Another ammunition shortage
About a year ago, I was visiting friends in Pennsylvania. They live near a gun shop I often did business with and so, I decided to stop in. Reloading supplies are tough to come by where I live here in New York because some dealers have gone out of business and the big box stores don’t carry reloading components. The shop was open late and after my visit I decided to restock with enough powder, shot, primers and wads to last me through to next year. I’m glad I did. The store was well stocked with everything I needed and there was no apparent shortage of anything.
Fast forward to 2021 and it was astounding to me how quickly things can change. The first indication of a problem was when I stopped into our archery Pro shop last September and asked how things were going. “Look around, what do you think,” the owner said. At first glance it looked like business was booming. The store shelves weren’t exactly bare, but it appeared merchandise was sparce. “Looks like you’re selling a lot of stuff,” I said. “Quite the contrary,” came the reply. He explained he was having difficulty getting manufactures to ship product due to the Covid crisis. Couple this short supply with an increase in demand and it’s not hard to see how shortages develop.
The problem was made clearer to me in December when I was at the local sportsman’s club to which I belong. It was my weekend to open, take the money for each round of shooting and to “pull” the traps for the shooters. Between rounds one of the shooters remarked how it had become almost impossible to get primers for reloading shotgun shells. In fact, one of the other members noted he faced the same problem in trying to get rifle and pistol primers. I was unaware of the problem because I had enough supplies on hand and hadn’t bought any in months.
It appears the demand for firearms and ammunition has reached record levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and perhaps due to the civil unrest in some cities across the country. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), retailer surveys indicated that U.S. ammunition purchases increased by 139% during the first half of 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. NSSF also suggested firearms sales increased by 95% during the first half of this year compared to last year and that it estimated five million people purchased guns for the first time between January and July.
As with previous surges in ammunition sales, reloaders also find themselves in a bind. It’s been reported that primers are the current weak link in the supply chain. Several ammunition manufactures have said the lack of primer supply is a part of what’s preventing them from meeting current demand for loaded ammunition.
When .22 ammunition was in short supply in 2013, it wasn’t due to manufactures not producing it. In truth, they were working 24/7 to manufacture as much as they could as quickly as they could. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the reason for the shortage was due to hoarding by shooters and the same may be true with primers and other reloading components today. People who once bought a box of 500 primers began buying cartons of 5000, and just like the toilet paper shortage early last year, hoarding and the fear that these components won’t be available drove people to stock up.
Currently only Federal, CCI, Remington and Winchester manufacture primers in the U.S. and they ship most, if not all, their primer supply including ammunition to the military and law enforcement. There are four other companies worldwide that manufacture primers including Fiocci and they are shipping primers to the United States, but it may be some time before they arrive.
According to Jason Vanderbrink, president of Remington, CCI, Speer and Federal, his company is working harder and is producing more ammunition than it ever has. Vanderbrink dispelled internet rumors that ammunition is being withheld from the public. “Since March, seven million new gun owners bought approximately 700 million rounds of ammunition and the supply simply can’t keep up with the demand,” he explained.
Ammunition and reloading components aren’t the only things that are in short supply. Factory layoffs due to COVID and the unavailability of some raw materials may be driving the shortages in the archery industry as well. As a result, it appears all imports and imported materials are going to be delayed significantly.
COVID has had major impacts on supply chains and items that previously took four or five weeks to ship across are now taking a few months and longer. So, whether it’s bullets or broadheads it looks like things may get worse before they get better. As one Pro shop owner told us, “if you see something you want, buy it while you can.”