Buying Ammunition These Days

Author: Jeff Gonzales | October 30, 2023
Buying Ammunition These Days

When it comes to buying ammunition or ammo, you have several options. The two most popular methods are in-person or online. The current trend favors the internet for ammunition needs. Each has their benefits so what is the difference between them both? Over the years I’ve purchased thousands of rounds and in my experience, it really boils down to you and your needs. But what if you don’t know the benefits and have just been doing what you’ve always done? We are going to take a deep dive into the world of ammunition purchasing to help answer questions and give you tips to making the whole process fast and easy.

How Much Ammunition Do I Need?

Before we get too deep you must understand your needs. How much ammunition are you looking to purchase? Try to define a specific amount, not necessarily a price. If you need a box or two of ammunition, ordering online might not be the answer. If you are trying to save by buying in bulk, shopping around where to buy ammunition online will produce the best value. In my case, I shoot a lot by current standards. When I’m looking to resupply, I’m looking at cases of ammunition. I’m not only thinking about ammunition I use for training, but the ammunition reserve for those rainy days—code for chaos. Plus, I like to help the shooting sport by taking family and friends to the range. Another way to look at this situation is comparing it to having a large household and the need for a good supply of toilet paper.

Your situation might be different. Maybe you are just getting into the sport or are working with a tight budget. These are real challenges to consider. If you are new and trying to find your own path, buying ammunition is the next major purchase after your firearms purchase. Your needs may start off low, but don’t be surprised how fast things ramp up once you start having fun learning to shoot. When I’ve seen a student come to realize they can get good at shooting, they are off to the races. I get to live vicariously through students with a newfound joy. The truth of the matter is getting good at shooting is well within most people’s ability. It does require practice and practice requires ammunition.

Buying Ammunition From a Store

Purchasing a couple of boxes from your local gun store is a great way to start and an excellent resource. You can speak with the sales team, ask questions, get advice and even compare notes. Realize not every gun store is equal, but when you find a good one it is awesome. I would venture to a nearby gun store not always to buy something, sometimes just to sit and chat. It was nice and I saw a lot of people come through the doors. Another advantage to patroning your local gun store is to support both small and local businesses, something we as a community need to remember. These local gun stores are a dying breed, but important to our community.

I look at big box stores differently than local gun stores. They can be a great resource but they can also have their own issues such as trickle-down politics and other social dilemmas. However, big box stores are more likely to have a broader selection and bigger inventory. One problem you might see is their sales team may have multiple hats to wear and may not always be the best resource to answer questions. The experience is still a good one for many and if you have other outdoor needs, it is the best of both worlds. Gun shows come up in conversation from time to time. While I like to mingle with other likeminded folks, I’ve found purchasing factory new ammunition at these events less valuable. Not to mention having to haul the purchase to your vehicle way on the other side of the convention center.

Buying Ammunition Online

Online orders are the modern equivalent of mail-in orders some of us did back in the day. You’d cut out an article at the back of a magazine and drop it in the mail with a check. A few weeks later you were pleasantly surprised to see your fancy, shiny, new toy in the mailbox. Yes, you can buy ammunition online. According to some recent surveys, more than half of current gun owners buy their ammunition online. A major reason has to do with the savings through lower prices and bulk discounts. We’ve all done bargain or comparison shopping at one point in our lives. The goal is finding the best deal—how we define “best” is not always based on price.

Shop for the Best Deals

Buying Ammunition These DaysWhatever your reason, buying online is a great option and it makes being a savvy buyer easier. I define a savvy buyer as someone who knows what they want and can recognize a good deal. A major signal that someone is a savvy buyer—how they look at the purchase. Do they look at the purchase based on the price per box of ammunition? Or, do they look at the purchase based on the price per round? The latter is more insightful since they are more aware of their purchasing power at a granule level. Savvy buyers can more easily navigate the available options and narrow in on truly the better deal for them and their needs. Online retailers who share this information with their customer base are already a leg up in my book. They are aware of the current buying trend and make it easier for their potential customers to see their better offerings. Using ammo search engines can cast a larger net. These search engines scurry the internet for answers based on your query. You can get a massive amount of information at your fingertips, almost too much. A problem early with internet searching was although the ammunition deal might have been listed, the vendor was either out of stock or no longer carried the product. These days are better, but you still need to click each link of interest to know if they are still offering the ammunition in question. You can also run into the problem of lead times and delivery estimates. When I’ve found good deals, it took longer to get the order delivered. Use these good deals to help build an inventory of good and reputable vendors.

Free Shipping and Membership Groups

There are other considerations when purchasing ammunition. The two big ones are free shipping and membership groups. If I can find what I’m looking for at several different online retailers, then how do I choose? Sometimes I choose based off past performance. If I keep going back because they continue to have good deals, it’s easy for me to keep sending them my business. There is something to be said about loyalty. When all else is equal, if one retailer offers free shipping or free shipping with a minimum purchase, it can be the difference. Most shipping is ground due to the hazmat requirements. I know sometimes the shipping charges can be rolled into the purchase price, but if their price is the same or at least competitive, the free shipping wins. Membership groups are another nice option where being a member gives you access to special deals. The membership fees can be steep, and you really need to spend to get your money’s worth, but it can be worth it at times when availability is an issue. The downside to membership groups is you can feel compelled to spend to make up for your membership fee.

Plan When To Stock Up

Planning can help with savings. I plan to purchase or resupply my ammunition reserve once or twice a year. When the world is in chaos, commodities are the first to be affected. Ammunition is a commodity and every time there has been a major event, ammunition prices and availability have been affected. I can spend lots of time shopping online. No matter how good a deal I think I’m getting, it never fails that a week or month later I see the same ammunition cheaper someplace else. My point is do the best job you can with the information you have available at the time. Don’t beat yourself up if you could’ve gotten a better deal someplace else, just remember it for the next time. I know it is not easy to keep a large reserve; but it will go a long way during trying times. You may not see it right away, but the fact you don’t have to purchase ammunition at inflated prices is huge.

Online State Rules

There are also rules and laws to ordering ammunition online. These restrictions vary from state to state so it is important you know the law in your area. There are too many to list and even if I did, chances are they would change over time. Being informed is your best tactic at avoiding any issues. Many online retailers have their own rules, mostly around returns. As mentioned, ammunition is considered a hazardous material. These shipping restrictions means the order must go ground to the destination. Many retailers, online as well as in person, have a “no return” policy on ammunition. Make sure to ask and be informed before making your purchase.

Decide What’s Best for Your

When it comes to buying ammunition consider your pocketbook and needs. It is best to have an idea how much you want to spend in advance. That figure will come from how much shooting you plan to do in the future. Change your perspective and consider the price per round when shopping, along with using ammunition search engines and other values such as free shipping and membership groups. If you only need a couple of boxes or have questions, local gun stores are a great resource. If you have other outdoor needs, then big box stores can be a great option. If you are looking for the best deals and bulk options, go with online retailers. Whatever your decision, make sure you know the laws and regulations when it comes to purchasing ammunition whether in-person or online. Owning a firearm is the first step. Buying ammunition will be a recurring habit and finding your way will be both exciting and rewarding with time.

About the Author
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Jeff Gonzales

U.S. Navy SEAL Jeff L. Gonzales is a nationally recognized weapons and tactics instructor. He is the founder and CEO of Trident Concepts, LLC., former director of training for The Range at Austin and current podcast host... Learn More