Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ammo Price Differences

I just don't understand the current state of affairs regarding the pricing of ammunition. Sure I know, the excuses for higher priced ammo over the last few years have been:

1) Higher fuel prices, so the cost had to go up because it cost more to components to the factories, and ammo from the factories to the stores.

2) A shortage of components because of the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq.

3) Good old inflation.

Okay, I can buy these three reasons; but it seems that when the ammo manufacturers, and the ammo retailers, tell us there are price increases coming and these are the reasons, they leave out what surely, at least in my opinion, must be another reason - out and out price gouging due to greed. For example, I was at an ammunition retailer yesterday, as a matter of fact I was at more than one, in the form of sporting goods stores. I took a look at the price of Remington's .35 Remington Cor-Lokt, 200 grain soft points. One of the stores had a box of 20 rounds for about $24.99 plus tax. The other store had it for the same price give or take a dollar or so. Then tonight I checked online with a major retailer who specializes in great deals on sporting goods (among other things). They wanted $55.77 per box of 20 for the same exact ammunition. That is absurd since I got the same ammo from them for under $14.00 per box of 20 just last August. There is no legitimate way, as I see it, that they have boosted the price by 3.8 times since last August - not when the other retailers are selling it for so much less. As a matter of fact those other retailers had it for about $20 to $22 last August, so they have only gone up a few bucks in price during the time between last August and the present.

Not that anyone out there thinks this is just a one item fluke. The online store has 32 WIN Special for $19.77 per box of 20, same brand Remington, same bullet configuration Cor-lokt, 170 grain softpoint. This time it was one of the retail stores that seemed to have a way too high price; the store was selling the 32 WIN Special (same exact stuff) for almost $40.00 per box of 20 rounds! The role of possible price gouger seemed reversed between the store and the online seller.

This is not something limited to this small group of ammo types, nor to these two retailers. If you shop around there are what seem to be some out of this world price differences for the same exact types of ammunition between different retailers. Is there any legitimate reason for the difference in price between these retailers? If there is - well I cannot see it, but if you do then please explain it to me. Of course I guess these prices could be mistakes, but this type of 'mistake' if that is what they are, are becoming all too commonplace lately. I guess the old saying of Buyer Beware is one that makes a lot of good sense; so if you are in the market for ammo, don't be a schmuck, shop around before plopping down your hard earned gelt.

All the best,
Glenn B

Gander Mountain...

...sounds like a nice place to go hiking, hunting, bird watching, camping or whatever. The name brings to mind the songs of birds in the treetops, the wind rustling leaves, geese flying north for the season (or please spring hurry up), fresh - cold - clear streams running full of trout, a secluded mountaintop pond loaded with smallmouth bass, a 12 pointer watching from the edge of the woods - oh you get the picture. Well I was there yesterday out in the parking lot. No its not a mountain with its own parking lot, but was the Gander Mountain store in Middletown, NY. I had occasion to be in Middletown yesterday, and I stopped in at Gander Mountain to use the facilities when nature called. Of course once inside, I could not resist some window shopping - so to speak.

Gander Mountain has a lot of things that the outdoorsman type of sports enthusiast would like. They have everything from fly fishing gear to paintball guns; stuff like: firearms, ammunition, archery gear, hunting gear, fishing gear, boats, motors for boats, camping gear, hiking boots, outdoors clothing, and on and on. They even sold live bait, and when I saw that how could I resist buying some worms for my pet musk turtle! I think that was what did it, I grabbed a cup of worms, then I started grabbing targets, fishing lures, gun cleaning patches, silicone desiccant for my gun locker, outdoors sports magazines, and whatever else I could think of for which I had a need.

I don't get a chance to visit a store like this very often, one dedicated mostly to the sports of hunting/fishing/shooting/boating/camping. Yes there is a Dick's Sporting Goods close to where I live, but they have drifted more toward the likes of the MetroSportsman than to the traditional outdoors man what with there bicycle department, their weight training stuff, their running shoe department, and whatnot. Nothing bad about that, Dicks is a somewhat more generalized kind of sporting foods store. Gander Mountain is a bit more dedicated to the hunter/fisherman types. So all in all I liked my visit to Gander Mountain yesterday, it was a rare treat for me. In the past several years I have been to stores like Gander Mountain, and Cabelas (another more of a hunter/fisherman type store), and Bass Pro Shops (ditto) only about once per year. They are just not all that close to home for me to go to them any more often.

I find all of these places to be okay; but I have to say that I think I actually prefer Gander Mountain. Out of the three chains I just mentioned, I have been to Cabelas the most often. I have visited the one in PA near Allentown, and have been lucky enough to visit their main store in Nebraska (and maybe another one somewhere else, but I cannot remember for sure right now). I have not been all that impressed with Cabelas. Yes I was impresses by the great displays of museum quality animal mounts that they have throughout their stores, all in natural like settings, and I was impressed by the large aquariums full of native American freshwater fish they have; but the fact is I was nowhere near impressed by the selection of merchandise on their racks and shelves at either location that I visited. As a matter of fact I was quite disappointed on y first visit to Cabelas in PA. I was looking to buy ammunition, and figured to get some good prices on it. I also thought, maybe - just maybe - they would have some really good prices on used guns. Well I was wrong on both counts. Their ammunition shelves were almost bare relatively speaking. They were out of stock of ammunition in several calibers, and had very few brands to select from in other calibers. I thought this was possibly due to the fact that I was visiting them just after Christmas, but when I again visited the same store at another time of year - the same thing - and no it was not just after hunting season. As to the prices on used rifles, as far as I am concerned they could not have built a roof high enough for those prices not to have gone through. Oh well, I bought some stuff each time and was on my way, a not so happy camper. There store in Nebraska was a bit better stocked, but again no great selection of ammo in my opinion.

As for Bass pro Shops, I don't remember where I went to one of them, but I seem to recall they had what I needed for fishing; and I think they had other items too - like hunting stuff. I vaguely remember that it was a nicer experience that either of the Cabelas I visited; but nothing to write home about.

Gander Mountain stick in my mind a little better than Bass Pro Shops, maybe because I was to at least GM twice (I think I was also once at another location where I visited one a third time). Besides that, they seem to have better stocked shelves than did Cabelas. The Cabelas store in PA was, if I recall correctly, much bigger than the Gander Mountain in Middletown, so it should have been stocked better, but I don't think that was the case. For example when I looked at the ammunition supply that Gander Mountain had on hand yesterday, they had just about everything I could imagine the average shooter, and even the somewhat rabid gun enthusiast, in the USA would have a need for; and they had lots of it. There shelves did not have bare spaces as did those at Cabelas when I visited there. Instead, Gander Mountain had the boxes of ammo neatly stacked, row upon row upon row. Sadly though prices were nothing to be desired as far as I am concerned. Last time I bought .35 Remington ammo for my Marlin 336, I paid about per box I think it was $24 plus tax at Gander Mountain yesterday. Yes ammo prices have gone up, but not that much since I last bought that .35 Remington last August. As a matter of fact I bought that ammo for $13.97 a box plus shipping. Now while you may think shipping added considerably to that price, I do not believe it would have added more than what it cost me to drive about 180-185 miles round trip to get to Gander Mountain from my home; remember that gas is going for $3.25 to $3.50 a gallon for regular around here, and I get about 30MPG on the highway, but also do a good amount of that trip - about 60 miles in total - through a fairly congested urban area (is that a nice way to refer to the roads in and around NYC). Yes the prices seemed high at Gander Mountain. The thing is though, if you needed it, they likely had it.

While I decided against buying any ammo, I did pick up gun cleaning patches (expensive too but that is all over), targets, some fishing hook and lures, live bait (for the turtle - really), and some other odds and ends. I was thinking of maybe buying a used rifle there, but from what I could tell, they had no great deal on used rifles. As far as the new rifles and handguns went, I guess their prices seemed about average. Now while the atmosphere was much nicer at Gander Mountain than someplace like Walmarts, I am pretty sure I could have done better at Walmarts, and the closest Walmart to my home that sells firearms and ammo is nowhere nearly as far away as 90 miles (45 miles, maybe even 60, but not 90). Before I go to far afield off subject, let me get back to Gander Mountain. Yes the atmosphere at Gander Mountain was nice indeed, almost making it worth a trip just to shop there. The sales clerks were courteous and friendly, they knew there stock, and were eager (but not in your face eager) to help the customers.

All in all I guess it was worthwhile for me to have stopped inside. Of course had the prices been somewhat better, I would have wound up buying an lot more, and probably wound up getting a scornful look from the wife when the next credit card bill arrived in the mail. As it was I spent about $95, for what did not seem like about $40 worth of stuff; but then I am just past 1/2 a century old, and I remember when candy bars were a only nickel.

Happy Hunting,
Glenn B