For shooters you want to remember on Christmas, no matter what your budget, consider ammunition.  Your gift budget simply determines the volume.

Big box stores sell shotgun shells in birdshot loads for less than a sawbuck for a box of 25. Deer rifle ammo will run $16 to $25 for a box of twenty standard soft-nose rounds, more for high-tech premium.  A box of 20 rounds of defensive carry ammo for handguns will go for $20 to $30 at your gun shop, and that includes some of the best high-tech stuff.  .22 Long Rifle, of course, is even cheaper.

A few caveats on that, though.  First, make sure the ammo is right for the gun.  3” Magnum 12 gauge shells won’t be right for a 12 gauge shotgun with the standard 2 ¾” chambering.  .45 Auto ammo won’t work in a revolver chambered for .45 Colt.  Gun dealers can tell you stories about customers who bought the wrong ammo for someone else, or even themselves.

Have a chat with the giftee about their favorite ammo.  A hunter who goes after ducks exclusively will need steel or bismuth shot, not lead.  A lot of defense-minded gun owners are very type-specific and even brand-specific about what they’ll put in their carry or bedside gun. My dad was a smoker, and a carton of unfiltered Camels was always among the things I got him for Christmas; if I had given him a carton of Lucky Strikes instead, he might have disowned me. Some shooters are like that with their ammo brands.  Just as the bourbon connoisseur who insists on Knob Creek won’t be drinking even a gift bottle of Bubba’s Generic, the serious shooter who loads his 9mm with 147 grain Federal HST or 124 grain +P Speer Gold Dot wants only that, and not a substitute.  If you give your deer-hunting cousin a box of 150-grain .30/30 ammo, it probably won’t hit to the exact same point of aim/point of impact coordinates as the 170-grain loads he sighted his rifle in for, and it could be the difference between a hit and a miss, a cleanly bagged or horribly crippled animal next hunting season.

There may be some folks on your gift list who need good ammo more than others. Those will tend to be the casual as opposed to “enthusiast” gun owners.  Your neighbor who shoots a deer every year but hasn’t bought a box of ammo in two or three years will probably be loading with ammo that got chewed up running it through his Winchester ’94 every time he loaded and unloaded it, and that can deform the rounds sufficiently to impair accuracy.  The guy who unloads his carry pistol every night and then reloads it and rechambers the same round the next morning has almost certainly compromised the cartridge that has been in and out of the chamber more than a couple of times.  Some folks need to think about that more, and the person who gives them good, fresh ammo may literally save their life, depending how the future goes.

My most memorable Christmas in terms of gifts was probably my twelfth.  My dad gave me a Colt 1911 .45 pistol, military surplus, that turned out to have been manufactured in 1918. I still have it, and shot it this year to commemorate its centennial.  But you know, that same year my sister gave me a shoulder holster to go with it, and one uncle gave me a box of Winchester .45 ACP ammo for it, all together under the tree.  And I remember Elizabeth’s gift and Uncle Whitney’s just as much as my dad’s, more than half a century later.

Just sayin’…


  1. This Christmas is going to be a fun one around my neck of the woods. My uncle lost his two most precious firearms in a fire at his cabin. Everything else was at home, but these two were stored in a ‘safe’ up there. I couldn’t replace both – but I was able to locate a mint Smith 28-2 Highway Patrolman identical to his that he was always very proud of. He carried it for several years as an officer before transitioning to become a fireman.
    I also located some pachmayr presentation grips just like what he had on it. It’s as close a copy as I could find. Wife and I going to sneak it under their Christmas tree from jolly old St. Nick.

  2. Well uncle Mas, this one is timely. See, my 24 year old stepson, in no way a gun person, wants to give me…ammo for Christmas. Think I’ll request some .40 VCrown.

  3. Love the article. I remember the HR 20 gauge and Iver Johnson break top I received from my dad at my12th Christmas. Wish I still had them but he more than mad up for them over the years!

  4. Hmmm . . . an observation from an armchair pistolero: defensive handgun ammunition compromised by repeated chamberings during loading and unloading? Is this an point in favour for a revolver?

  5. Comment from an armchair pistolero: defensive handgun ammunition compromised by repeated chamberings during loading & unloading? Is this a point in favour of the revolver?

    • Just my opinion but I always felt that this was a solid point in favor of revolvers. I have never liked to leave the magazines of semi-auto pistols fully loaded for any great length of time. This means that one must generally buy some extra magazines and come up with some plan for systematic unloading and rotation of the magazines. Furthermore, one must also come up with a plan to use up and rotate the ammunition due the possible problems caused by repeatedly loading the same rounds into the chamber. In effect, using a semi-auto for either home defense or concealed carry means that one must either (1) be rigorous about making and keeping a schedule of magazine and ammo rotation or else (2) be ‘happy-go-lucky’ and just ignore possible spring compression and bullet setback problems and keep using the same magazines and ammo without regard to any rotation plan.

      Revolvers do not force one into this Schedule or Slob choice. One can load up a revolver and associated speed-loaders / speed-strips and (since no springs are compressed anywhere and no great slam-force is applied to the ammo) just leave them alone for months or years if desired. One can keep a concealed carry revolver and extra ammo ready to ‘grab and go’ without spending 15 minutes of ‘prep-time’ finding ammo and loading magazines as is required for semi-auto’s.

      Of course, even with a revolver, one should eventually rotate out the old rounds and load up some fresh ones. However, the pressure to do it on a strict time-table does not exists as it does with a semi-auto.

      It is just my opinion but I feel that these are real advantages. So, while I own several semi-auto pistols for range use, it is revolvers that I keep loaded and ready for home defense and concealed carry. I KNOW that my revolvers will go ‘BAMG’ if called upon in an emergency with no need to worry about magazine spring compression or ammo that has been chambered too many times.

  6. One thing I always do with factory defensive ammunition is to lightly taper crimp every pistol cartridge and seal the primers with red nail polish. Of the higher grade brands of defensive handgun ammo, only Remington Golden Saber and some calibers of Federal Hydra-Shok have sealed primers and none are taper crimped. The case mouths of some brands are even still flared. Revolvers function fine with these rounds, but pistols may hang up and/or push the bullets into the cases when feeding and I want absolute reliability in my serious ammo. Check every cartridge before loading them in your gun and extra magazines. I’ve found deformed bullets and damaged cases in rounds of ammo from reputable brands like Federal, Remington, Speer, and Winchester, but none from SIG yet as it’s fairly new and I have only shot maybe a dozen boxes total in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP calibers.

    • Be careful crimping semiauto cartridges like .45 ACP. They index on the case mouth. That is, the case goes into the chamber until the case mouth hits the end of the chamber. With an aggressive crimp the cartridge may not fit properly.

  7. Ammo…YES! And for an added bonus; Magazines! LOTS of magazines to help with our training. (You DO go to the range more than once a year, don’t you?)
    Thanks for sharing your special memories. Merry Christmas to all, and many Blessings for a Happy, Healthy New Year!

  8. If you aren’t sure what a shooter wants, ask. If they aren’t sure what they want, a gift certificate for a class may be in order; even if it’s a promise for you to take them to a range and let them fire a variety of firearms.

    Every year I get half a dozen students with a gifted gun. Usually six of the givers get it wrong. That’s one reason I teach a “Buying Your First Handgun” class.

    Had a couple take a first shots class last spring, “for her.” Guy bought his “little lady” a .380, but got HimSelf a Nine Millimeter. After shooting both, the quite capable lady decided she liked his gun better.
    Power shift.
    He looked at me, I told him that buying himself the same model she liked meant they could swap magazines and use the same ammo. If he wanted His & Hers he could get a different color.
    She perked up. “They come in colors?”

    Of course, gifting a more advanced class isn’t a bad idea, either.

  9. Since it’s true that bullets can get pushed back in the case, when frequently chambered and ejected, I might be inclined to just leave that pistol loaded for as long as possible. Why unload it at night? Either way, it makes sense to visually inspect those cartridges often.

  10. Have a neighbor who lives alone and was widowed 3 years ago. Each Christmas since her husband passed away, I gift her with an ammo can filled with three boxes of 16ga #6 shot for her Browning “Sweet Sixteen” and a couple of boxes of .38spec semi-wadcutters for her Ruger Speed-six. She’s 76 years old, and coons and possums enter her yard at extreme risk. She is wheel chair bound, but doesn’t let that slow her down. She gets her deer every year and cans the meat. Last year she gifted me with a set of hand made skinning and butcher knives that her deceased husband’s grand parents brought with them when they immigrated from Scandinavia.

Comments are closed.