Even as there are concerns that the delta variant could result in new lockdowns and mask mandates, a year and a half into the global coronavirus pandemic, there are signs life is returning to normal. For those who take part in shooting sports, this means that the supply of ammunition is returning and store shelves aren’t continually bare. With an increased supply, prices have started to level off – but industry watchers say it could still be well into next year before shooters find pre-pandemic supplies.
A report from firearms research analyst firm Southwick Associates found that this spring nearly two-thirds (sixty-four percent) of shooters indicated that their ammunition inventory was lower than they would prefer, while more than a quarter of those surveyed (twenty-six percent) said they wanted to participate in hunting and target shooting more often.
“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.”
The Popular 9mm Falling in Price
Throughout much of the year, many of the most popular calibers – especially common handgun ammunition – were in limited supply.
“A few months ago, we were at a point where our shelves were nearly empty of 9mm ammunition,” Doug Tangen, a firearms instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the police academy for the state. In response, Tangen said instructors were even forced to take conservation steps that included reducing the number of rounds fired per session, News4Jax.com reported.
The good news for law enforcement , as well as those who own a handgun for personal defense, is that the world’s most popular calibers – such as the ubiquitous 9x19mm Parabellum or simply “9mm” – has become a lot easier to find at retailers across the country.
“I’ve got more ammo than I’ve had in probably over a year, so it may be freeing up a little bit,” Andrew Nicolopoulos, owner of Patriot Arms of NW Florida, told The Panama City News Herald.
The Quality Challenge
According to data from AmmoPricesNow.com, the average price of a round of 9mm is $0.34, up from the $0.20 price that was found at the beginning of the pandemic but way down from the all-time high of $0.71 in late January of this year. However, shooters should still consider the quality of the ammunition.
The NRA’s Shooting Illustrated has noted that online retailers may list a variety of 9mm cartridges for sale, with some prices as low as $0.24 per round to as much as $2.00. For the uninformed, it may be easy to simply go with the “cheapest” option, but experts warn that consumers should consider more than the price. Just as there are factors in what makes one model of TV more expensive than another, or why some brands of coffee cost more – it comes down to what you are getting for the money.
“The least expensive loads will use non-reloadable steel cases and full-metal-jacket bullets,” Shooting Illustrated reported. “The most expensive loads will offer radical projectiles, some of questionable effectiveness, others will deliver +P levels of velocity, and some use bonded, barrier defeating bullets.”
A number of factors should be considered, including whether the ammo is meant for home defense or a daily carry gun where it could truly be a matter of life and death, or if it is about target shooting. Spending big dollars for ammo for a day at the range may not be as necessary as having the right ammunition when it matters most.
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.