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Why is the Ammo Gone?

In the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the media began reporting on a surge in firearms sales across the United States. Fast forward to almost August, and everyone is asking “where did all the ammo go?” Online retailers are out of stock, you can't get rounds from big box stores, and what ammo is available is either limited in quantity or highly priced. According to reps in the ammo industry, demand right now is 10x higher than during the 2013 ammo shortage.

Certainly, you could shout “supply and demand” which is technically correct, but also a gross oversimplification of the answer. To understand why we're in an ammo shortage, we have to dig in to both sides of supply and demand. At the risk of putting the cart before the horse, the first aspect of the current crisis we want to examine is why the demand for ammo is so high.

In a phone interview with Mike Fisher, the VP of Sales and Marketing for Magtech, he pointed out that over the last few years, demand for ammo has been relatively flat. After the recovery from the 2013 crisis, and during the “Trump Slump,” the ammo market has been pretty stable. In 2018, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that the entire industry made 8.1 billion rounds of ammo, across all calibers and gauges.

Captain Jack Sparrow needs ammo too

Why is demand so high?

But now, several unique factors are driving the increase in demand. The first, are the COVID-19 lockdowns. People started buying more guns, and when people buy more guns they also buy more ammo. That would have been fine, but then the civil unrest started. Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than seeing Starbucks on fire, so Americans did what Americans do: bought more guns and ammo. Add to that the fact that it's an election year anyway, and ammo sales always spike in an election year, and you've got historic levels of demand creating an ammo shortage.

Demand is also driven by the same psychological factors that caused the toilet paper shortage: hoarding. According to recent research (Sheu & Kuo, 2020) “hoarding stems from a human’s response, either rationally or emotionally, to scarcity, and so may occur on either the supply or the demand side. As argued by [other researchers], hoarding can be an overall response that involves a mix of a strategic, rational and emotional human responses (such as anxiety, panic and fear) to perceived threats to supply.” That's a smart person way of saying that when people think we're going to run out of ammo, they buy as much as they can and sit on it, which contributes to the scarcity by artificially inflating demand.

Another factor driving increased demand, and oddly higher prices as well are the huge numbers of new gun owners entering the market. The NSSF estimates that up to 40% of the guns sold this year have been to first time gun buyers. With sales at over 8 million guns and going strong, that's a lot of new owners buying guns. They're also buying ammo, but unlike people who have been doing this for a while, they have no idea what ammo is “supposed” to cost. To someone who moved to Texas from LA and now they want a gun, paying $25.99 for a box of 9mm seems reasonable, because that's just what it costs at the moment.

even lucky gunner is out

I have never seen this screen before.


We Found Bulk Ammo In Stock:

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So just make more ammo, right?

With demand driven by spikes in buying, hoarding, and new gun owners, what is the industry doing to keep up? Every company I spoke with is already at maximum capacity. Magtech is running 3 shifts, Federal is working around the clock, and the smaller guys are making ammo as fast as they can. The problem is that only a few companies produce ammo at the volumes needed – companies like Magtech and Federal, for example. They're already at capacity, and adding capacity for a company that large is actually difficult. Adding a new line to make more 9mm ammo requires purchasing expensive machines, installing them, quality control on the new machines, and hopefully getting all that done in time to make enough ammo to pay off the cost of the new machines before the bottom drops out of the market. It's actually easier for smaller companies to add capacity, because there are ammo manufacturing machines that produce rounds at a lower rate, which are more affordable. But these small machines produce thousands of rounds a month as opposed to the tens of millions of rounds that Winchester is manufacturing, and that won't make a dent in the ammo shortage. It's also important to remember that the increased consumer demand must be met along with existing government contracts. The same ammo lines that make rounds for gun shops also make rounds for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and those contracts don't disappear because it's hard to make or source primers.

There are other, not so front page economic effects of COVID-19 that affect the supply lines for raw materials and components. Raw materials like lead, copper, and brass for projectiles, primers, and casings is one piece, and the other is gunpowder itself. The economic downturn not only impacts the industries that produce the raw materials, but with politically tense tariffs, sourcing materials globally takes a two-fold hit: first by supply line disruption via pandemic, and second, the cost-effectiveness through government sanctions. This trickles down to the consumer as well, not leaving behind the choices manufacturers must choose about price and shipping. Additionally, Reuters reported that the trucking industry has taken a massive hit due to regulations around COVID-19, threatening the future of smaller overland shipping operations that have less than 20 vehicles on the road. 

Ammo

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, whether in drills as well as manufacturing.

No end in sight

Some industry experts estimate that we won't see a return to normal inventory levels for 12 months, even when assuming a Republican presidential victory in November. Normal inventory is defined as being able to buy as much as ammo as you want and can afford from the internet or your local retailer. Worse yet, prices may not return to pre-COVID levels for an up to 12 months after that. The long term disruption to the supply chain tends to result in increased costs for manufacturers which will get passed on to the consumer until we see a full economic recovery. Unless one of the factors causing massive demand suddenly changes or disappears, we can expect to see increased prices and rationing for some time to come.

That being the case, market disruption is the time for entrepreneurs to make strides where they would normally be crawling. Smaller ammunition manufacturing businesses now have a chance to capture part of the market otherwise dominated by big names, and with the multitude of new shooters, that stockpile of ammunition can quickly turn into a head start for competitions in the coming years. The difference between preparedness and hoarding in this world, is an ammo shortage is only a negative for the later.


Budget AR-15s In Stock:

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31 responses to “Why is the Ammo Gone?”

  1. JLo says:

    Suckers!!! Hahahah. Should have jumped on it and bought at the right times. I know three people who bought guns for the first time and can’t even shoot em 😂😂. Feels great to be a life long owner and know others as well who were smart and bought little by little.

    • Gus says:

      You’re a real peach. New gun owners are good. I for one love the fact there are new gun owners. I very much enjoy helping them make an informed purchase and helping them with their choices, their safety and their abilities with their new weapons.

      A great thing about the current new gun owners, from my experiences with the ones I know…they are also new NRA members, they are now former Democrat voters and they now understand why the 2A is so important to defend.

      • JLo says:

        I love peaches. New owners are good. Never said they weren’t. No need to virtue signal here. Too much of that these days.

    • rj says:

      they see the light…help’um, advise ‘um
      not laugh at them

    • Michael says:

      That’s not a mature statement.

  2. Scott Thomas says:

    Sad that it took a national pandemic and literal riots to make people understand how important the 2nd ammendmant really is. Personally I learned my lesson last time ammo got short and stocked up a bit.

  3. Not Sherlock says:

    Caleb Giddings the guy no one likes who is now playing capt obvious…

    No sh¡t sherlock!

  4. Caleb Cumguzzler says:

    Why would anyone let Caleb Giddings write an article for them knowing he is a piss poor spokes person even for himself. Recoil Web dot com must be doing really bad if they rely on this joker to write for them.

  5. Barrack Obama says:

    Trying to figure out who is worse, the YankeeMarshall or Caleb? Or better yet who sucks who off? 🤔

  6. Sherri Johansen says:

    Is Caleb still making an ass out of himself on youtube? He is the reason the saying “only two things come from Texas” comment is still alive today and he doesn’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down.

  7. blow me says:

    isn’t recoil mag the anti second ammendment shitrag that said common citizens should not own semi auto “assault” weapons. f recoil and f the author, caleb, whoever the f that is. blow me.

  8. Bemused Berserker says:

    There are a lot more factors driving the shortage than what the author lists. Raw material costs have increased, which is just one alone. The simple fact that the ammunition industry is not sufficient for the demand, and hasn’t been for years now, is evident. Toss in governmental purchases at the local, State and Federal levels, and it’s obvious that the private consumer will be the last to receive a product.
    Bottom line is that until there’s Political Stability, the shortages will continue.

  9. Overtime Forever Sucks says:

    I am a manufacturer. To many idiots that bought toilet paper are buying ammo. Stop it now! You are screwing our loyal customers that buy ammo and shoot weekly competitions.

    • Plandemic says:

      Amen brother

    • Stan Livingston says:

      Right on Brother

    • 2A User says:

      I apologize that the basic consumer watches the news, sees the violence, sees that government either does not care or actively supports it, and wants to defend himself (and that means practice with the new firearm). I apologize that us basic consumers are taking away a product that your “loyal customers” apparently have a god-given right of priority, so they case waste millions of rounds shooting for fun. Apparently the basic consumer has no 2A rights, but your “loyal customers” do.

  10. Superb article. Likely all correct. However if the feds who are stimulating the economy, are they stifling amo manufacturers? They seem to want to support essential products, so they say, but what is more essential than self defense? Feds should stimulate amo industry, but likely they will not because it is not PC.

  11. Mikial says:

    The trick to never running out of ammo is the same as for making sure you have emergency stocks of food and medical supplies. When I go grocery shopping, we buy a little extra each trip. The same goes for first aid supplies and other consumables like batteries. Buy a little bit of extra ammo each month, and when the shortage rolls around . . . which it will, you will already have plenty of ammo on hand without either having to go broke panic buying or buying so much there’s none left for anyone else.

  12. Rebel with a cause says:

    I talked with a flag supplier today who still sells Confederate battle flags and he says its his biggest seller! Still waiting on the five I bought for myself and friends who still honor their Southern heritage. Learned my lesson in 2013 and I buy more ammo stock when things are quiet and prices good. I’ve got four calibers to use. These days its good to have several thousand rounds in a variety. Can’t ever tell when the SHTF! I thought it was ironic that sales of that flag were high like ammo and weapons.

  13. Greg says:

    Personally, I like seeing Starbucks on fire.

    • Farwalker says:

      the ladies in tight yoga pants will have to pay $15 for a latte after they rebuild that Starbucks. But that’s OK I bought some federal HST 147 grain today for 13 cents a round more than I paid last December. Was happy to find it as my stocks were getting low on defensive ammo. Still have plenty of FMJ but will limit my range time to once a month.

  14. Joe D. Stevens says:

    We may buy all of the guns we can afford. Congress, however, will make sure to price and tax ammo out of existence, except for the protection of themselves and their friends, of course. Everything gun related is difficult to find. And the cost increases are beyond reasonable.

  15. Obama is a moron says:

    I reload. Haven’t bought commercial ammunition for decades.

  16. Jay Andre says:

    Wow, what a long winded explanation! Myeyes started to glaze over! I haven’t had a problem finding ammo. Especially on the internet. If you have the money, who a saying how much it costs? There’s a saying, “If you have to ask the price, then you can’t afford it!!” You have to “pay to play!!” And who cares if the big ammo companies buy more machines, they’ll recoupe that expense b4, as you say, “the bottom falls out!” If the ammo companies also hire more people, they should be informed, as soon as the company is back to normal production, they will be let go. At least they will have been employed for a couple of years, according to you

  17. Bruce Wayne says:

    Time to start dryfiring more. I would also say time to start reloading, except a lot of those supplies have dried up as well. Overall a good, if gloomy, article, though.

  18. Nancy Pelosi says:

    It’s everywhere and don’t give me this bullshit of a shortage, it’s merely a way to price gouge. Bulk ammo tried that shit when there were rumors about banning green tip 556. Just when CA passed the background for ammo, sales soared, but nothing close to a shortage. It’s the first time gun owners that they know they can sodomize…

  19. buddyw says:

    I just bought a new gun. This makes a total of 4 I have. I generally have 300+ rounds of ammo for each at home. Sucks I can’t shoot my new gun because there was no 9mm ammo anywhere. When I found ammo, I bought all I could afford. I don’t see it as hording. I got an extra 200 for my guns, and 750 for my new 9mm. I want to shoot, and still keep 300+ rounds at home. If it’s wrong, then I will just have to be wrong. I ordered it online, and have to wait 2 weeks to get it. Shelves at the store, and the range, are empty.

  20. Pat says:

    Anybody that tried to buy .22 3-4 years ago should have been stocking up on their calibers. I did.

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