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The Great Ammo Shortage (And Price Spike) of 2021: When Will It End?

U.S. Gun Sales
Glock 17. Image Credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Anyone looking to “load up” or even to replenish their supply of ammunition will likely have to remain patient – at least for a while longer.

The “great ammo shortage” that began last year isn’t going to end anytime soon, and according to market research conducted by Southwick Associates shortages of ammunition will continue throughout the rest of 2021.

Why an Ammo Shortage? 

If you’re finding it hard to purchase ammunition right now, you’re not alone and that is a reminder of the basic supply and demand problem. Demand simply continues to outpace supply – even as some of the leading manufacturers have ramped up production, with some factories running around the clock. One issue is that consumers buy what little ammunition hits the shelves out of fear, and Southwick Associates warned, “The frenzied purchasing often feeds further increases in demand.”

In other words, hoarding by the consumer creates a vicious cycle that makes it hard to find a product that is so in demand.

Southwick Associates surveyed about 1,800 people in April who regularly purchase and use ammunition and found that the demand isn’t like to ease up even as many Americans believe the pandemic is coming to an end. A key factor is that too many consumers looking to buy ammunition encountered “out of stock issues.” The HunterSurvey/ShootSurvey found that eighty percent of respondents said they ran into those issues last year, while seventy-five percent have said they encountered it in 2021.

Moreover, nearly eighty percent of those respondents also said they either had to cancel or reduce shooting-related activities due to those shortages. Only seventeen percent said they were satisfied with the number of cartridges and/or shotshells they were able to purchase. Two-thirds of respondents said they would have preferred to buy more.

Those factors have led many shooters to buy ammunition even if they don’t actually need to stock up now out of fear that they could face shortages later, and that has only further impacted the supply chain.

“At some point, demand will certainly soften,” Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, told the NRA’s American Rifleman. “However, frenzied purchasing and empty shelves often fuels further increases in demand. We do not see demand softening in the near future.”

When asked why they were buying more ammunition a few key reasons stood out in the Southwick Associates survey, which reported:

-Uncertainty about future ammunition supplies (72%). This is especially true among consumers 45+ years of age.

-Uncertainty about future restrictions on ammunition purchases (70%).

-Uncertainty about future economic conditions (54%).

-Increased shooting and hunting activity (26%). This was more common among the 25-34-year-old consumers.

When will the Ammo Shortage End? 

Even with ammunition manufacturing run at near full capacity, the demand is so great that the store shelves remain empty across the nation. It could take months before many backorders are even met.

“It trickles in. We get a trickle here and a trickle there,”Matt Slecher, assistant manager at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Sheridan, Wyoming, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “We have backorders that go back a year and a half.”

While the simple solution would be not to buy if you don’t need it, many shooters are unlikely to heed that advice fearing empty shelves down the line. And with that demand will continue to outpace supply for months to come.

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 Amazon.com.

Written By

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

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. don

    June 7, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    This is simple economics. Look at how many people bought guns in the last 18 months. Do you honestly think those millions of guns, and millions of first time buyers, bought a gun without getting ammo? Has almost nothing to do with hoarding. People who hoard ammo already have a ton of it and look at these prices as the reason they started hoarding to begin with. Its pretty unlikely that such people are paying 2-6x as much as normal for ammo. Firearm demand is being driven by the lawless behavior going on- so, fear is causing it.

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