Anything related to firearms since November of 2012 has been in high demand. Obama’s re-election, followed by the Sandy Hook mass murders, doubled or tripled prices for firearms, accessories, magazines, and ammunition. You pretty much had to pay an arm and a leg to get stuff — if you could find it at all.
Availability or prices are starting to come down as the vast majority of anti-gun legislation was defeated. The problem is that you typically can only choose “availability” or “price” when it comes to buying ammunition. Meaning, you can either find ammunition at higher-than usual prices, or you can find pre-panic prices on ammunition that’s only available for an extremely short amount of time.
- Set a per-round limit that you’re willing to pay. I keep a spreadsheet with prices for the calibers I need. I factor in sales tax if I’m buying locally, and shipping if buying online. For example, I’m unwilling to buy 5.56 / .223 ammunition for more than $0.37 a round delivered. That’s still a lot more than the $0.25 – $0.30 per round delivered before American went full idiot, but it’s the best I can do.
- Have money on hand to buy ammunition. This sounds dumb, but when you find a lot of ammo locally or online you have to be ready to pounce on it. This is one of the reasons knowing how much you are willing to pay is important. If it’s within your price range, buy it.
- Identify reliable, predictable online vendors that sell ammunition. I really like AIM Surplus, SG Ammo, and Midway USA. My second tier of vendors is Sportsman’s Guide, Natchez Shooter’s Supply and Widener’s. I also have a bunch of “third tier” vendors like Ammoman, J&G Sales, Palmetto State Armory, etc but their availability and restocking is so low I don’t actively follow them.
- Sign up for email notification on all out of stock items. Regardless of how good the vendor is or not at getting restocked product I sign up for everyone’s newsletters and email notification lists. If you get an email from Vendor X stating that ammunition is in your price range you’d better be ready to buy it.
- Get your requirements out of the way before you try to buy. All of the vendors I buy from require proof of age before selling ammunition online. You’ll want to comply with their policies (usually scanning the front of your driver’s license and sending it to them) before the next round of inventory arrives. Sign up for an account and fill out all of your contact information ahead of time. You’re not going to have time to sign up once all of those in-stock notifications go out via email.
- Stay logged into as many sites as possible. You should “rove” top-tier sites, so it should be obvious if you’re logged in or not. If you visit a site and you’re not logged in, do so. Servers frequently slow down or fail outright once ammunition (and sometimes magazines) come back in stock. Any extra activity like logging in may cost you.
- Follow, but do not depend on, gunbot.net. Gunbot.net is a Web site that periodically scans ammunition vendor Web sites. It reports new products as they become available, as well as the total price for a unit and a per-round breakdown (before shipping). As of this writing, the most recent result for 5.56 ammunition according to Gunbot is Federal Lake City 5.56mm M855 62 Grain Full Metal Jacket in a 250 round pack for $200, or about $0.80 per round before shipping. This is obviously way outside of my price range, so I don’t pay attention to it. You can create a Gunbot account and set your own per-round thresholds. When a deal hits your threshold Gunbot plays a sound. Gunbot is not very accurate, and often gives false information about availability and pricing. For example, Gunbot has reported that AIM Surplus has had Wolf ammunition twice today, but it never restocked. Other times Gunbot lists ammunition as sold out when there is still some to be had. I scored 500 rounds of Tula-made .223 from Midway USA this way. Had I believed Gunbot I would have missed it. All that being said, it’s another resource. At the very least it helps you identify who’s gouging shooters and who is trying to keep their prices decent.
- Cruise your top tier sites several times a day. Some sites send out email so slowly that by the time you get your notice the inventory is sold out. SG Ammo is a good example of this; twice I’ve not received emails from SG Ammo when the item was in stock. I bought 200 rounds of defensive ammunition this way; I never received a notification from SG Ammo nor did Gunbot alert me.
- Consider a bounty. Enlist friends to help widen your net. I am all set on 9mm practice ammunition for the season, but I will still buy within my price point to help my friends who are training with me this year. I’ve offered a +10% bounty to all friends who can get me .223 within my price range. This could be between $25 – $40 in their pocket for being a compulsive shopper.
- Consider stopping by your local Wal-Mart or gun store if it’s on your normal route. Wal-Mart employees have a bit of a reputation for keeping things to themselves and reselling them, and ammunition is no exception. Because of this you can’t trust their mobile app, which lists stock levels for ammunition by store. However, if you’re in the neighborhood anyway it’s worth swinging by. Almost every brick and mortar store has limits set, usually 3 to 5 boxes. I’ve abandoned this method as it’s totally random and a big pain in the ass. However, you might get lucky.
Using these methods I’ve managed to cobble together enough ammunition to take our two new rifles to all of our rifle training this year. I will probably shoot some of our other rifles during at least some of those classes, but I like having extra just in case ammo continues to be difficult to find.
If you are successful at getting ammunition, make sure you are storing it properly. I recommend MTM plastic locking ammo cans (here’s my review of the smaller AC50 can and the larger AC11 can). I also recommend putting desiccant packs in each ammo box — here’s my home made solution.
Good luck — be ready to buy and spend a little bit of time and you can save yourself a lot of money.