I suppose if there is anything I am not, it is a gun snob. I own a number of humble-but-useful firearms. I also own top-quality firearms that represent a great deal of hard work and effort to obtain. I am not a collector.
I have the greatest respect for those that keep history alive and care for an artifact, but I am a shooter. And when I say shooter, I mean a lot of shooting. That takes a great deal of ammunition.
I am interested in mastering the firearms I own and giving a fair shake to those I test and review. It isn’t possible for me to handload this quantity of ammunition on my own in the limited free time I have. I use a good bit of factory ammunition.
Some of this is premium ammunition intended for personal defense from the major makers, including Hornady, Remington and Winchester. This is to qualify the gun’s function with defensive loads. But the majority of the loads used are bargain basement loads.
While I use the term “cheap ammunition” to imply they are less-expensive, quite a number of the loads are good-quality and accurate.
They don’t cost as much because they are produced in bulk—that means millions of rounds—and they are not as high-tech as modern expanding bullet designs.
Criteria for ‘Cheap Ammunition’
At one point in time (not terribly long ago in the scheme of things), most all projectiles were lead. Lead is easily shaped and relatively inexpensive.
When smokeless powder and high-velocity designs made an appearance, bullets were clothed in a copper jacket to prevent leading in the bore. Today, high-velocity rifle ammunition and a large number of handgun loads use jacketed bullets.
A simple jacketed bullet is less expensive than a jacketed hollow point bullet. Then there are the all-copper bullets, such as the Barnes X bullet. These can be expensive. Their performance cannot be faulted and they are complicated to manufacture.
When you are not hunting, firing in competition or using a firearm for home defense, these bullets are not necessary. A “range load” or a burner load is all that is needed.
As a handloader, I am able to put together accurate, affordable and reliable loads for handguns using hard-cast bullets. Accuracy is good and leading minimal. For rifles, I use bulk purchased FMJ bullets. In factory ammunition, the choices are broad and very good.
Cheap Handgun Loads
I would be remiss to leave out one of the finest cheap loads. That is the .22 Long Rifle. Practically any of the bulk loads with a 40-grain round-nose lead bullet are inexpensive, reliable and accurate.
They are a joy to fire and use and these are friendly loads that are sure to put a smile on your face. In centerfire loads, the Winchester Forged, Winchester White Box USA, Remington UMC and Remington WheelGun are among the affordable I often use.
These loads give good accuracy. When testing a handgun, if the handgun malfunctions with these types, then chances are high the gun is at fault, not the ammunition. These loads are useful for general use and even competition.
Cheap Rifle Loads
There are plenty of steel-cased, foreign-produced loads that offer a weekend of shooting for a pittance. They simply demand a good cleaning when the shooting is over, but then again, any load will.
While I have favorites for hunting and personal defense, the FMJ loads with their inexpensive bullets are good choices for informal target practice. These loads offer good accuracy for most uses and these loads are particularly inexpensive in bulk.
A step up in accuracy comes with the generic ammunition from Winchester in the White Box line. When you need greater accuracy, these offer excellent potential for a fair price. They are brass-cased and boxer-primed. Most steel-cased ammunition is Berdan-primed.
Cheap Shotgun Loads
I have used a great deal of Fiocchi shotgun shells for training and hunting. They are affordable and (at the same time) first-class as far as performance and reliability go. For home defense, Fiocchi offers affordable buckshot loads.
Among the most accurate slugs I have used is the Fiocchi Aero slug. This slug offers excellent accuracy potential in any shotgun. These loads are the equal of most, yet offer the performance needed in the game field and for personal defense at a fair price.
Expense isn’t always the only criteria for ammunition performance. When firing for practice and fun, an ammunition choice that is even half as accurate as another is still a fine choice for all-around shooting. (In the case of a load capable of 3 MOA versus 1.5 MOA.)
Most of us like to practice a lot and inexpensive ammunition offers real utility. The next tier, the generic ball loads by the major makers, offer good choices for three-gun shooting and realistic practice. There are real bargains among the major makers.
Shop wisely, look over the options and get the most for your money. And have fun.
What are your thoughts on cheap ammunition? Let us know in the comments below!