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The Great Ammo Shortage of 2021 Is Here

Ammo Shortage for this year seems certain
Ammo Shortage for this year seems certain.

From 2008 until 2016, there was a shortage of civilian small arms ammunition. It began in late 2008 and continued through nearly all of 2010, and then began again in 2012. Almost all popular calibers including 9mm, 7.62mm, and .45 caliber were impacted – and it impacted the once cheaply priced .22 LR as sport shooters turned to the smaller caliber weapons.

It doesn’t take a serious study to note that the ammo shortage began with the election of President Barack Obama, who was often noted to be “the greatest gun salesmen” in the history of the United States. Fears of different types of firearm bans or limitations led to impulse buying of firearms and with it an increase in consumers stocking up on ammunition.

Now with President-elect Joe Biden about to take office, the United States is once again in the midst of a serious ammo shortage, but it isn’t just driven by fears that Biden will institute an all-out assault on the Second Amendment. A not-so-surprising side effect of the 2020 global novel coronavirus pandemic has been that firearm sales reached record levels throughout last year, and as the New Year arrived it showed little if any signs of slowing down.

In October, Newsweek reported that according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS) firearm sales were up seventy-two percent year-over-year and that was going into the holiday season when gun sales traditionally increase! Moreover, industry data showed that ammunition sales had risen even more significantly more than gun sales, and predicted that shortages could last until at least the first quarter of 2021.

According to the NRA’s Shooting Sports USA and American Rifleman magazine, the current ammunition crunch could last well into 2021 and likely beyond. The NRA quoted Vista Outdoor CEO and Director Christopher Metz, during the company’s 2020 Q4 earnings call.

“We currently have over a year’s worth of orders for ammunition in excess of $1 billion,” Metz said in his opening remarks. “This is unprecedented for our company. With demand far outstripping supply and inventory levels in the channel at all-time lows, we see strong demand continuing…”

On the surface, it could be easy to see that fears that the Biden administration could be a third Obama term – and with Democratic control of the House of Representatives allowing the soon to be President Biden to issue executive orders on such issues as gun control – there might be more to the story. It isn’t just the usual fears that gun control is on the horizon that has been driving sales.

The pandemic certainly played a role. Many firearms manufacturers had to shutter production lines, but the increase in sales of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition has been driven by the fact that there are a lot more gun owners as 2020 was the year that many Americans became first-time gun owners.

“According to data from the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation), there are 6.2 million new shooters in 2020,” added Metz. “This rate is more than twice the number of new shooters in the former surge. Anecdotally, there is no shortage of reports of sold-out shooting ranges and backlogged firearm safety classes around the country.”

Vista Outdoor has been among the companies in the firearms industry unable to build up inventory to meet consumer demand, which has continued to outpace supply.

Jason Hornady, vice president of ammunition producer Hornady Manufacturing, went so far as to suggest, “Ammunition is the new toilet paper.”

However, where there is a crisis there has been an opportunity. Vista Outdoor purchased Remington Outdoor’s ammunition factory in Lonoke, Arkansas after the latter company filed for bankruptcy and the former has been ramping up production. That has had a trickle-down effect as the three hundred employees were furloughed when Remington shut down the plant, will be recalled to join the nearly four hundred still working there the NRA reported.

It isn’t just the civilian market that has faced the ammo shortage. While the U.S. military still has plenty of ammunition to go around, there has been a shortage of Russian/Soviet small arms ammo – which is used in training. In October, the Army Contracting Command posted a notification requesting information from contractors regarding their ability to produce and deliver non-NATO commercial ammunition.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Vetmike

    January 2, 2021 at 6:21 am

    You can’t even find reloading supplies. Gun parts are nonexistent. Even ammo in oddball calibres is scarce.

    • VetJohn

      January 2, 2021 at 8:58 pm

      I am not concerned. I have an ammo supply that would make the snowflakes melt.

    • Ken Abrahamson

      January 17, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      There are no coincidences. It is the same as the .22 shortage under Obama. It was a test run. They got a buy of billions of 9mm that were illegal for the government to use. They even had the post office buy millions. Your government is coercing private business, of course politicians are only as good as the contributions they get, despite being paid 3-4 times the average home income

  2. Jorge Cartaya

    January 2, 2021 at 10:57 am

    In my opinion, the biggest culprit to the ammo shortage is the ongoing discussion about defunding police departments in many large cities. Yes, fear of an assault on the 2nd Amendment by the Biden administration contributed, yes COVID restrictions at manufacturing plants contributed. But when you live in a city and see the looting and burning along with calls to defund the police, it automatically tells you, the safety of yourself and your family may come down to YOU! Even large numbers of people who never imagined getting a firearm have done so. The shortage will continue and may well intensify if they continue to try and defund police departments.

  3. Paranoid

    January 2, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    as the Duke said: “Life’s tough; it’s tougher if you are stupid” Exactly how many years and shortages do you have to have to have extra TP and ammo? I haven’t bought any significant amount since before BO got elected and still have enough for the rest of this century/

  4. James M DeLaigle

    January 2, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    This isn’t just about Biden. Most of the country believes we are headed to a civil war. They are stockpiling everything they can.

  5. Ranger01

    January 2, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    Harris-Biden-Beto. Could anything be more clear, dear citizens?

  6. Paul Pieraccini

    January 2, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    Yea, much worst than the Obama years… for sure!!! But it’s all still available if you have the money! However, I’m not going to pay over $100.00 for 1000 primers, or 18 cents a round for 22LR… Yet… It’s there! Supply vs Demand… So when demand decreased… I go back to buying 1000 primers at $35.00 and 22lr at .05 cents per round! If these liberal gun hating buyers did not flood the market with new gun ownership and ammo needs when the Cops were being defunded in their own cities…Maybe they should think when they actually vote!!! Think about your guns being taking away while your leaders defunded your police… Yet they get to keep their armed guards!

  7. Michael Fallon

    January 3, 2021 at 9:55 am

    Since March of 2020, New gun ownership is seven million, by panic filled people, who have bought tons of ammo. To make matters worse, retail price gouging is taking advantage of these new gun owners. They are willing to pay high prices,because of ignorance. Long time gun owners know this, but as long as people are paying, these high prices, the price gouging will continue. I won’t pay for a box of 50 for 9mm FMJ ammo that normally is in the $10 To $13 range, is now over $31.

  8. Ricky Kise

    January 12, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    Im so tired of people making excuses for ammo manufacturers. Its easy to blame an epidemic or record gun sales or even Biden. One thing about corporations is that if they thought for one minute an ammo shortage would cost them money, they would be manufacturing enough ammo for 10 shortages. The plain truth is this the Mt. Everest of business opportunities. They are intentionally scaling civilian production back to a calculated practical production level to keep prices and demand up. I expect this to last well into ’22 or even ’23. Yes, there is some legitimate back order for certain calibers, but not every single caliber made and certainly not for as long as it has so far. People need to think about a situation before commenting on it instead just knee jerking the commentary. Follow the money works every time.

  9. Big John

    January 29, 2021 at 7:11 am

    So, the ammo manufacturers are pumping out ammo as fast as they can. But I still can’t get a box of primers to reload. And this is because the ammo companies are using all of them for production? I think not. Both Canada and Mexico are flush with primers, Canada’s flush with American primers. As an American, I’m not alowed to order them. I can order anything else, just not primers and powder.

  10. M-16

    January 30, 2021 at 9:25 am

    They defund the police but fund the national guard coming to a street near you.

  11. Ron

    February 11, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I refuse to pay these prices for ammo. It’s supply and demand; stop buying and the prices will go down. While I need ammo, I will not feed this frenzy. Please stop buying and watch the price free fall.

  12. Jim Woodward

    February 15, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Remember the 1973 oil shortage (contrived)? Now it is toilet paper and ammo. Consumers are stupid and use herd mentality for their “perceived needs”. Merchants could control panic by setting limits.

  13. JStewart

    February 18, 2021 at 1:20 am

    There is no reason we should be short of ammo or supplies!!!!! This is government control and it is WRONG!!!!!
    Manufacturers have the ability to produce millions of rounds a week!!
    It is government control and it is WRONG!!!!!!
    If you believe any of the bull about being short of the raw materials I have oceanfront property in Arizona I will sell you!!!!!
    This is still America and I have the right to own firearms!!!!
    Take your gun control laws and move out of my country!!!!
    If you are afraid of guns go hide in the corner with the rest of your kind!!!
    You are NOT telling me I can’t own a gun and the ammo to use it!!!!!

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