Ammo Shortage Continues Across U.S.
May 20, 2013
Target shooters, those using .22 long rifles, .223 and .308 calibers were already feeling the pinch, but starting in December even waterfowlers were having trouble finding steel shot.
Then all ammunition began to fly off shelves, and replacements were slow in coming — if at all.
Now it is May and dove season is only four months out. Deer season for some in Texas is five months away, and hunters are starting to get a little nervous. The store shelves are filling up, but there is still a lot of ammo on backorder. Most stores are still limiting purchases and there hasn’t been anything that says manufacturers are about to catch up with demand. Gun owners of all types are buying and selling ammo among each other like it was a rare commodity.
This isn’t the first time in recent years there has been a run on ammunition. The last time came because lead for bullets was diverted to war use.
This run is different. It came out of fear of what the government was going to do with guns and ammo in the light of mass shootings incidents in Colorado and Connecticut. It started with firearms sales jumping almost immediately after last November’s Presidential election.
A retailer couldn’t have come up with a more effective advertising campaign than a President promising gun control, and for months stores experienced non-stop sales. Some around the state were greeted each morning for by lines waiting for doors to open. Guns, especially the popular sporting rifles and pistols, flew off the shelves and were soon backordered.
It was madness. One Tyler-area retailer said he had a couple walk in for the first time and said they were told they needed to buy an AR-15. Then they said, “Can you show us what one looks like.”
Apparently liking what they saw. They bought two.
Pistol sales were just as hot. An Austin retailer told of a woman who walked up to the counter asking to buy a pistol. When asked what kind, she pointed into the case and said, “Is that a good one?” Told it was, she bought the gun.
However, there could only be so much demand for guns and despite sales of $11.7 billion in 2012, eventually supply caught up with demand.
That is when the run on ammo and components began. Because a lot of the new gun buyers weren’t hunters, they were buying larger amounts of ammo to use at the range, home defense or in some cases as doomsday supplies.
Unlike with guns, however, the manufacturers haven’t caught up with demand. That is reflective on store shelves and at the cash register where prices have increased.
So the question is will the ammunition supply chain fill in time for hunting season? The answer is a little like looking at the Dallas Cowboys, you hope they are better, but don’t bet the bank on it.
“Like many manufacturers in the shooting sports industry, we are experiencing an extremely high demand for our products. We are working as hard as we can to produce an increased supply of quality ammunition to meet our customers’ needs.”
That is the official word from Winchester. It scarily says nothing, and efforts to get elaboration from a company spokesperson got absolutely nothing more.
Remington was just as elusive.
“Remington is at full capacity at this time with a majority of categories of ammunition. Remington is continuing to look at how to increase capacity and supplying ammo products to the various channels of distribution/sales that we support,” said company spokeswoman Jessica Kallam.
Ditto Federal, who offered a similar prepared statement.
Hornady, which primarily makes bullets, said it has added shifts and equipment in an effort to meet demand.
Despite conspiracy theories about government ammo buy-ups causing the shortage, the truth seems to be a less-sinister retail perfect storm, according to industry insiders.
“It is definitely a consumer demand shortage,” said Mike Bazinet, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an organization underwritten by the sporting goods industry including arms and ammo manufacturers. “We don’t speculate more than that. We certainly know when people are concerned about access that causes a concern about demand.”
Bazinet said the biggest pull on supplies has been a 35-consecutive month increase in firearms sales nationwide. Many of these are new buyers, and unlike hunters who might shoot four or five rifle shells a year they are shooting hundreds of rounds an afternoon.
He added that many manufactures have brought out a number of new rifles using .22 Long Rifle shells. An almost forgotten shell except for plinking, the remaining squirrel hunters and summer camps, demand has exploded exponentially in recent years as the new guns have been sold.
That, along with the fear of government action, brought the consumers to stores. Then they ran into a new retail strategy in which retailers don’t sink their cash into product that sits in warehouses out of season.
“There is that wider phenomenon of just-in-time buying by retailers. Do I want to pay to store this ammo that is not going to sell in back room?” Bazinet said.
And without product to sell and a nationwide demand, everyone found themself short.
Local retailers are reporting that gun sales have slowed from their peak, but that are still higher than what had been considered normal. That rush of new customers continues to put pressure on what ammunition the stores have available.