As recently as a few decades ago, free American citizens could order any gun they wanted through the mail and have it sent straight to their door, the same as ordering a hammer or a blender or a lamp. Ammunition was the same… just look it up in the Montgomery Ward, Sears, or Abercrombie & Fitch catalog (yep, they used to actually be a top outdoor retailer instead of just selling cruelty-free flannel and vegan beard oil), send in your order, and your fresh supply of tasty, tasty ammo would show up at your door in a couple of weeks.
Well, the Gun Control Act of 1968 ended the selling of guns across state lines without a Federal Firearms Licence (FFL), but you can still get ammo sent to your home in most places, with a few clicks on your keyboard or smartphone and a credit card. Let’s go over the legalities of purchasing ammunition online, and then we’ll clue you in on some of our favorite online ammo retailers.
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. We have made a reasonable attempt to provide accurate information as of the time of this writing, but laws and regulations often change. Neither the author nor Liberty Safe assumes any liability for the use or misuse of this information.
Can you buy ammo online?
In most states in the USA, you can order ammunition online and have it shipped to your door without restriction. Some online ammo retailers require proof of age/ID before you can submit an order, but once your driver's license or other approved ID is on file you don’t have to resubmit it for future orders. In some states and counties (such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and similar locations politically) you can still order ammo online, but you’ll need a FOID card (Firearms Owners Identification Card), firearm/ammunition purchase authorization, license to carry, ammunition certificate, or other state permit and a copy of your driver’s license in order to purchase ammunition either online or in person at a local gun store or sporting goods retailer. In some states, cities, and counties, online ammo sales are only permitted if you pass a background check (for each purchase/shipment) and have the ammo shipped to an FFL for pickup, and pay their transfer fee. Some states and cities like Chicago no longer allow online ammo sales at all, and you can usually find that information when you go to an online ammo retailer and check their rules. However, it’s YOUR responsibility to comply with your local laws. Be sure to check your local regulations and comply with them.
Can you buy ammo online in California?
California has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the nation and has started restricting the sale of ammunition as well. Under current law, California residents can no longer buy ammo from an online seller and have it shipped to their private residence. California residents must have the seller ship it to an FFL and must complete a background check when you pick up your order. Unfortunately, this also means you have to pay the FFL’s transfer fee, the same as you would if you had ordered a firearm and asked it to be transferred. It’s a huge pain, so unless you find a really good deal or need to purchase ammunition that is not available at your local CA gun shops, it may not be cost-effective.
In addition, many online ammunition sellers will no longer sell to California, even to FFL holders or licensed ammunition dealers. It’s just too much of a hassle for them. Talk to your local gun shop and see what kind of deal they can work for you. If you’re a regular customer, you might get a price break on bulk ammunition.
Can you buy ammunition online in Hawaii?
Hawaii has restrictions on the purchase of “armor piercing” and Teflon-coated ammunition (projectiles), but otherwise follows federal law regarding the online purchase of ammunition (at least for the time being). However, many online retailers won’t sell or ship to the Aloha state because of logistical or cost concerns. It’s not known to be a “gun-friendly” state, and it’s a long way from the lower 48 states. If you find an online retailer willing to ship to HI, be prepared to pay a healthy upcharge for shipping and handling.
Is it legal to buy ammunition online in Chicago, Illinois?
Illinois is another state with lots of restrictions on firearms, magazines, and ammo. Cook County prohibits the sale of ammo and projectiles (bullets) via online purchase, and several other locations throughout the state are equally restrictive, so be sure to check your local laws. It’s your responsibility to ensure your purchase is legal in your area and follow all local laws and regulations.
Can I buy ammo online in New York?
In 2013, New York enacted a law requiring every buyer of a “commercial transfer” of ammunition to complete a background check before their purchase is allowed. Online ammo shipments must be sent to an FFL, where you will need to pay for the transfer fee as well as undergo a background check. The background check is conducted through a statewide license and record database. If you live in New York City or the five boroughs, it’s unlikely that buying ammo online is legal where you are.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every state or city in the US where online ammo sales are prohibited or restricted, so be sure to ask around your friendly neighborhood gun shop and check your local laws and ordinances.
The price of bullets and ammo: Are they a better value online? Pros and cons
Is ammo cheaper when you buy it online? The short answer is “usually.” Most online retailers don’t have brick-and-mortar retail shops, or if they do, it’s a small part of their business. Online sellers can usually beat local mom-and-pop gun store prices because they can benefit from the economy of scale and warehousing. Let’s go over some of the main advantages and disadvantages of buying ammo online.
Pros of buying ammo online
- You often pay a lower price per round
- Selection of popular calibers is almost always greater than in a local shop
- Some obscure loadings may only be available from online sellers
- Website filters and navigation make it easy and convenient to find what you want
- You don’t have to drive to a local store, fight traffic, or pay for gas
- It’s discreet if that’s important for you
- You don’t have to interact with people in person if that’s a concern
Cons of buying your ammunition online
- You have to pay to ship, either rolled into the cost of your purchase (“free shipping”) or added as an additional charge. Bullets and ammo are heavy and may cost quite a bit to ship. This can potentially increase the total price-per-round over that of a good local sale
- No in-person interaction, salesperson to ask questions to, or physical inspection of inventory/ammo
- You can’t pay in cash
- You may have to submit a copy of your driver’s license and/or other permits
- You have to deal with the UPS or USPS or FedEx driver potentially messing up, miss-delivering, destroying, or stealing your shipment
- You may still have to pay sales tax even if you order from another state, depending on laws in your area and the area of the online retailer
- You can’t get your order the same day if you waited until the last minute to buy your ammo or you want to purchase for a same-day trip to the range or for a hunt. Even the fastest online sellers take at least a few days to get you your order, and if you want it faster, the price of shipping can be more than the price of the ammo
- Some credit card companies have started prohibiting the purchase of firearm-related items
- You have to be “Internet-capable” enough to navigate a website and pay via credit card. You also need to be careful of scam websites put up by fraudulent people to take advantage of panic buying or shortages
Where to buy ammo online
Assuming it’s legal in your location, there are a lot of good online retailers from which you can purchase ammunition. Be careful of any website offering crazy-good deals, or items that are only available from them (such as primers in cases of extreme famine, like recently). Particularly be wary of websites that only allow payment via money order, bitcoin, Zelle, PayPal, or other 3rd-party payment apps. This is a sure sign that the website is fraudulent. In our opinion, it’s always a better plan to go with one of the online retailers below, as you’re sure to have a good experience.
SGAmmo is a family-owned and operated business out of Oklahoma and is the first place we always check when looking for ammunition online. SGAmmo offers free shipping on all orders with a subtotal of $200 or more, and their shipping prices are reasonable for smaller orders. Orders are typically shipped out within one or two business days, depending on demand and other variables, but often ship the same day. They only accept orders for in-stock ammunition. In our experience, SGAmmo ships very quickly pack the ammunition well, and provide great communication throughout the process. A first-class operation.
Lucky Gunner is one of our favorite internet stops for all kinds of ammo. They only list ammo that’s in stock and ready to ship, and their real-time inventory shows how many boxes of each ammunition are in stock. Prices per round are conveniently listed, and you can sort your searches by manufacturer, bullet weight, quantity, price, or cost per round, and you can estimate your shipping cost before you check out. To top it all off, the Lucky Gunner staff pride themselves on “lightning-fast shipping.”
Lucky Gunner also provides excellent ballistic gel testing info on many handgun loadings, with reporting and images of in-house testing results. Super cool!
MidwayUSA was one of the first gun and ammunition retailers to establish a significant presence on the internet, and for good reason. They have built a nearly endless inventory of parts, guns, ammo, supplies, and gear, and they have several warehouses across the country so they ship really quickly and shipping costs are optimized based on your location. They offer a wide selection of ammunition for all types of guns, and you can filter your search results by about 15 different variables.
One feature we love about MidwayUSA is that you can sign up for notifications for out-of-stock items and they’ll email you when they’re back in stock. MidwayUSA also frequently runs free shipping specials (such as all orders over $100 ship free), and these codes are prominently displayed in banners on their website, so check back often and sign up for their newsletter as well. A great company and a valuable supporter of the shooting community.
Palmetto State Armory
We love these guys. Not only do they make high-quality, amazingly affordable, 100% US-built firearms in all the popular configurations (AR-15s, AKs, “Glock clones,” “AR-9s,” and more), but they often have great prices on bulk ammo in popular rifle and pistol calibers. Be sure to check out Palmetto State Armory and sign up for their email newsletter. They run significant sales about every week, it seems like. Plus, they have a great sense of humor (not about fulfilling your order quickly; just about politics and social problems), and that goes a long way these days.
Target Sports USA
Target Sports USA specializes in bulk ammo but sells firearms, gear, reloading supplies, and more. Their prices are often the lowest on the ‘net, and their website is easy to navigate and filter for the results you want. Target Sports offers free shipping on all bulk/cases of ammunition and provides a handy “in stock only” checkbox in the navigation. They provide good service at good prices. Shipping is usually satisfactorily quick, if not as rapid as some other online retailers. We haven’t had any issues ordering from these guys.
Cabelas/Bass Pro Shops
Cabelas isn’t known for the best prices on a lot of things, particularly since their purchase by Bass Pro, but they do occasionally have sales on ammunition and bullets, so keep your eyes on their website. Plus, if you live conveniently close to one of their retail locations, they will ship anything to their stores for free (sometimes you have to pay a HAZMAT charge for primers, powder, or percussion caps) which is super convenient and can make a “meh” deal on bulk ammo become a good deal compared to other online retailers that charge for shipping.
Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore
Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore broke into the online firearms market a few years back with great prices, good selection, and great service, and have built their company out with a great inventory of ammo as well. They don’t do backorders (which is good). If it’s in their online store, it’s in stock and ready to ship. Every item has a price-per-round listed, and there’s also a handy list of the lowest price-per-round for each caliber they offer. We’ve ordered from this company quite a few times and never had a bad experience.
Online ammunition low-price search engines
Some people only care about price, and if you don’t want to bother with checking multiple sites, there are specialized websites/search engines intended to find you the lowest price per round on your selected caliber and provide you a link to the deal. Sometimes you can find some crazy-good deals, but we recommend you read reviews of the specified retailer before you order so you don’t get burned. There are a lot of fraudulent sites out there (and even fraudulent ammo search engines). If something doesn’t seem right, there are a lot of typos on the website, and/or they require payment via money order, bitcoin/crypto, Zelle, PayPal, or another app-based payment provider, run away. Here are some online ammo search engines to check out:
Best places to buy bullets online (for reloading), not loaded ammunition
If you hand load or reload your own cartridges, you might actually be looking for “bullets,” when you say “bullets.” (Many people mean “ammunition” or “cartridges” when they say “bullets.”)
If you are looking for the best places to buy bullets, projectiles, or components for reloading or handloading, here are some of our favorite online retailers.
Missouri Bullet Company
Missouri Bullet Company is a great local business that was started by a married couple as a retirement project, but due to great prices and service, the company exploded in popularity. Sadly, both original owners have passed, but the company is still going strong. MBC focuses on cast lead bullets, either conventionally lubed or coated with their Hi-Tek coating. Prices are great, bullets are great, and service is great. They’ll even custom size your bullets to a larger or smaller diameter than typical if you let them know in advance (this may extend the time of your order, of course). One other convenient offering is their 100-round “sample packs” that let you try out several types, sizes, and weights of bullets to see which one is perfect for you, without having to buy a whole 500-count box when working up a load.
Rocky Mountain Reloading
An Idaho-based company that prides itself on excellent customer service and top-shelf products, Rocky Mountain Reloading is one of the first places we check, particularly if we’re looking for bulk jacketed or plated bullets. RMR began mostly as a bulk bullet reseller, but through tons of hard work and investment, the company has grown into one of the premier bullet manufacturers in the country, and now makes many of its popular styles in-house. The company prides itself for going the extra mile and providing that personal touch, as evidenced by the custom-drawn doodles, thank-you cards, and fun illustrations that their shipping and fulfillment staff insert into every order of bullets. They don’t have to do it, but it’s a fun way to let their customers know how much each order means.
This online store is kind of a hidden gem among reloaders and competition shooters. TJ Conevera specializes in bulk, plated, or jacketed bullets, typically for handgun use (but rifle projectiles are often available). Orders over $75 ship free; otherwise there’s a very reasonable $10 shipping charge. This store is one of the first places we look for Berry’s plated bullets at bulk prices, but they also now offer their own line of jacketed bullets (usually JHP) in various popular calibers. Check them out. Though their website hasn’t really changed since 2007, neither have their prices, it seems.
Xtreme Bullets initially became, ahem, extremely popular with competition shooters for their excellent plated handgun bullets at very reasonable prices. They had to file for bankruptcy a couple of years back for reorganization, but they’re back up to speed now and by all accounts are producing the same great quality copper-plated bullets as well as a full line of full-metal-jacketed bullets for a couple of pennies more per bullet. Their website includes real-time inventory and shows how many boxes of each type are available in stock.
Bayou Bullets specializes in coated, cast lead bullets for competitive shooters and reloaders. They pride themselves in their “HI-TEK Supercoat,” bullet coating, a unique heat-set coating developed by J&M Specialized Products P/L in Australia and distributed by Donnie Miculek at Hi-Performance Bullet Coatings. This greatly reduces the amount of smoke normally associated with cast lead bullets, reduces or eliminates lead fouling of the bore, is not abrasive, and gives off no toxins or particulate matter when fired. This greatly minimizes your exposure to lead. The end result is cleaner air, cleaner hands, cleaner reloading equipment, and cleaner guns. Most orders ship within two business days.
Precision Delta is very popular with competition shooters who have found that the company’s full metal jacket bullets are consistent enough for match accuracy at a price not much more than some cast/coated bullets. In fact, Precision Delta’s match-grade JHP bullets are less expensive than many other companies’ basic plated or coated round-nose bullets. Check them out, and we’re betting you’ll be surprised at the price and quality. You might never go anywhere else again.
Zero Bullets have been a long-time fave for reloaders and competition shooters who load their own ammo. Zero offers both swaged lead and jacketed bullets at great prices. Their listed price includes shipping for boxes of 500, and they give a discount for larger orders. Zero’s stuff is sold via Rose Distribution’s website, which is old-fashioned, clunky, and a little hard to navigate, but their prices are so good that it’s worth a small hassle.
Store Your ammo and guns in a Liberty Safe
Whatever guns and ammo you have, whether you reload or buy loaded ammo, it’s important to keep it secure from unauthorized access, theft, and damage. The best way is in a USA-made gun safe from Liberty. Check out our online catalog, or find a dealer near you.