New Guy and very new to collecting


Hello all,

I am brand new to the site and brand new to collecting different ammo. I have a few questions. What do most folks collect ? Loaded ammo? Just the brass case or what? Is there a place you can buy just one round or trade and are there nice display cases for them. Again Im new so I wanna start off right. Ive been shooting for years and did alot of shooting in the military. I also reload so I have a small collection but I want to go ahead and go all out and start out the right way any help would be great


Welcome. A lot depends on where you are. Most guys start out as general collectors and then begin to specialize as something particular strikes a fancy. As to where to find cartridges, there are multiple sources; friends, gun shows, on-line dealers, auctions, cartridge shows, etc. Go to the IAA Home page, link at the top, and you’ll find lots of info for beginning collectors.


I am still a general collector and I collect inert rounds only for two reasons:

1 -most of my samples come from foreign countries and sending loaded ammo overseas is illegal

2- according to the italian laws, you can collect cartridges only if they are inert

I would be happy to have all my samples as loaded cartridges, but I live in the wrong side of the world…


I personally collect the amount of times I’ve said “I did not know that” about ammo, and my collection is ginormous.


I’m a general collector type, and the first things (IMHO) you need to do are:

  1. Pick up some general referances, Cartridges of the World, Ammo Encylipeida, older loading manuals, etc (realize that all referances contain errors, some more than others). George Hoyem’s 4 book series on “The History and Development of Small Arms Cartridges” are great too. If you like US Military ammo, the 2 (soon to be 3) books by Hackley, Woodin & Scranton (you’ll often see us refer to HWS).
  2. start a catalog of those items you have and those items you want (spreadsheet programs like MS Excel work great for cataloging).

Most guys start out with the “wall mounted” displays (purchased, adapted or purpose made) but soon find out that they have a number of limitations (playing “cartridge dominoes” being one of the biggest issues). Old metal blueprint drawers are probably the most practicle storage system and can often be found for free.


Welcome to the IAA Forum.

You will be welcomed “time and again” some in words on this Forum …some in “thought”. There are a thousand ways to approach collecting and all your questions are legit (and have been asked many times). Start with what pleases you and what presents itself. Some folks immediate gravitate toward a “specialty” …rimfire…shotshells, etc…

Feel you way around, ask questions, JOIN the IAA (it’s cheap and get the directory that will list off most members…some could be your neighbors!) and then come to a cartridge show (that might flip you over the top !)


Pepper Burruss
IAA President


Welcome to cartridge collecting. Pepper is right, Join the IAA. You get the Journal (60 pages of cartridge info six times a year) plus as a new guy you get the membership directory which lists the members, provides emails, sorts members by state or country. You also get a Guide to Cartridge Collecting which will answer most of your questions as a new collector. That is what it is designed to do. All of that for $25/year for the electronic copies of this material. If you want paper, it is $35/year in the US and more in Canada or overseas because of postal rates.

All aspects of cartridge collecting is fun, but the world of cartridges is so vast and complex, most of us settle down on one or two or so specialities. The membership directory groups members by speciality also which will give you some ideas. Some people collect whatever catches their fancy, which is also just fine. That is part of the fun, what you collect is your business and only your business. My recommendation is to pick up the things you find interesting, read the IAA Forum and read the IAA Journal and see where your interests lie. Some people only collect information about cartridges, which is OK too!!!

Have fun, it is a great group of people.





The other guys are correct, and I’d add that you should get to a cartridge show, hopefully close to where you live. If not, the travel will be worth it. The world’s best and largest cartridge show is in St. Louis the weekend (but not Sunday) before Easter every year. It’s April 20 - 23 next year, but many collectors show up a day or two early for in-room trading. You will receive a doctorate degree in cartridge collecting in three days and will love every minute of it.

Since you were (are?) in the military, a natural area for you to collect would be U.S. military small arms ammunition. There are lots of excellent reference books, which I’d recommend you concentrate on at first. Some people collect all U.S. military, but many wind up specializing in one area like .30-06, 7.62x51 NATO, or 5.56mm. Others collect a certain caliber, but include specimens from foreign countries. You could easily build up a collection of thousands of rounds without spending much money, at least at first.

The general consensus among collectors is that the best way to store your collection is in a map or blueprint “flat-file” made of metal. The sliding drawers are strong enough to hold the weight of ammunition and make arranging your collection very easy with corrugated or ridged drawer liners to keep the cartridges in neat rows. However, they are expensive, so look for used ones.

And of course, the first thing to do is join the IAA. I’d also buy the back issues of the Journal, which are available on DVD. Welcome to the group. You’re going to have a great time!



Magforce–As one of the Admin. (Some call me the Forum Cop or Enforcer because I’m in charge of editing or deleting inappropriate postings), let me welcome you. Everything the others have said above is good. Let me add that [color=#FF0040]No question is too simple or stupid to ask.[/color] We were all beginners at some point. I guarantee you will not be ridiculed for ANY question and will receive an answer.

As pointed out, the IAA Homepage has a wealth of good information on it. Check it out at:

To post pictures you need to use an outside photo hosting site. Most of us use Photobucket.

Just one last thing. To post on the Buy/Sell/Trade section you MUST be an IAA Member. You can read and respond to postings, but you can not post new things without joining the IAA first.



Collect whatever YOU find interesting and like. Remember, you can change any time you like into some other field.

You will never get “all” the possible examples in any field, so don’t plan on being “finished” in a year or two.

Most cartridges are modestly priced, and bring the same or less when sold, so do it for fun, not with some fantasy about making money or doing it as an investment.

People collect by caliber, maker, nationality, age, type of bullet, purpose, match ammo, wildcats, or just about any other criteria. That can be anything from dozens of .17 caliber rimfires up to dozens of artillery shells (most 16" or less…).

Two of our “younger” collectors here have developed quite a bit of expertise in fields such as “pistol caliber penetrators” and “pinfires.” Those are great examples of finding a niche that you like and pursuing it, even if there are not hordes of other people out there doing the identical thing.

If you join the IAA (as you definitely should) getting the digital copy of the old Journals will provide a lot of background material. Read through a dozen Journals and see which articles you enjoy reading and which put you to sleep, and that may help focus your collecting interest.

Have fun!