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Ammunition: You Get What You Pay For

Ammunition is a very tricky thing when it comes to the shooting industry. There are so many questions you have to ask yourself when it comes to ammunition and this only becomes compounded if you are an inexperienced shooter. Does it matter if the grades of ammunition are different depending on what they are being used for? Is cheap ammunition less effective than more expensive ammunition? These are just a couple of the questions that go through a shooter’s mind when they are trying to select the best ammunition for their needs. Questions regarding ammunition are continually being debated even amongst the most experienced shooters, and this most likely will not end anytime soon as technology continues to progress. Today I am going to weigh in on the “ammunition debate”.

What are you using it for?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is what you are using the ammunition for. Are you using it purely as recreation, are you shooting competition, are you using it for personal protection, or even hunting?

For a lot of us who shoot, we may need it for a combination of reasons. If that is the case, you really need to make sure you use the appropriate ammunition for each activity. For example, I participate in competition pistol shooting. The only economical way I can continue engaging in such an activity is by shooting reloaded ammunition. On my major competition months, I will easily shoot 1000 rounds of ammunition. As you can see, engaging in that volume of shooting several times a year becomes quite the expensive hobby. By reloading I can save anywhere from 33% to 50% off buying factory-made ammo and it serves my needs just fine.

However, I also rely on my firearms for personal protection. There is no way in God’s green earth that I would ever use reloaded ammunition for this. There are two main reasons why I personally will not do this:

  • Dependability. When I am relying on something to save the life of my family as well as myself I am not going to go for the cheapest option – I am going to go for the best option. Yes, I reload my own ammunition, but even though I am doing it myself and know that I am doing it correctly, there are still too many variables. This is not worth saving a few dollars on a box of ammo.
  • Legalities. If there was to be an altercation and you had to use your firearm, the legal ramifications are even more technical than when you use factory ammunition. Again, it is not worth risking that just to save a few dollars on some ammunition.

If you just like to shoot for recreation, you probably don’t need to purchase the premium brand of ammo. Keep in mind that some of the cheaper brands will leave your firearm dirtier, requiring you to clean it more often. However, if you don’t mind cleaning your firearms a little more often than normal, then using cheaper ammo is not a big deal.

The Different Types of Ammunition

There are big differences in ammunition when you consider the lead type, hollow points, full metal jackets, ballistic tip, hunting tip and again your remanufactured ammunition. There is a price tag for each bullet and a specific job that it is supposed to do. So again, make sure you have pinpointed exactly why you need the ammo and then buy accordingly.

Ammunition for Self-Defense Purposes

Now, if you are questioning ammunition for a defensive handgun then you want something that is going to stop an attacker from harming you or your family. This means that you need a bullet that offers penetration. This is why you need a bullet that has about a foot of penetration potential when you are considering ammunition for self-defense purposes. Don’t use anything more than this because then you stand the chance of hurting someone else besides the attacker.

Basically, ammunition is a very personal thing especially if you are relying on this ammunition to save your life. Just like the caliber of firearm you choose to own, there are many different factors that go into it. What may be good for one guy may not be best for the next.

The reality is that not all ammunition is created equal and you will get what you pay for. But if you only need reloaded ammunition then why pay for factory ammunition? However, if you are depending on that ammunition to potentially save your life – well then that is just priceless.

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  1. If you are buying ammo for hunting, please use the non-lead type. Each year tens of thousands of tons of lead are shot into the environment and a half million lead fishing sinkers are lost or abandoned in aquatic environments. When this lead enters the food chain the effect on wildlife is staggering. Bald eagles, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, loons, cranes, condors, herons and doves die incredibly painful lead-poisoning deaths due to eating carrion shot with lead. Wolves, bears and panthers are also poisoned. The risk for human health is also present, as carrion shot with lead enters the meat.

    • All of your “information” about lead ammo is bunk.

      Better site a multitude of reliable studies for your “information” (with sources), otherwise you are just spreading disinformation.

      Lead hunting ammo is not a threat to people or the environment, just a liberal boogy man to try to curb and tax shooting sports.

    • >> Each year tens of thousands of tons of lead are shot into the environment and a half million lead fishing sinkers are lost or abandoned in aquatic environments. <<

      What is your source for these "statistics"? How many bullets does it take to equate to "thousands of tons of lead?" How many thousands of tons are we talking about?

    • Way to sneek in your liberal garbage. First off doves don’t eat carion, the most lead they get is from a 20ga. in about september. And how many “panthers ” has any one ever heard of dying of lead ingestation? Is this a new epidemic? Wolves on the other hand kill live prey for the most part,the animal may be old and weak or some ranchers fat calf.Need I go on? Leadless bullets are just a way to drive up amunition costs. P.S I still fish w/ lead sinkers too.

    • Progressives/Liberals are well funded and buy scientists who make up studies.

      Besides lead, another example is the Global Warming / Climate Change hoax.

      You are hilarious!

  2. Is there a chemical added to give ammunition a shelf life to prevent stockpiling? What can be done about that?

    • I have some .22 long rifle amo, and some 12 gauge shot shells that are over 20 years old, and they still fire just as good as when new. I keep them in a cool dry place though, never keep where moisture or condensation will get to them.

    • The gun banners tried to get a law passed to do this but I think it failed.

    • No, that would make the powder unstable.

    • Ammunition will last indefinitely as long as you keep it in a cool and dry place.

    • This was proposed by the anti gun crowd. The only draw back is that since most ammunition used for law enforcement is not kept in carefully climate controlled conditions until used the cops will have a lot of misfires. If the bad guy has a knife and the cop has misfires the result is a dead cop.

    • I have shot 8mm and 303 ammo from world war II and it still worked fine

      • I shoot surplus 8mm Turk ammo marked 1938 once in awhile. The propellant is cordite and I’ve neer had a misfire. It chronographs pretty hot so I sure wouldn’t want to shoot it in a marginal rifle. One can only wonder what conditions this ammo was stored under in the last 73 years.

  3. Would like to see studies that show that lead ammunition or sinkers actually harm the environment? Everything I’ve read show that it has little or no effect. What I understand is that this is just another slanted study to give a leg up to regulations to control & eventually curb our 2nd amendment right.

    • Stewart Rosenkrantz

      The problem is that fish can swallow lead shot and then birds like Eagles can catch and if you’ve ever seen any creature with toxic lead poisoning, it’s a horrible, painful way to die. It seems to me that if there’s a safer alternate to lead, then we should use it.

      • I think you have not seen many “lead poisoned” animals out there. First signs of that is bad behaviour so basically…feed them activated charcoal tablets right? :p.

        • HelloMy name is Gary Stein. I run the strategy dearetmpnt here at Ammo Marketing. Thanks for the post and for the recognition.You bring up a key point about the nature of the work that we do. We focus on achieving a business goal, just like traditional advertising. That is, our briefs have things like raise awareness and connect to new market or increase consideration . We are a marketing agency, not a creator of spectacles.So, that means, if we do create a spectacle, it serves a marketing purpose. And, even more, we find ways to make sure that the spectacle generates some message momentum so that the effect lasts longer than just the spectacle itself.Lastly, there’s also this strange side-effect: once we do a project we have achieved the business goals, but have also generate a bunch of real relationships with real people.Those relationships, in our view, are an asset. In fact, we can put a (rough) financial value on it. The problem, though, as you note, is that the value very rapidly depreciates if nothing is done to nuture it.Thanks again.

      • How many fish “eat” lead sinkers every year? How many of those are eaten by birds every year?

      • I agree, these are only scare tactics to increase regulation. I glad to see people speaking out against the nonsense.

      • Frankly metalic lead is pretty unreactive. If you eat it then a couple of days later you poop it out. The US military found that lead was not dense enough to give them a high enough balistic coeffecient and so they have been using a lot of depleated uranium. Uranium is much more reactive than lead and disolves fairly quickly in the environment and then is biologically available. That is a serious pollution issue.

  4. I was told that primers only have a year or two shelf life because of government regulations. Does anyone know if this is true?

    • This is a false claim, if stored properly primers can last a long time.

    • You can store primers indefenitely as long as you keep them in a cool and dry place.

      You can damage primers by touching them with oily or greasy hands.

  5. For “Red Dawn” “survival” situations, stockpiled ammo needs to be stockpile-friendly, but not necessarily premium.

    In a carbine battle at 50-300 yards, steel-cased mil-surp or Wolf ammo will do just fine. The $1+ / round stuff shines at the 800-yard engagements … or when 1/10th MOA makes the difference at a match … but not in more normal combat.

    Even when the creeps go up against our military and get slaughtered largely due to poor accuracy, it’s not that their AK’s or other weapons or ammunition are junk. Their training is junk.

    To shoot well, you’ve got to *shoot*. The man who knows his mil-surp Mosin Nagant and has practiced with it will probably beat the man who has a $3000 AR but has barely taken it the range.

    Now, better weapons are nice … but practice is the key. Alvin York didn’t have a sniper-grade rifle. He had sniper-grade practice.

  6. Primer shelf life?

    If so, that’s new. I’m shooting reloads from a few years back w/ no trouble.

  7. How many rounds of “factory” ammo went duff during the first world war? I don’t have any statistics, but I put care into my hand loaded rounds, and when you’re staring at a pile of empty brass and an empty gun store what’s better: going on a foraging raid for more ammo or rolling your own.

  8. ” Each year tens of thousands of tons of lead are shot into the environment” Really? Where did you come up with that ridiculously exagerrated number. Lets see…10,000 tons x 2 (just a guess) x 2000#/ton = 40,000,000 pounds of lead …per year? Clearly, there are not 40 million pounds of lead bullets and shot deposited into the environment yearly. And, much of the lead shot on trap and skeet ranges around the country is harvested and recycled.

  9. I’ve had trouble with jams on 115gr 9mm Winchester (white box), while other 115gr American Eagle and 124 gr of any mfg. does just fine. Comments?

    • No nation sends it soldiers out with poor ammunition. Even the Japanese and Germans in WW II had fine ammunition at the end of the war. The steel cased ammunition from the East Block of Europe is fine ammunition and will store for decades. As to the 9mm pistols, the cartridge was designed and developed with 124 grain bullets. While many fine cartridges have been loaded with 115 to 147 grain bullets, the weapon you have may not be designed to work on those loads. Semi and full automatic weapons are disigned to function based on velocity and momentum of bullets. There is some room to vary the equations but for reliablilty, test in your weapon and stick to what works.

  10. I’m an old policeman whose collected once fired brass from every range I shoot on. now have over 35,000 casings of every kind. 38, 357, 9mm, 40, 45acp, ect. Now I bought a new Lee Pro 1000 reloader, 12 gage reloader and have 8or9 sets of dies, lots 45 lead, and a lot other extra’s. Also I have never reloaded anything. Am I better to sell all this, and buy new ammo for storage? Confused> [email protected].

    • You are sitting on a fortune.

      Reloading is the best because you get customized ammunition.

      It really is an artform and a science.

      I have a friend who has been reloading for years but knows very little about it because all he cares about is volume. I, on the other hand, go for perfection, and there lies the difference.

      It just depends what you are using it for. If you are just going out to the range and shoot your heart out, you might load 1,000 loads in one hour. But if you are going hunting, you will probably spend 30 minutes on the perfect bullet.

  11. I have no idea regarding the “shelf life” of “government regulated” primers, or cartridges, but my personal experiences tell me me that commercially or military production ammo will function virtually flawlessly – even years later; some of which was not stored under optimum conditions. A few years ago I fired a box of 45 ACP military ball ammo mfg in the 20s. No misfires or any other problems. I have also fired ammo 10-15 years old without incident.

    • I hope you cleaned your .45 with hot water. That 20’s ammunition was loaded with potassium chlorate primers (the same as corrosive primers in old european ammunition). It is very stable and last for many decades when packed with sealed primers and bullets but will ruin an uncleaned bore overnight in moist areas.

  12. When I shot competively, I used a lot of commercially “remanufactured” or reloaded 148 grain wadcutter ammo from a reputable company with great results during practice – maybe a misfire or hard primer 1 in 2K rounds. During competition I used their Match ammo which was flawless. On duty and in my personal defense handgun I only carry new commercial mfg ammo.

  13. If you believe that primers or any other component is designed to have a shelf life, you are as delusional as the anti gun crowd that comes up with such ideas. As in “ballistic fingerprinting”, it is an idea whose time is not come. NY continues to spend millions each year requiring two fired cases from each weapon sold in NY. No crimes have been solved. Even ME gave up after a few years and CA never started. The AG of CA hired a Ballistic firm in Belgium to test the idea after the U of CA said it was not practical. Same answer. So for once CA did not jump on the anti gun wagon. All the system does is add to the cost of weapons. No matter what state you buy a piston in, there are two fired cases with them. Without these, the pistol in NY must be taken by the dealer to the State Police lab for firing of two cartridges. So if you bought a pistol or revolver in the last few years and there was an envelope with two cartridge cases in the box, now you know why. Most manufacturers do it to convenience dealers and it is a cost of business that we all pay for. In NY dealers will not sell weapons not delivered with these certified cases. They cannot afford a day to get it certified and the buyer will not pay their expenses. So it keeps inexpensive weapons out of NY. Of course the thieves appreciate having a higher grade of weapon to steal so it does not keep weapons out of the hands of thugs. All it accomplishes is a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money investigating false hits when cases are recovered from a crime scene. Not one crime has been solved yet. Of course NY is going broke and imploding but never forget gun control began in NYC to disarm immigrant Irish and they won’t admit that it doesn’t work til this day. Look at the Mayor and his shenanigans.

    • Yup. The higher grade of gun that thieves get there mean that the cops must use a higher grade and heavier, stiffer, and hotter body armor for protection. Makes a lot of sense.

  14. I love lead! It’s delicious!

  15. OK, for starters, this article is so general that it’s really worthless. The one saving grace in the article is the statement to not use reloaded ammo for self-defense due to liability. As for reliability, I’ve shot 100,000+ rounds of reloaded ammo that I loaded personally for use in competition and in practice and I’ve only had 1 misfire total. I’ve shot less factory loaded ammo, some of it premium grade, some of it military ammo and I’ve had several misfires with it, so the idea that handloaded ammo is less reliable is pure bunk! It just depends upon who’s loading it and how much attention you’re paying to the process; this means NO distractions of any kind.

    I saw where Michael commented on ammo having a chemical added to it to shorten its shelf life. This is an old wive’s tale. There is no truth to this, so don’t believe it. I’m a licensed gunsmith and have many friends in the ammunition industry and can state without a doubt that there is no such thing as ammo, powder or components that contain chemicals to shorten the shelf life. Now, that said, poor storage practices, such as storing it in a humid environment or in excessive heat over time will degrade the quality of the ammo.

    As for ammo that contains lead, I won’t dispute those that think that this is bad for the environment as there have been studies done that show both sides to be true. I use ammo with a lead core and in some cases when handgun hunting I use lead bullets without a jacket that I’ve cast myself and have no qualms about eating the meat. One thing that lead, or the lack thereof, has done in the case of migratory birds is create a large number of birds that are wounded instead of killed since steel shot is not as effective as lead shot in regards to terminal performance. This is the reason that manufacturers have come out with 3 1/2″ 12 ga. shells, in an attempt to mitigate the poor performance of steel shot over the previously used lead shot. I won’t argue lead v. non-lead either way; I’m just telling you what I know to be true in regards to terminal ballistics and in regards to what I use. As always, YMMV.

  16. I usually like these articles about weapons. But… this one said next to nothing!
    It didn’t even break down what ammo was best for which need. I realize you didn’t want to call out specific manufacturers as making “cheap” ammo. But, this gave really NO information that was useful.

    I need more than that from this site.

  17. StarSaecoFitzGrips

    As a soldier competitor, Officer Competitor, Police Firearms instructor, Civilian & Police Rangemaster, Commercial Bullet maker and reloader I have shot over a million rounds and reloaded several million rounds. The best commercial ammo made has been by Federal then Winchester and the worst was by CCI That was up to 1980 when I retired. Seems tere is a bunch of junk ammo now. The Old SurvivalistRemington has thinner brass with less reloading life and nickel plated brass has less life then brass cases. The best brass cases are GI WCC for winchester cartridge Co.. In the 1950’s I fired WW1 30-06 ammo ok and .45acp also. Still have some… Best gun powders are spherical shaped for accurate metering. For pistols WW231. Everybody and their uncle make copies to get money from newbies who have to try the newest and bestest which is a waste of time and money. 4895 GI 30-06 cylinder powder took me to state championships. 3031 is the civilian version. Remington rifle iammo s good in Northern Climates with cold snow and hot cabins temp variations. Want to shoot better. then shoot, shoot then shoot some more. I never cleaned a primer pocket and never will and have been a Distinguished Expert for 66 years starting with shooting thousands of sparrows on a dairy with the new invented Red Ryder BBgun.
    The Old Survivalist

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