Inexpensive ammunition is very appealing to shooting sports enthusiasts.
The relatively high cost of ammunition and its high angle trajectory shows no sign of changing anytime soon.
Today we are going to discuss an interesting topic; Is cheaper ammunition really a good buy? There are a few questions that are relevant to the discussion here, to determine that answer:
- What kind of shooting am I doing?
- What kind of target?
- What is my budget?
- What type of gun am I using?
A quick perusal of catalogs and store shelves can give you a good idea of what people buy the most of. There is usually a large amount of what has become known as “plinking ammo“. Plinking ammo refers to its application, inexpensive ammunition that can be bought in large quantities allowing for longer shooting sessions, or at least more of them.
Plinking ammunition typically is used for pistols and carbines, the higher volume capability of these types of firearms is part of the reason people buy them. They shoot lots of inexpensive ammunition, which most of the time equates to more fun and training. This type of shooting usually takes place at relatively short distances, at targets ranging from automated steel plates, right down to improvised things like cardboard boxes. For this kind of shooting, plinking ammo works great.
Accuracy is dictated by the size of your target. If you are shooting pumpkins at two hundred yards, then you have a much larger margin for error than if you are trying to hit prairie dogs at four or five hundred yards. It is important you start out with reasonable expectations, don’t shoot at one or two MOA targets with a three to four MOA rifle. You’ll quickly find yourself spending more ammunition, only to be frustrated with poor results. The same can be said for ammunition, if your three thousand dollar rifle will only shoot 3-4 MOA with cheap ammunition, you are going to be disappointed.
If you intend on a more serious type of shooting, such as competition, or hunting, or some other application, you may find that inexpensive ammunition may not be savings you intended on getting.
Inexpensive ammunition is produced on large-scale production lines, using components that were also mass produced. These processes drive the cost of the ammunition down and the volume up, but it is hard to maintain consistency when mass producing something meant to fly faster than the speed of sound. Quality ammunition is also produced on large scales, the quality of the ammunition depends on the attention paid to its assembly. In order for ammunition to be accurate, it must be consistent. The time and precision it takes to produce consistent ammunition translate into a higher cost.
Perhaps hunting is your main shooting activity. If so, going cheap may not only be more expensive, but it could be unethical. If inconsistent ammunition is used during a hunt, it could cause an animal to be wounded and go unrecovered. It also could be the cause for multiple shots needed and a loss of meat, either scenario should be avoided. Accurate ammunition isn’t always expensive, but cheap ammunition can cost you far more than the money you spent.
I set out to try an experiment, our theory being that quality ammunition is still a better buy than the cheap stuff. The reason behind the theory is simple; If I shoot at my target 5 times and hit it once, shooting my cheap Fiocchi 308Win at $0.80 per shot, I have spent $4.00 for one hit. If I shoot at the same target using DTM 308 match and hit it on the first shot, I have only spent $1.44 for the same hit. So how much money have I saved? Even if it takes two shots to hit my target, I am still spending less per hit.
Here you can see some of the results to my experiment (admittedly not clinical). You can see that with the same gun and shooter combination produced better results with high quality ammunition vs. the inexpensive option. Left target is DTM 308Win Premium Match, right is Fiocchi 308 Win.
The theory proved to be well founded, from a precision perspective. As you can see in the pictures above, the less expensive ammunition created a much larger pattern on the target. Using the exact same point of aim, you can see that it created a roughly three inch group. While on the left target we see groups closer to half or three quarter inch. This is where the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article come into play. If all you need is to hit a sheet of paper at 100yds, then the inexpensive ammo from above will work fine. But let’s say hypothetically that the paper was moved out to 500yds, several of those shots may not even be on the paper much less near the point of aim. The match ammunition on the other hand that prints sub MOA groups, at five hundred yards will still keep groups small enough to hit a small piece of fruit, over and over. So for cost per hit, the premium ammunition proved to be the better buy for sure.
Obviously this depends greatly on the type of firearm and the target you are using. For example, if you are shooting a surplus military rifle or relic, shooting quality ammunition might not give you that big of an advantage. Or if you are training with pistols at 7-20yds, it would make sense to use something inexpensive. Some firearms perform good or great with performance ammunition, and others perform mediocre no matter what you feed them. Not all guns are created equal. The above groups were shot using the Desert Tech SRS A1, perhaps in the future we can redo the same test with a surplus rifle, or an inexpensive equivalent, and see how the results compare.
It is important to compare apples to apples then, plinking inside one hundred yards with a rifle, doesn’t always require the best. But clearly, if hitting exactly where you aim is important you, then your best bet is to stick with quality. Also keep in mind that some firearms are like high performance cars, they aren’t meant to run on 85 octane. The same goes for some performance firearms, running cheap ammo could actually do more harm than good. If you are lucky, you can often find an inexpensive combination of rifle and ammunition that still performs to the accuracy standard you desire. But since luck has never been my companion, I stick to well known performers, and the quality ammunition that they run on.
So if serious shooting and accurate engagement of targets is part of your plan, quality ammunition should be one of your first considerations. There is a time and place for cheap ammo, but when the pressure is on and hits are a must, send the best you can get.
Originally posted on http://www.deserttech.com/blog/