We Shop 7 Gun Stores Seeking Better Prices

Stacks of different calibers and brands of ammunition
Stacks of different calibers and brands of ammunition in Pete's supply cabinet.

I have been watching YouTube videos and reading articles online saying that the ammunition shortage is abating and gun supplies are back.  I decided to check this out myself, so I made a list of the following items I wanted to buy:

  • Premium .22LR rounds, preferably in nickel cases.  I would look for Federal Punch, CCI MiniMags or CCI Stinger rounds.  
  • Any good 9mm FMJ under $16 for a box of 50 rounds and/or a box of Critical Defense 115 grain bullets.
  • .300 Blackout rounds, preferably 110 to 120 grain or 220 grain subsonic.  I don’t want the 150 grain bullets.
  • A takedown Ruger 10/22
  • A lever action .357 carbine, preferably with the tactical set up, meaning black furniture, a rail for an optic, and a rail at the front.  Henry makes a model like this, as do several other companies. 
  • AA1680 and H110 powders

List in hand, I set out to go shopping.

The Stores

This weekend, I visited two local stores, one a pawn shop that does a good firearms business and one a gun and outdoors store.  Neither had much ammo.  The proprietor at one store complained that they were having a hard time getting in hunting ammo, a concern as the days grow shorter.  Both stores had a decent supply of pistols, but not a whole lot of variety on rifles. The gun store had so many shotguns on display I wondered if someone had over-ordered.  

I headed over hill and dale to Interstate 81 and headed South to Charlottesville, Virginia, today.  I had plenty of time to get where I was going, so I stopped at two Rural King stores and three independent gun stores along I81 and I64 looking for some inexpensive ammunition and checking out gun availability. 

Rural King Report

I picked Rural King because one of the guys I watch on YouTube goes there to get good buys.  Both stores had pretty much the same thing: boxes of 50 rounds of Norma .22LR ammo for $8.99.  Then they had a good amount of 5.56 at around $18 to $22 per box of 20.  Probably the best buy was generic looking .308 in white boxes for $14.99.  A wooden case of 1000 rounds of .308 was about $1,060.  I saw very little pistol ammo; 9mm was more than $20 a box.  One store had .45 ACP; the other had some .38s.  Nothing like .357 Sig, .380, 10mm, or other rounds further down the popularity charts were in stock.

I did not see any limits on purchases.  The few brands and calibers of ammo they had, they seemed to have plenty of.   At one store, a fellow behind the counter asked me what I was looking for and I told him .300 blackout.  Both guys shook their heads. All sold out.  “We get it in regular, but it sells out fast, sometimes in half an hour,” one of them told me.

The gun racks and display cases were relatively full, but no lever actions and not much else of interest.  I did buy a big roll of “string” for my weed whacker, so the visits weren’t a total loss.

Independent Gun Stores

The independent gun stores in the middle of Virginia make me jealous.  I wish we had some like that in my area!  I guess that is a downside to living in a small, rural community.

They all had far more ammo than I have seen in other places and a much wider range of calibers.  We’re talking 6.5 Creedmoor, .25-06, 7mm Magnum and other non-NATO calibers, often in multiple brands and bullet weights.  They also had more variety in 5.56, .308 and 9mm.  Again, no 9mm FMJs for less than $20, but they had a good selection of pistol ammo. Was it cheap?  No, but it was available.  These stores also had a good supply of black powder gear.

One store had a limit of six boxes of ammo or one case. Not too bad.

I have to give a shout out to Dominion Outdoors in Fishersville, VA, for having the best selection of guns of any of the seven stores I visited.  They had two of the 10/22 takedown rifles, although not in the black furniture.  They had a very nice selection of Henry rifles, including a tactical model in .45LC for $999.  Oooh, I was tempted, but I decided a while back to stick with the .357 due to wider ammo availability, the fact that I already have reloading dies for it, and because I store both .357 and .38SPL.

Two of the three independent stores had some reloading supplies, although none of them had primers or the powders I wanted.  There were generally a few one-pound bottles of powder and lots of empty slots on their shelves.

At the end of the day I bought no gun related items, which was sad but will probably make my wife happy. At least it broke up my trip.

Common Calibers

I’ve always heard (and repeated) the advice that your prepping gun should be a common caliber, preferably one used by the military or police.  In this case, that proved to be true.   Every store I visited had 9mm, .223/5.56 and .308 ammo.  I didn’t see any 32ACP, .45GAP, .50 S&W, or other less popular pistol calibers.

Do I want to pay $24 for a box of 9mm FMJ training ammo?  No, and I am thankful I don’t have to because I have cases of it in storage.  But if you have a 9mm and another guy has a .357 Sig, you will have greater ammo availability and variety than he does.

Pricing and Availability

The good news is that from what I observed, ammo prices are down from their peak.  The bad news is that everything is at least twice what it cost two years ago.  That’s still a steep increase, but I am pleased with the downward price action.

Firearm availability has also improved.  I thought the $999 for the Henry was a good price, but I felt $489 for the takedown 10/22 Ruger was steep. But what do I know?  I am no expert when it comes to gun prices.  I often shop at gun shows or online, so it is rare for me to walk into a gun store and buy a gun at retail.  Still, the display cases were crowded and the wall racks were full, so I think firearm availability, at least in the middle of Virginia, is back to normal.

My hope is that the Republicans take firm control of the Senate and possibly the House in next year’s election, thereby eliminating the threat of further gun control.  Then we’ll see prices normalize.  Will they return to their Trump-term lows?  Unlikely. I don’t think prices will fully recover, but I think there’s room to drop more.  And when they do?  Stock up.