Specifically, a box of 550 .22 caliber rimfire bullets, sitting on my desk. $18 worth of .22 ammo.
You don't need bullets unless you have a gun, right? Well, there's this Mossberg .22 rifle I've got, you see. It's a bolt-action rifle with a 6-round magazine. Ought to be entertaining to shoot somewhere, once I find a rifle range.
Said rifle was one of several belonging to my late father. Having jumped through the appropriate legal hoops, I now have access to his gun collection; but in his stuff there was no ammo for the .22 and I'm loath to try using a larger-caliber rifle when I don't have any experience with rifles. I want to start slow; the .22 will do.
Og suggested I try Wal-Mart; expecting a negative result I went to the nearest one, which is in Matteson--comfortably inside Cook County--and to my surprise, they actually did have ammunition there.
Naturally there wasn't a single soul anywhere near the sporting goods counter who actually worked for Wal-Mart. Not one. I had to go to the arts and crafts section to ask the person working there to summon the sporting goods person. *sigh*
About ten minutes later I walked out of there with two boxes of ammunition--one for the rifle, and one for the tiny little .25 caliber pistol which once belonged to my maternal grandmother, both of which are securely locked away here in the bunker. There are a few others besides, but for security reasons I'm not saying what or how many--yes, I'm paranoid. Sorry.
The pistol is a tiny Astra .25. Back in 1994, under my Dad's watchful eye, I field-stripped that gun and cleaned it. Having nothing else to lube it with, I used WD-40; that was a mistake. WD-40 turns gummy; now the action is sticky. It will need to be cleaned (again) and oiled properly before I can use it. I'm also going to need a case; so I'll be making a trip to a gun shop relatively soon for a cleaning kit and a case for the pistol. (I already have a rifle case or three laying around.)
When I was finally able to get at Dad's guns and the associated stuff, I found an ancient prescription bottle with six .25 ACP rounds in it. The bottle was dated 1967. The rounds themselves probably date to the 1930s, which is about the last time this gun was fired. That's when my grandfather bought the thing for my grandmother; as far as Mom knows this thing hasn't been used since. They're crusty and I'm not going to try to use them.
Anyway: I got out to the Jeep with the ammo, and looked at it; and then saw that the .22 ammo was rimfire. Thinking I needed centerfire ammo, I went back inside Wal-Mart and went to the customer service counter; and then had to go back to the sporting goods department to have them bring up a box of .22 centerfire ammo. I waited a good 15 minutes (even after going to the textiles department again to ask them to summon help again) and in fact it took another employee happening to see me standing there to get help for me.
The person assigned to the sporting goods department finally returned and looked through the cabinet, and told me there was no rimfire ammo in .22 there. I decided to keep what I'd bought--there was, I thought, a possibility that it could be used in a centerfire gun, and if not I could always bring it back later.
I went back to the customer service counter, and waited ten minutes before I could ask for my merchandise back; the woman dropped one of the boxes--the pistol ammo--and I winced involuntarily. Nothing was damaged, though, so I took my stuff and left, disgruntled that I'd wasted half an hour on that nonsense.
Just now I opened the box of .22 ammo. Inside the lid was is a list of eight warnings, including this one: "(5) Discharge may occur if rim is struck; handle with caution, do not drop". I'm glad it was the pistol ammo that got dropped!
Rimfire ammo makes me nervous anyway, precisely because it's easier to hit the part of the cartridge with the percussion cap that sets off the gunpowder. I have to assume it's really not all that easy to set it off accidentally, since they package the damn stuff loose in the box, but cripes: this stuff can kill you. I'm for damn sure going to treat it gingerly.
Anyway: so I got home with what I was thinking was probably the wrong stuff; and then I began to worry that I'd bought the wrong caliber of ammo--what if the gun was a .223?--so I went and had a look at the thing.
Well, the gun is indeed a .22 LR; and in fact it's a rimfire gun to boot. So I really did waste half an hour on the attempted exchange; but I'm glad they didn't have centerfire .22!
There's nothing quite like knowing what the hell you're doing!
But on the other hand, how else am I going to learn? You can't learn anything without making mistakes, and as long as my mistakes are small and cause harm only to my dignity, who really cares? At least this way I can post some funny stories.
The added benefit of this little imbroglio is that I learned how to take the bolt out of the .22. I don't feel comfortable transporting a rifle with its bolt in place. Oh, it probably doesn't matter, but with the bolt in and the breech closed, the gun's in battery, and I'm just paranoid enough that I want the gun out of battery when I'm transporting it. (Not just unloaded, but totally unable to fire--that's what I want.)
Heck, when I was cleaning that pistol in 1994, I had it out of battery (slide locked back) and still wouldn't look down the barrel. Dad told me, "It can't fire like that; it's fine!" but I still ended up field-stripping it before I felt safe looking down the barrel.
What the hell--being careful is better than being callous. I'd rather have people make fun of my over-caution than end up in the emergency room with a gunshot wound. Or--worse--have someone else end up there.
--why was I cleaning the Astra in 1994? Well, a friend had bought a 9mm Taurus, and we'd been at the range shooting it; he was cleaning his gun at my place and I remembered the Astra being caught in a flood in the basement. So I got Dad's permission to look it over.
The slide had rusted to the frame, but not seriously--there was no pitting--and the action was basically all right. WD-40 helped bust the crusties, and after a few minutes' work I had the action working smoothly again.
It's all gummed up now, of course, but it won't be too hard to clean and lube it with the right oil. At least this gummy stuff is grease and not rust. And the gumminess is mostly confined to the slide.
The barrel isn't as long as my thumb. I bet the thing is really accurate. < /sarcasm >
* * *
So, what now? None of the guns is really well-suited for home defense; Dad was a hunter. I worry about how well hunting ammo can penetrate the wall of a frame building: I don't want to miss a criminal and end up accidentally shooting one of my neighbors. So birdshot seems to be the way to go; but a shotgun barrel is pretty long and there's not a lot of room to maneuver one around inside a house.
*sigh* And of course I really don't want to have to use any of these things against a human target, or even a living target. I'm too much of a softie to want to be shooting at living things. But if I have to in order to stay alive, then I want to minimize the risks to innocent bystanders as much as is humanly possible: I want the bad guy and only the bad guy to be the one who gets injured. (Or "wild animal" or "snake" or WTF-ever is threatening me.)
I'm doing all this with "personal defense" in mind rather than "gettin' me some venison"--and with the knowledge that things could well go to shit if (for example) the economy takes a major dump.
Though if the groceries stop moving, I might have to take up hunting. Lotta deer and geese around here. Do I go hunting in order to learn how to hunt, so that I know how to do it if/when I need to? Or do I eschew unnecessary killing and risk going hungry? This is what sucks about being a softie: you get hooked up on some annoying dilemmas.
I suppose that merely learning to hit a target will, by itself, be some preparation against the need to hunt for food--maybe not the best, but some. I don't know.
What I do know is, I'm not going to be taking any deer with a .22. Heh.