The obvious answer to this question with things at their current state is the one that you can FIND! But if you do have a choice, this article will help you pick the right one for you. Rather than listing out a thousand obscure options you probably won’t even see for sale anytime soon, our focus here is to take a look at some of the most common brands of bulk packs that are sold in some of the most common places. As a result, this list is far from exhaustive, but it will give you an idea of what to expect when you open any of these boxes. One last thing to consider is that this article isn’t meant to be a direct comparison because there are several calibers in the mix, but most of the information remains applicable across the board. In no particular order:
1. Remington UMC 250-round Mega Pack
When I opened up the UMC Mega Pack of 130 grain 38 Special ammunition the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t just 250 loose rounds thrown into a single big box; instead, it was five individual 50-round boxes of nice-looking ammo. Admittedly, I haven’t bought a UMC 250-pack in any caliber except 38, and I hear that the 9mm is packed loose, but this was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The UMC pack also had something that is becoming more and more rare in the world of “economy” FMJ: a true jacket rather than a plated or copper-washed bullet. Another welcome surprise. At the range, the flash wasn’t too bad at all and the Kleanbore primers seemed to burn cleanly. More importantly, no misfires or light strikes. At 25 yards in a less-than-ideally lit indoor range, off-hand groups in the head of a standard B-27 target weren’t an overly-difficult task through the 4″ Colt Trooper we used for testing. The brass had the standard R-P headstamp, and the length was consistent from round to round. Overall, the UMC Mega Pack was a good value for the money, and I would buy one again. I hear mixed reviews on UMC, and it isn’t something I typically shoot because other brands are generally easier to find for me, but this was good stuff. For 250 rounds of 38 Special, the price on this one seems to hover around $110 retail; 9mm ranges from $70-$75 most places I’ve seen it, and .45 Auto usually sells for about $5 more than the 38 Special.
2. Winchester USA 100-round Value Pack
This one is a stock photo because I foolishly forgot to take a picture prior to shooting up all of the Winchester value pack ammo I had on hand. What can I say? I was having fun and it slipped my mind. Winchester USA ammunition also has very good brass, an actual jacket on the bullet, and reliable primers. Out of thousands of rounds of this stuff, I’ve never had a failure to fire. In my opinion, Winchester’s USA line catches a lot of flack for no reason. Although there are other Winchester products I like a lot more, none of those are available at Wal-Mart for $26 per 100 rounds. I hear stories all the time about OAL inconsistency and other issues via this forum or that, but I’ve never once had an issue with the stuff myself. In 9mm, I’ve run this ammo through a Glock 34, multiple Sig Sauer pistols, and my Wilson Combat Ultralight Carry. In .45, I’ve run it through every 1911 I’ve ever owned, tested, or borrowed. Is it on par with PDX1 Defender or Asym Precision match ammo? Nope, and it isn’t meant to be. For the money, Winchester White Box remains a good, solid value. And it beats the heck out of Wolf, so there’s that. I’ve never had issues grouping shots at 25 yards with this ammunition, and I use the USA line of ammo regularly in 9mm, .45, and 38 Super. The packaging seems to vary based on lot (or maybe it changed for 2014). The last .45 value pack I bought had 20 rounds on each level, laid flat between layers of Winchester-marked cardboard (at right). The last 9mm I bought was 100 loose rounds in a box. Either way, it’s more efficient than a tray for every 50 rounds, and it probably helps to keep the cost down. Price per 100 is about $27 for 9mm, $39 for .40 S&W, and $44 for .45 Auto.
3. Federal Champion 100-round Value Pack
Once again, 100 rounds of 9mm for about $25, packed with 20 rounds on each level. The 100-round Champion value packs are slightly cheaper than the Winchester USA (only $0.90 less per 100 for 9mm and $4 less for .45 ), but there are some substantive differences between the two. Chiefly, the Federal Champion line uses a bullet with a much thinner “jacket” (essentially a plated bullet), and carries a “Not for Law Enforcement Use” stamp on the back of the box as a result. Although this ammunition is absolutely fine for range use, and the brass is good quality, the rifling can cut into the cheaper “jacket” and shed it at relatively close ranges, so using these rounds with ported or compensated barrels is a no-no. Again, there are Federal products I’d rather shoot, but they cost more, so I still think the Champion line represents a good value for plinking or range use. Compared to the rounds from the first two options, the Champion rounds are a bit rougher in appearance, and the jackets on the UMC or Winchester projectiles are of unquestionably higher quality. Even so, the Federal costs less per round than almost anything else, so it’s really just a question of intended use and what you want to pay. Through about 1,000 of these rounds, I’ve never had a failure to fire, although this isn’t the most accurate ammunition through my guns by any stretch of the imagination. Through your guns, it may well be another story. One other difference is that the Champion line is loaded a bit softer than other types of Federal ammo or other brands (in 9mm, at least). For matches, that can actually be beneficial, but if consistency is a concern, or if you want full-powered 9mm to cycle a new gun, tight 1911, etc., this might not be your best bet. The Winchester USA and the Federal American Eagle lines seem to do better on both of those fronts. Price per 100 for Champion is about $26 for 9mm and $40 for .45 Auto. If .45 is your caliber, one last thing to consider is that it’s not uncommon for the Champion .45 to have small pistol primers. If you reload and have mountains of standard large-primer .45 brass, that could make sorting a bit of a pain.
4. Federal American Eagle 250-round Value Pack
I wanted to include this option as well because I don’t want people to read the last paragraph alone and think that I have something against Federal. I don’t. In fact, I’ve probably shot more of this ammo in .45 than just about any other brand, and I like the AE line a lot. Although I’ve only seen the 250-pack in .45 Auto, other calibers and .45 also come in 100-round packs that are exactly the same product. American Eagle loads use higher-quality powder than Champion, bullets with true jackets, and offer multiple different weights for some calibers (the 147-grain FMJ-FP 9mm load is a personal favorite of mine). In my opinion, the slight increase in cost is usually more than worth it; however, what used to be a slight difference has become a lot more noticeable over the last year, with American Eagle becoming much more scarce than the Champion bulk packs, and the cost increasing at most retailers accordingly. Whether it’s worth the extra coin is entirely up to your individual preference and what weight you might put on something like the type of bullet or the shot-to-shot consistency. The only knock I could possibly have against the AE bulk pack is the way it’s packaged. In sharp contrast to the UMC Mega Pack 38 Special ammo, this is just thrown into a big box and packaged loose (like the Winchester 9mm). But while I know loose ammo might bother some people, I’ve never once had an issue with a round because it was packed this way, so I can’t complain on any grounds other than aesthetics. And aesthetics don’t cause jams. For 250 rounds of .45, the cost of this item runs the gamut. When available these days, the cost ranges from $100 on the low side to $190 on the “you’ve got to be kidding me” side. I was lucky enough to buy most of mine for $80 a couple of years ago, but the box pictured is newer. I’ve seen American Eagle 100-round packs a lot more recently in multiple calibers, and I’d guess that as ammunition prices continued to climb last year, Federal thought 100 rounds might be slightly less cost-prohibitive for most consumers. In .45, the last 100-round packs I found were $40-50, depending on the store.
All in all, any of these choices would likely serve you well, but there are still differences from one option to the next. Your personal experience and how your own firearms perform with a given type of ammunition could drastically affect your preference, but hopefully this helps you know what to expect when you open up any of these boxes. In 9mm, for $1 more than Champion, my personal preference is the Winchester. In 38 Special, the UMC shot very well through my old Colt revolver. If your experience with any of these differs, please feel free to comment below the article so that other readers can benefit from your experience as well. Most importantly, be safe and shoot well. HP