How Much Does Ammo Cost?

Let’s face it, the prices of ammunition have been rising significantly recently. In addition, we’ve had to face extreme shortages of ammunition due to the COVID pandemic that has created supply disruptions

A couple of factors determine the cost of ammunition, namely.

  • Caliber
  • Type
  • Manufacturer
  • Availability of ammunition

Ammunition prices range from $0.08 for a 22LR round to $3 for a .50 caliber round. When you reuse your ammunition casings, the price of the ammunition falls considerably.

In my post, I will take a deeper look into the various factors that affect ammunition price.

How Much Does Ammo Cost

Average Ammunition Prices

The table below lists the average ammo prices for some of the most common ammunition types in January 2022.

Ammunition TypeAmmunition ClassAverage Price (Per round)
9mmHandgun$0.30
22LRHandgun$0.08
22WMRHandgun$0.31
357 MagnumHandgun$0.66
40 S&WHandgun0.36
5.7x28mmHandgun$0.8
10mm AutoHandgun$0.64
45 ACPHandgun$0.38
5.56 NATORifle$0.47
223 RemmingtonRifle$0.43
22LRRifle0.08
243 WinRifle$1.46
5.45×39Rifle$0.36
308 WinRifle$0.62
7.62×39Rifle$0.49
7.62x54RRifle$0.64

How Much Does Ammunition Cost?

A modern ammunition round consists of the following components:

  • The bullet, also known as the projectile
  • The cartridge case, which holds all the individual components together
  • The propellant, which is either smokeless powder or black powder
  • The rim allows the cartridge to be extracted from the barrel once fired.
  • The primer burns and ignites the propellant inside the cartridge.

I will look at two of these components to give you an idea of how the materials used for manufacturing these components affect the price of ammunition.

Bullet Composition Versus Cost

Bullet Composition Versus Cost

The typical projectile of the cartridge is traditionally manufactured from lead due to its low cost of production and malleability. At the time of this article, the cost price of lead per pound is $0.83. A metric ton of lead costs about $2,274.

It is worth noting that lead prices per ton have increased significantly over the last few years. Between January 2018 to January 2022, lead has seen a price increase of 10.76%.

Sometimes, a harder metal such as copper is used at the base of the lead projectile to reduce the lead deposits that accumulate on the projectile. The lead core of the projectile is sometimes encased within a layer of steel, copper alloys, gilding metal, or cupronickel; this is commonly referred to as jacketing.

Other metal alloys such as bismuth and Tungsten are used to replace lead which is safer and less toxic to the environment. Tungsten is considered one of the strongest metals and very costly metal.

Tungsten doesn’t occur in a natural metallic state; instead, it is found within other iron ores like scheelite and wolfram. About 85% of Tungsten originates from China, and Russia also produces about 3,600 tons of metal. An ounce of Tungsten costs about $3.25.

Cartridge Composition Versus Cost

The cartridge casing holds the projectile either at the front of the cartridge or inside the cartridge, as in the case of shotshells. The cartridge’s casing gives the bullet its shape and acts as a container to the propellant. In addition, this serves as a protective layer against the outside elements.

Historically, cartridges were manufactured with paper; however, the casings are manufactured from metal and alloys in modern times. The most popular metal used in manufacturing cartridge casings is copper due to its corrosion resistance.

Sometimes in plinking rounds, steel casings are used instead. About ten years ago, a pound of copper would have cost $1.37. A pound of copper today costs $4.50 per pound.

Ammo Caliber Versus Cost

When we refer to caliber, we generally refer to the diameter of the barrel of your firearm. Simply put, the bullet is the object that will hit your target. The bullet is only the metal projectile that travels through the barrel, while the whole unit is the cartridge itself. The rest of the ammo only aids the bullet/projectile reach its target.

A 308 caliber has a diameter of 0.308 inches or 7.82mm, and the average cost for a .308 caliber round is about $0.62.

A larger caliber round, such as a .50 caliber used on an M2, M3, and M85 machine gun, would cost around $3 a round. You will find these bullets in packs of 50 to 100 rounds. A 50-caliber is an armor-piercing round used on military sniper rifles.

A .700 Nitro Express (17.8x89mm) caliber round, such as the one used on an H & H 700 Nitro Express Rifle, will set you back about $80 to $120 for a single round, not a box! This large-caliber ammunition is only used for large game hunting. So always keep in mind that the bigger the caliber, the more expensive it is.

Bullet Types And Cost Per Round

The next factor that we should consider when thinking about the cost of ammunition is the bullet type. There are four different ammunition types that we should be aware of. These are:

Soft Point – A Soft point bullet (SP) is an expanding jacketed bullet made of soft metalcore. A stronger metal jacket covers the core left exposed at the front tip. A Soft point round will cost you in the region of $1.30.

Armor Piercing – An armor-piercing (AP) round has an alloy core that is not always made from lead. These bullets are meant to pierce through thick armor. An armor-piercing round of ammunition will cost you around $10.

Boat Tail – A Boat Tail (BT) bullet tapers around the base of the cartridge that allows the projectile to remain stabilized when it is fired. The cost per round of BT is $4.26.

Boat Tail Hollow Point – A Boat Tail Hollow (BTHP) point is a mix of the hollow point and the boat tail. A round of BTHP would cost you about $3.50.

Another aspect when considering the cost and type of ammunition is choosing between Rimfire and Centerfire ammunition. In a Rimfire rifle, the rim of the cartridge is struck to ignite the primer.

With a Centrefire rifle/gun, the center of the cartridge is struck by the firing pin, igniting the primer. Rimfire cartridges are the least expensive rounds, costing only a few cents per round.

Availability Of Ammunition Versus Cost

Since the COVID pandemic in 2020, ammo prices have been going up, and American gun owners have faced ammunition shortages.

Disruptions in the supply of ammunition have been faced worldwide, as manufacturers and retailers had to deal with instances of lockdown and import/export restrictions.

As a result, this has affected gun-owners and local gun shops who have had to live with shortages across all ammunition ranges. And, when there was ammunition available, they had almost doubled in price!

This caused a ripple effect, and hunters had to accept insufficient ammunition, or they had to pay exorbitant prices for ammo which they could get at a few cents only months back.

Notably, though, as the effects of the pandemic are gradually weaning away, we are starting to see ammunition prices slowly return to normal. Manufacturers have their employees returning to work, and import/export restrictions are lifted in some countries.

Supply and demand market forces are possibly critical factors that determine the availability and price of ammunition. When suppliers return to their regular production schedules, we will see a total return to average ammunition prices.

How Much Does Handgun Ammunition Cost

How Much Does Handgun Ammunition Cost?

The table above lists the average prices for the most common types of handgun ammunition. These are the latest average prices as of January 2022.

Ammunition TypeAverage Price (Per round)
9mm$0.30
22LR$0.08
22WMR$0.31
357 Magnum$0.66
40 S&W0.36
5.7x28mm$0.80
10mm Auto$0.64
45 ACP$0.38
380 ACP$0.37

Looking at the average prices for each of these handgun ammo over the last twelve months, we can see how ammunition prices have settled down after peaking twelve months ago.

What Kind Of Ammo Does My Handgun Use?

Before we explain the different types of Ammos for handguns, I feel that it is necessary to list the types of handguns that are available.

There are only two main types of handguns available, namely semi-automatic pistols and a revolver. A semi-automatic pistol is a handgun that has a single chamber and barrel. The pistol will fire a chambered round, extract and eject the empty casing, and load a new round into the chamber for every pull on the trigger.

A revolver is another handgun that contains a revolving cylinder of between five to nine chambers. The revolver’s cylinder would revolve on its axis to align each round sequentially with the barrel. A revolver is sometimes referred to as a six-shooter.

The revolver’s cylinder stores the ammunition and allows it to fire multiple times before having to reload. On the other hand, semi-automatic pistol stores each round in a magazine built into the handgrip.

A semi-automatic pistol can hold up to fifteen rounds of ammunition in the magazine, and some can even hold up to twenty-three rounds of ammo! In the semi-automatic pistol type, you will find three varying sizes of handguns, namely full-sized, compact, and sub-compact.

The Most Popular Semi-Automatic Ammunition Calibers

I’ve listed below some of the most popular calibers of handgun ammunition and an explanation of each. Refer to the table above for the respective pricing of each of these ammo calibers.

22LR

The .22LR or Long Rifle rimfire cartridge is often used for training and sports shooting. These rounds are used both for Rifle rounds and some handgun types. The caliber of the .22LR is perfect for first-time gun owners.

380 ACP

The 380 ACP or Automatic Colt Pistol is also commonly known as the “three-eighty” and is a common choice for small handguns.

9mm

The 9mm caliber round is probably the most widely known and common caliber used worldwide.

40 S&W

The 40 Smith and Wesson is larger than the 9mm and a lot slower.

45 Auto

A 45 Auto round is larger and slower than a .40 caliber round but with more recoil.

45 GAP

45 GAP or “Glock Automatic Pistol” equals the .45 Auto in firepower but is somewhat shorter, making it easier to fit into a compact semi-automatic pistol.

10mm

The 10mm round has a longer range than the 45 Auto and is faster

357 Magnum

A 357 Auto round is longer than the 40 calibers and is known for its stopping power and accuracy.

How Much Does Rifle Ammunition Cost?

In the table below, you will have an indication of the average price per round for each of the ammunition types for your Rifle.

Ammunition TypeAverage Price
5.56 NATO$0.47
223 Remmington$0.43
22LR0.08
243 Win$1.46
5.45×39$0.36
308 Win$0.62
7.62×39$0.49
7.62x54R$0.64

If you are getting into Rifles, you start talking about firearms like an AR-15 Assault Rifle, Ak-47s, and Bolt-action and Lever-action Rifles.

With these rifle types, you’re looking at larger caliber ammunition, and therefore the prices for these rounds can get a little expensive.

Conclusion

It is evident from the points mentioned above that several factors influence the cost of ammunition, ranging from the composition of the casing, the projectile, and the type of bullet. We’ve also seen prices escalate drastically due to the COVID pandemic in 2020 and how the supply of ammunition was affected as a result.

With escalating prices in the metal alloys that make up the cartridge and the core for bullets, it remains to be seen whether the ammunition prices will start to normalize.

When the demand for ammo increases once again, ammunition manufacturers will start mass-producing and, therefore, begin to flood the market, causing the prices for ammunition to drop.

As gun owners, we need to be patient and try conserving our ammunition and not be wasteful. When we can help others, we should do so if we have excess ammunition to spare.