Ammunition

The Joys of Cheap Ammunition

Cheap Ammunition

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.

handloads - cheap ammunition
Handloads demand discipline and expertise. These handloads are reliable and superbly accurate.

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.

.32 Smith and Wesson Long - Cheap Ammo
Fiocchi offers cheap ammunition in many calibers, including the hard-to-find .32 Smith and Wesson Long.

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.

Remington WheelGun Loads
Remington’s WheelGun loads are excellent practice loads.

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.

Winchester Cheap Ammo
Winchester’s white box generic loads are reliable and accurate. They simply use a less-expensive bullet than the Super X loads, below.

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.

Cheap Ammunition - Fiocchi
Fiocchi offers a wide range of affordable performance loads/cheap ammunition.

Conclusion

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.

Remington Loads in MTM Holders
A few Remington loads in one of these MTM holders is a light package in the pocket.

What are your thoughts on cheap ammunition? Let us know in the comments below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (6)

  1. I work at a range. We don’t allow any ammo with steel or steel cored ammo (like the green tipped XM855 5.56 ammo) as the bullets will tear up the bullets traps. Also, if I really care about keeping my guns in tip top condition, I won’t shoot any steel cases either.

  2. I hand load some calibers, but for my MSR in 5.56 I buy in bulk. My starting point is a price of about $350 per a thousand rounds, brass cased, with a 55 or 63 gr FMJ bullet. Although many people are comfortable with steel cased ammo, I have had problems in one of my rifles, so I stick with brass.

    I have found Lake City to be usually available, and I check a couple of websites periodically for specials that meet my criteria.

  3. I shoot during the better months. Generally, April to September. During that time, I collect brass from the range and buy supplies. From October to March, when it’s too cold to go to the range , I hand load. Gives me something constructive to do during my down time, and keeps the shelves full of ammo come spring.

  4. I don’t call it CHEAP ammo…just LESS EXPENSIVE. I buy this in bulk and enjoy having to be able to go to the range and not worry about using it. I take my grand kids and they love the shooting..not so much the bulls eyes but that will come along. I also reload so I make sure I buy brass that can be reprocessed. So I get a 2 fold appreciation.

    I never understood why some buy the bulk and then bitch because a few misfire. Even in the TOP brass MORE EXPENSIVE… you can end up with misfires…nothing is perfect in the gun world. I have bought NATO 7.62x 51 in Lake City and enjoy it… so, don’t count the rounds in the box, clean it if you think it is dirty and load up and shoot.

    If I want to hunt..I buy either the rounds at a sporting good store or at least buy the components … brass, rounds and powder to make them myself… until then I use what I have shot as far as cases.

  5. For the average Joe going to the range to practice, “Cheap” ammo means I can shoot more or go more frequently. Sure, I try to run my carry load through my gun at least once a month (at least one magazine’s full). As a handloader, I try to buy everything in bulk, but I also will vary the charge weight, to look for that “sweet load” that meets the criteria for accuracy and function. I tend to steer clear of steel cased ammo, simply because, when I purchase a box, the endgoal is having brass to reload. The same goes with aluminum cased.
    There’s no snobbery about it, it’s all based on practicality and cost savings, as well as hand tailoring for optimal accuracy and affordability.

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