It’s no secret that the price of ammo has gone through the roof lately. It wasn’t too long ago that an afternoon of plinking was reasonably inexpensive. Now, it can often seem like you need to take out a loan just to get have some fun improving your shooting skills.
So, I have compiled this list so that you can make an informed decision on which rounds to invest in so that you don’t break the bank.
Here are the 12 cheapest types of ammo:
|Ammo Type||Approximate Bulk Cost Per Round|
|7.62 x 39||.30|
|12 & 20 Gauge||.34|
|5.45 x 39||.36|
Note: Prices are constantly fluctuating and may be different than above from day to day. The chart is to give you an idea of the relative cost of ammo more than the exact costs.
I recommend buying firearms, ammo, and accessories at a reputable online dealer, like my top pick, Palmetto State Armory. They are well-respected in the community and provide a 100% lifetime warranty on every weapon they sell. Just click here to see their latest inventory.
1. 22 LR
22 LR or .22 Long Rifle caliber is the cheapest ammo you can buy. One 22 LR round costs as little as 8 cents. No wonder this ammo is phenomenally popular throughout the country & the world.
However, the prices are subject to quantity & quality, like most products. The per-round cost is slightly higher if you purchase a box of 50. Still, it is the cheapest option at around a dime per round. You may buy a brick of 500 rounds or a bucket of 1,500 rounds, which brings down the per-round cost to 8 cents.
Also, the 22 LR remained the most affordable type of ammo throughout the recent shortage, when its price had spiked to as much as 34 cents per round. The other types of ammo spiked, too. For instance, the cost of the other favorite, 9mm, had increased to 71 cents per round.
The 22 LR is a versatile caliber, as you can use it on rifles and handguns. Naturally, its production is among the highest in the world, helping keep the prices low and increase availability. Stock availability is a prerequisite for survivalists, too.
The only caliber that is as popular as the 22 LR, if not more, is the 9mm. Currently, the 9mm is the second cheapest type of ammo in the country. A case of 1,000 brings the per-round cost to only 27 cents. Smaller cases may be slightly costlier, but you can still get a round for about 30 cents.
Like many types of ammo, the 9mm comes with a full metal jacket, total synthetic jacket, lead round nose, or jacketed hollow point. Some brands state that their 9mm ammo is subsonic, which means the bullet’s velocity is not as much as the speed of sound. Also, 9mm ammunition has different weights and dimensions. These factors can influence the cost per round or case.
Furthermore, 9mm bullets may be non-lead or lead, and the cartridge casing is nickel-plated brass, only brass, steel, or aluminum. Brass and nickel-plated brass casings are costlier than steel and aluminum cartridges. However, you can reload a brass casing and its plated variant.
3. 22 WMR
The 22 WMR or .22 Winchester Magnum Rifle (WMR) caliber is similar to the rimfire 22 LR or .22, but not identical. 22 WMR is not as affordable as the 22 LR. However, the per round cost can be as low as 30 cents. Also, this variant is not as readily available as the regular 22 Long Rifle ammo.
Besides, you may not need the 22 WMR’s higher muzzle velocity to hunt for small game. The most significant distinction between the Winchester Magnum Rifle caliber and 22 LR is the former’s downrange effects. The higher velocity makes the WMR deadlier beyond 100 yards (91.44 m) than the .22 Long Rifle. What passes as the ideal choice between these two depends on your needs.
The 22 LR is ideal for target practice, short-range self-defense, and hunting small animals. Also, the 22 WMR damages more meat of small animals, which many hunters try to avoid. On the flip side, you may want the WMR if you want to hunt for midsize animals from greater distances.
The 7.62×39 caliber is as affordable as the 22 WMR, with the prices hovering around 30 cents per round. However, this type of ammo witnesses more price volatility than the 22 LR and 9mm. On the positive side, you may find great deals online for smaller cases, such as 20 rounds.
The 7.62×39 is widely considered as reliable and effective ammo for short-range hunting of up to 300 yards (274.32) or so. This caliber is often compared to the 30-30 Winchester due to their nearly identical diameters. However, the two types of ammo are not for the same kind of rifle. Also, a 30-30 Winchester round is around four to five times the cost of a 7.62×39.
5. 223 Rem
The 223 Rem or .223 Remington is another popular pocket-friendly caliber, with prices running as low as 33 cents per round. However, the listed prices can be as high as 50 cents per round, subject to manufacturer and type. For instance, the 5.56 NATO ammo that is similar to 223 Rem is substantially costlier.
Also, the 223 Rem is not interchangeable with the 5.56 NATO ammo. A rifle made for 223 Rem is not designed for high-pressure rounds like the 5.56 NATO. However, a rifle designed for the NATO rounds can use 223 Rem. If you intend to get an AR-15, you must check out the .223.
Those unfamiliar with these calibers should distinguish a 223 Rem from a 223 WSSM. Sometimes, the 223 Rem is referred to as 223 Winchester, depending on which company manufactured the ammo. However, the 223 WSSM is a distinct type of bullet.
The 223 Winchester Super Short Magnum may have the same diameter as that of a 223 Rem, but that’s just about it in terms of similarities. A 223 WSSM round is more expensive and not readily available like the 223 Rem. Additionally, the pressure, muzzle velocity, range, and drop are significantly different.
6. 12 & 20 Gauge
Shotgun shells are available in the range of 10 to 32 gauge, and there is a much smaller .410 bore. The 12 gauge shells are more popular than the others, probably because they’re also the most affordable. Still, the 20 gauge shotgun shells can be just as cheap.
The cost of 12 gauge shells can be as low as 34 cents per round, while that of a 20 gauge shell may be about 35 cents per round. In contrast, all the other gauges are priced at around 60 to 80 cents per round, and many cost more than a dollar for each shell.
Keep in mind that these are the cheapest prices. You may find variants of both gauges manufactured by different companies to be slightly costlier.
The prices of 12 gauge shells remain mostly stable and can even fall below 30 cents at times. Also, both 12 and 20 gauge shells are available in different types, such as birdshot, buckshot, and slug. Last but not least, the 20 gauge is particularly great for reducing recoil on a shotgun.
7. 380 ACP
The 380 ACP is a fitting competitor of the 9mm caliber. Although there is no unanimity about its lethality, many veterans and gun enthusiasts consider the 380 ACP to be more effective for self-defense. So if you’re a survivalist looking for a smaller but lethal alternative to the 9mm, this is a great choice. It’s essentially the same caliber as the 9mm, but smaller by a whisker.
You can get 380 ACP ammo for as little as 34 cents per round. However, this price is usually applicable to bulk purchases (i.e., 1,000 rounds). Like the 22 LR and 9mm, the .380 prices are not volatile. However, smaller packs of 20 rounds or so can cost as much as a dollar per bullet.
8. 40 S&W
40 S&W has similar price tags as the 380 ACP. The cost per round is about 35 cents, but this is only applicable to bulk purchases (1,000 rounds or more).
As is the case with the 380 ACP, the price for smaller packs runs higher, at about 50 cents per round or more. For comparison purposes, the 9mm is cheaper than both一albeit by around a nickel or two.
The 40 S&W caliber can have a full metal jacket, total synthetic jacket, or jacketed hollow point. As you might have guessed, the price you end up paying will depend on which of these attributes your ammo has.
The 5.45×39 caliber costs around 36 cents per round if you buy in bulk一such as 100 or 200 rounds. Opting for a smaller case of 20 rounds may increase the price to about 50 cents per bullet. It’s also noteworthy that this caliber is not as readily available as the 22 LR or the other more popular rifle ammo.
10. 45 ACP
Back to handgun ammo. The 45 ACP or .45 Automatic Colt Pistol is priced from 38 cents per round, but you are likely to pay more than 44 cents per piece. The general pricing trend puts this caliber at over 50 cents per round, regardless of whether you buy a few hundred in a case.
This 45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) or .45 Auto caliber should not be confused with the similarly branded .45 Long Colt, Auto Rim, and other such variants. The 45 Long Colt and the likes of Auto Rim are more powerful and thus costlier, with some priced at over $2 per round.
11. 38 Special
The last handgun ammo on the list is the 38 Special, which is a tad costlier than the 45 ACP. The prices of the .38 Special start from 41 cents per round, but most dealers price it at around 50 cents apiece. Also, some contemporary .38 Special ammo are an Auto variant; not the conventional ones for revolvers.
You may not want the .38 Special for target practice, but the ammo is undoubtedly reliable for self-defense. People have used it in revolvers for more than a century. It’s known for its accuracy, little recoil, and being user-friendly for inexperienced gun owners.
12. 308 Win
The 308 Win or .308 Winchester rifle ammo is popular among hunters. While it’s the most expensive option on this list, it costs much less than many other calibers and variants out there. The cheapest 308 Winchester will cost you around 50 cents per round.
Normally, you may get discounted prices pegged at around 64 cents apiece. However, the cost can shoot northward, and some .308 Win cases of 20 can cost a dollar or more per round.
Fun fact: There is a contemporary military variant of the original 308 Winchester known as 7.62×51 NATO. Be sure to check it out if you need a slightly longer version of the .308 Winchester.
Which Is the Cheapest Caliber Ammo?
The cheapest caliber ammo is the 22 LR or .22 Long Rifle. It’s priced at about 8 cents per round, with a diameter of 0.223 inches (5.6 mm). The pocket-friendly pricing, availability, and compatibility with both handguns and rifles make this caliber one of the most popular ammo.
Note that the minimum cost per round cited here is for the absolutely basic variant of the 22 LR or .22 Long Rifle caliber. Retail prices may be significantly influenced by the materials, casing quality, cartridge, and the size of your purchase (the more you buy, the more you save).
Which Ammo Is Cheapest by Caliber?
Here is the cheapest ammo by caliber:
- 22 LR (5.6 mm)
- 355 (9mm)
- 311 (7.62 x 39 mm)
- 224 (223 Rem – 5.7 mm)
- 12 gauge shotgun shells
- 20 gauge shotgun shells
- 356 (380 ACP or 9mm short)
- 40 S&W (10 mm)
- 221 (5.45 x 39mm)
- 45 ACP (11.43 mm)
- 357 (38 Special, 9+ mm )
- 308 Win (7.62 x 61 mm)
Which Is the Cheapest Gun To Own Based on Ammo?
The cheapest gun to own based on ammo is a rifle or handgun that uses .22 or 22 LR rounds. A 9mm handgun or a rifle that uses 22 WMR or 7.62×39 ammo can also be an affordable option. The cheapest shotguns based on ammo are those that use 12 or 20-gauge birdshot shells.
What Is the Cheapest Rifle Ammo?
The cheapest rifle ammo is .22 or 22 LR, followed by .22 or 22 WMR, 7.62 x 39 mm, 223 Remington, 5.45 x 39 mm, and 308 Winchester. The .22 LR is the most affordable option for target practice, plinking, short-range hunting for small game, and self-defense.
If you’re a survivalist or a first-time gun owner looking for target practice ammunition, consider the .22 or 22 LR. It’s one of the most widely manufactured types of ammo (alongside the 9mm caliber), making it affordable and easy to find.
What Are the Cheapest Shotgun Shells?
The cheapest shotgun shells are 12 gauge and 20 gauge shells. Pricing for both gauges starts from around 35 cents a shot, making them the most affordable among all the other available sizes.
Note that the above price may vary depending on the type of shell you opt for. A birdshot shell is cheaper than buckshot and slug. Similarly, lead is cheaper than steel or copper, meaning shells made of steel or copper are more expensive than those made of lead.
Some shotgun shells also contain plastic parts. Typically, these are the cheapest options, regardless of the gauge.
What Is the Cheapest Handgun Caliber?
The cheapest handgun caliber is the .22 LR. It’s closely followed by 9mm, 22 WMR, 380 ACP, 40 S&W, 38 Special, and 45 ACP一in that order. The 380 ACP and 38 Special are calibers 356 and 357, respectively. Both are slightly different from the traditional 355-caliber 9mm.
The calibers 355, 356, and 357 use 9mm bullets. However, there is a microscopic difference in the diameters of these projectiles.
The 355, or the classic 9mm caliber, is 0.355 inches (9.02mm), whereas its 356 counterpart is 0.356 inches (9.04mm). Meanwhile, the 357 caliber has a diameter of 0.357 inches (9.07mm). Metrically, the 355 caliber or 0.355 is the closest to 0.3543 inches, the 9mm equivalent.
Where To Get the Cheapest Ammo?
The best places to get the cheapest ammo online are:
- Palmetto State Armory
- Sportsman’s Guide
- Caliber Armory
- Recoil Gunworks
- Ammo Shop
- Outdoor Limited
Some of these stores offer free shipping on bulk purchases. However, not all ship to every state, so you have to shop accordingly. Local stores like Battle Hawk Armory have great prices, but for onsite purchases and pickups.
There are other online stores you can check out, too. Palmetto State Armory, for instance, is a reliable store offering generous discounts on many types of ammo. However, it can be hit-and-miss when it comes to pricing. You might get very lucky some days; other days not so much.
Other places you might want to explore include:
- The Castle Arms
- Firearms Depot
- True Shot Gun Club
- Canoe Club USA
- Target Sports USA
- Lucky Gunner
- Primary Arms
- Sportsman’s Warehouse
- Gorilla Ammunition
The market has somewhat recovered from the ammunition shortage triggered by the pandemic, increasing demand, and geopolitical sanctions, among other factors. However, many of the cheapest types of ammo continue to be affordable and will probably remain so in the future.
The above list cites the cheapest & most popular types of ammo based on caliber. However, similar calibers may have different prices depending on availability, the materials used to build the cartridge, availability, among other factors. Read on to learn more about the above 12 options and pretty much everything you need to know about keeping the cost low when shopping for ammo.
Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, 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!