Pack Sizes

As manufacturers of consumer products juggle the balls of sales, cost and price, they come up with all sorts of schemes to “fool” customers — the snack bar people like Cadbury or Hershey are experts at this, decreasing the product’s size without raising the price thereof, so that people think that they’re still paying the same for that chocolate bar, and they are, except that they’re in essence paying more per ounce. It’s an old game, and one that I’m fully familiar with (and one that everybody should be fully familiar with, by the way). And as long as it happens with non-essentials like snack bars, I’m indifferent.

Unfortunately, now we seem to be facing this nonsense in our most basic of commodities, .22 ammo. Here’s an example, in an online flyer I received in the old Inbox just yesterday:

We’re all used to the venerable 500-round “brick” (as seen in the Remington Thunderbolts), of course, which is basically just a combo pack of the normal 50- or 100-round boxes. But we also see CCI’s little sneaker: the 300-round box which keeps it well below the $25 price point and Federal’s 275-round box which keeps the purchase below the $20 price point; but on a per-round basis, boxing the ammo like this can disguise a horribly-expensive price. At least this doesn’t seem to be the case here, because it’s a “Sale”. For those who don’t want to do the arithmetic:
Thunderbolt — 6 cents per round
CCI — 6.25 cents per round
Federal — 5.8 cents per round

Likewise, at the bulk end of the scale, we find products like this:

…which equates to 7.9 cents per round. Note that the quantity is 1,575 rounds and not the “three-brick” 1,500 rounds, making brick-by-brick price comparisons impossible without a calculator.

Indeed, all this pack-size differential seems to be designed on just that basis: to confuse the consumer. Certainly, it’s not to overcome pack design constraints or anything like that. So here’s my call to the ammo manufacturers:

Quit fucking us around with this nonsense. Sell your ammo in quantities of 50, 100 and 500, just like you always did, and quit trying to hide the fact that your company’s .22 ammo has become too fucking expensive to support a plinking habit.

I note, incidentally, that Lucky Gunner helps its customers by ranking their .22 ammo on a cost-per-round basis, which makes me smile because you can get to the heart of the matter easily when faced with a choice like this:

…just in case you didn’t notice that the “lower price” on the Browning applies to 400 rounds and not, like Aguila’s, to 500 rounds.

By the way: I love what Lucky Gunner is doing, but they are not always the cheapest, e.g. on the aforementioned Remington Thunderbolt 500-round brick, where the flyer’s price is $29.99, and LG’s is $38.75. But to be fair, the flyer’s price is a “closeout” deal (like they’re going to ever quit selling Thunderbolts — it’s probably a one-off loss leader ad item, more likely) whereas LG’s price is an everyday price.

Also, caveat emptor: a lot of times, the “great deal” you get on ammo isn’t, once you factor in the S&H costs — which differ widely between suppliers.

I’ll be talking a little more about the .22 LR thing in a later post. And just for the record: unless I’m buying target .22 LR, I refuse to pay more than 8 cents per round for the stuff. Even that price sticks in my craw, but I reluctantly accept the fact of supply and demand, and inflation, albeit with snarling hostility. My go-to CCI Mini-Max 40-grain ammo used to cost $5.99 per hundred — I have ummm several boxes with the price tag on them, dated 2006 — and now it costs $7.99. It’s like the ammo manufacturers don’t want us to shoot anymore.

(Note that in all the above, I’ve used 40-grain bullets as the common factor, and ignored any perceived quality differences in the brands. Frankly, .22 LR ammo is plinking feed, and unless you get a dud rate of more than 0.5%, they’re all pretty much of a muchness. Target/match .22 ammo is another story, and I’m not talking about that here.)


  1. The one I really liked was back during the GREAT AMMO SHORTAGE a certain foreign mfg brought .22 into the country in 40 round boxes/400rds/carton. Boxes and cartons were almost exactly the same size as a standard 50 rd box/500rd carton.

  2. Scott Adams, the Dilbert Cartoonist, has written a few interesting things about “Confusopolies”. He defines them as businesses which intentionally confuse their customers by creating sales and pricing plans difficult or impossible to compare.

    Cell phone and internet/cable plans being perfect examples, as well as the health care industry.

    Adams, Like Dilbert, seems to be a clever and funny oddball.

  3. Kim,
    It’s not just ammo. I fancy myself a halfway decent home cook. Not a gourmet by any stretch, but I can more than competently put a savory, scratch-made meal for four on the dinner table without too much effort. Five pound bags of granulated sugar now weigh four pounds. Half gallons of ice cream are frequently 48 ounces. Liter (~67oz) bottles of various beverages are now coming in at 900ml. The list goes on.
    – Brad

    1. Ice Cream is now whipped with more air so you get less product in the same sized container.

  4. All of my .22LR purchases since starting in Dec’13 which came in at .08¢/round or less; sorted by cheapest pence-per-pew (Min):

    Brick Min:Max Make/Type
    555 4.4:5.0 Winchester/22LR555HP: 36Gr CuPlHP
    50 4.7:5.0 Remington/TB-22A: Thunderbolt HV 40Gr Solid
    50 4.8:7.9 Federal/510: Champion 40Gr Solid
    325 4.9:7.7 Federal/AM22: AutoMatch 40Gr Solid
    333 6.0:6.0 Winchester/22LR333HP: 36Gr CuPlHP
    500 6.0:6.0 Winchester/S22LRT: M22 40Gr BCuPlRN
    400 6.7:6.7 Federal/AE22: American Eagle HV 38Gr CuPl HP
    500 6.8:8.0 Remington/TB-22B: Thunderbolt HV 40Gr Solid
    500 7.9:7.9 Federal/710: Game-Shok 40Gr CuPlRN
    50 8.0:8.0 CCI/0035: SV 40Gr PbRN
    100 8.0:8.0 Remington/1500: Golden Bullet 40Gr PbRN
    500 8.0:8.0 Federal/510x: Champion 40Gr Solid
    500 8.0:8.0 Federal/AE5022: American Eagle HV 40Gr Solid

    (And yes, those 50-round deci-bricks were for individual sale).

    Note how the odd (555, 333, 325) pack sizes are generally cheaper.
    Do the math, or pay more.

    But I do know someone who will commiserate with you:

  5. This is why I stick with match ammo. While everybody else was whining about not being able to buy a box at Wal-Mart, I was ordering RWS and Eley by the case.

    FWIW, JG Sales and Brownells both have Eley at VERY reasonable prices.

  6. Now, hold on a minute there, Kim. You can’t estimate the cost per round of a 1575 round box of ammo without a calculator? I was under the impression that you went to public school in the RSA, not the ATL. 😉

    1. If I was any good at arithmetic, I wouldn’t have worked in the Stat Department at a Great Big Research Company.
      Besides, my old brain just freezes up at the thought of multiplying a price by 4 and dividing the sum by 63. As my old boss used to say: who needs brains when you have batteries?

  7. That’s why the guys at Academy always see me in the ammo aisle with my smart phone in my hand – I’ll run the per round numbers and make my purchase accordingly. I paid just under eight cents a round for CCI Stingers on Saturday and thought that that was an okay deal. I’m always balancing the local tax vs shipping costs when I consider Internet orders.

    I might disagree just a bit with the statement that all .22 ammo is the same. Yeah the well known brands like Federal, Winchester, and Remington all do the job and are consistent and reliable. I bought a thousand rounds of Aquila back in the dark days before the 2016 election when we thought that Hillary was going to pull it off. I wanted anything that would shoot if only to use it as trading stock when the four horsemen saddled up. I decided to shoot some of it and got misfires, hang fires, smoke and dirt, and even key holes from a Browning Buck Mark at 20 yards. So there seems to be a level that a rational person shouldn’t go below. I’m sitting on about 20K rounds of .22, all good stuff other that that Mexican junk, and I’ll continue to buy more when momma isn’t around.

    1. It also varies by gun; my 10/22 and Ruger 22/45 just LOVE Aquila and turn up their muzzles at Thunderbolt.

  8. If you account for the duds and jams, the Thunderbolts are functionally the same cost as Eleys.

  9. The Remington Thunderbolt, imo, is too expensive at any prices. That is the least reliable ammo I’ve ever used in any firearm.

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