Last year saw record firearm sales, driven by fears of the pandemic. Additionally, there were some five million first-time buyers in 2020 and as a result of the increased demand, prices of firearms increased steadily, but ammunition prices have essentially skyrocketed.
Common calibers including 7.62x39mm and 9x19mm have reached record prices.
It is very likely that in time those popular calibers will likely return to more “normal” levels, but there are some firearms calibers that will always remain expensive.
5 Most Expensive Ammo Calibers: The Rundown
Of course, nothing comes close to the cost of a single shell used for the cannon originally designed for the U.S. Navy’s USS Zumwalt, which came in at an estimated $800,000 each and made the gun too expensive to operate. However, there still some are calibers that are so expensive that shooters may want to think twice before ever squeezing the trigger. When shooting these rounds you can expect that it will be a costly day at the range. (Note: many of the prices below could be much higher due to what seem like regional price increases due to the ammo shortage the U.S. is seeing.)
Holland & Holland .600 Nitro Express
Anyone who can afford any firearm from Holland & Holland of London, England isn’t likely going to complain about the cost of the ammunition. The “posh” gun maker has been in business since 1835, catering to upscale customers who know that if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.
That is certainly the case with the .700 Nitro Express (17.8x89mmR) big game cartridge, which was developed in 1988 and has remained one of the strongest big game rounds in use today. A single round – not a box – had been retailing for around $80 to $120 late last year and that was considered a bargain.
There is simply no getting past that large-caliber rifle cartridges will come with an equally high cost. Simply put, bigger can mean more expensive – and as the .950 JDJ is as about as big as it can get for civilian rounds the price is impressively high.
Each round for this big-bore rifle weighs in at around half a pound, and it is similar in size to a 20mm anti-aircraft round. And yet, the .950 JDJ still managed to fall with under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) “sporting use exception,” which meant the ammunition isn’t a destructive device. However, while these didn’t require paperwork to buy, the rounds are costly and could be destructive to a bank account. A single .950 JDJ round was priced at around $40 and that was back in 2012, and prices have only gone up. A bigger issue could be that even trying to find the ammunition today could be a Herculean task to say the least.
North African .416 Rigby
Not every expensive shot is going to cost more than dinner at a family restaurant, and for around $124, you can actually pick up a box of ten .416 Rigby 450 grain big game rounds online. At $12 per round, big game hunters will still want to make sure every shot counts, but then again anyone heading out on safari isn’t likely pinching pennies.
Nosler Safari .458
Another big game cartridge, the Nosler Safari .458 Lott 600 grain partition will set shooters back around $240 for a box of $20 – so roughly $12 a shot as well. These are reported to be ideal for bears and moose – not exactly animals that come to mind when with a safari, but still more than most shooters would want to spend during a day at the range.
Federal Premium Safari .470 Nitro
At just about $10.70 a round, the Federal Premium Safari .470 Nitro Express 500 grain might also seem like a bargain considering that 9mm is now well over $1 around. The .470 will certainly have considerably more stopping power as the rounds are hydrostatically stabilized solid bullets, which reportedly provide the penetration of a conventional solid bullet with a concave nose and flared pressure ring.
While that should help take down big game, the shooter still has to make the shot – and at nearly $11 each, most shooters won’t want to have to fire twice.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.