectiveness (which is what it will be subjected to in that situation).

Oh sure, when you have the logistics behind it of a COUNTRY and an armory where you can swap guns every time yours breaks down, then by all means. But if you need a truly rugged combat weapon that will take all the abuse you can give it and more, well, not so much.

If you are one of the AR guys that swears by them, that’s fine with me. As long as we are pointing our guns in the same direction I care not what weapon you choose. But here’s something for you to think about and a little tip for you. You can’t hunt deer with a BB gun and you can’t hunt squirrels with a .50 BMG. No, seriously, you can’t, well ok, you CAN, but it isn’t going to work very well.

Get to the (Hollow) Point

Survivalist, prepper, patriot, or whatever you want to call it, if and when the time comes, you will most likely have a bag on your back and a rifle. If you happen to be familiar with the term ounces = pounds, pounds=pain, then you have a firm understanding of carrying only vital necessities.

I have talked to people before that seem to not have a grasp on reality when it comes to their BOB and gear. They think they will carry a couple hundred pounds of gear, 2 or 3 guns, ammo for them, food, a medic kit, etc. etc. Enough to fill a truck.

Creative Solutions with the Ar15

Well, here’s a little tip that can save you several pounds of weight to carry and provide you with an extended use for your AR15.

If you own an AR, you have probably seen the .22 LR conversion kits for them. Well, I had the idea to carry one of those kits and some .22 LR ammo along with my AR for small game hunting should I decide to carry the AR for SHTF.

Well, that got me thinking. What if there weren’t any .22 LR ammo to be had? What could I do then?  Here is one of the solutions I came up with.

“Well, what am I looking at?” you might be asking yourself, I will tell you. In a survival situation when you have to make do with whatever you can find, sometimes you have to get really creative.

Using the Ar15 for Small Game Hunting

So what we have here is a cartridge that you can fire from your AR15 to kill squirrels and other small game that is very quiet (which may really matter at that time). It is made from a spent 5.56/.223 casing, a .22 caliber hollow point pellet, and a 209 shot shell primer:

AR15 improvised small game round

This improvised munition came to me during one of my “what if” thinking sessions. I have a .177/.22 caliber pellet rifle, it has interchangeable barrels. It’s fun to play with in the yard or in the house (yes, I shoot it in the house). I also have several muzzle loading rifles that use the 209 shot shell primers.

These primers are pretty much everywhere because not only are they used for reloading shot shells, but many muzzle loading rifles use them as well. They are usually easily found in Walmarts and sporting goods stores, gun shops, and online so the chances of running across a pack would be fairly good. The .22 caliber pellets are readily available in the same stores.

I recall having gotten some subsonic .22 LR rounds before that were made without any powder, only a really hot primer and a lighter 20 or 30 gr bullet. I got several boxes of them one time when I was practicing fast draw of a .22 single action “cowboy style” revolver. This gave me the idea for the AR squirrel round.

The AR Squirrel Round

How to Make Them

It’s pretty easy to make a squirrel round for the AR, all you need are some spent 5.56/.223 casings, some 209 primers, and some .22 caliber pellets. You also might need something sticky: like a dab of crazy glue or pine pitch or beeswax if the hole for the primer is not tight fitting. I used Crosman premier .22 caliber 14.3 gr hollow point hunting pellets.

You can make your own AR small game rounds by following these simple steps listed here.

drilled out primer hole

1) The first thing you have to do is pop the old primer out of the casing and then drill the back large enough for the 209 primer to fit.

If you have a drill and drill bit, it’s ideal. If not, then it will be harder, but not impossible.

When you drill the hole for the primer then you need to make a larger mouth to the hole, so the rim of the primer will seat flush with the back of the casing.

You can also simply grind the back of the casing enough to make up the difference for the primer sticking out. You can accomplish the grinding by rubbing it on a rock if you have no other means. But the casing should look similar to, or like, this picture here.pellet on a stick

2) Once you have the hole drilled for the primer test fit, but DO NOT INSTALL YET.

First, you need to put the pellet in. The easiest way is to put the pellet on the tip of a stick, then go through the primer hole. The pellet will fit tightly in this hole, so tap the stick to seat the pellet (but don’t push it through). You want to be able to crimp the case edge over the pellet.

crimping the casing3) Once the pellet is seated, you need to crimp the casing over the pellet.

You can do this simply by rolling the edge of the casing at an angle on a hard surface like a rock, a piece of wood, or even your knife blade. Just don’t cut yourself.the pellet

It is important to make this crimp even and tight. It must be even to maintain accuracy and must be tight to be sealed from the elements. A dab of bees wax or Chapstick around the crimp can help ensure it is sealed.

4) At this stage if you want to you do have the option of putting a little bit of powder in the casing.

Anything will work, just keep in mind that this IS a live round and if you overload it you will have a bad day.


To keep it quiet (and for killing squirrels) I just use the PRIMER ONLY, NO POWDER and still get 800+ fps.

I suppose if you are out of real ammo and needed something to injure or kill something bigger than a squirrel you can add powder, but if that was the case I’d want a bigger projectile, but that’s another article.

So, for the sake of the intended purpose of squirrel round, you just put the primer in. If you got the hole tight enough that you can press the primer in with no glue, then press it in and seal it like you did the case neck. If the primer needs some persuasion then a little glue will do. Then seal it.

That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Doesn’t seem like much, but you can put this in your AR15 and shoot a squirrel or other small game with it without turning it into pink mist.

I fired this one that is in this article into a piece of plywood and then fired the exact same kind of pellet, from the same can of pellets, in to the plywood right next to it and you can see that the one fired from the AR has a little more penetration and has actually flared the pellet a little.

You can see that the hole from the pellet fired from the AR is a little bigger. It is a known that the pellet fired from the pellet rifle was 800 fps, so the one fired from the AR was at least that (if not a little more) judging by the penetration and size of the hole. Now, this is by no means as powerful as a .22LR would be but knowing that the pellet rifle easily killed squirrels, I am confident that the pellet fired from the AR will too.

pellet hole

The Most Important Weapon in Your Arsenal

As I have stated before, the most important weapon you have in your arsenal when it comes to survival is your brain. In any situation you find yourself in there is a solution to the problem, you just have to think outside the box as they say.

Sure, in a perfect world you have plenty of ammo. You never run out and you have reloading supplies with a warehouse full of powder, primer, and bullets.

You have a gun for every need and the right ammo for every gun, you always have plenty to eat and no one is going to try to kill you and take your stuff. But then in a perfect world you wouldn’t have to be trying to survive, so the world isn’t perfect.

Parting Shot

If you enjoyed this article and found the information interesting and possibly even useful then stroll on over next week, and every week, and see what else you maybe haven’t thought of.

I’ve got a bunch of them, and not just about making low powered ammo from pellets and primers.


The contents of this article is for information purposes only. Neither the author nor shall be held liable for the misuse of the information contained herein or for any damage, injury, death or any other negative consequence. We are not advocating that you replicate the steps and the advice offered in this article. Neither the author nor shall be held liable for any product you create using this article.

About Eric W. Eichenberger

Eric W. Eichenberger
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms. A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method. The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.


  1. Avatar

    These are some cool articles. This one fits on my agenda… Why, Because I reload shogun, 223, And I have the pellet gun. My questin is. How is the accuacy up to 30 yards.

    • Avatar

      I would say its stretching it, the accuracy would be about the same as the pellet gun. make a few and practice it. Thanks for reading!

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