Buying retail ammo online tricks


#1

I didn’t figure that this was a general discussion item, rather a short guide to buying modern retail ammo online in terms of finding the best possible prices, and where/how to look. This applies to buyers of modern production ammo, or whatever is in stock with online retailers as far as those who add new production items to their collection on a regular basis, or bulk shooters I guess. For collector ammo buying tips, the best things are still cartridge shows, Gunbroker, Facebook collector groups, and the forum post here showing a list of all the known collector cartridge selling websites: Places to purchase collectible ammo

Here is my guide to buying modern ammo at online retail:

Thought I would share some general tips on buying ammo online in the U.S. (if you do much of that in terms of new production ammo for collecting / shooting purposes). In buying inventory for my ammo store over the past year I have realized quite a few tricks that result in saving a load of money and finding the lowest prices on any given day or week. Granted much of the advice below relates best to those buying in quantity, or when spending more than $100, but that accounts for around half of online ammo buyers anyway, maybe even a majority of them.

Ammoseek.com

Ammoseek is becoming more and more popular. They are a price aggregator which digests most all of the relevant retail ammo website prices into an easy to use database with many adjustable fields so that you can narrow down a search for ammo by caliber, brand, grain weight, case metal, quantity, etc… Ammoseek hits a TON of websites and only misses a few relevant ones. In checking their website on any given day I will find that around half of the time, any ammo that I am interested in can wind up being noticeably less expensive than even my own distributors (even after accounting for shipping!). I have a few different distributors like Ellett Brothers, Accusport, and RSR, who should theoretically always have lower prices than a retailer, especially after accounting for shipping, but it just isn’t always the case for whatever reason, and sometimes is significantly lower. Ammoseek also has a meter which shows rough shipping cost per each result based on average shipping rates from that retailer, and also shows which particular bulk options offer free shipping ( TargetSportsUSA.com does this a lot on case quantities). There are a few key websites that Ammoseek does not register for whatever reason, but they are easy enough to check separately - Grafs.com, MidwayUSA.com, Academy Sports, Walmart, and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Grafs and MidwayUSA are always worth checking because they have a huge inventory, and always have a bunch of random things rotating through being on sale/clearance price, sometimes significant clearance prices. Midway also seems to offer free shipping half of the time when you spend more than $99. Academy & Sportsman’s Warehouse are box stores and will often have a “free shipping over $49” type of promotion, or some sort of ammo on sale. I mention Walmart not so much for their website, but for in-person shopping since they have very low prices on shotshells, and are sometimes worth buying in bulk, even if you are a retailer to resell. They are also a good place to pick up the 90-pack White Flyer skeet targets since nobody beats their price on those. Walmart makes particular sense if you are in a no sales-tax state such as NH, OR, MT, or DE. I particularly like the search parameter on MidwayUSA where it allows you to order the search results of clearance or sale category ammo (or anything) in order of “percent discount” which shows what sometimes wind up being the best price online for any given day. Their prices can shoot back up at any moment, even double - so it’s hit or miss with Midway. Midway is basically a large distributor which happens to sell exclusively direct-to-retail, and so they can afford to have huge random discounts at times. They are actually source-distributors for some things, such as IMI brand ammo. The easiest way to keep track of ammo items of interest on MidwayUSA is to add all of the ammo skus of interest to your “wish list”, and then each day you can just click on the wish list and it will automatically tell you what prices have changed, or notify you of inventory status updates. This makes it very quick & easy. The typical best-price websites which Ammoseek returns are places like Outdoorlimited, SGammo, TargetSportsUSA, and Selway Armory. Ammoseek makes money by selling banner ad space on their website to gun & ammo dealers, which I never click on since whatever they are advertising or offering is never any better than just using the database filters to find the lowest price. If you want to look past the first page of results on Ammoseek for any particular search (I usually don’t) then you’ll need to be signed in on their website, which is a simple & free process of making a username with email, and a password. They never send junk emails.

Coupon codes

On most of the retail websites they will offer a function in the checkout cart for using a coupon code or promotional code. I would say that around 20% of the time I can find some sort of code to use, either straight from the retailer’s website homepage, or from their Facebook feed where they will offer incidental promotions over time. Some of the codes are sort of complex in that they will show a countdown timer to suggest that the code (shown to you from a congratulatory pop-up window) will soon expire in 20 minutes or something, which entices people to stay there and complete the purchase. These timers are all bogus though and always reset if you refresh the page or re-add the item to cart, Ammunitiondepot.com is known for this. I have actually just Google-searched for codes quite a bit where I will type the name of the website and the words “coupon code”, and Google will return website results that list many potential coupon codes such as Retailmenot.com , Groupon or several others. Even though most of the codes are expired, they sometimes work and are worth checking. The best coupon codes are free shipping, often listed as “Free Shipping when you spend more than $99” or some such thing, but any kind of free shipping is always worth it since it can save you around $15 to $30 on average. Other coupon codes are typically things like 5% off or 10% off, sometimes when a qualifying amount is being spent. Once in a while it is not a percentage discount, but rather a dollar amount discount such as “$10 off when you spend over $50”, and when this is the case it behooves you to spend as close to just over $50 as possible to get the highest percentage off that you can - if it matters to you. Checking codes often can pay off since some codes only work for one day, or a few days. DoubleTap ammo for example, will periodically offer 33% discount codes from their Facebook feed which are fantastic, but only last a few days. A common coupon code that is offered is sometimes based on the saved data of your web browser (file cache aka “cookies”) and will offer you a 5% or 10% “first-time buyer discount” if it thinks you have not been to the website before. If you have more than one mailing address, and a spouse’s or relative’s name to use, then you can take advantage of these one-time discounts more than once by using different web browsers or computers for each order, and then using each of the different addresses once. It might make a significant difference in price if you are buying in bulk.

Avoid the proxy-sellers

Proxy retailers are websites which seem to list tons and tons of different product skus, only to find out that they are sourcing direct from distributors and having things drop-shipped to you. It is easy to see which ones these are since they always use lackluster distributor or manufacturer stock photos, and never seem to have any real in-person photos of product. The websites also have a sort of cookie-cutter database look to them. Cheaperthandirt.com is probably best known for this and how they have various items from 20 different “warehouses”, sometimes the same exact products with different prices depending on warehouse! There are a bunch of these web retailers in New Hampshire as well where no sales tax makes it a convenient pace to operate without any sort of resale certificate for the business. These would be sites like Foundry35, White Birch Armory, and Vizards Guns & Ammo. These places have virtually no physical inventory and you have to be careful to make sure your cart selections are all coming from the same “warehouse” / distributor to avoid overpaying on shipping. Some of these annoying proxy-sellers are uni-source in nature in that they reflect the inventory of only one distributor and these websites are often setup through various hole-in-the-wall gun shops at the behest of the distributor to increase web sales. These sites are essentially run by the distributor in question and typically have higher-than-average prices that are close to MSRP which is always way too high. Some of the proxy websites are even redirects that dump you to Luckygunner.com or which source through Luckygunner, and you just wind up paying too much for no reason. Then others are part of a conglomerate such as Gearfire - as part of a buying group like Wheatbelt or Midstates, which you would think would lead to lower prices, but it never does, relative to Ammoseek top results. This, since Ammoseek is always rooting out whatever special sales prices are going on at whatever website happens to be lowest.

Reviews

Some websites will always hound you for reviews, particularly for Facebook reviews where they feel that many people will notice it. Some of these will mention offering you a coupon code for doing this, but most do not, though they can still surprise you with an offer or discount code after you complete a review. Some will offer it over & over, and some of the codes will work whether you have done a review or not. Doing Google searches for working codes like these can sometimes work.

Leaving items in cart

This is a quirky one which only works around 5% of the time, but as long as I am in no hurry, it never bothers trying overnight. I usually only bother with trying this when I can find no other discount code to use otherwise. Certain websites’ checkout carts will automatically remove / refresh the cart to zero quantity after a certain time has passed - maybe an hour, or maybe 12 hours. Many website’s checkout process will never remove the items though especially if you are logged-in, and items can stay there for days or weeks. In the case of the later, I will often add all of the items to cart, proceed as far as I can to checkout, and then just leave them there over night. Certain websites pick up on this automatically and will email you a reminder as long as you are logged-in in some way, or have entered an email to get to the verge of the final checkout screen for processing payment. These sites that send reminders are trying to get you to come back as if you have forgotten, or looked elsewhere, and some of the time they will offer a discount coupon code to entice you back. These codes are usually always 5% or 10% savings, often based on spending over a certain amount. Budsgunshop and Wholesalehunter are known for this.

Rebates

There have been a LOT of rebates going on over the past 12 months, especially from Federal, Remington, and Norma. With the gun & ammo market slacking off heavily as there was no panic buying after Trump was elected, the only recourse for manufacturers to try and move product out of the distributors is via rebates, and there are still plenty going on. Sometimes I will find the lowest price on something like new production brass-case 5.56 from the likes of Aguila or whomever, only to realize that after a certain rebate - it winds up being cheaper to buy the more expensive Federal product once the rebate is processed. Combine this effect with a potential free shipping coupon code, or weekly sale price from whichever retail website, and the savings effect multiplies.

Research source distributors

This takes time & effort using Google, and checking forums. For some products that are imported, or which are for whatever reason somewhat exclusive in nature, there is often one large source retailer / distributor which will happen to supply the entire rest of the retail market with those products. In this scenario it usually makes no sense to purchase the products from anywhere but the source distributor. Examples would include things such as Grafs being the source distributor for all of the oddball calibers loaded by Precision Cartridge Inc. Grafs prices are always the best on these items, especially if you have a dealer account since they are basically the exclusive customer for all of the oddball obsolete calibers that are done by PCI, and which PCI does not even list on their website, or even offer to any other dealers who set up an account directly with PCI. There are other websites who sell this oddball PCI ammo, but they are all getting it from Grafs, and selling at a markup - so just buy it from Grafs direct, especially when on sale for the best price. Another example would be Dan’s Ammo. Dan has a quirky old website, circa 1998, but he also has the nation’s best prices on 26.5mm flares, and .410 Enfield musket ammo mini-crates. This is because he just happens to have commercial shipping container loads of them, and he sells direct-to-retail at prices which are always less than anywhere else for those things since the other retailers are all buying direct from him, or from someone else who bought from him. You always get a nice hand-written receipt from Dan too.

Dealer Accounts

Some ammo manufacturers will set up dealer accounts fairly loosely, and these are always a path to lower prices. Granted some manufacturers are strict and only want to deal with an FFL or a distributor, but some are more fast & loose and will accept any type of retail license & resale certificate to set up an account. The smaller to midsize outfits like Underwood Ammo, Fort Scott Munitions, SBR Ammo, or Defender Ammunition are examples of this that I have found.

Club memberships / Discount programs

This one applies so long as you do a decent amount of purchasing in volume so as to justify the initial cost of membership. The two major websites for this category would be Sportsman’s Guide (around $24.95 a year), and TargetSportsUSA’s “Prime” membership (a one-time $95 fee). Both of these allow access to discounted prices, and also free shipping some of the time, or in the case of TargetSports - all of the time. It is easy to recoup the cost of the fee after a couple months if you are buying a decent volume of ammo anyway, and both of these websites will have specials and deals often enough to make it worthwhile, and able to compete with the likes of SGammo, Outdoorlimited, MidwayUSA, Selway Armory, and even the distributors.

The idea of most of the above saving methods from the retailer / manufacturer point of view is to drive sales through the use of a loss-leader, or break-even product where they expect a certain percentage of buyers to also purchase other regularly-priced things during the same purchase (since they are already on the website looking around). It’s just that I never do, and wind up being what I suppose is part of the frustrating percentage of buyers who take advantage of all savings methods possible and only buy the “door-buster” item. My attitude is always - if it works, it works, and if the seller isn’t liking it, they can change their offerings or price. This whole landscape of Ammoseek driven sales is why I am not going to bother listing too much of my new full boxed-ammo inventory (common stuff) on my eventual retail website, and am going to focus rather on several hundred individual cartridge offerings for collectors. To say nothing of Walmart selling common ammo at usually unbeatable prices as they are their own mega-distributor.


#2

Just a tidbit of info about Ammoseek and all the other search pages. They all basically stole the idea from my fried that owns gun-deals.com. He wrote the initial program almost two decades ago. Every time we added a new bell or whistle, they copied it. He says more the merrier, but I feel a bit differently. We have never charged vendors to list there products as our listings are user based. Ammoseek and others charge vendors to list there products. They also get paid for hits, we never have. Any funds end of year we have extra after paying for server space and such, we gift to our Jr. helpers. Ammoseek and the other copiers are all businesses.

On ammo discounts, I get the best discounts having a dealer account as an FFL holder.

Like Matt states however, I have found a few deals over time that cannot be beat by using proxy-sellers and also to add, some brokers.

Joe


#3

What has amazed me is that despite the dealer accounts of whatever kind, there still pops up retail-level deals half the time for whatever reason that beat any distributor price I can find. Not an Ammoseek related result, but for instance, MidwayUSA was running a deal on new IMI M855 5.56 recently at $299 for 1200 rds (0.25 per rd) and free shipping. Nobody online including distributors could touch that, not even the dirty bulk packed junk of that sort by other brands, and the IMI stuff was in new retail-salable 30rd boxes. I sell loads of the boxes for $10.99 each (0.366 per rd) and my local customers couldnt be happier. I know that full pallett orders can beat that, but I’m in no position to buy that much.

I had only begun using sites like ammoseek a year and a half ago, and at that time through now, the Ammoseek parameter options, page layout, number of potential calibers listed, and number of results generated seemed vastly supperior to gun-deals or ammo-grab which were the other two price aggregators.


#4

Ammoseek does not do zip code shipping cost for you unlike gun-deals, which is the most important thing since one wants the bottom line in cost figured for them, You can also sort any caliber we list by every category you can choose on Ammoseek and more (primer type & corrosiveness), something very important they do not categorize. The other half dozen copycats have bots that put in what you see. Not verified by a human. Also we humans only approve deals that are real, not everything and anything on a PAID subscribers web site. You will notice we list some 500+ vendors, not just the handful that pays Ammoseek. You get an honest prospection with gun-deals.com, not steered.


#5

Ok, maybe I did something wrong, but at gun-deals I only found a limited list of results for some typical calibers. .243 Winchester for example at gun-deals returned 31 results. Ammoseek returned over 1000 results, and it had 2 results that were lower per rd than the top return on gun-deals. On 30-30, Gun-Deals shows 52 results, and Ammoseek shows hundreds…? This looks to go the same for most calibers. The exhaustive list of returns is helpful in that it makes finding a list of sellers of an obscure thing easier, like if I want to see who might have a certain Brenneke 16ga slug, Ammoseek just seems to consistently return more results. On 16ga slugs anyway Gun-Deals found 11, while Ammoseek found 95, and for Brenneke, Gun-Deals found only 1, while Ammoseek found 7 different sources, and they were all lower-priced than the only Gun-Deals return. These are litteraly the only 3 I have tried just now and they are all a big disparity. I see your point about the potential conflict of interest of a pay-to-play scenario, but like most price-shopping consumers, I don’t care whether the sellers being listed are paying to get on the list so long as the list has the relatively best results. I have nothing against gun-deals, it just seems to return less for me. The top few results are roughly the same half the time anyway. Ultimately, the top ten is usually just a battle between Targetsports, LAX, SGAmmo, Selway, Outdoorlimited, and Red River which both aggregators cover, athough in the few tests I tried, I saw Gun-Deals not seeing some of the offerings from Selway and SG that Ammoseek was. Sometimes Cabelas sneaks into a top spot with their ocaisional crazy deal, and they always have free shipping for over $49 or $99 or whatever. Basically almost half of the time I am finding better deals online as compared to my usual few distributors, if the distributors have the specific item in stock to begin with. Having various stock sources it great like this also to ensure availability. The accuracy of shipping estimate part on Ammoseek never bothered me since you get to know what SG or Outdoorlimited is going to charge roughly, and I periodically build orders in the carts of a few retailers and then use their quick estimator for shipping on the cart-view page to see where they are at. Also, since my orders usually always have a combination of several items which neither price aggreator can account for, I have to check combined shipping totals manually anyway if I want to be stingy. Meanwhile, I am often using free shipping with TargetsportsUSA prime ammo membership or Ellet Bros to avoid the shipping issue. With Targetsports prime ammo program it’s like how is anybody other than an agency or department going to beat finding $17 per box (shipped) of 50 9mm Federal HST 147gr? Ellett doesn’t even carry the 50rd box version, and all of the legit distributors for the premium L.E. grade self-defense ammo in 50rd boxes are L.E. only distribution. If I could pay Ellet $90 a year to get free shipping on everything in the way that Targetsports prime does, then I would do it in a heartbeat to avoid payng Ellet’s flat $9 shipping fee on each order. I must have 20 orders with them over the past 6 months already.


#6

Well Matt, you are correct that ammoseek is going to give you a boatload of results. It’s nothing but the RSS feeds from all the vendors websites they cater too. Websites have a feed list of all their products and what ammoseek does is just throw them into a program that delineates them all in their lists. Real efficient, to a point. The reason we don’t have all of that is because we do everything by hand and no one can be bothered submitting deals much anymore and we are getting virtually no help. People have become spoiled and are just accepting what these sites give them. One thing you don’t get with ammoseek is coupon codes, add to cart prices in some cases and we have a crapload of other sites they don’t. Plus ammoseek doesn’t list everything all the time. Like right now if you look at 7.62x39 we have the best deals listed because they don’t list stuff from some of the vendors we have that have the better deals. We have a deal from SOG for 1000rds that’s $149+SH ammoseek’s best deal is like $193.99+SH. The bottom line is every site has it’s own advantages and you should use them all. No one site covers everything. That said comparing us to a computer program just doesn’t work and that’s basically what ammoseek is, a computer program that’s constantly running and adjusting. It leaves out the human factor though and only works within the boundaries set for it and the info that it has in the feeds. If we see something we like on a vendors page, we add it. One other thing to point out is ammoseek has hundreds of results on some stuff but more than half of it is crap priced stuff at prices no one is going to pay.

That midway deal you spoke about for the IMI M855 was a smoking deal at 1200rds/$$299.99+Free Shipping We had it listed on the site and they’ve been running a load of specials on the IMI M193 and the M855 but that wasn’t the best deal for M193 and M855. Federal was running a rebate that gave you up to $400 off of select rifle ammo, including M193 and M855. Some M193 was Federal and M855 was as low as $219.99/1000rds shipped After the rebate.

The bottom line is a lot of these sites are just spoon feeding the public what they think is relevant. In some cases they’re right and in some they’re way off.

Joe


#7

One other thing I forgot to mention, is you can put in any caliber we list and what you wish to pay per round and when we get a deal matching it or below your price, our system will automatically email you the deal until you remove it or change you price perimeters any time, all on one convenient page…

Joe


#8

The interesting thing on Southern Ohio Gun is that they don’t do any shipping quotes, and only charge shipping after you place the order. I called them to check and see what 1000 rds of the Hotshot 7.62x39 to Maine would be and the woman figured $24, but then the gun-deals system figures $47. Either way, $196 or less for 1,000 is better than the distributors for sub half-pallet quantities, and better than the bargain retailers like Targetsports USA prime members ($202 per 1,000 shipped). I notice that UNAC has the best price on new-production 7.62x54R at the moment - I need some! :-) The UNAC listing of $210 per 500 was shown on Ammoseek, but not gun-deals, and I also noticed that the shipping quote at gun-deals shown for Outdoorlimited’s offering of 500rds of Tula 54R for $217.25 had $42.98 listed for the shipping cost to me, but when I add the item to cart on Outdoorlimited’s site and then use their shipping calculator it gives me $26 for a shipping quote to me. My zip code of 04429 isn’t normally a relatively cheap locale as far as where ammo is usually coming from either. Oh well, I know to check both sites now for the SOG sort of deal which is especially good if the $24 ship quote holds true.


#9

Yea, I don’t know much on how the shipping estimator works other than it is an UPS based Algorithm.