The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

When the Brass Dries Up

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How to Plan to Prevent the Pain

We’ve seen it happen in recent history. Ammo shelves are empty, retailers limit the quantities consumers can purchase, and suddenly reloading becomes very popular. Then reloading components dry up too. The reasons for these events are many, and usually they’re based on some tragic event or politicians talking out of their ass. Every citizen has a right to self-defense, and with that right comes the need to acquire ammunition for practice and defense. Here, we analyze ammo shortages from the recent past and focus on being better prepared for future ones.

PANIC = $$$
The ammunition shortage of 2008 to 2015 hit the gun world hard. 2008 was a wild year for gun sales, with basically anything black or pistol-gripped flying off the shelves. The election of Barack Obama fueled the buying frenzy, with Americans justifiably fearing more restrictive gun laws would follow him into office. In 2008, the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) processed over 12-million checks, setting a record for that year. The numbers of gun sales continued to skyrocket until they began leveling out in 2018. All of these new firearms owners were buying ammunition to feed their recently acquired guns.

The ammo shortage was most visible in the rimfire ammunition market. Normally plentiful and inexpensive, plinking ammunition instantly became scarce because it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to stockpile. When customers walked into a store to find barely stocked shelves, they’d perceive the shortage and buy as much as they could, resulting in a knock-on effect to the next customer who in turn would do the same. Many people bought ammunition with likely little intention of shooting it because they didn’t know if or when they might be able to replenish their stash. To try to stem the result of the panic, retailers limited the amount of ammunition a customer could purchase.

Later in the decade, the ammo panic relaxed as manufacturers caught up with the market. In some cases, they caught up by increasing production capability; in other areas, demand eased as guys had no more room to stash ammo.

Then, in 2012 the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting triggered a new panic. Firearms again were under the national microscope, causing consumers to panic buy en masse. Retailers that had recovered from the 2008 shortages now found themselves with empty shelves again. Although the media played a role in this panic, it was largely driven by the consumers themselves out of fear of new firearms legislation.

Panic buying isn’t a firearms-specific problem. Only a few months ago, UK citizens were worried that toilet paper would become unavailable due to Brexit issues. This caused a panic amongst locals who rushed to stores to stock up, despite manufacturers having planned for this by bringing in more raw material in case of border delays. The public, being what it is, still bought more toilet paper than they normally would, leading to some shortages.

Make it a goal to be able to dive into your ammo stash like Scrooge McDuck. As we’ve seen from recent years, availability can be fickle.

With the most recent examples largely being self-imposed, how can you be more prepared for another large-scale shortage of ammunition? The obvious answer is to go out and buy several thousand rounds of every caliber you ever intend to shoot, but for most of us that’s beyond unrealistic. Buying a little at a time makes the most sense, and this is prime time, as stores are flush and manufacturers are keeping up with production demands. Treating ammunition like your weekly groceries is a very acceptable method to stay stocked and to build up a stockpile without breaking the bank or sabotaging others. Set a goal of how much to have on hand and categorize it for training purposes, defense, and “just in case” if you’re able.

Another rule this author was taught at a young age was when you go to a gun show, never leave empty-handed. If you’re not purchasing a gun, buy one magazine and/or one box of ammunition for any firearm you own. Have a Glock 19? Pick up a magazine and a box of 9mm — you’ve only spent around $30. And if you go to enough gun shows, you’ll end the year with a decent stockpile of supplies and not have to worry about a large-scale shortage. If you’re not a frequent gun showgoer, use this method every time you go somewhere that does sell ammunition.

This issue having several rimfire options, it’s only pertinent to mention that buying a brick of 22 LR today is much more costly than years past. Rimfire ammunition suffered the largest jump in price during the shortages, but has mostly leveled out, with prices coming back to around $0.05 per a round. Since rimfire is most often sold in bulk packs, picking up an extra (notice we said an extra, not several) keeps your stock up without screwing over the rest of consumers. Rimfire guns can be finicky too, in some cases, so if your pea shooter likes a specific brand, don’t count on it always being available.

Even supplies of reloading components eventually feel the effects of a run on ammo. It’s just a matter of time.

We all saw it years ago. Certain retailers skyrocketed their prices literally overnight on high demand items, sometimes increasing them by 500 percent, And yes, we realize this is America and if people are willing to pay then so be it. Be prepared to see people capitalizing on the panic and selling ammunition and firearms for outrageous prices. I’m sure you know of at least one person just waiting for the day to sell their $300 AR for a grand to a desperate first-time buyer who didn’t plan ahead. The point is to not put yourself in a position that you must pay a grossly inflated price for these goods.

Reloading is a popular pastime with shooters, and some argue that you never really understand ballistics until you’ve made your own ammunition. Producing ammunition in your garage on a “mass” scale is doable with the proper equipment. The initial investment can be substantial if you choose, but an entry-level reloading kit can be had for less than $200. Primers, powder, and projectiles are also readily available at this time of writing. Learning to brew your practice ammo can save you money and allow you to build a large stockpile in the process. Components did dry up during the ammo shortages but not as quickly as loaded ammunition, so if reloading does interest you it’s best to get into it sooner rather than later. For all of the precision shooters who rely on factory ammo, you may find your hand loads give you more and save money in the long run.

Guns are useless without ammunition, and politicians know that just as much as we do. We’ve already seen precedence of limiting ammunition purchases and forcing retailers to have licenses just to sell ammunition. We’ve also seen where California requires an ID card and background check for ammunition purchases. This could happen elsewhere, and it’s important for consumers to be aware and prepared. We also know that ammo prices can skyrocket in the blink of an eye, so having some on hand truly is the smart plan. One thing is sure, however, even during the ammo shortages, .40 S&W was available because nobody likes that round. Glock 22, anyone?

During the previous panic, if you stood next to this shelf you’d run the risk of being crushed under a stampede of sweaty neckbeards trying to get their hands on the last brick of 22 LR. May a pox be upon them.


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