Where and how to buy ammunition – The Prepared

what is the best or cheapest place to buy ammo? Can someone order ammunition online? what about local laws? This beginner’s guide covers all the basics; however, this changes from country to country, so this guide is focused on us, the buyers.

more: Check out the beginner’s guide to firearms if you’re totally new to firearms.

basic concepts:

  • You can buy ammo online or at physical stores, including your local gun store and big box stores like walmart and cabelas.
  • although we often get asked “where is the cheapest place to buy ammo?” the market doesn’t really work that way, you just have to find whoever has a good deal that day. there are price comparison search engines to help.
  • us federal law The US states that you must be at least 18 years old to buy shotgun and rifle ammunition, and at least 21 to buy pistol ammunition.
  • ammunition has an explosive inside (gunpowder), so which when shipped, falls under special policies.your box will probably have an orm-d label, for example, and will require an adult signature.
  • those special shipping policies mean it can be a hassle to return ordering online.
  • special restrictions apply for people living in california, ma ssachusetts, washington dc, illinois, connecticut, new jersey and new york. details below.
  • if you live in alaska, hawaii or puerto rico and want to buy ammunition online, you may need to use a freight forwarding service due to shipping logistics outside the continental united states . or find a local shipper in the state, like alaska ammunition.
  • some locations require online ammo to be shipped to a trusted local broker, known as ffl (basically any local gun store), who is licensed to verify any of your necessary documents. just google “(your location) ffl” to find one.
  • there are usually no limits on the amount of ammo you can buy. but there is growing evidence that if you place large orders (say, thousands of rounds at a time), you will end up on some government’s radar.

price comparison tools and where to buy ammo online

If you live in a jurisdiction that allows online ordering and don’t mind waiting a few days for it to arrive, shopping online is often the best way to save money.

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Ammunition prices often differ from supplier to supplier, and current events can throw the demand-supply curve out of balance, creating rare shortages and price spikes.

during covid-19, for example, it was often very difficult to find common gauges in stock, and if you did, it was noticeably more expensive than just before the crisis began.

Fortunately, there are some search engines built specifically to find where ammo is in stock and who has the best price per round:

  • grab ammo
  • ammoseek
  • wikiarms

where buy ammunition price search

Example from Ammograb, searching for common AR-15 .223 ammo, sorted by price per round.
Example from Wikiarms where you can search for local Walmart inventory.

Some people don’t want to bother with a penny or two difference and just like to buy from a store they have an account with. Some of the most popular are:

  • ables
  • surplus target
  • ammo supply depot
  • ammo available
  • brownells
  • cabelas
  • lucky archer
  • midway usa
  • paletto state armory
  • sgammo
  • athlete’s guide
  • target usa sports uu.

local shops and shows

Firearms is a market that still has local mom-and-pop stores. If you’re interested, it’s good to shop at those “LGs” (the common acronym for your local gun store) to support the locals and keep the firearms community healthy. just google “(your location) + gun shop”.

Unfortunately, big box stores have become a target/part of civil rights political debates, leading some stores to remove ammunition from their shelves altogether.

There can also be inconsistencies in the same string from one area to another; for example, a chain could continue to sell ammunition in the more rural areas of the country without stocking it in cities with a high crime rate. Or, as in the case of Walmart, they continue to sell “hunting” ammunition (rifle and shotgun) without selling pistol ammunition; pistol ammunition is most commonly used by or associated with criminals.

regular big box stores (some of which also sell online):

  • bass pro stores
  • big 5 sporting goods
  • big r
  • cabelas
  • dunham’s sports
  • jax
  • murdoch’s
  • sportsmans store
  • walmart

Gun shows are another place, although they are only present from time to time. Contrary to what you hear in anti-2a marketing, most gun show vendors have the proper federal licenses and comply with all laws.

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Local gun shows can be a fun way to learn and buy.

There isn’t much of a benefit to buying new ammo from a gun show — besides getting to learn from other friendly and knowledgeable people instead of a sales clerk.

however, gun shows can be a good place to buy “reloads” in bulk, which can save you a little money on stocking up or ammo you’ll only use for practice.

laws and bureaucracy

Each level of government or supervision that applies to where you live, even down to your home, may have restrictions that apply. if you live in a state/city that is known to be anti-2a, you may want to look at laws at lower levels than just federal and state laws below.

let’s start at the us federal level. u.s. i.e. 18 u.s. uu. code section 922.

who can buy and be in possession of ammunition:

  • Persons over the age of 18 may purchase ammunition for rifles and shotguns. 18-year-olds can’t buy handgun ammunition, but can own it.
  • people 21 and older can buy handgun, rifle, or shotgun ammunition.

who cannot legally purchase or possess ammunition:

  • those under 21 years of age cannot buy ammunition for small arms.
  • fugitives from justice.
  • people addicted to narcotics or controlled substances. this includes medical and recreational marijuana.
  • military veterans who were dishonorably discharged.
  • people who have been convicted of domestic violence.
  • people illegally in the united states.
  • persons subject to restraining orders.
  • felons.
  • individuals who have renounced their US citizenship.

Most US states reflect that federal law. some states, namely those that are known to be anti-guns, complicate things.

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Only licensed dealers may sell ammunition in CA and must keep records of all transactions. Background checks are required on all ammunition purchases. Some online companies ship to California but have to ship the ammunition to a licensed vendor who then acts as a trusted background checker. Currently, there appears to be a legal tug-of-war between California and the federal government regarding California background checks on ammunition purchases. If you live in California, it’s probably best to shop locally until the courts settle things.

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connecticut requires a driver’s license, passport, or government-issued ID. along with one of the following: Pistol Permit, Pistol Certificate of Eligibility, Long Gun Certificate of Eligibility, or Ammunition Certification. You must be 21 years old to buy ammunition. ammunition purchased online can be shipped directly to your residence.

illinois requires a firearm owner identification card. must be 21 years or older. To buy ammunition online, you’ll need to provide the seller with a government-issued ID. and your firearm owner’s identification card.

massachusetts requires special licenses. the details depend on the type of firearm. Due to those laws and nuances, many online vendors choose not to ship to MA at all. but you can legally ship ammunition home ma if you have the ltc (firearms license) and buy it from a supplier like target sports usa who will take care of the red tape.

new jersey is complicated. ammunition can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home. it’s easy if you’re buying one of these calibers: .223, 5.56, .308, 7.61×51, 7.62×39, .270, .243, 30-30, 30-06, 12-gauge, and 20-gauge. if you buy something else , you must provide your firearms purchase identification card, firearms permit, or permission to purchase a firearm before the seller ships. the same goes for in-person purchases as well.

new york allows you to buy ammo locally, but if you buy it online, you must ship it to a local ffl. Some online sellers will not ship ammunition to New York. The FFL will record the transaction, and if you’re buying pistol ammo, check your pistol permit. Background checks are not (yet) required to purchase ammunition.

washington dc limits ammunition purchases to people who already own a registered firearm. you are limited to purchasing ammunition only for the firearms you have registered with the government. ammunition can only be purchased in person through an authorized dealer.

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