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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.