Clay Discusses Cheap Ammo: Is It Worth It?

We’ve all been there. We have spent a lot of money on a new, exciting gun, are still eyeing some extra magazines and a good optic, and are quickly running out of cash. So, where do you skimp? For most people, it is on ammo. Sure, we have all been there, looking for the cheapest rounds we can find so we can get out on the range for the least amount of money. And, we have also heard how this can be a mistake and not be good for our firearms. Is it true?

The author wrung out some “cheap” .223 ammo to see what works best.

Well, We are going to tackle that subject today. There are a lot of “cheap” ammo options out there that can offer really good performance and a lot of bang for your buck. Let’s get one point out in the open first. Just because ammo is affordable does not mean it is “cheap.” This can cut both ways. Some companies can make some really good ammo for a low price, and some ammo can be so bad that it is not worth any price you pay for it.

To check consistency, the author tore down some of the rounds and checked powder charge weights.

As we all know, this is very easy to say, but how do you prove it? Well, let’s dive in and take a close, technical look at some “cheap” ammo options I have tried and see how they stack up. I selected several types of .223/5.56 ammo from TULAmmo, Freedom Munitions, Armscor, PMC Bronze and Fiocchi. All the loads came out to less than 25 cents a round. Let’s take a close look and see how they all stack up.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Miguel Raton February 9, 2017, 1:39 pm

    Hey, you pronounced “Fiocchi” correctly! Kudos, that seems to be one of the real bugbears among the ammo reviewers out there on the ‘net! 🙂

  • Karl Vanhooten February 6, 2017, 10:01 pm

    Are your blog entries moderated at all? Why are jackasses like BillyBob not banned?
    And man, get a space heater or something for your man cave. Where do you live, Iceland?

  • Eric Kevitt February 1, 2017, 11:38 pm

    I love Fiocchi ammo …I have been buying it ever since I found they used the same XTP projo’s as the Hornady… at a much cheaper price usually from The Sportsman’s Guide when they offer free shipping. Maybe a different powder who knows. I just know they do just fine for me and the PPU is also a fantastical choice for the money too,… Keep up the Great work Guys…

  • DIYinSTL January 31, 2017, 1:32 pm

    I shot about 800 rds of Fiocchi in .45 ACP last year, mostly PPC competitions and practice, and found it to be about as good as the Winchester I usually shoot. No failures of any sort and I would not put Fiocchi in the “cheap” category. I’m not surprised Clay got about 1 moa from this brand though cold fingers and wind gusts could have hurt some of his other results.

  • J.D. Smith January 31, 2017, 12:23 am

    Well-c’mon guys, keep a’going! This is fun.

  • Noel P. January 30, 2017, 10:45 pm

    Billy Bob,
    Give it a rest. You are entitled to your opinion and your expierence and that’s about it. After articles like this one by Clay most of us want to hear about others expierences. I seriously doubt that belittling others is a required talent in order to embellish your resume as an all time gun and munitions expert.
    At my advancing age I like to hear other’s opinion about all things gun. In my time I got to know many of the originators of many current firearms today. Ingram, Stoner, Bill Brophy persons like that. All were decent table talkers and had they had your belligerent approach to the subjects at hand there would be a whole lot less of firearm talent out there today.
    Just to throw you a bone: Yes most MG ammunition is hotter than what the layity shoots and yes this goes for pistol cartridges also. 9mm for example had military issue ammunition that was let’s say a bit hot as it was used for SMGs. The average guy will most likely never come across any of this. Even the weak .32acp has hopped up loads particularly for the CZ scorpion. You can buy it on Gunbroker or most likely GunsAmerica. Don’t shot it in your original PPK. In fact it is listed as armour piercing.

  • BRASS January 30, 2017, 9:33 pm

    It costs me about 25 cents to load one 5.56/.223 cartridge depending on components. But, each one is comprised of reloadable Boxer primed brass and the bullets, powder and primers of choice. Primers don’t matter as long as your brand constant and work up loads for that brand (unless your a match shooter needing tiny improvements). Bullets of course vary by intended use and may be expensive or inexpensive depending on use. Plinking, target and even home defense bullets are not expensive, again unless your needing tiny improvements at longer distances. Powder is just a matter of choosing burning rate, cleanliness and other characteristics based on need. Hunting rounds are a different story and can get quite expensive but few hunters shoot any appreciable quality once a load is selected so the real cost is relative to quantity.
    For most of us $.25 a round is a good price. I won’t say cheap because it wasn’t that long ago in my life that half that was the norm. When needing minute of heart accuracy in a close range home defense round, tiny differences are not important in real life, only in our need for perfection. Any round that shoots under three inches at one hundred yards is fine at 25 yards for a center chest or nose bridge shot. If shooting bullseye competitions where and 1/8″ means a win or a loss, that means you’ll be spending much more on your rifle and optics or even handgun than the increased cost of ammo.

  • Eugene Steely January 30, 2017, 8:38 pm

    That’s it for the article? “Let’s dive right in,” with links to some ammo manufacturers and then an abrupt end?

    • Eugene Steely January 30, 2017, 8:39 pm

      Oh got it….watch the video…..nah

      • American February 2, 2017, 9:14 pm

        Right nah to the video and a big NO to cheap ammo I shoot AMERICAN made ammo or not at all.

  • mrpski January 30, 2017, 12:58 pm

    I used to think the cheap stuff was fine for the range as long as it was not for the street, like many have said. My thoughts have changed now. I have quite a variety of handguns and rifles and there were always some that did not eat cheap at all and some that ate cheap with a bit of heartburn. This just was not steel cased ammo but some of the less expensive import brass cased also.
    I am now finding that what used to be inexpensive but decent is now cheap and potentially dangerous. Even having trouble with some of it in AK’s which in the past ate whatever I threw into it. Bottom line, with the internet the way it is do some research before you buy anything. A shooting public is the best advice you can get out there these days.

    • Winston January 30, 2017, 8:40 pm

      Oddly, you do not mention how many thousands of rounds of any particular brand nor caliber you fired to come to your conclusion. I have been firing Russian ( and previously Chinese ) steel cased 9mm, .45acp and 7.62×39 for over 15 years and Russian made .223Rem steel cased for 12 years. I have no problems after 10,000+ ( likely more than that ) rounds expended. Either most who make claims about steel cased are not truthful, or they are not really prolific range shooters at all but just American gun store folklore echo bots of which there are many.

  • SkipNClair January 30, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Its probably worth it, so long as it is not being used in a life or death situation. What I might key word might practice with or plink with is not what we would use in a gunfight.

  • Walt Haskins January 30, 2017, 10:31 am

    It would be helpful to have described velocities/recoil. The Freedom Munitions ammo works fine in AR-15s. But I’ve tried to run it in an HK 23E and it is a “no-go”. They are skimping on the powder and downloading it so that it doesn’t meet NATO specs. The same gun using GGG NATO spec’d ammo runs like gangbusters. Would be interesting to know what the velocities are on the remainder, I suspect one of the ways these companies are making “cheap” ammo and selling it is scrimping on the amount of powder used. For AR’s, not a factor, but may not have the velocity/recoil needed to run full auto. The GGG Nato spec’d ammo is only about $30 more a thousand, so I would question the wisdom of at least the Freedom Munitions ammo purchase.

  • SCPistolero January 30, 2017, 9:40 am

    I\’ve fired countless Freedom Munitions 5.56, 9mm, .45 ACP. No problems and the price is right.

    • Art Ryden January 30, 2017, 5:50 pm

      I use Freedom Munitions new ammo in 6 different calibers and find it to be as dependable as anything else. I don’t shoot reloads or remanufactured ammo, so. I can’t comment on that.

  • Nico January 30, 2017, 9:22 am

    I agree with Clay based on my own experience, Fiocci and PMC bronze shoot very well for less expensive ammo. I also shoot Freedom Munitions but was less accurate than I expected.

  • Robert Wolfe January 30, 2017, 7:52 am

    “Let’s take a close look and see how they all stack up.” That’s how the article ends and then nothing! Perhaps you can advise where the close look and how they all stack up information is located so we can all be enlightened.

    • Blasted Cap January 30, 2017, 8:45 am

      Video? Did you watch it? It’s all right there.

    • Hunting and Defense January 30, 2017, 9:07 am

      Watch the video. Buy good ammo…

    • Chris February 1, 2017, 11:17 am

      Watch the video at the top.

  • Dan January 30, 2017, 7:02 am

    Buying cheap Ammo is like putting a cheap scope on a rifle that you want accuracy from! Ain’t going to happen Jack!

  • Mitch Spence January 30, 2017, 7:00 am

    Billy Bob has a $40,000 gun? Times they are achangin’.

    • Charlie January 30, 2017, 9:32 am

      EPA/dems banned pickup trucks (no constitutional protection) so Billy-Bob had the money available to buy that expensive firearm!!

    • BillyBob January 30, 2017, 11:26 am

      MG\’s the MOST FUN YOU CAN HAVE WITH YOUR CLOTHES ON ! SUBGUN or GunsAmerica -rifle -Class 3- Then write down down the prices and then come back and tell me the money you could have made if only you had bought one ! (not post sample , even though they are going up, POST SAMPLES require a law letter , or dealer going out of business to other mfg or importer without a law enforcement letter required ) ! AOW-SBR-SBS-Suppressors can all be make ! 1986 ended the mfg. of transferable MG\’s the NFA book closed with only 176,000 in it ! Give or take the ones destroyed due to (?) (CHEAP AMMO ) The RULES OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND – HAVE AND HAVE Knot\’s – BUY LOW SALE HIGH ! BUY TODAY wait 8+ months on ATF tax stamp ! YOU HAVE NOT LIVED UNTIL YOU GO TO KNOB CREEK Ky or BIG SANDY Az !
      Until you feel the BLAST from the EXPLOSIONS at the night shoot or see the tracers looking like LASERs making turns in flight !

  • Kivaari January 30, 2017, 5:18 am

    Fiocchi loaded with 50 gr. ballistic tip bullets out performs most ammo out there. Briefly Walmart sold “Perfecta” brand (I suspect it was Fiocchi) that shot under 1 inch.

  • Mark N. January 28, 2017, 9:40 pm

    I’ve been shooting Freedom Munitions in various calibers, new and reloaded for a few years now and am very pleased with it. I find it good, clean, consistent ammo, and the price is very hard to beat. They rotate through what is on sale (usually 5% off), and the price reduction is almost enough to cover their very reasonable shipping. I bought another low cost brand of .45 Colt from Luckygunner that jammed up a brand new pistol, and had to return it. No such problem with the Freedom, which shoots to POA.

    • Blasted Cap January 30, 2017, 8:40 am

      How exactly do you “jam up” a brand new pistol in 45 Colt? 99.9+% of guns in that caliber are revolvers or lever action rifles. ACP I can see but Colt?

      • E.W. Ingalls January 30, 2017, 10:51 am

        Blasted Cap,

        I’ve had good revolvers (Ruger Redhawk and Dan Wesson) “bind up hard” when primers in cheap cheap cheap ammo back out this stopping the revolver cylinder from rotating or even opening. I’ve actually had to tap cylinders out with a small rubber mallet! Watch out for cheap ammo in .357 Mag and .44 Mag! Good luck and good hunting!

        • Jake January 30, 2017, 11:14 am

          I remember years back when I was a Bullseye competitor a number of guys would shoot the K-38 and Model of 1955 from S&W. I do recall revolvers binding up from reloads not having the primer seated properly or from popping out a bit when perhaps a case had been loaded dozens of times. Some had cases “set back” when they had been firing .38’s in .357 mags without getting the cylinder 100% clean before firing the .357. Same can happen with .44 mags that have fired a bunch of .44 Specials

          • Clinton January 30, 2017, 12:16 pm

            Not to mention power residue under the ejector plate…

  • Ken January 27, 2017, 2:01 pm

    I spent some time on the range yesterday trying some 9mm-115gr FMJ MaxxTech in my Springfield XDS, Taurus PT111 and a Glock 43.
    Out of about 50 rounds expended, 2 primer strikes and no bang, multiple jams in both the Taurus and XDS. Finally called it a day with an expanded cartridge case in the XDS and Taurus chamber that had to be removed by a gunsmith.
    The Glock ran 3 magazines without a problem.
    Never again will I use MaxxTech

    • clay martin January 27, 2017, 3:18 pm

      I had some bad problems with MaxxTech too, when I was trying to get super cheap on pistol ammo. did you look inside an expended case at that weird shelf they built to decrease case volume?

    • DBM January 30, 2017, 5:26 am

      I bought some MaxxTech a 9mm a few years back and although the all fired I did find a primed shell case in the container. Their QC must be horrible to allow that through the process.

  • BillyBob January 27, 2017, 12:05 pm

    Better question yet is WHAT\’S YOUR GUN WORTH ? STEEL ON STEEL ? Barrel Bulge IF YOU ARE LUCK AND THAT\’S ALL THAT HAPPENS ! Ever try to find a barrel for a ZB26 or a 712 Mauser ? Nothing like having your MG42 blow up due to shooting INDIAN ammo that has been tumbled to clean the case but made the powder so explosive it DESTROYS THE RECEIVER OF A $40,000 gun ! 170,000 transferable mgs on the books in 1986 every time one is destroyed or damaged the price of the others goes up ! A $200 MAC sales for $9000 now and its the bottom of the barrel ! Did I say anything about Medical Bills ?

    • carter January 30, 2017, 3:30 am

      I dont know about higher calibers, but ive seen several rifles in 5.56, 7.62×39 and 7.62×51 have lots of cheap but new production steel case wolf or tulammo shot through them. i’ve also seen some 9mm and .45 handguns with hundreds if not thousands of rounds of steel ammo shot through them.

      i have seen lots of feeding problems with steel ammo in SOME of those guns, which had no problems feeding brass. i would also believe that the wear and tear builds up faster using steel. however, when comparing the bolts and chambers (using a bore light) of an AR with at least 2k rounds of steel through it with one that had never chambered a steel case (both rifles over 2k rounds total) there was not an obvious difference in wear.

      i dont think the cheap steel case ammo in pistol or intermediate rifle calibers is loaded hot enough to blow the chamber apart on a quality barrel. if anything those rounds tend to be on the weak side. there are steel case ammo manufacturers that keep cost down with material but still have decent QC and consistency.

      • BillyBob January 30, 2017, 10:25 am

        First I don\’t use a BORE LIGHT to JUDGE WARE and tare ! Ever hear of a GO NO GO GAUGE ? YOU ARE RIGHT YOU DON\’T KNOW ! YOUTUBE Tommy Gun Blow Up ! AR 15 Blow Up Explosion Fail – Rifle Destroy .223/5.56
        SINCE YOU THANK YOU KNOW SO MUCH TELL AMERICA WHAT is the difference between a 223 & 223 Wylde & 556 and WHY is the pressure different in each one ? Do they all have the same size shell case ?
        GO TO / BLACK RIVER MILITARIA / go to the bottom of the page and LOOK UNDER WARNINGS !

        • BillyBob January 30, 2017, 12:04 pm

          Better question yet is WHAT\\’S YOUR GUN WORTH ?I DON\’T CARE IF YOU SHOOT CRAP OR NOT in your GUNS ! SHOOT CORROSIVE – SHOOT MG AMMO (high pressure ) – SHOOT PROF LOADS – Shoot shells with rust or green mold ! I am willing to bet you don\’t own a single Weatherby\’s – Krieghoff- Holland & Holland-Parker-Blazer-Gibbs-Purdey-L.C.Smith-SIG 210 or even a Python ! Do you even own a Browning ? BET YOU OWN A Mosin Nagant or SKS I also bet you don\’t even own VEPR ! WELL AM I RIGHT ?

          • Big D January 30, 2017, 2:34 pm

            Billy Bob what are……drunk ? I’ve had enough of your ridiculous banter. You are the guy at the gun range that everybody hates. Your opinions are just yours. Keep it to yourself or you come off sounding like a big jackass. Shut your hole.

          • BillyBob January 30, 2017, 5:40 pm

            Big D Little Brain Your to Dumb to Even Know How Dumb You Are ! I would say you live in your mom\’s basement but she lives in a trailer ! If I wanted any of your lip I would scrap it off my zipper ! I would say let me talk to your dad but you are the 70% who has no Idea who he is !

        • JoeBoo February 1, 2017, 8:25 pm

          Why in the world would you use a bore light or a go/no go gauge to weigh your empty gun? As for your “You haven’t lived until you have been to Knob Creek Ky. or Whereverthefucky Az. because stuff go boom, stuff go bangbangbangbang” comment many of us signed up for the military for this “Nectar of the Gods” that you describe, issued free ammo amongst other things and we were paid for it so I have never been to either place that you have mentioned and I don’t plan on it and I have lived plenty and had a lot of fun in my days

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