Unless you have been living under a rock, you know the cupboards are bare when it comes to ammo. Shelves are empty. Online orders sometimes take months to fill. Ammo prices are much higher than during “the good old days.” And this shortage has been going on for more than a year now.
With all of this in mind, you might be asking, “What gives?” Or you might be one of the people claiming the ammo shortage is part of a government conspiracy to infringe on our Second Amendment rights. Let me put your mind at ease. While government contracts do have an impact on the ammo supply, it is slight. Most of those contracts have been in the works for a long time — years before “the troubles” began. So let’s start out by saying this: As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that the current ammo shortage is caused by a deep-state conspiracy to buy up ammo and keep it from or use it against the American people.
Let’s talk about what’s really happening.
- COVID-19: No matter what you think of the disease, the impact on the economy is very real. The efforts to comply with coronavirus protocols caused huge problems in the business world. Ammo manufacturers had to deal with it just like the rest of us. Even though ammo manufacturing was declared “essential” and allowed to remain open, some of the safety protocols impacted production. On top of that, fear absolutely influenced the buying habits of gun owners. In short, COVID-19 caused an increase in demand and reduced supply. We will talk more about that below.
- Riots: Despite the news media calling them “largely peaceful protests,” Americans saw them for what they were: dangerous civil unrest that proved every citizen needed to be prepared to defend life, liberty, hearth and home. People bought guns. People who never owned a gun bought their first guns. Current gun owners bought more guns. Millions upon millions of guns were sold in the past 18 months, accounting for something like 8 million NEW gun owners on top of the nearly 100 million current gun owners who felt like they needed more guns. All those people bought ammo too.
- The election: With Joe Biden in the White House the “Trump slump” in the gun industry ended abruptly. Every mention of new firearms restrictions prompted more people to buy more guns. Biden might replace Obama and Clinton as the greatest gun salesmen of all time. All those people bought ammo too.
- Supply and demand: This is the basic rule of economics. When supply is low and demand is high, prices go up. Also, through the beauty of the free market, when supply is low and demand is high, businesses try to increase production to meet the demand. All that is happening now.
Having recently toured an ammunition manufacturing plant and having spoken to representatives from other manufacturers, I can tell you that these companies are making every effort to supply you the ammo you demand. They just can’t make it fast enough to satisfy the consumer. I’ve watched machines that churn out half a million rounds of ammo per shift, running three shifts per day and that is not even enough to keep the shelves full for a day. Nothing is in the warehouse. It all goes right to the trucks to get shipped to the distributors and retailers. And the manufacturers are doing their best to allocate ammo to various retailers to ensure those retailers can stay in business too. Yes, bigger customers get a higher priority, but the manufacturers are also working to serve the smaller shops. They know that small shops need product to sell as well.
There are some more complicated economic factors in play as well. While it is very easy for us to say, “Just build and install more loading presses.” The reality of expanding manufacturing capabilities is much more complex than that. First up, there are shortages of raw materials in every industry right now. You don’t just go to the local hardware store and buy the parts to make an industrial ammo press. Do you believe that EVERY ammo company in the world is reaching out to EVERY maker of ammunition manufacturing gear right now? You should. They are. Then there are the countless hurdles that manufacturers must jump over to expand their operations, including buying land, erecting new buildings and following safety protocols. How easy do you think it is to get a permit to manufacture ammunition? There are federal, state and local hoops to jump through.
As I interviewed folks in the ammo industry, I can assure they are trying to jump through all those hoops while still cranking out as much ammo as they can. The problem is that we just keep buying the ammo faster than they can make it. For the next year or so, expect prices to be high and ammo to be difficult to come by. As the companies bring more production capacity on line, availability will increase and prices should ease. But it will take time. Be patient. Buy what you can when you can and make sure you store your ammo in a cool, dry location so that it will last until you want to use it. Old military ammo cans are great for this, as are many of the polymer ammo boxes sealed with rubber o-rings.
How Can You Train Without Ammo?
You still need to train, even though ammo is tough to come by. And you have a couple of options. Two of the most popular right now are dry-fire training and laser training.
Dry-fire training simply means you are going through all the motions of drawing and shooting without using any ammo. It works. Focus on the mechanics of the draw, sight picture, sight alignment and trigger control. All of this will improve your shooting.
Safety is the key element of dry-fire training. Remove all the ammo from your gun, your magazine and even from the room in which you will train. Then, take the extra step of using devices lake BarrelBlok and Mag-Blok to make sure no live rounds can be introduced into your firearm. They are cheap, and they can prevent tragedy.
Laser training is the next step up when it comes to dry-fire training. Using lasers allows you to see where your bullet would impact while you work on your mechanics. Things like the SIRT pistol or Laser-Ammo Sure Strike cartridges allow you to get visual feedback from dry-fire training. In the case of Laser-Ammo, their targeting systems can give you audible feedback as well, letting you know if you hit or miss the target.
Either of these are great options, and you will recover the cost of the system in ammo savings. The double bonus is that you have the option to train more often for less money. Call it a win-win in the face of this crazy ammo shortage.
To wrap this thing up — we just need to be patient. Ammo companies are doing all they can, but the rapid growth in gun ownership and the desire of law-abiding Americans to take charge of their own safety has given us a double-edged sword. We want more people owning, using and advocating for guns and gun ownership. But now that we’ve gotten it, they are buying up all the ammo.