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As a firearms trainer, I usually get this question a lot and that’s great, I am glad that you are interested in learning more about it so let’s dive in. First, let me start by saying I am not well versed in every type of gun and caliber so I will share tips that have helped me and that should give you a great starting point.

In my private training sessions, I share with my clients the difference between the basic ish types of ammo – target and self-defense ammo.  We will discuss these along with some other tidbits. Then, I welcome you to do a little more research on your own, on whatever tickles your trigger finger.

Brief overview on 9mm

I am sharing about 9mm as that is the most standard calibers, I primarily use it for competition and self-defense and I encourage all of my ladies/students to at least start with a 9mm. If you were told by someone else that you needed a smaller gun, I would encourage you to ask why. Most of the time, the reasons they provide are: because “you have little hands”, “you don’t have the upper body strength” or “you can’t handle the firearm”.  These are bullshit. Well, I mean, you may have little hands and you may not have a lot of upper body strength but you can handle just about any firearm with the proper fundamentals. {Inserting shameless training plug – Feel free to get some quality instruction if you’d like to know more}  And check out my What Kind of Gun Should I Buy blog.

I will also add that I learned how to shoot at 18 years old via a gun safety class from the San Diego Police Dept with a Colt 1911 .45 and switched to 9mm when Obama killed our ammo prices. So, 9mm is one of the most common and affordable options.

Right now, 9mm ammo has finally come down considerably, since after the plandemic and riots and probably is where it will stay for a while (beg of 2023 for reference). Also 380 ammo, another caliber being pushed on women, is about $8-10 more for a box of 50, so take that into account too, when buying a firearm.

Calculating ammo prices

I am going to “math” on you for a few seconds but you’ll thank me for it later. When you buy a box of ammo, which is where most of you may be at, or may start at, we think of it as a cost per box of 50. This is likely because you buy it at the local sporting goods store or range. However, some ammo may be sold in a box of 100 or ideally for those who are practicing more often in lots of 500-1000.  And yes, as of now, that is available, online, whereas a year ago, we couldn’t find it online as easily. And then there is self-defense ammo, it usually comes in smaller quantities. So, how in the eff do we compare all this crap, you ask, well it’s simple. What is the ONE thing that we can compare apples to apples on with pricing? The price PER ROUND!

Price per round

So, if you start calculating price per round, then you’ll likely have a better chance of remembering what the best price is. Plus, a lot of online places will sort ammo by price per round – golden huh? However, when you order online, what’s the one thing that you have to factor in that you don’t when shopping in a store – shipping. And while tax is also a factor, you are usually paying similar in store versus online, so I just leave that out for simplicity. And you can also find deals when buying online that offer free shipping so definitely keep an eye out for that.  Let’s do an example so it makes a little more sense.

  • Local range sells a box of 50 of 9mm for $25 = .50 cents a round
  • Online stores sells 1000 rounds of 9mm for $250+$30 shipping so totals $280 = .28 cents a round
  • Same online store with a free shipping offer so $250 = .25 cents a round

At first, when buying ammo, you may have thought it was easier and possibly cheaper to just buy it when you need it.  However, looking at the above example and after you buy 19 more boxes to get to that same 1000 rounds, you would have spent $500 (20 boxes x $25).  That $250-280 is looking more appealing, isn’t it?  Now, I get it that sometimes you may not have the money to spend $250 or $280 right now, and that’s okay, but it might behoove you to try to make it work, or at least get 500 from that same online store. A lot of online stores who offer 1000+ rounds, they often offer 500 rounds AND you can get a free plastic ammo can.

Target ammolearn more about the different types of ammunition you can get

So, now that the pricing is out of the way, know that target ammo will always be cheaper and most popular guns can handle whatever type of cartridge (brass or steel). As long as you take decent care of your firearms – clean it every so often, but seriously, unless you are in competition, you are likely not shooting enough to need to clean it often. Wipe her off with a cleaning cloth and add a little lube and she’ll likely be fine.  Next step – search “how to clean my XYZ gun” on YouTube or take it to a gunsmith to help if you really feel the need. I have found that using steel case ammo runs a little dirtier but works just fine. Unless it is sooo much cheaper, I’d stick with brass.

Target ammo, as noted in my private or group sessions is also commonly known as ball ammo or full metal jacket (FMJ) so you will likely see FMJ on the box. It is meant to stay together, the lead projectile (the tip) exits your chamber and down the range into and through the paper, and likely in one piece.

New or Remanufactured

So, you get brand new ammo or reload, also called remanufactured (reman). Again, most reman ammo has been fine as long as your gun is somewhat clean. I have ordered both kinds and sure, there may be the occasional light primer strike or low powder but in target practice or local matches, usually isn’t an issue. The issues are usually with squibs if you aren’t familiar so I’d suggest searching that so you know what to look for. But again, on those, not as often as you would imagine, especially when buying from companies who mass manufacture.  However, during the plandemic when there was a big shortage and folks were buying ammo left and right (from the left too) just to have it, including the govt to grab it up, some of those mass manufacturers were turning out less than quality work.  So, helps to check out the reviews to be sure you are getting quality stuff, and during that time.

Round or Flat nose

WTF does a nose have to do with bullets? Lol Just kidding, that is the tip of the projectile and usually is a curved/round nose or has a flat nose, it looks like someone cut the tip off.  Either one is fine and likely will work without issues for your standard firearms. If you ever have issues with the bullets feeding into the chamber, knowing what kind of ammo you are using may be a factor.  Keep in mind what tends to jam and when, and again, something to remember but both will likely work.


Then we have the grain and I won’t get into this, but feel free to search for that as well.  But the typical and lowest cost target ammo is 115 grain. I have been known to purchase 135 but more often 147 for competition. Again, all work well.

Self-Defense ammo

This is use for… just what it says, to protect yourself. This is what you should use in your carry firearms as well as your bed side type pistols.  Hollow point or similar self-defense ammo are meant to splinter upon impact and “stick” with the person you initially shot at. The hope is that it doesn’t continue through that person and onto something else but “rolls around” in that person causing as much damage allowing you to be able to get away, call the police and to safety.

This ammo is usually double the cost and likely marked as such on the box – self-defense, hollow point or the like.

Where to go onlineCheck out the search criteria you can use on AmmoSeek

Okay, you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging on where to start with buying ammo online, so here ya go. I started on AmmoSeek.com, used their search criteria to slim down the choices and then selected low – medium shipping prices so I don’t have to pay a ton for that.

After buying ammo at a few of the locations from Ammo Seek found that getting added to an email list often gives me those shipping discounts or reminders when ammo is back in stock, or those free ammo cans I mentioned.  Lax Ammo was one of them. Orr Tactical is a local ammo supplier and I had a bad experience with them once, and they are a little more expensive, but better than buying a box here or there at the sporting goods store. They are located in Needville and they sponsor some local shooters (IDPA and USPSA) and are veteran owned which is awesome, so you can always connect up with them to get some from them. Now, their website sucks, doesn’t have an SSL certificate and they don’t have prices online but nice people.

Hopefully these tips have helped you in your understanding of buying ammo and you will get yourself stocked with 500-1000 rounds to get you to the range monthly for a good year or so. Don’t forget to pick up a box or two of self-defense ammo.

And then, for the love of all things – PRACTICE. Shooting is a perishable skill. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

Don’t forget to Dry Fire

Dry fire is doing ALL of the things that you do at the range, but without the bang, without the live ammunition.  Laser Ammo is a great tool to help you get those repetitions in and I’d be happy to help you pick out what will work for you and your needs. The link to Laser Ammo above goes to the laser cartridge and the reactive target pair, which I highly recommend and a great starting place.

So, how can I help? If you need training, picking out a gun, need to get some tools to practice more, and better. Let me know.