Featured Revisiting the Ammunition Shortage in 2021 with Nosler Forrest Cooper February 3, 2021 22 Comments, Join the Conversation The ammunition shortage of 2020 has carried on to the following year, bringing with it a new set of questions, concerns, and predictions. The pithy “supply and demand” response loses its touch over time, demanding further explanation. Worse still, if the ammo situation were reduced to a correlation between increased frequency of politically charged events and the rise in demand for ammo, we risk creating a positive feedback loop between inflammatory news coverage, and empty gun store shelves. We spoke to Nosler about how they are approaching the ammunition shortage. Starting with Demand The easy answer is only part of the story, but a necessary part. The federal NICS background checks, albeit imperfectly, quantifies an element of the increased demand. In 2020, the total count at the end of the year was 39,695,315, an increase of 11,325,565 over 2019's 28,369,750, an increase of roughly 39%. Looking month to month, March, June, and December racked up the highest numbers, surrounding key political events throughout the year. As the COVID lockdowns began, March broke the record for NICS checks with 3,740,688 NICS checks. The summer's civil unrest peaked June sales at 3,931,607. Following the election, December broke the record for the third time in the year at 3,937,066 checks. January 2021 NICS checks: 4,317,804. In addition to increased trends of ammo purchases, the numbers of consumers of ammunition sharply increased mostly in part due to the approximately 8 million first time gun owners in the U.S. in 2020. That’s a uniquely high number of new gun owners in one year and not a measure of growth that ammunition manufacturers were prepared for. If each of those new gun owners also purchased a 20ct. box of ammo along with their new firearm, that’s 160,000,000 rounds of ammo right there alone. If they purchased a 50ct. box of ammo, that’s 400,000,000 rounds. These numbers weren’t there just a year ago. That number swells exponentially when you add the existing amount of gun owners in this country also looking for ammunition and loading components. ~Nosler drawing out the math. One of the upsides of an ammunition shortage is the inevitable purge of small piles of random ammo. Multiple Challenges to Supply As America locked down for COVID, it amplified the consumption of news related media, egging on the ever-increasing intensity of headlines, scoops, stories, and speculations. As a result, big stories quickly passed from collective memory, such as the bankruptcy, sale, and breakup of one of the world's largest ammunition manufacturers: Remington. As one of two full-line ammunition manufacturer's in the United States, and one of ten in the world, even if the factory continued to operate during the change of hands, the process of switching management would take its toll. Couple those surging numbers with various manufacturers dealing with limited production because of COVID cases and precautions throughout the year as well as one of the largest ammo manufacturers in the world was closed for business for much of last year to facilitate bankruptcy and a sale. These were all pretty big challenges for the ammo manufactures to keep up with. ~Nosler The loss of an ammunition manufacturer combined with the integration of new health and safety guidelines still only account for two factors, compound this with the shifting requirements surrounding international shipping, and the picture is starting to take shape. Resources The United States has a respectable, but limited access to its own resources and the process of establishing a new mine or processing operation requires more than just time and capital. Add this to an election year, where any step requiring permission from a bureaucracy, and you can expect one layer to the ammunition shortage cake. Governments are like computers, they are supposed to work for us, but if left unattended, the roles can switch suddenly and without warning. Any way you look at it, be it components or raw materials, at some point access to these necessary ingredients for ammo will hit soft and hard barriers. Political relationships between countries come into effect, and all the more when the ability to import raw materials is hampered by Covid guidelines and requirements. Be it politics or pandemics, both contribute to the increased pressure in more ways than one. Social Snowball Effect Since Supply and Demand answers leave us wanting, and blaming the system itself may feel satisfying without providing solutions, we can look at the subtle social influences that take place in the lives of individual citizens. Let’s say the average ammo consumer (in normal market conditions) purchases two boxes of ammo off the shelf when they go to restock their ammo supply for their 9mm handgun. Let’s also say an average gun store keeps 10 boxes of 9mm ammo in stock, on the shelf. In times of uncertainty and scarce supply, maybe that customer will purchase all 10 boxes on the shelf instead of their normal two boxes. Now, the next four customers that would’ve normally come behind that customer to purchase their two boxes of 9mm ammo can’t because the first customer already purchased it all. Those four customers that would normally purchase their two boxes of ammo are out of luck this go around but the next time they do run across 9mm ammo, odds are they’ll be purchasing more than the two boxes that they normally would, thus repeating the cycle. The supply of ammunition, then, will be limited to physical capacity, paired with political dynamics, but the demand increases exponentially, unfettered by social pressure, be it overt or coincidental. A mad rush produces a longer mad rush, and in the event that a supplier invests to increase capacity, they are met with both the concerns of political barriers and physical access to resources. Ammunition Shortage Solutions The choice to prioritize high-demand cartridges addresses the ammunition shortage at the detriment of other calibers. The increased demand and scarcity of 9mm ammunition then spills over to increased demand and scarcity of other popular cartridges such as 45 ACP, 223 Rem for example, which eventually spills into whatever firearm cartridges consumers have in their gun safes because they don’t want to run out of 270 Win and 30-06 ammo either which will eventually spill into demand and scarcity for ammo in every oddball cartridge left on the shelf. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say a factory has a maximum capacity to make 10,000 rounds of ammunition a day (300k/month) and currently has orders for 100k rounds of 9mm, 100k rounds of 223 Rem, 100k rounds of 45 ACP, 1500 rounds of 35 Whelen and 1,000 rounds of 8×57. Loading priorities are going to be for the highest demand cartridges and with what components can be acquired. This will continue until those purchasing have enough ammunition in their stockpile, safe, or survival outfit to feel satisfied. That stored quantity, while varying from person to person, remains a problem in limbo so long as it is left undefined. The urge to buy more ammunition expands ad infinitum if left to social influences such as seeing empty store shelves. Although only a part of the solution, we all help bring order to the chaos of the 2020 to 2021 ammunition shortage by deliberately choosing what that ideal round count will be, and sticking to it. Nosler Ammunition Those familiar with loading their own ammunition need no introduction to Nosler. An ammunition manufacturer that has built a reputation on quality hunting ammunition, offers more than just components. With match grade, defensive, and hunting loads available, Nosler ammunition continues to be a staple in our range bag. In the ever-advancing world of suppressors and competition firearms, we'll be sure to incorporate them in future reviews, courses, and competitions. URL: https://www.nosler.com/ More on the Ammunition Shortage and Gun Sales The Second Amendment is Alive and Well, Here's how you can help. Why is the Ammo Gone? What is going on with the Remington Sale? If only we'd known: Predicting the 2020 Ammunition Shortage. Explore RECOILweb:Sheriff of Baghdad Tactical Introduces the MFQD Swivel B-SlingGetting There: A Look at Tires for the Backcountry HunterNew EraThr3 and Leupold Rifle PackageColeman and Pendleton Team Up With National Park Foundation NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included). Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. 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