Asheville – Where’s All The Ammo? That’s a question a lot of shooters and hunters are asking. Last month we mentioned the ongoing ammunition shortage. Let’s do a deeper dive into what is going on. There has been a lot of news and speculation in the outdoor press lately about this very topic. If you want to go plinking with your kids or grandkids there is no .22 Long Rifle ammo to be found. Deer hunters, when they could find their favorite cartridge this past season, were paying a premium for it. Even clay target shooters have trouble finding standard 12 and 20 gauge target loads, normally stacked up in cases at outdoor retailers.
During the buying craze after the Sandy Hook shooting I owned a gun store and there was a huge ammunition shortage. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Then the shortage was limited to the most popular pistol and rifle calibers. This time it is across the board for all types of ammunition including the before mentioned target shotgun shells. Despite the conspiracy theories, this is simply due to the old economic principle of supply and demand; that along with a confluence of events which led to a perfect storm in the shooting industry.
The first event was the shutdowns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Ammunition manufacturers had to close their production facilities, causing a long gap in inventory. People started thinking about basic needs, one of those being the ability to defend family and property. Folks who normally don’t own a firearm started buying home defense weapons and of course they needed ammunition for it. Just as we were coming out of the lockdown, the second event in the storm occurred, social unrest in the form of rioting and looting. Again, people saw this as a personal threat at the same time as there was a move to “defund the police”. Riots and looting, smaller police forces? One of the basic human needs is self-defense. If government can’t do it, I’ve got to do it myself.
These factors alone led to an unprecedented surge in gun purchases. Based on industry research, there were an estimated 7 – 8 million first time gun buyers since March. If each of those new purchasers bought one box of ammo that immediately puts a strain on the supply chain. One box of ammo for each of those new guns is a very conservative estimate. Add to that existing gun owners who, for the same self-defense reasons, went out and bought large quantities of home defense ammo. The supply chain is getting stretched thin.
Another factor impacting the shortage didn’t get much press. Remington Outdoor Group went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2020. As a part of that their huge ammunition manufacturing facility in Arkansas temporarily shut down. Remington is a big player in the ammo market. So while all of this buying is putting a strain on the supply chain, a large link in that chain went missing. The good news is they are back up and running thanks to their new owner, Vista Outdoor Group. Still, that was a huge gap in supply.
There’s something else going on that doesn’t get much press coverage. Because of state and local Covid restrictions across the country there are not many things you can do recreationally, outdoor activities being the exception. The news is full of reports about increased sales of outdoor equipment for hiking and camping. Go to our local National Forest sometime for a hike. The parking lots are full. Target shooting was experiencing that same surge.
I have the fortune to work part-time at a sporting clays range. Since reopening in May business has been booming. Monthly revenues far exceed that of the same month in the previous year. Every week there are new shooters just getting into the sport, some introduced by friends or co-workers, and some just wanting to try a new outdoor sport. I’ve talked with others in the shooting industry and increased participation is happening everywhere. More shooting, more new shooters, equals increased demand on ammo. Unfortunately, the shortage is now affecting recreational shooting.
So despite rumors you may have heard, the ammo shortage is caused by one thing: a huge increase in demand, a reduction in supply, giving us a perfect storm of factors. The manufacturers are cranking out ammo as fast as they can. One company President said ammo ships out the day it is produced. Until demand stabilizes, or goes down, expect to see ammo shortages across the board through 2021.