It could still be well into next year before ammunition supplies return to levels that could be considered normal, but as production is now running at near capacity – and round-the-clock at a few facilities – store shelves aren’t continually bare. Shooters that take the time to look online and shop around can increasingly find more ammunition than they could a year ago, and as a result prices have begun to level off. However, it will also be months before ammunition prices fall to pre-pandemic levels.
“I would tell people who are holding out and thinking the prices are going to drop that they might want to start looking, to kind of turn a phrase a little bit, to bite the bullet and buy the ammunition that you want now, if you can find it,” said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearm industry trade association.
Oliva, who spoke to the Panama City News Herald last month, explained that the influx of new gun owners last year and widespread stockpiling – even hoarding – drove up prices to levels that were previously unseen.
“5.56 ammunition for an AR-15 used to be about 33 cents a round,” Oliva said. “Now you’re looking at closer to almost a dollar a round. So it is much more expensive and it is much more difficult to find ammunition.”
The good news is that as the supply of ammunition has increased, the prices have also declined. According to data from AmmoPricesNow.com, which tracks daily average prices, the price for the aforementioned .556 hit a yearly high of $0.79 in late March. As of Sunday, the average price was down to $0.47 per round. It is still higher than the pre-pandemic $0.33, but a lot better than what consumers were paying just five months ago.
Prices of almost all popular calibers have seen a decline in recent weeks, even as hunting season is around the corner. The price of 30-30 Winchester has fallen by nearly half, from nearly $3 per round in late March to $1.7. However, that is actually up in price from the yearly low in early June when 30-30 hit an average price of $1.25. It is likely the coming hunting season has shooters stocking up, so prices climbed accordingly.
The story is very similar with .308 Winchester, which was about $0.50 per round in June of last year just as the pandemic drove up prices. It skyrocketed in price, and in January 2021 hit an average high of $1.28. Prices dipped by early August to $0.48 but have started to climb again. For hunters, now is the time to buy the ammunition when you see it available.
Tired of finding empty store shelves, many shooters now look online for the best deals. However, as with any consumer product, one needs to be cautious of “too good to be true” deals online. If ammunition is far cheaper than anywhere else that should be seen as a red flag.
It isn’t just that the ammo might never arrive, but the quality could be an issue as well.
“Do your due diligence and check out those websites to make sure that they’re legitimate,” said the NSSF’s Oliva. “Make sure that they’re trustworthy and make sure that you’re not getting burned, because we have seen reports of some fly-by-night sites where people aren’t getting the product that they’re ordering. You know, the big guys in the industry who have a good reputation have a good reputation for a reason, because the vendor stands by their customers. So it’s worthwhile to maybe invest in purchasing from those people.”
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.