It’s almost impossible to find reasonably priced ammo online or in stores these days. You may have heard that a gun show is a great place to pick up some ammo, but is this actually true?
Generally, gun show ammo prices will save you money over buying ammo in the store or online, but prices can vary wildly depending on the gun show. Buying ammo online is easier; simply order, pay, and have it shipped. Whereas it’s often necessary to hunt down certain ammo and haggle for a good deal at a gun show.
In this article, I’ll compare average gun and ammo prices from gun shows (based on averages and online sources) versus online stores. I’ll also share some relevant info on the legal implications of buying guns and ammo.
Gun Show Gun/Ammo Prices
Gun and ammo prices at a gun show will always be something of a crapshoot. In smaller shows, there’s less competition and, therefore, little incentive to lower prices or haggle. On the flip side, big gun shows are awesome places to score deals because there’s tons of competition.
The best way to get a deal at a gun show is to check if vendors offer. There’s less competition in smaller shows and ammo in bulk. Generally, you’ll get a better price per round (PPR) buying in bulk than you would in boxes of 50 rounds. Boxes of 200 and more will generally be cheaper per round.
It’s difficult to determine if prices are fair because you need to get your money’s worth; that’s assuming a ticket purchase is needed to get in most gun shows. Not to mention, prices vary based on myriad factors you can’t foresee, and honestly, it’s tricky to know what’s fair at any given time.
For this section, I’ll be using prices from Everyday Carry Concealed, which broke down ammo and gun prices based on a local gun show.
- Glock Model 17 (9mm, three magazines included): $539
- Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M.20 (9mm): $349
- Walther PPS M2 (9mm): $379
- 500 Remington 115gr 9mm rounds: $88.99
- 500 Winchester Service Grade 115gr 9mm rounds: $89.99
- 1000 Remington Range 115gr 9mm Luger rounds: $175
Now, let’s break those down by PPR:
- Remington 115gr 9mm rounds: $0.17 per round
- Winchester Service Grade 115gr 9mm rounds: $0.18 per round
- Remington Range 115gr 9mm Luger rounds: $0.17 per round
Those are pretty good prices! But keep in mind that not every gun show will have these exact types and prices on offer. You must go and look for yourself–not to mention negotiate or haggle with vendors if their prices are too high for your taste.
Online Gun/Ammo Prices
Online stores have wildly varying prices, and that’s not even counting the sales offered throughout the year. Holiday sales on ammo are common for gun enthusiasts and hunters, making it a great time to buy guns and ammo considerably cheaper than they would otherwise be.
For this section, I’ll be comparing prices on guns and ammo as listed on the Palmetto State Armory (My recommended vendor) and ammo prices from Academy Sports + Outdoors. Items listed might not be exactly the same, but they’re as close as possible for comparative purposes.
- 500 Remington 115gr 9mm rounds: $200
- 200 Winchester Service Grade 115gr 9mm rounds: $69.99
- 250 Remington Range 115gr 9mm Luger rounds: $94.99
Now let’s break those prices down by round and compare them with the gun show prices to see where you can get a better deal and save money:
- Remington 115gr 9mm rounds: $0.40 per round
- Winchester Service Grade 115gr 9mm rounds: $0.35 per round
- Remington Range 115gr 9mm Luger rounds: $0.38 per round
Potential Savings at a Gun Show
According to the previous sections, gun show guns are cheaper than those sold online. Just as important, ammo is generally cheaper per round. Let’s make a direct comparison of those numbers again just to get an idea of the savings.
|Gun Model||Online Price||Gun Show Price||Gun Show Savings|
|Glock Model 17 (9mm)||$700||$539||$161|
|Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M.20 (9mm)||$550||$349||$201|
|Walther PPS M2 (9mm)||$430||$379||$51|
Indeed, those are significant savings! Next, let’s check out the per-round savings on the ammo I was talking about.
|Ammo Type||Online Price (per round)||Gun Show Price (per round)||Gun Show Savings (per round)|
|Remington 115gr 9mm rounds||$0.40||$0.17||$0.23|
|Winchester Service Grade 115gr 9mm rounds||$0.35||$0.18||$0.17|
|Remington Range 115gr 9mm Luger rounds||$0.38||$0.17||$0.21|
As you can see, ammo is significantly cheaper at a gun show on average: almost twice as cheap! For those universally inclined to hunt down the best deal possible, this makes it a great idea to hit up local gun shows and hunt down ammo.
Gun Laws & Gun Shows
As with any commodity, ammo prices tend to vary depending on the locale. And while few regulatory differences exist between most states regarding selling ammunition, a handful of states, including California and a few others, have some requirements that make buying guns relatively difficult. Because of this, prices may be higher when buying in California.
Other states with strict gun laws include:
- New Jersey
MA, for example, requires prospective gun owners to apply for a permit at their local police department. This typically entails an interview, paperwork, and background check; in the end, the process may take weeks to complete.
While no hard and fast rules have been determined, it’s very likely that scarcity due to strong gun laws can drive prices up in some states. By contrast, the states with lax gun laws tend to sell the most guns. Regardless of location, it’s always a good idea to know the locale and average prices before going into any gun show. This prevents you from potentially being taken advantage of and ensures you get a fair price.
Gun Show Legal Implications & Requirements
Guns are a protected right under the 2nd Amendment, but there are differences throughout the country in how they’re regulated. The most universal requirements are ID and background checks.
What Do You Need To Buy a Gun or Ammo at a Gun Show?
You need to show a valid state-issued ID or driver’s license to buy a gun or ammo at a gun show. An out-of-state ID also requires paperwork to prove the address printed on the ID is, in fact, your residence; Utility bills, leases, and bank statements usually satisfy this requirement.
Of course, buying a gun isn’t as simple as flashing an ID, because in most cases, a background check is required before you can walk out with your gun and/or ammo. And depending on the state, there may be exceptions, as well.
One exception to this rule is called the ‘gun show loophole,’ as described by the City of Houston, TX in a memo. This loophole allows private citizens at gun shows to effectively bypass having a background check done by buying or selling with people that don’t have a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
An example of this may happen as follows: Two enthusiasts attending a gun show strike up a conversation. One of them is often searching for something specific, or perhaps is trying to get rid of a gun for cheap because they need money. Regardless of the reason, they can then leave, usually to the parking lot, and make a transaction.
How often or even if this occurs is hotly debated; Gun control advocates insist it’s a method of bypassing gun laws, while gun advocates claim it doesn’t occur. As with many things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
California is somewhat of an unusual case since they’ve passed legislation that makes it relatively difficult to buy guns or ammo. As of 2019, gun show sellers in California must perform an ‘eligibility check’ on prospective buyers and report ammo sales and thefts to the California Department of Justice.
Once a buyer gets a certificate of eligibility from one seller, the same certificate is valid to buy ammo at other vendors.
How To Sell Ammo at a Gun Show
Depending on what kind you have, it’s possible to sell ammo at a gun show. ‘Handloads’ or ‘reloaded’ ammo you made yourself cannot be sold at a gun show or anywhere else unless you have an FFL and a license to manufacture ammo.
Individuals can sell factory standard ammo that hasn’t been tampered with at a gun show.
Here’s how to sell ammo at a gun show:
- Set yourself up as a business (LLC is the easiest)
- Get an FFL
- Collect sales tax
Of course, all these steps are required only if you intend to make selling ammo a ‘primary source of income.’
If you don’t intend on making it a business and just want to sell off some extra ammo you have, renting a table at a gun show to sell is perfectly fine in most parts of the country. Typically, you won’t even require an FFL. Unless your local jurisdiction requires some kind of special paperwork to do so, you’re in the clear.
Helpful Gun Show Tips
If you’re new to the world of gun shows, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re walking into. As the popular adage goes, proper preparation prevents poor performance. With that said, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most out of your gun show experience and walk away satisfied.
Practice Proper Safety & Etiquette
It should go without saying, but safety is of the utmost importance when you’re surrounded by guns. Always follow the four golden rules of gun safety to help protect you and your fellow gun show patrons.
The four rules are:
- Always assume a gun is loaded.
- Never point a gun at something unless you are willing to shoot it.
- Don’t touch the trigger until your sights are on target.
- Know what is in front of, behind, and around your target.
Gun show vendors worth their salt will keep their guns unloaded and ready to be dry-fired, but you should always double-check yourself before dry-firing a gun.
Proper etiquette dictates you should be courteous, not butt in on conversations, and wait your turn.
Do Your Research
If you walk into a gun show uneducated about what you want, average prices, and what to look for, you can get taken advantage of pretty easily. It sucks to say, but unscrupulous vendors are out there, and if you appear clueless, you can get taken for a ride very quickly.
Do your research on what you’re interested in before you go to a gun show, so you at least have an idea of what you’re looking at.
Furthermore, it’s better to simply not look at any guns or ammo that you know little about to avoid being taken advantage of in any way. Unless you have a trusted friend with you that knows their stuff and can offer assistance, it’s best to stay focused on your goal.
Stick to a Dollar Amount
While this should be common sense and applies to most cash-only situations, it’s worth mentioning. When shopping for ammo at a gun show, it’s best not to bring more money than you’re comfortable with spending or losing. Refrain from flashing around large amounts of money, and don’t pull money into the open unless you’ve settled on a price with a vendor.
Ammo can be hard to find, and while online shopping offers some convenience, most prices are commonly marked up well above the average retail price. Still, there’s no physical searching or negotiating involved in online transactions, which may appeal to some people. However, if you’re up for the task, gun shows are a great alternative to find ammo on the cheap.
For more, check out How Much Does Ammo Cost? | Detailed Price Analysis.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!