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The price of “proper” self-defense ammo (e.g. Hornady Critical Defense, Wilson Combat) galls me. But only because I’d like to practice with it. So I shoot (and shoot and shoot) whatever I can scrounge from manufacturers. Either that or I buy Blazer (I have way too much going on in my house to reload) or Winchester White Box or whatever else is relatively inexpensive. But not cheap. Check out the pic above. According to our friend at, the busted Bushmaster ACR is down to the fact that . . .

The user does not know the origin of the ammunition. It belonged to his friend who cannot remember where or when it was purchased. What is known is that it came from a old white Winchester box and that the brass had a Twin Cities headstamp.

Now how much would you pay? Wait! Don’t answer! Check out this close-up of the havoc created by Whatever Ammo.

So what do you pay? Do you set a budget for ammo? Stock up when the prices are low? How low will you go?

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  1. I don’t buy special ammo for defensive purposes. I always have plain 115 grain ball ammo in my Glock. I buy at my local range where I get 10% off for being a member of my state’s grass roots gun rights organization. It brings the price of a box of 50 count 9 mm down to around $13.50.

  2. I am very particular-and I also practice a lot with my defense loads. I keep it so I can track down the ammo, should I have a mishap with a weapon. Twice I have seen a weapon explode-once a Colt Gold Cup and once a cylinder on a Smith and Wesson model 10. Both were due to reloads someone had given the shooter. The only foreign ammo I use often is Wolf and Golden Bear. These rounds are mainly for my RPK. If I use hardball in my pistols, it is the bulk Remington and Winchester boxes. I want to keep track of rounds and their origin until they are spent. I buy in bulk at good deals, so I have several thousand rounds at any given time. I will not let the zombies win!

    • Most of my stockpiled JHP is Ranger, it can be found at pretty good deals at Ammo To Go and Cheaper Than Dirt. I’ve found pretty good deals on Corbon’s Pow’R Ball handgun rounds lately too. The best buys on buckshot have been the 25 round boxes and the ten round boxes. I normally only stock 00 buck and rifled slugs, occasionally buying 250 round deals on game load.

  3. I use the 50 cal 385 grain hollow points from Ballistic Supply for the home and I also have the 700 grain T-REX ammo just in case the bad guy is riding an elephant. I use the Winchester Lawman for my 45’s.

  4. As a student, i have to buy the cheapest ammo I can find. This may be Winchester white box, remington umc, or Monarch. I try to avoid tulammo in 40 sw as it runs pretty dirty. When I see ammo on sale i am not afraid to stock up. I’ve had good luck with the cheap stuff thus far, no primer issues or dented cases. If I want to get better, i have to practice, and this is the only way I can afford it. In fact, im moving away from 40sw to 9mm as i can save myself quite a bit of money in the long run.

  5. I practice with whatever I can find that is of good quality and low price. I prefer ammo of the same bullet weight as my self defense ammo (124 gr. for 9mm, 230 gr. for .45ACP, etc.) but I’ll use other bullet weights and not sweat it. I’ve had good luck with just about all the major brands as well as imported bargain brands. Every now and then you can get a bad round of anything. Over the years, I have found a few rounds of top-of-the-line ammo that had collapsed case mouths or that would not fire. But this is rare. I admit to not having shot a lot of Russian ammo but I kind of like Brown Bear 9mm. It smells bad but it has always gone bang for me.

    I WILL NOT buy or use anyone’s reloads or the off-brand ammo you can find at gun shows. Unless I’m experimenting, I order pistol ammo by the case or half-case on the Internet. Sometimes I will buy pistol ammo at Walmart because it’s convenient. I don’t shoot rifle or shotgun much at all. Somewhere at the bottom of the ammo cans in my gun locker is a whole bunch of surplus 5.56 ammo I bought nearly 30 years ago and have never shot.

  6. All my ammo are ball (even SD ones). I handload almost all of it apart from 5.45×39. For SD it is 9mm FMJ from WWB. (Unless I go for a class which must have factory ammo… then just buy whatever cal I’m running)

    • Yikes, what’s with the folks who think 9mm FMJ is an appropriate self-defense round? It’s about the worst thing you could choose!

      • Uhh… can’t tell if you’re serious or sarcastic. If the latter: lol
        If serious: I’d go 7.62×25 FMJ if there were a good double stack available. Shot placement is king. Low cost enables more practice. No use shooting an attacker in the buttocks with a .500 S&W or .50 AE

        • FMJ in pretty much anything isn’t great for SD purposes, but especially 9mm. Even with perfect shot placement you’re still only imparting a fraction of the energy those bullets are carrying to your target. Even if expansion isn’t a factor (which it is) I would rather have any rounds I fire into a BG stop in the BG or if they do travel all the way through stop in the back layer of his clothing or hit the wall behind him with barely enough force to hurt the paint.

          I live in an apartment though so I have to be especially aware of any sort of over penetration issues because while I may know where everyone in my apartment is I would have no way of knowing where people are in the other units. Luckily I live on the end of the building so I have 3 walls that are “safer” to shoot towards, but I still better make damn sure I hit what I’m shooting at.

          • … Does the numbers game with energy really matter when the BG has 2 in the chest and 1 in the head? Then again I don’t live in built up areas. Nearest neighbour is 3 miles away.
            Anyway, we can agree to disagree. Guess I won’t live to tell the tale if I’m proved wrong.

  7. One of your people straightened me out on the differences between inexpensive ammo and the premium stuff. Basically I buy cheap brand name ammo in the same weight and close to the same speed for practice, and I buy it in lots of 500 or a thousand.
    My carry ammo is now 165gr Remington Golden Saber JHP at about 62¢ a round. It runs at about 1,100fps. So I run Remington UMC 165 JHP at 1,040fps for practice and spend about 35¢ a round.

  8. I’ll keep a few boxes of higher quality stuff, but 95%+ of what I shot in pistols is Blazer or WWB (whatever is cheapest). In .223 a lot of PMC.

  9. My practice ammo is the cheapest brand-name stuff that money can buy. Brown Bear and Tula are two names that come to mind, although I also buy WWB or whatever else is on sale. I’ve found that cheap ammo chews up paper just as well as the good stuff.

  10. For handgun practice, I buy discount store ammo, e.g., Remington UMC or Winchester white box. For my EDC load, I rely on the gold standard: Speer Gold Dot or Remington Golden Saber.

    In my battle carbine, I use Remington UMC .223 Remington 55 gr MC and reload the fired brass with Hornady’s 55 gr. FMJ w/cannelure.

    From the picture that accompanies this article, I see the problematic bolt on Stoner’s design has been fixed so that it cracks across its face. Perhaps this was done to remedy the problem of its breaking at the cam pin hole or shearing off the tiny little locking lugs that are positioned adjacent to the extractor. ;^)

  11. I have a couple of boxes of good stuff, but I shoot whatever is on special at Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse.

  12. I reload and cast my own bullets.

    Since I already have the brass and get the lead cheap I reload 45/70 for less than $5 for a box of 50. Using mild loads I usually get 20-30 reloads on my brass.

    .38 special is much less in price because of less lead and bullseye powder. Brass is pennies each and lasts for a decade before a split.

    Pulled surplus .308 and .223 bullets in my stockpile for $60-90 per 1000 when I bought them cheap…was wise enough to buy 10,000 of each before the tin foil hats arrived. Cast my 30/30 and 7.62×39 cheap.
    But then again this is the only way to do it if you shoot a lot. You can also shoot smart by knowing a bit about ballistics and going with straight walled and other common calibers rather than the latest and greatest….I laugh at the poor chumps who shoot .357 sig and 5.7

    • My wife shoots 5.7X28. We pay about 40¢ a round retail. That’s cheaper than most .40 and in line with decent 9mm.

  13. I like Federal HST for 9mm & .40, Ranger Talon for .45, 180 grain Gold Dot for 10mm as loaded by Georgia-Arms.
    Gold Dot Short Barrel is my first choice for small revolvers like the SP101, but Nyclad for Airweights because my accuracy is so much better with the Nyclads in a lighter gun. For a revolver with a 4″ barrel or longer, pretty much anything fast and reliable given that they’re not finicky about the ammo they’re fed like semis. I don’t own one, but I want to get a .44 special someday. Don’t shoot magnums in revolvers.

    I don’t use a .22 or anything below 9mm/.38 for defense purposes.

    For practice ammo, I use primarily Lawman, but will shoot anything by the big manufacturers except American Eagle as my guns get dirtier faster using it. No lead or copper ever.

  14. I am just as picky with the ammo purchase as my pistols and rifles are with they ammo they want to shoot. After trying a couple brands of expensive JHP and +P defensive rounds for my .45 I realized that Remmington UMC and Federal work better than anything else. I have one magazine laoded with Glazer Saftey Slugs for the pistol in my night stand just in case someone decided to pay me a visit when I am asleep and I miss. I don’t want to the .45 to overpenetrate and go through my house and into my neighbors. I need to do some testing with the Glazers for my own personal use, but right now it is like a safety blanket, it provides the illusion of penetrating less than regular roundball ammo. I will never use mil surp for my .303 again, that stuff almost ruined my enfield. The powder did not fully ingite and sent the round wobbleing through the barrel followed by powder. The target looked like shot it with a birdshot and the occiasional .303 round. After that I stick to Winchester, or Remminton.

  15. I’ve had nothing but good luck with the cheap imported stuff for my AR, SKS and Glock. It’s enough to make me wish Tula or Bear would crank out some .38 Special or .357 Magnum for my revolvers.

    I don’t buy in “bulk” for the most part but if I’m ordering something else from CTD, I’ll usually tack on a box or 4 of either 9mm, .223 or 7.62×39 just to “round out” the order. Even with shipping, mail-order ammo is way cheaper than at any store (plus there’s no sales tax, which pretty much negates the shipping cost anyway.)

    Carry ammo is commercial HP, I think I’m using Federal Hydra-Shoks in my Glock.

  16. We use Golden Sabres for personal defense in my wife’s Beretta and UMC for practice. I just use the UMCs for my 45 because 230 grains is more then enough stopping power for any home/personal defense situation.

    I also have a couple of 22 rifles that could be used in a home defense scenario. I will use the same Remington/Federal/Winchester copper plated hollow point rounds that I use for coon hunting.

  17. Reading the original thread from the link you provided, it appears most likely that he was shooting a reload – (it was described as a “soft point bullet” with “Twin Cities” headstamp” and it was taken fromn a box that had originally contained Winchester Wtite Box. I have seen many blown up rifles over the years from bad reloads, including most recently a really nice M1 Garand that was completely blown aparent during a vintage rifle match – stock, receiver, and everything. A total loss. And the guy that owned the rifle was, from what I gathered, a very experienced reloader. bottom line, its really easy to put too much powder in a reload.

  18. Oh, and to answer your question, I typically buy whatever decent ammo is on sale: Federal, UMC, Am Eagle, PMC, Sellier & Belloit, Fiocchi (sp?), WWB, etc, I try to avoid the steel case stuff, but I will occasionally stoot it in my beater AKs. I really like PMC these days. I think they have done some serious upgrading in their factory in Korea, and the stuff they are producing now is a nicer looking and more consistent than the domestic stuff I see.
    I have had some bad luck buying mil sup ammo via mail order – but some of that is just learning the hard way that some dealers (like R Guns, for example) are dicks and will sell you pure junk without any disclosure or remorse. I ended up having to fight with them to get them to accept a return. I almost sued em. I bought some crappy Pakistani Mil-sup .303 from Aim Surplus once and that was pure crap as well – there was up to a 1/2 second delay from the time you pulled the trigger to the time the round went “bang” – sort of reminded me of shooting a black powder rifle. I pulled the bullets and called it good. Now I won’t buy mil-sup ammo from India, Pakistan, Iran, etc, and I will try to do some internet research before I buy any particular type of mil-sup ammo.

  19. I bought a .45 without doing my homework, so I shoot Blazer mainly. I shot some Magtech, but it was so smoky I thought I was shooting blackpowder. I don’t shoot gun show reloads, never have, never will. I look at some of the guys selling those baggies and I think “sketchy.” If my weapon blows up, I’ll probably never be able to find them to administer the beating they so justly deserve.

    In my Zombie gun I run 00 buckshot and rifled slugs from Remington. I am loyal to Winchester AA for skeet. Super premium sporting loads are a waste of money for me.

  20. I roll most of my own ammo, ecxept for Russian mil-surp and defensive handgun ammo.

    When I don’t handload I’m still no ammo snob. I’ll shoot whatever is cheap, but I won’t shoot any commercial reloads with lead bullets. They all say they use ‘Hard Cast’ bullets but are actually swaged lead with the hardness of warm solder.

    I love Russian mil-surp ammo for my Mosins and AK, and I’ll shoot Wolf or Tulammo or Bernaul through most of my guns if I’m short on handloads.

  21. My current ammo costs are the cost of reloading components including shipping, taxes and hazmat. Per box of (20rnds for rifle, 50rnds for pistol) ammo loaded to approximate NATO spec:

    40S&W 165g FMJ – $7.23
    5.56, m193 – 2.69
    5.56, m855 – 2.94
    7.62, m80 – 4.50

    I still buy Federal, Win whitebox, and cheap Remington for classes and for brass replenishment. For self defense, I buy a box or two every so often of whatever is my current favorite flavor, shoot half of it and cycle the rest as my carry ammo.

  22. Define “Skimp”.

    Ammo quality is important, but quality in ammo isn’t correlated to price of ammo; If I am using my firearm for self defense, I am much more concerned about:

    1) Reliability
    2) Accuracy
    3) Shot placement
    4) Price

    Price indeed plays a part in choosing a defense round, because practice makes perfect and I can’t rely on reliability with out sending a couple thousand rounds down range. Something I am not likely to do on a regular basis, if the ammo is costing me more then I can afford in any given month.

    You can get clean burning, accurate ammo that will help you “defend”, with out having to spend a dollar or so a round. If you are unfortunate enough to get into a gun fight with a bad guy, and you have spent at least an hour or so a week on the range, and spent time understanding your ammo, your gun, and yourself….you are WAY ahead of the game. Having expensive “Defense” ammo, is just icing on the cake.

  23. For range ammo for 9mm and .40 I usually go with Federal, Magtech, or WWB whichever one is cheaper or that they have plenty of. For the AK whichever is cheapest because just like the honey badger the AK just doesn’t give a shit. For defensive purposes I usually go with Winchester Ranger if they have it or Federal HST as a second choice. My usual practice on defensive loads is to buy 2 of the 50 round boxes about once a year, I shoot whatever social ammo I have left from the last batch as well as about half a box of the new stuff just to verify that everything still cycles reliably. I also try to go through about 1 magazine a month of the defensive stuff just so I’m more used to the recoil of the +p load. I know its probably excessive and that ammo can store for a long time in climate controlled conditions but ~60 bucks a year doesn’t seem like that high a price to pay to make sure that everything goes bang when I need it to.

    I wish I could load my own but I’ve yet to find the right argument to convince my girlfriend to let me in our apartment’s second bedroom. Any ideas? Maybe I could convince her that when the zombie apocalypse comes I’ll need to be able to load my own so I don’t have to fight the flesh eating horde with a knife?

  24. I use Remington Golden Saber JHP 230 gr .45 ACP for SD and Remington UMC (Remington for FMJ) 230 gr .45 ACP for practice. I buy the UMC in 500 round lots at the website that has the cheapest price. I use the JHP for maximum energy transfer and minimum penetration. Living in an apartment, I am naturally worried about penetration.

    • The only reason for using JHP with a 45 is to prevent over penetration. The Army chose 230 grains because their tests showed that it would stop a drug crazed Moro in his tracks. Subsequent studies have validated the original 1910 era results. There is no need to spend the extra money for the hollow point rounds unless you have problem with neighbors.

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