How to buy rare ammunition
Locating and Buying Rare Ammunition
As of the time of this writing, there are few Federal restrictions on ammunition sales in the United States of America, although they
are monitored by the BATFE, the ICC and, in part, by the FBI and DEA. Bulk sales and shipment and certain specialized munitions
are closely monitored and often restricted. Ordinarily, ammunition for rare and vintage firearms gets little more attention than a nod.
The first difficulty encountered is usually the difficulty of locating the ammunition. Today, the internet has greatly reduced the
difficulty of ‘finding almost anything, from anywhere’ and the only requirement is a computer and the patience to mount the search.
The second hurtle resides in the fact that, although the Federal Government has relatively few restrictions on the purchase of small
arms ammunition, some 22,000 state gun laws impose restrictions on the purchase of both firearms and ammunition. Some states
even ban or prohibit certain ammo. This poses the additional impediment of having to familiarize oneself with many state laws.
These conditions—particularly Federal restrictions—can (and have) change(d). It is always prudent to check state and Federal law
before ordering. Two things to remember: first, if the seller/retailer or wholesaler is outside the state then state law may not apply
to it/him; and, secondly, it may not be against the law to sell a particular item in your state but it may well be against the law for
you to own it, so always check the law.
Beginning the Search
As with any kind of search, the search for rare ammo has certain minimum requirements. You must know:
• the caliber
• the common name or military designation of the cartridge
• the cartridge specifications (length, dimensions, neck specifications, etc.)
• or some other means of distinguishing the cartridge from all others (wildcat name, etc.)
Where to find the Cartridge/Chamber Specs
1. The first place to look is on the barrel of the firearm, usually near where the barrel screws into the reciever. Because barrels are
replaceable and often are replaced and because the chamber is contained within the barrel, the caliber and cartridge size will usually
appear in close proximity to the manufacturer's banner.
2. Modern firearms like AR's will usually have caliber and chamber information near the muzzle, along with other information like
3. On rare occasions such as in firearms in which the barrel and reciever are a single unit, the information may be found on the
4. If the information cannot be found on the firearm itself, it is then adviseable to 'slug the chamber.' The best way to accomplish
this is to purchase a 'slug kit' also known as 'a chamber cast' kit. To obtain a useful chamber cast get what you need from the
http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?200826-Making-Cerrosafe-Chamber-Cast (trouble shooting blog)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DByaASz_HNk (helpful 'how-to' video)
Once you have good casting of the chamber and freebore, it is then a simple matter to mike (measure with a micrometer) the
dimensions and identify the cartridge.
Where to start the search
The best place to start any internet search for ammunition is at one of the warehouse/clearing house sites listed below. These sites
are perfectly capable of ending your search soon or of providing manuals and information that will get you started.
4. http://www.gunpartscorp.com/ (Numrich Gun Parts)
Any or all of them will list manuals, pamphlets, CD’s and/or reloading guides that may be purchased online which contain the
specifications of the cartridge you are searching for that may help in locating it. And the cartridge may not be as rare as you may
think—in which case, your search may be over and you can simply purchase the ammo at the site. Find what you are looking for
in one of the drop-down menus or type it into the search window at the site.
For one example, most of these sites sell Richard Lee’s Modern Reloading which lists more than 26,000 loads for 157 cartridges
over the course of 497 data pages (pp. 206-703), along with case dimensions—and that’s just one of many manuals for reloading.
(Find a list in the bibliography at the end of this pamphlet.) Even if you don’t reload, such a text is useful for confirming cartridge
Locating rare, unusual or exotic ammo may not be the hard part of the quest. There may be restrictions and prohibitions.
1. The need for an FFL – Although normally you will not need an FFL to buy ammunition on-line, certain types of ammo, like
that restricted to military and law enforcement use, may require a letter of intent to purchase from one of these agencies or an FFL.
The website will usually post a note of these requirements
2. Bulk restrictions – Having ammunition shipped in bulk may be restricted either by state law or some federal restriction.
Also, most shipping agencies have weight restrictions and it should be noted that ammunition must be clearly marked externally;
and any bulk purchase is certain to call attention to your order.
3. State Law may prohibit shipping. Ordinarily, the website will post a disclaimer listing the states that prohibit shipment;
however, it is prudent to check state law yourself before ordering.
4. Prohibited Trade – some countries are not allowed to ship directly to the United States because of Federal trade restrictions.
That does not mean, however, that the ammunition is not available in the US. Some US distributors may either manufacture (or ‘re-
manufacture) the ammo themselves or purchase the item from another (authorized trade partner). Although there are some
restricted ammunition types, the restriction of a specific cartridge is rare.
Offered below is a bibliographic list of websites helpful in locating rare and exotic ammunition and wildcat loads. It should be noted
that domain names and commercial sites are often sold and transferred and that the internet is continually changing; and that means
some sites may not be found for a host of reasons. Also, if the link does not work, as a matter of ‘trouble-shooting,’ you should
first attempt to cut and paste the website into the banner or type in the search window before assuming it is dead or inoperable.
Bulk purchases, Clearing Houses and Web Forums
[cut and past to URL banner if the link is cold].
Note: Auctions like some of those above eventually end so these may no longer be live. The point is to be aware that they are going
on at these sites all the time and you may find what you are looking for or can at least monitor for when it comes up for sale. Some
sites are capable of emailing you on those items you are looking for when they become available.
Hard to Find
Rare Ammo and Wildcats
http://www.cartridgecollectors.org/glossary.htm (an online rare terms glossary to help frame your search questions)
Sites with Multiple Links
If All Else Fails
Try these labels in your search engine:
• rare ammunition
• rare ammunition for sale
• rare ammunition dealers
• rare ammunition bullets
• rare ammunition sales
• rare ammunition ammo
You can also try to search with the ammunition caliber, cartridge dimensions (like “7.62 x 51,” “7.62 x 51 NATO,” or the military
designation (like “T55” or “T165”).
Your research may reveal that if the cartridge is unavailable worldwide on these and/or other auction sites or is simply no longer
manufactured, you may resort to the alternative of reloading it yourself by modifying other extant munitions. See the sites listed
below for what you need. Many die manufacturers will—for a nominal fee—produce reloading dies to your specifications. See the
'Where to get what you need' section here.
As with all Internet orders, there will be a shipping and handling fee. Unlike other mail order items, ammunition, powder and
primers will also command a 'HazMat' fee. These fees will usually be itemized at checkout.
States with Ammunition Prohibitions
http://www.njsp.org/about/fire_hollow.html (New Jersey)
".223 versus 5.56" What's the difference? What's the same? [US]
"The Search for Better Ballistics" by S. A. Roach [US]
See other helpful articles and books at:
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