As prices increase, many shooters are looking for ways to take the bite out of their shooting budget. Here are ten tips to help:
Take the bite out of your shooting budget:
If you are like most, you did not buy nearly enough ammo over the past few years. Most of us told ourselves that our budgets just couldn’t be stretched any farther. So our ammunition reserves either dwindled or stayed static despite knowing that prices were rising. Boy are we sorry now! Anyone who was not paying attention had a severe dose of sticker shock when hunting season arrived, and it is just getting worse. This is not an “I told you so” piece despite my advice to stock up on ammo in articles from late 2006 and early 2007. This is a warning about what is coming next and what you can do about it. It is too late to buy cheap ammo. You will never see brass cased, Boxer-primed 308 of good quality for under $200 per thousand again. You will never again see even steel cased 7.62×39 to feed your $99 SKS for $99 per thousand. You will never again see 9mm Luger (Parabellum) for $12 per 100. Not only has the price of factory loaded ammunition soared, the price of reloading components have begun to climb as well. What can you do? Here are 10 steps you can take to offset some of the financial bite in your shooting budget.
#1) Shop wisely – use the Internet and toll free phone numbers to research current prices and comparison shop. Information is power; use it to your advantage. Some sites raise prices more slowly than others. Some include shipping in their prices. Be sure that you are matching apples to apples when comparing prices and factor every penny including shipping and sales taxes when you are making mail order purchases.
#2) Watch for retail bargains at local stores. If your local gun shop or back country general store has an odd box of cartridges or shotgun shells with a five year old price sticker on it. Buy it. The price of ammo has literally doubled in the last five years. Even those last few dusty corners will be cleaned out soon. If you can take advantage of a ‘first in last out’ inventory system, do it before someone else does. Every once in awhile the larger stores like Dick’s and Wal-Mart will run ammunition sales with discounts on case quantities that still seem reasonable. If you see a good sale, stock up! [JWR Adds: Also look for ammo that might still be available pre-inflated prices at on table of private sellers at gun shows. When you do find a bargain, be sure to ask "Do you have any more of this elsewhere?" Look for ammo at garage sales, and estate sales. It might even be worthwhile to place a "want to buy" ad if there are free or low-cost classified ads in your area.]
#3) Roll your own. Reloading has long been a means of saving a few dollars as well as improving the quality of loads tweaked for your rifle. Despite the recent increase in the cost of reloading components, you will still pay less for ammo you load yourself than for off the shelf factory loaded ammunition. The price of reloading components and equipment have begun to climb as the cost for materials and interest in reloading have increased. The prices will climb higher. So now is the time to buy. If you shoot on a regular basis, your savings from reloaded ammo quickly offset the investment in reloading equipment. This is especially true if you pick up a used press. Classified ads and estate sales are the places for buying reloading equipment. A good quality press like the RCBS Rockchucker can frequently be found for less than 50% of the retail price for a new press and will have several decades of hard use left in it. I recommend that you start watching for used reloading gear.
#4) Buy used. Not only can firearms and reloading tools be found at bargain prices, many an old hunter was an avid reloader who left behind a bench full of components when he met the Lord. I’ll happily pay for partial boxes of projectiles, primers, or powder (in the original containers) and make use of those components building my own loads. If you happen to run across full or even partial boxes of factory loaded ammunition at gun shows, garage sales, or auctions you may be able to get it at a fraction of the retail cost as well. But use caution. Never, ever shoot reloaded ammunition of unknown quality. You are literally gambling your life if you shoot someone else’s reloads. There are very few people who I trust my life to. I am just not willing to pull a trigger on a cartridge that might be unsafely loaded.
#5) Stock up! It is too late to get the bargains that were available a few years ago. But it is not too late to stock up before further price increases, taxes, tariffs, and out right import bans. Despite the current market price: buy primers, projectiles, and powder while it is still legal and anonymous to do so. A day is coming when you will need a permit to buy powder. I think it will be within our lifetime. Buy 22 rim-fire cartridges. You can’t reload them, so stock up on them for you and for the next generation. It is prudent to stock up on anything that you use regularly, even without waiting for a sale discount. With inflation at over 10%, “investing” in assets like food and ammo has a better return than the stock market. Plan ahead. Don’t buy just for this weekend or this season. That is the thinking that got you wishing that you had more ammo on hand. Prices are going to continue to climb. Buying in bulk now will generate savings over the long term.
#6) Make your shots count. "Spray and pray" is neither tactically nor economically sound. Make your plinking sessions count. Aim every shot carefully. When testing new reloading recipes, test small batches for signs of pressure and accuracy. Try three or five round test batches instead of ten or twenty round batches. The same is true for sighting in a new scope or a new rifle. Check the target every second shot instead of after each full magazine.
#7) Retool. If your chief reason to plink is for backyard entertainment, consider swapping out of centerfire ammunition to 22 rimfire or even a low cost pellet rifle. Another option is the kits that convert your rifle or pistol to fire 22 cartridges. Shooting a more economical cartridge may pay for the cost of a [.22 LR] conversion kit or a new 22 rifle in as little as a single weekend’s shooting. By way of example, if you shoot 500 cartridges of 22 long rifle (at three cents each) over the course of a weekend instead of 500 cartridges of 308 (at 53 cents each). You save a whopping $250! Just let that sink in for a moment. Plinking with a 22 instead of a 308 saves two hundred fifty dollars every 500 trigger pulls. Wow! That adds up fast and the savings won’t stop with the first $250. It will continue for every similar shooting session you have in the future.
#8) Make use of your skills. Let your investment in shooting sports generate savings in other budgets. Put meat on the table. Moose, elk, mule deer, white tail, pronghorn, turkey, geese, hares, rabbits, pheasant, duck, partridge, squirrel – all are tasty and every bite on your plate saves money out of your grocery budget – especially if you learn to dress and butcher the game yourself. Besides the financial savings, you’ll have a sense of pride like little else when you know that the freezer is full and you have all the jerky you can eat because your hunts have been successful.
#9) Waste not. With scrap metal selling at or near the all time high, don’t waste the byproducts of your range time. Even if you do not reload your cartridge cases or shell hulls, someone else might be willing to pay for the chance to reload them or as salvage. Keep this in mind when you shoot Berdan primed brass. I have been unable to locate a current US retailer of Berdan primers, but that may change in the future. Even steel and aluminum cartridge cases have value as scrap and of course the lead itself can be reclaimed to smelt and mold into new musket balls, bullets, and shot, as well as being sold as scrap metal. It may seem like more work than it is worth, but remember that the prices are climbing and the sand bank behind your favorite target may already hold several hundred pounds of lead.
#10) Fight back. Be vigilant. Be proactive. Vote against new tariffs, taxes, and bans. Vote against candidates who restrict your freedoms, raise license fees, and create access permits or talk about doing so in the future. Encourage and educate not only your friends, co-workers, and neighbors, but also the next generation so that they will do the same. We may not be able to stop the global forces aligned against our shooting sports but if we work together, we might just slow them down long enough to preserve the sport and keep it affordable for one more generation. – Mr. Yankee