We have watched this episode before here in America: Empty ammunition aisles at gun shops, sporting goods stores, and online retailers. And, yes, politics has a hand in the matter, but not to the extent that a lot of people believe. Here are the real reasons why you can’t find rounds for your favorite deer hunting rifles and handguns — not to mention your personal defense guns.
Update: Dec. 8, 2021: In the eight months since this was published, gun sales have not subsided. Through Aug. 1, 2021, Americans bought more than 25.1 million new guns. On Black Friday alone, 187,584 background checks were conducted on new gun sales, and 687,788 in the six days leading up to Black Friday. If you only remember two statistics from this post, make sure it is these: 8+ million NEW gun owners, and 34+ million new guns bought in 2021.
Let me first preface this blog post by saying that all of the info herein are not my opinions. They are straight-up facts that I’ve gleaned from the hard-working guys and gals that I’ve known for the past 27 years while working in the shooting, hunting and outdoor trade industry. One thing I’ll add with 100% assurance is that this “ammo pandemic” is easily curable. So, without further ado, here’s that list in no particular order:
Reason 4: New Gun Owners
Since the COVID-19 crisis fully enveloped this country almost exactly one year ago, the U.S. has added 8 million new gun owners. That’s no typo! Want some perspective? That’s the equivalent of selling one new gun to every man, woman and child currently living in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. That’s a lot of new gun owners (duh), and a lot of new demand for ammo.
According to Guns.com, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System saw 4,691,738 checks initiated in March 2021, the highest figure logged since NICS was established in 1998. When compared to March 2020’s NICS figure of 3,709,562, it reflects a 25.2 percent increase and is only the second month to break the 4-million mark.
Reason 3: Civil Unrest
The political climate we’ve endured over this past election is obvious, and the change of guard has many millions (see No. 4) of people beyond concerned about further erosion of their constitutional right to own and bear arms. That uneasiness has led to the next reason …
Reason 2: Scalping Speculation
Ah, yes, with a perceived demand, there’s going to be a new crop of entrepreneurship in this country. We’ve seen it with riots over Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s, Black Friday sales in the 1990s, and even deer hunting land sales in the early 2000s. If people are clamoring for it, someone will be there to snatch up whatever inventory they can get their hands on, drastically jack up the prices, and resell it for a more-than tidy profit.
Reason 1: Perceived Demand
Remember when everyone was running out and buying toilet paper by the truckload? Of course, you do. It was absolutely ridiculous, wasn’t it? You bet it was, because everyone knows that a single person could easily get by for an entire year with one economy-sized package of TP (well, my goodness, I sure hope so, anyway — if not, see your doctor immediately). But, yet, there we all sat and watched as deranged lunatics fought over cases of Charmin® just as quickly as the poor soul at Walmart could unload the forklift in the packed aisles. Same thing with ammunition: People are so paranoid that they won’t have enough .22 shells to get through the 2052 squirrel season that they are buying boxes, bricks and cases of ammo whenever and however they can get their hands on it.
What are the real facts behind the ammo shortage in America? All of the above. Are the manufacturers to blame for any of it? Nope. Don’t believe what others might tell you — the major ammo makers are working 24/7 to make more ammo. They are making more ammo now than ever in the history of America.
Why aren’t they building more factories then, you ask? Another simple answer: They’ve been burned before. If you recall the last time this happened (before Trump was elected), ammo sales were going bonkers. However, almost immediately after Trump was elected and took office, it was as if someone turned off the main breaker on the American ammo demand. As one of my industry insiders told me recently, “We literally went from taking millions of orders one day to the next day of dealers calling and cancelling their orders. As businesses, we cannot assume this demand can maintain itself over the long haul.”
One final note about the manufacturers: If you look at a box of your normal deer hunting ammo, for example, you will notice that MSRP has barely changed over the past 5 or so years. A box of .30-06 shells that might have cost $29.99 pre-Trump might retail for $34.99 today. That $5 increase over that amount of time is normal inflation, not price gouging by any stretch of the imagination, especially when you consider the cost of raw materials has also gone up by the same modest margin over the same amount of time.