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The 5 Best Calibers If You Want Cheap Ammo

The 5 Best Calibers If You Want Cheap Ammo

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One of the drawbacks to certain new firearms is the cost of the ammunition. Experienced hunters and shooters typically know this, but it can still be shocking on occasion. I may see a new firearm that does everything I want it to do, and 10 minutes later get sticker shock when I find a box of 20 rounds is selling for $110. Yes, even after three decades of shooting, I have had this happen to me.

At one time, 22 long rifle was the cheapest ammunition available. But in the past few years the price has risen and availability is limited.

Let’s look at five options for cheap ammo, focusing on center fire cartridges.

1. 9mm

One of the most common and relatively inexpensive handgun rounds is the 9mm Parabellum or 9mm Luger. I have seen a box of 50 for less than $9, but the typical street price is closer to $12 to $15 for a 50-count box of 115 grain full metal jacketed rounds. Sometimes this price can be beaten if you buy in bulk.

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There is an exhaustive list of handguns in this caliber by Sig Sauer, Glock, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Smith & Wesson and just about any manufacturer over the course of the past hundred years that produced a semi-automatic pistol. Long gun shooters can find the round chambered in Uzis, AR-15s, Kriss Vectors and various conversion kits for Steyr AUGs and IWI Tavors.2. 40 S&W

2. 40 S&W

Although declining in popularity as of late, the 40 S&W round is still very affordable and a plethora of firearms are available for this mid-sized caliber. Not very many long guns were chambered in 40 S&W, but if you like Glocks, Sigs, Steyrs, H&K’s and of course Smith & Wesson pistols, chances are that you will find one in 40 S&W.

The average retail price is typically a little higher than 9mm.

3. 5.45 X 39

The 5 Best Calibers If You Want Cheap Ammo

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I was a little reluctant to list this one, but more than once I have been tempted to pick up an AK-74 variant just because I saw cases of this ammunition in excess of 1000 rounds for around $100 delivered.

That may not be the case anymore, but I still see it cheaper than 5.56 or 7.62 X 39. Whether it will stay that way in the future remains to be seen.

Rifles in this caliber are mostly AK variants, but I do see an occasional AR-15 or bolt gun every now and then.

4. 20 gauge

Most of my shotguns are chambered in 12 Gauge because of its versatility, but I recently picked up a 20 gauge at an estate sale and could not believe the price difference in ammunition. Plus, the lower recoil is an added bonus.

Shopping around, I have found 25-round boxes for as low as $5.5. 7.62x54R

5. 7.62x54R

If a tin of 440 full-sized rifle rounds for less than $80 delivered sounds like a deal to you, then you will love the 7.62x54R round. It is, ballistics-wise, comparable to the venerable 30-06 but a lot cheaper.

The most common rifle for this caliber is the Mosin-Nagant bolt action. However, that is not the only option. A few semi-automatic rifles were built around this cartridge, such as the Dragunov, SVT-38 and SVT-40. Believe it or not, Winchester made 300,000 lever action Model 1895 rifles for the Russian army in this caliber in 1915.

This list is not complete. Ammunition prices tend to fluctuate, particularly surplus rounds. At one time I might have listed 7.62 X 25 for use in Tokarevs, CZ52s and other Cold War-era pistols and carbines, but that round can get expensive when it is not being imported on a regular basis.

What would you add to this list? Share your ammo suggestions in the section below:

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  1. i would suggest .45 Colt ammo. 9mm luger is the best though…

    also: where do you buy your ammo? i’d like to get that deal on some 7.62×54.

  2. The 38 special and 357 mag. should be included.
    They are two of the most popular rounds.
    There is plenty of cheap reloaded 38 Special usually on the shelf, even during the rushes it was always there.
    The prices go all the way up for the special self defense rounds with everything in between.
    What is better, an $1,200. 10mm pistol with no ammo or a $500. 9mm with a thousand rounds of cheap ammo???

  3. If you purchase or own a 357 magnum pistol (wheel gun (and/or rifle?)), you can shoot 38 caliber, 38 special and 357 magnum loads. If you reload, then one die set will manage all three calibers with reasonable adjustments to accommodate each caliber. I recommend Dillon Blue Press reload equipment. They have a machine for many different budgets. However, they all have a ‘NO BS’ Lifetime warranty and their customer service is outstanding, even for the novice.

  4. “If a tin of 440 full-sized rifle rounds for less than $80 delivered sounds like a deal to you, then you will love the 7.62x54R round.”

    Perhaps back in 2008, now it goes for 52 cents a round and no metal tins anymore.

    • I would love to know a good source to get my ammo. I prefer 7.63×39 and 7.62×54 and 9mm and 40s&w and .45 please post the source so we can all stock up. We need the website address to order online. Thanks, Tony

  5. The 9mmX18mm is a very affordable round. The Makarov pistol is very like the walther PPK in size and shape.. These are sometimes available new in cosmoline. Were once the police pistol in Europe. I’ve used mine a lot and never a complaint.

  6. 7.62×39 is less expensive than 7.62×54 and still has the punch of a .30 caliber round. 5.56 is also a great round that can be had (especially in bulk) at a pretty reasonable cost.

  7. I have source for my AK-47 1000 rounds are about $310 over the counter locally that’s the best I’ve found.




  9. I’ve looked all over. Is there anywhere I can buy .40 S&W rounds cheaper than .20¢ delivered?

  10. It is a great idea to consider the price of ammunition before purchasing a gun. I want to get a gun that I can take to the shooting range often, so affordable ammo is a must. Because 9mm rounds are a very common size, I think that would be a smart choice. It would be unlikely that the price would rise in the future due to availability, like some of the other choices you mentioned.

  11. Don’t forget, if you have any interest in reloading, you’re likely to get a lot more free brass if you use a very common caliber like .45 acp or 9mm Luger or .308 Win.

    Not only that, but the bullets themselves are easier to get “cheap” in bulk buys.

  12. I appreciate you listing out some of the more affordable ammo out there for rifles. It’s important that you have a rifle that you can afford ammo for or you won’t be able or committed to practicing your marksmanship. We may need to find that sweet spot of a rifle that we like that uses ammo we can afford.

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