Best Gun Alternatives: No Ammo, No Problem!

Does the lack of ammo, the fact guns are hard to find, and that lots of ranges are still closed got you down?

Do you miss pursuing your favorite hobby? I know I miss it. 

Firearms Alternatives
Firearms Alternatives

I can’t even distract myself with a new PS5 and Cyberpunk 2077 runs horribly on my PS4. Ugh.

This year could be completely useless…unless I figured something out. 

CP2077 Glitch
Come on, Samurai. We’ve got a city to–what…what are you doing?!

The firearms training aspect can’t be replaced, but what about the hobby itself?

We can all act like tactical operator gurus, but at the end of the day, let’s be real…we all really enjoy just firing guns. 

Making tiny groups, scoring great par times, hitting targets hundreds of yards away, and, of course…controlled explosions

Mythbusters Explosion
Y’know, like Mythbusters!

The focus and practice required to shoot are what many of us love, and unfortunately, we can’t get that right now.

Well, we can’t get it with the guns sitting in our safes, that is.

Tapping into that focus and effort is still very possible, though… 

With that in mind, we’ve come together with four alternatives to help fill the hole left by the ammo and gun drought.

These can’t fill your training gap, but they can fulfill that joy of shooting, focusing, and getting better at a hobby. 

Cobray M11 shooting from the hip
This kind of joy!

Table of Contents

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The Fun of Black Powder Guns 

Black powder guns are the most logical alternative for hardcore shooters.

To put it simply, black powder percussion guns are an absolute blast!

These are your old school black powder cowboy guns, your muskets, and even shotguns. 

Left to Right:  Reproduction muzzleloading shotgun, Thompson/Center 50 caliber Hawken, 45 caliber Philadelphia Derringer (I made this from a kit in 7th grade woodshop! My, how times have changed), Thompson/Center Black Diamond 50 Caliber inline
Left to Right:  Reproduction muzzleloading shotgun, Thompson/Center 50-Caliber Hawken, 45-Caliber Philadelphia Derringer, and Thompson/Center Black Diamond 50-Caliber Inline.

Black powder percussion guns are the closest you’ll get to a regular gun on this list.

You’ll still find gun powder, a projectile, and a miniature contained explosion. And, of course, you need ears, eyes, and a safe place to shoot. 

Black powder guns are a very broad category with rifles, shotguns, and pistols.

You can go full-on Brown Bess, blunderbuss, or cowboy revolver. 

pouring propellant
Pouring powder

My suggestion? Get a black powder revolver.

These repeating guns give you more bang for your buck, make you feel like an old school cowboy, and many can be converted to fire cartridges.

Once ammo comes back, you can spend a little cash for a cylinder that allows it to fire cartridge ammunition. 

Boom! Now it’s an investment.

Pietta makes some very affordable options for replica rifles and pistols of all types.

They come in at varying price points between $200 and $1,000, depending on the model. 

300
at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

You aren’t stuck with replica black powder guns, though.

There are modern examples of black powder firearms — including Diablo double-barrel shotguns.

The Diablo series is a double barrel, pistol grip style roughly the same size as the El Mariachi’s shotguns.

These ultra-short sawn-off style shotguns are serious fun!

Diablo 12 gauge shotgun pistol
Diablo 12-gauge shotgun pistol

North American Arms, the creator of those adorable mini-revolvers, also make a Cap and Ball mini revolver.

Known as the Companion, this micro black powder revolver is equally adorable to its .22 LR bigger brother. 

250
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Black powder guns give you a historic look and experience with firearms from that’s actually educational.

Call it living history.

Learning how to load, fire, and clean these weapons is all part of the experience. 

Oh, and did I mention no FFL is needed to purchase these? Buy them online, and they can be shipped directly to your home. 

Hell yeah!

Let’s Throw Knives and Tomahawks

Let’s throw sharp things — like knives and tomahawks! Maybe ninja stars if you’re feeling frisky. 

Throwing knives and tomahawks are somewhat mall ninja, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Both of these tools have also seemed to become a bit more mainstream, with restaurants and bars even springing up around the idea.

Why has this become so successful? 

Throwing hatchet
Throwing hatchet

Cause it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.

No gun range needed — just a target in the backyard. Throw sharp things as you see fit. 

There are lots of chintzy throwing knives and tomahawks out there, and those should be avoided.

SOG would be my choice for throwing knives and tomahawks. They make high-quality, entry-level throwing knives and tomahawks.

SOG tools can take the abuse of being hurled at a wooden or foam target over and over again.

40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

They are relatively affordable too, which is nice when you are getting into a new hobby. 

What makes throwing sharp things so much fun is how hard it is to get even remotely good at it.

It never gets frustrating, though.

You see, every time you land a blade into your target, you’ll get a rush of satisfaction. 

Before you know it, you’ll have figured it out.

Hatchet and target wall
Hatchet and target wall

I first started throwing knives on a deployment. We had nothing to fill our downtime, so we built a target from scrap pallet wood and started throwing Ka-Bars at it.

Ka-Bars aren’t great throwing knives, but it made me discover just how much fun it could be. 

Matrix Knife Throw
Channel your inner Trinity.

It requires you to tap into the same kind of focus a firearm requires. There is a technique required to succeed, and there is a satisfying thwack as the blade sticks into a wooden target.

It becomes an addictive game to play.

65
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Throwing knives is different than throwing tomahawks in the same way that shooting a rifle is different than shooting a shotgun.

They are similar but different, and each offers a unique experience. 

Maybe just because I’m just a big guy, but throwing axes seem easier.

Knives seem more precise, though.

Throwing Ax
Just make sure to pay attention and know when to duck and cover.

I can hit the bullseye more consistently with a knife but more consistently stick a target with a tomahawk if that makes sense. 

It can be slightly frustrating, but frustrating in a way that makes me want to get better at it. 

Channel Your Inner Legolas: Bow and Arrows

Believe it or not, I come from a family of archers. A family of hardcore hunters that slowly devolved their bows to make the hunt more challenging.

Legolas
My family was a band of Regular ole’ Legolases.

As a writer for a gun website, you can assume I didn’t take that route myself. 

While I’d shot a bow in my youth, only recently have I rediscovered how challenging and fun shooting a bow can be.

Bow and archery target
Bow and archery target

A friend bought a recurve over, and we spent an arthritis-inducing afternoon, destroying a foam target.

Well, he destroyed; I missed it more than I hit. 

Archery fail
Womp womp

As a person who likes to hit things with projectiles, I knew this couldn’t stand.

I borrowed an older recurve, got a target, and set it up in my backyard, and went at it.

I’m proud to say after hours of practice, I’m moderately okay at hitting the target. 

Not the bullseye, just the target. 

You can take a lot of different routes with archery.

A crossbow, a compound bow, and even high powered air bows are all options, but I would go with a recurve bow.

Parts of Bows
Parts of Bows

Recurve bows tend to be simple and affordable. 

I’m borrowing one that’s way too short for me, but I’m hoping for a PSE Night Hawk for Christmas.

PSE is a well-respected brand and the Night Hawk seems to be an excellent entry-level bow.

140
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Shooting a bow also requires a lot of focus, technique, and tons of practice.

It’s hard to do, and very hard to do well.

Like throwing knives, you can set up a range in your backyard with a foam target and start blasting away. 

40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The logistics make it very easy to commit to, and shooting a few times during lunch as I work from home has become a great way to kill time.

One of the best things about shooting guns is that it requires a focus that clears my mind of normal problems. Shooting the bow does the same thing for me. 

Patrick Zen
That on-the-range zen feelin’ CAN be matched, it turns out!

My kiddos have even taken an interest in shooting bows. Youth models are super easy to find, so we might have a new generation of archers growing as we speak. 

34
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

As a Lord of the Rings fan, I was more of a tall Gimli than a Legolas, but I can see why the elf likes bows.

I won’t be grinding down a rail while blasting orcs, but I do like to listen to the Song of the Dragonborn while imagining I’m fighting orcs in Tamriel. 

Gimli
When everyone else in your family likes bows and you like guns…

Air Guns Aren’t Just for Kids

As I sit here writing this on Christmas Eve 2020, I’m so proud of my son’s progress in shooting his classic Red Ryder BB gun.

He went from completely disinterested to hitting a 4-inch gong at 20-yards consistently.

46
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s a Christmas miracle reminiscent of the famed Christmas Story. 

More than that, it’s about the only ammo you can source.

Christmas Story Red Ryder
Yee-ouch!

In the early days of 2020, I saw the writing on the wall. I knew by the end of the year, ammo and guns would be gone.

Admittedly I didn’t think Vista would have a year-long backlog, but I knew 9mm would be scant.

I invested in a Sig P365 air gun and plenty of CO2 and BBs

Sig P365 BB gun
Sig P365 BB gun

I’ve found air guns to be an excellent training device, at least the Sig and Umarex Glock variants.

They tend to replicate actual guns in function, controls, capacity, and even their sights.

The recoil isn’t there, but other than that, it’s a great stand-in. 

70
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The blowback action makes it possible to practice sight tracking while the compatibility with holsters makes drawing easy.

And the fact I don’t need a range to practice is great!

Airgun Training 6
You can even use this time to drill with your holster!

Setting up a backyard range for an air gun is very easy to do. 

A paper target on a cardboard box is all you need. Throw on some eye pro and walk out back and start popping off. 

Air guns come in all shapes, sizes, and quality levels.

Most of my air gun shooting is based around a handgun. These CO2 powered handguns create groups about 4-inches wide at 10-yards and have a very limited range.

Marksmanship is tough to practice. 

180
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Pair one of these up with a shot timer and practice drills like failure to stop, box drills, etc.

Then practice your draw, follow-through, trigger pull, sight tracking, and more against the clock.

It’s pretty productive!

Airgun Training 3
My lil Sig BB gun, loaded and ready to roll!

Though it’s also just kinda fun to mag dump. 

If marksmanship fundamentals are more your speed, then high-end air rifles are superbly accurate and perfect for practicing the fundamentals.

But they can cost as much or more than the real steel deal!

These air rifles can make teeny tiny groups at decent distances. Shooting at reduced sized targets at 20-yards can still be a challenging endeavor. 

8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Air guns also encompass airsoft guns, which could make for an indoor apartment range.

Airsoft guns fire plastic pellets and can function on CO2, green gas, electric, or spring actions.

While they can deliver a sting, they are less likely to cause damage than a BB or pellet gun. 

12
at Airgun Depot

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Airsoft even opens up the opportunity for at-home force on force training, but make sure you gear up and don’t shoot your eye out, kid. 

Conclusion

If you find yourself craving some range therapy but just can’t find the ammo to make it work, consider some alternative hobbies like black powder guns, airsoft, archery, or throwing axes.

None require an FFL, only one requires a proper gun range, and all four are cheaper to get into than guns. 

I try to find the silver linings in bad situations, and being able to discover new hobbies has most certainly been one of the better things to come out of 2020.

Cary Grant Knitting
It turns out knitting wasn’t one of my most successful hobbies during the ammo drought.

At this point, I can be a gun-slinging, arrow shooting, knife throwing commando that 80s action movies could only dream of.

Or, more realistically, I can be a goof throwing a wide variety of projectiles at various things in his backyard. 

Cobray M11 falling through the air
*80’s sax solo playing in the background*

Has all this craziness forced you guys to get into hobbies outside of shooting? If so, what are they? Let us know below. Short on ammo and ideas? Check out some dry fire drills! Also, deep dive into more non-lethal weapons in our list of the Best Non-Lethal Weapons and Ammo.

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2 Leave a Reply

  • Paul

    I prefer a good saber.... and they are legal in Texas. And folks.. throwing your knife or Tomahawk, basically throwing it away, in a fight is not a good idea unless you are real good chunking these things. A good sharp saber or Katana is a very serious weapon, especially of you back it up with a black powder six shooter.

    4 days ago
  • Steve in Micco

    Knew you had to be in Florida from the flora. As miserable as this place can be for long summers, there is most definitely something rewarding about living here that Yankees will never (thankfully) grasp. BTW, my new weapon of choice is the wrist rocket firing (Lee Precision) .45 cast round balls.

    5 days ago
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