According to wide open spaces
It’s no secret that the United States is experiencing what many are calling an ammo shortage. Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, it seems like brick-and-mortar gun stores and online retailers can’t keep the most popular self defense (or even hunting) cartridges in stock.
Even ammunition reloading components are tough to find. Small pistol primers might as well be unicorn teeth at the moment. Everything is on backorder and prices are high when ammo finally does come in.
Is this really an “ammunition shortage,” as in there isn’t enough to go around? Or is it the behavior of the people buying the ammo for their handguns, shotguns, and rifles that’s causing the perceived shortages?
I’m not absolutely sure why this is happening, but I have an idea. I believe that the ammo situation is similar to how people have been hoarding toilet paper since the start of the pandemic: through what’s known as artificially over-inflated demand.
While more people than ever are buying guns and ammo is flying off the shelves, I haven’t seen any evidence that people are shooting more than they were last year. That means people are buying lots of ammo (as well as reloading components) and sitting on it, just in case.
At least a slight spike in gun and ammo sales was already expected in 2020, mainly since it was an election year. But when the coronavirus pandemic began, along with widespread protests and rioting across the country, current gun owners and new gun owners bought up all the ammunition they could find. In many ways, it was understandable.
Along with heavily increased gun sales (going by the monthly background check statistics and reports from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, or NSSF), ammunition sales have soared in 2020.
It’s happened before, usually in the shadow of looming gun legislation, but never to this extent.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic went on. And on. As did the widespread civil unrest. When a gun shop or big box retailer got a case or two of 9mm or .223 ammo, it was gone in the blink of an eye–because after all, “Who knows when they’ll get it in stock again…?”
Since it was selling immediately, retailers bought out everything their distributors had in stock, putting pretty much everything on backorder. To add to that, many retailers started placing limits on how many boxes of certain calibers that each customer could buy, which makes it seem like ammunition is even more scarce.
Now, you might be thinking, why don’t ammunition companies just ramp up production to meet the need? The fact is, an ammunition factory can only produce so many rounds per day. Most companies have done what they can to produce as much of the in-demand cartridges as possible.
I know for a fact some of the more rarely purchased cartridges Hornady was cranking out in 2019 have been suspended until further notice.
An ammo manufacturer can’t just magically add production capacity. For one, it’s extremely expensive to do, and because the ammo making procedure deals with hazardous chemicals and explosives, zoning and environmental regulations are strict.
Truthfully, the process for building a new ammo plant could take months or even years. By that time, who knows what demand for ammo will look like?
The NRA’s American Rifleman reports that the top three ammo manufacturers in the country are reporting that they’ve produced record amounts of ammunition this year–at the moment, the big three include Federal, Winchester, and Hornady. The Remington Ammunition plant has not been at full capacity since it and the ammo company were sold to Federal’s parent company, Vista Outdoor earlier this year, but more on that later.