We’re a bunch of gun geeks around here – but sometimes we put more emphasis on the word “geek” than gun… like today. We’ve gone ahead and used some of the ammo we’ve collected recently and created some crazy cool visuals. We originally set out to create these visuals in order to answer a simple question:
“How much should I pay for ammunition?”
As I’m sure you are aware, this IS NOT a simple question because there are a ton of factors that play into the equation, such as caliber, purpose, grade, order size, shipping costs, etc. For our purposes, we wanted to know what is a FAIR market price to charge for ammunition in our subscription service. To us, a fair price was one that was comparable to what our customers would get for bulk orders from reputable online retailers.
That seemed simple enough. Yet, when we dug further into the data we faced another dilemma unique to our business model – what brands and retailers do you use as a yardstick? In a typical retail business model, you will have a very specific caliber, brand, bullet weight combination. In our business, we aggregate certain brands into “ammunition grades” and need to figure out a fair price for particular calibers for that ammo grade.
That is what we set out to do – starting with 9mm.
So, long story short, we’ll walk you through a set of visuals that we came up with to help answer that question (plus a few extras we just thought were cool). To do this, we used a dataset of 2,125 price points across a variety of retailers, manufacture and grades – all for 9mm. We cleaned up the data, pulled out some of the irrelevant information, and grouped it into one of our four ammo quality grades (A – Self Defense / Hunting, B – Match Grade, C – Service Grade, D – Value Grade) and set about analyzing what we had.
Here is our first visual that shows the manufacturers that are contained in each of our four grades so you have a sense of what brands we’ve categorized into each. The duplicate brands involve different product lines for the same brand. For example, Federal American Eagle will be in our Service Grade grouping but Federal HST and Guard Dog will be in the Self Defense group. Keep in mind, these are only for 9mm and are not exhaustive (we didn’t include every round on the market – just those we’ve placed in our four ammo grades).
Here is the same data but showing bullet weights:
Notice the popularity of 115 grain bullets in Service Grade and Value Grade, while Match and Self Defense include a more balanced variety of different bullet weights.
Here is another way of showing that same Manufacturer Brand / Ammo Grade data we saw in the first chart:
Now it’s time to stop fooling around with colorful charts and answer the question we posed at the start of this project: “How much should I pay for ammunition?”. To answer that we took our entire dataset of 2,125 price points for 9mm and mapped them out based on grade and manufacturer.
First, we placed all of them on the same chart grouped by our Ammo Quality Grade classification to give some perspective. The scale on the bottom is the price per round.
We had to cut off the rest of the chart because Self Defense rounds extended out to $2.4o per round! As you can see the results are interesting but as you would probably expect – Value Grade is the cheapest starting around $0.16-$0.18 per round and extending until $0.25 to $0.30 a round, with Service Grade quality first seen at around $0.20 and extending upward until dropping off around $0.40 a round. There is a mix of ammo from the $0.40 to $0.60 a round range then Match Grade kicks in with Self Defense Grade shortly behind.
Now we get to the good stuff… we’ll dive down a level and look at each grade individually and map out the various manufacturers by price points:
Here is more detail on our Value Grade:
This is a good graphic because it shows clearly the various manufacturers at each price point. For example, steel-cased Pobjeda / MaxxTech (same company) from Bosnia are battling for the cheapest with Tula. While Sumbro is should be re-reviewed and probably removed from this list because they are brass cased and higher-priced ammo made in Macedonia. What is also interesting here is the three Russian brands: Barnaul, Wolf, and Tula, and their very large share of this chart. To be perfectly honest, in the Value Grade we prefer CCI Blazer with its aluminum case and the fact that it is made in Lewiston, Idaho just 5 hours north of us.
So what is a good price to pay per round for Value Grade ammunition? Looking at this chart (and all the following charts) two things have to be taken into consideration: 1) this is bulk pricing for case ammunition of 1000 rounds or more AND 2) shipping costs aren’t included in these prices, this will add an additional 2.5 to 3.5 cents per round to the numbers listed above. The absolute cheapest price isn’t always as good as it looks on paper due to the fact that the retailer may be questionable or there could be excess shipping involved, you could also never get your order filled – it just pays to check it out. So IN GENERAL, if we were buying retail, we wouldn’t look at the absolute cheapest, but instead at a price just under the average and then expect to add $0.025 to $0.035 per round for shipping. So, in this dataset, the MEDIAN is exactly $0.22 and the AVERAGE is $0.2219. So back it off 2 to 3 cents and a retail price of 19 to 20 cents per round would seem to be a FAIR bulk price to pay before shipping for brands in the Value Grade category today.
So now that question is answered for Value Grade Ammunition. Next, we’ll walk through the Service Grade category….