Saving Money with Shooting as a Hobby - Part 1 - Equipment & Ammo
Shooting isn't an inexpensive hobby. When you're brand new to it - you think you're maxed out on what you can responsibly afford and devote to the hobby. Regardless of what your budget is for shooting - it helps when you can save money.
There are three buckets that expenses flow from - purchasing equipment, purchasing ammo, and range, match, and class fees. We'll look at all of these in turn.
So you have to buy your equipment somewhere - depending on what you're buying you may be able to field it from your local gun store (LGS) or local big box outdoors store - but increasingly it makes sense to look to online vendors. So this first piece is going to be a review of all the vendors I routinely use to source equipment for use on my blog and YouTube channel
It's worth noting that many products this day and age have a price point known as "manufacturers accepted price" or MAP pricing - this is the lowest price available for an item - it's difficult to find something new below this price - but it should be the goal price that you go for. Note that this price is significantly lower than Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). On buying guns - pretty much every gun maker has them - and it's tough to do any better on a new gun.
Big Daddy Unlimited - Big Daddy Unlimited is a unique vendor. They're a subscription based service - your first month is $1 and your subsequent months are $10 a month then you pay the bottom dollar on everything they have. They have guns, accessories, and even ammo. The best deals are on accessories. It's not uncommon to save 10%+ on whatever the best price available is on accessories. I purchased a new optic today - I can't tell you what it was - but it's best price I could find elsewhere was $240. I purchased it shipped for $195. That's a 20% save on an optic. BDU is also amazing for magazines - you can save significant money on magazines purchasing through BDU for some of the OEM magazines - you won't save much on PMAGs or other less costly magazines. Where BDU can help you is on items with an MAP pricing - since it's not a retailer - it's a membership club you can save money. You'll save a little money on guns - but not a ton. Like $5-10 on a $500 pistol. The only downside to BDU is their inventory runs out pretty quick on popular items. But they're the first place I look on anything.
Palmetto State Armory - So PSA for a long time was only a seller of their own stuff - that's changing - they're a really good spot to check for pretty much anything - they deal in volume and they are usually at - or very near - the lowest prices on anything available. This is a great place to look if you're looking for a new gun that's not widely available - many people don't think to look at PSA for these types of guns. They're also a great spot to get the best prices on PMAGs or other third party magazines.
Brownells - Brownell's is probably a surprise to be on here - but they're used strategically. On something you're worried about breaking - they offer a ridiculous return policy - anything outside of 45 days they will take back and issue store credit. If you're not sure about a piece of gear - this is a good way to go so if you get something and don't love it but you know it will be outside of a typical return policy - you can send it back and get store credit. Their prices on most equipment isn't always the lowest but sometimes it's worth it. They also have a bunch of gunsmithing stuff that many other places do not.
Optics Planet - Optics planet will usually have the lowest prices on anything they have in stock - but be sure to shop only for in stock items. If you buy something that says "ships X/X date" - just don't. If there are supply chain issues - and there have been a bunch of them recently this update will turn into a tread mill of delayed item notifications.
SGammo.com - SG Ammo - through this ammo crunch - has reliably had pistol ammo in stock and the prices they have are consistently some of the best going. It's not popular - but you should be buying bulk ammo - 1000 rounds at a time. It's a lot of money. If you're developing shooting as a hobby - you need to look at it almost like investing. When times are good increase your spend on ammo - even if you're not shooting more. When times are lean decrease your spend on ammo and burn up your reserves. If you're buying ammo on the internet - you will get killed on shipping on small orders. AIMsurplus.com - AIM Surplus is great for deals on police trade in guns from all over the world - usually at a very steep discount over new. You can get cool stuff like Beretta 92S's, transitional CZ 75s (not 75b - but 75's) for a song. They also get good deals on import ammo like Sellier & Bellot - which is probably my favorite import ammo - it's consistently very good and very economical. Their inventory isn't the most reliable - but when they have it - it's usually a great deal.
Dahlonega Armory - Dahlonega Armory is a gun store that grew out of a pawn shop not too far of my home town of Atlanta, GA. They consistently have the best prices anywhere and are staunch Second Amendment supporters. If a gun is new and selling for full MSRP everywhere - if Dahlonega Armory has it - it sells for whatever MAP is - they're a hidden gem which I unfortunately just told the whole internet about. Their physical facility in Dahlonega is great as well - check it out if you're in North Georgia. Those are some of the online stores I shop at in the next article we'll look at ranges, match fees, classes. Some of the links above are affiliate links and generate a commission at no additional cost to you.