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The Great Ammo Shortage of 2021 Won’t End Anytime Soon

Ammo Shortage
Image: Creative Commons.

The rumors that ammunition supplies were catching up with demand may have been greatly exaggerated. And according to a new firearms market research survey, it was an absolute fact that ammunition has remained highly sought after. The study, conducted by Southwick Associates, found that about 80 percent of American customers experienced difficulty when it came to purchasing ammo last year.

The great ammo shortage isn’t over yet.

“It’s widely known the ammunition shortages continue,” Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith recently told Fox Business. “There is still a lot of interest in firearms.”

The firearms manufacturer shipped nearly 2.5 million guns last year, up 70 percent from 2020, and Smith & Wesson was hardly alone. The firearms industry has seen record sales, which were jump-started just over a year ago during the pandemic. Sales accelerated following the national civil unrest and rioting that occurred last summer and then increased after the election of Joe Biden in November. More than 17 million firearms were bought in 2020, and of those, more than 8.4 million were to first-time gun buyers – many of whom were women and minorities.

Sales have remained strong in 2021.

According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), total background checks also increased by 6.8 percent year over year to almost 1.63 through the first five months of 2021 – whilst the system soared by 40 percent to a record 39.695 million last year.

Ammo Demand Continues

The continued strong sales of firearms will likely translate to less ammunition on store shelves. According to the study from Southwick Associates, three-quarters of respondents said they have continued to encounter out-of-stock issues when trying to purchase ammunition. The silver lining is that the number was down slightly from the four in five customers who faced empty shelves in 2020.

Of the three-quarters of customers who encountered continued out-of-stock situations, 79 percent reported either fully or partially reducing their target shooting and hunting outings as a result of depleted ammunition shelves.

The market research firm warned that at least through 2021 ammunition demand is expected to remain quite high. When asked how much more ammunition they would like to have on hand, 43 percent of the consumers surveyed reported “much more” while 38 percent report “a little more.” Only 17 percent said they were satisfied with the amounts they currently had on hand.

Key factors for why consumers desired more ammunition included: Uncertainty about future ammunition supplies (72 percent), and that was especially true among consumers 45 years of age or older; Uncertainty about future restrictions on ammunition purchases (70 percent); Uncertainty about future economic conditions (54 percent); and increased shooting and hunting activity (26 percent), which was more common among the 25-34 year old consumers.

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

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.