Ammo Prices Cheaper Than 25 Years Ago!

“The ammo I want costs how much now? I’m not paying that!”

It’s a refrain heard constantly in every gun shop in the country these days. For the last several years, ammo prices had been rising. Much of it was wartime demand due to combat deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Huge construction surges in other countries, notably China, had consumed an escalated share of critical raw material for ammunition, driving prices up worldwide. Plus, there are other international factors that are affecting the cost of raw materials.

Then, the May 2011 price hike hit.

Despite the dismay over ammo costs, the price of ammunition hasn’t increased that much and, in some cases, has actually gone down.

1986 Vs. Mid-2011

In 1986, Gun Digest listed manufacturers’ suggested retail prices for small arms ammunition. That’s no longer their practice, so for comparison, I did some price checking at a couple of local gun shops. The results were fascinating. All listings are for 50-round boxes.

In 1986, .45 ACP 185-gr. JHP listed at $26.05 for 50 rounds; .45 ACP 230-gr. FMJ was not listed, but wouldn’t have been much less. In June of 2011, comparable generic 230-gr. JHP (Winchester white box) in this caliber is running in the low $30 range at one store, and 230-gr. aluminum case Blazer hardball is available for $23.95 at another.

In 1986, MSRP for a box of 158-gr. lead round nose practice ammo in .38 Special was $17.10. Today, the rough equivalent — Sellier & Bellot 158-gr. .38 Special full metal jacket — is $20.50 per same-size box, while PMC 132-gr. full metal jacket is only $18.99, and Speer Lawman 158-gr. flat-nose +P FMJ is $20.99 — a pretty insignificant price increase over a quarter of a century.

Twenty-five years ago, .44 Magnum cartridges were running in the $30 per box range, according to Gun Digest. Today, I was quoted a same-count box of 240-gr. Blazer .44 Magnum jacketed soft point for $37.95. That’s a negligible increase, even allowing for the fact that aluminum Blazer cases aren’t reloadable.

Gun Digest 1986 listed 158-gr. jacketed soft point (JSP) .357 Magnum ammunition at $23.80 a box. In mid-2011, I found American Eagle 158-gr. JSP for $27.95. An increase of $4.15 over a quarter century — slightly less than 17 cents per year. Given the rate of inflation, that’s pretty nice pricing.
What’s Cheaper Now

And here’s the best for last: the 9mm Luger, perhaps the most popular centerfire handgun cartridge in the self-defense market today. In 1986, a box of 115-gr. jacketed hollowpoint 9mm cost $22.50. Today, I found a box of Remington-UMC 115-gr. JHP for sale at a local gun shop for $21.99 per box. That box was green and white instead of green and yellow, and it said “Remington-UMC” instead of just “Remington,” but it was the identical bullet at the identical velocity. The price had actually gone down 51 cents!
Gun Digest 1986 listed 115-gr. and 124-gr. full metal jacket 9mm Luger practice ammo at the same $22.50 per box. Today, I was able to find 115-gr. FMJ Blazer at $12.50, barely more than half the dollar figure of 1986. PMC in the same configuration was $12.99 a box — still far below 1986 MSRP. And that’s before taking into account the lower purchasing power of today’s dollar!

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August 2011

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