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Can’t Find Any Ammo? Why Bullet Shortages Aren’t Going Away.

Ammo Shortage Update
Image: Creative Commons.

There have been many shortages to plague the U.S. economy since the start of the pandemic, from toilet paper to computer chips to bacon. But one of the most persistent ones has been ammunition.

Back in the spring, there were reports that the U.S. was running low on ammo, with some police departments even becoming affected. The reason for the shortage seems to be more about supply than demand–the combination of pandemic boredom fears about social unrest, and worry that a Democratic presidential administration would enact gun restrictions appear to have sparked massive demand for guns and ammunition. The result of this was millions of new gun buyers, which led to much more demand for ammo than before.

Now, a new report says that despite increased production, the shortage remains–and panic buying has only made it worse.

West Virginia Metro News reported this week production of ammunition has reached record levels, but many looking for ammunition are still having trouble finding it.

“The bottom line is we’re producing more ammunition today than we ever have for hunting and recreational shooting, but the appetite for ammunition is still overwhelming demand,” Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said in the West Virginia Outdoors publication, as cited by the Metro News.

Oliva also cited one factor not often mentioned in coverage of the ammo shortage phenomenon–the bankruptcy, in 2020, of Remington Arms. That company, which filed for bankruptcy for the second time in three years, had its assets sold off to several different companies.

But during that process, its manufacturing capacity sat idle for months, which helped contribute to the shortage.

“At the beginning of this Remington was in bankruptcy proceedings, but they’ve since been purchased by Vista Outdoor and Vista has been putting a lot of effort into making sure Big Green is back on line with new calibers, new production lines, and they are maxing out production,” Oliva told the publication.

The problem is being exasperated by the arrival of hunting season.

“A lot of effort has been made to meet the demand, but now that we’re back into hunting seasons some of those ammunition providers are trying to be sure they can meet that demand for hunters, but it’s still a really tough market,” Oliva said in the interview. He added that even as manufacturing has increased, that’s not the sort of thing that makes a huge difference overnight.

“If you put a shovel in the dirt today, you’re looking at three to five years before you can turn the lights on in that facility. But what we have seen is manufacturers are maxing out the production they have. They’re keeping those machines running 24/7.”

 Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Mike11c

    September 21, 2021 at 8:06 am

    I have seen a lot of ammo for sale. The problem right now is the price. A couple of years ago, 300 Blackout was selling for about forty cents per round. Now, it’s close to a dollar per and, at gun shows it’s $1.50 per round minimum.

  2. N.O.

    September 21, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Article says, “The reason for the shortage seems to be more about supply than demand” and then goes on to explain that supply is higher than ever before in US history but panic buying is causing confined shortages.

    That’s the definition of a demand problem and not a supply problem.

    There is another important aspect to this that the author has missed in this article:

    Ammunition manufacturers could get permitting, expand their facility footprint, increase the number of production lines, and increase inventory further to meet demand. However, that investment is very costly in capital and in hiring and training new employees. When the demand softens, then the additional supply line investment loses money as those machines sit idle.

    When President Obama was elected, there was a surge in firearm and animation purchases, and some ammunition manufacturers did expand, only to have it hurt then economically when the surge in demand subsided. Ammunition prices fell so far, and ammunition sat on shelves for SSI long, that customers became spoiled by the large availability of incredibly low cost ammunition.

    Manufacturers do not want to make huge capital investments and hire new staff only to lay staff off in a year and have a large and inefficient factory with machines sitting idle.

    The higher prices are here to stay and they don’t reflect shortage panic prices to any large extent, because most of the prices do reflect cost and a reasonable profit margin.

    The shortages will continue until the panic buying ends and inventory can be built back up on store shelves.

    It’s a demand problem.

  3. E. H.

    September 21, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    Exactly. I must agree with MIKE11C. While there is somewhat of an ammo shortage, it is still available. Between panic/fear buying and price gouging from sellers, America’s patriots are the only ones suffering. Trust me, the police and military have all the ammo they’ll ever need. Not to mention the high markups and gullible buyers of firearms themselves. We were sitting fancy free when Trump was in office and thought that we’d have another four years to enjoy the freedoms that our 2nd Amendment protects. Now we’ve been caught with our pants down and the Libs are taking that opportunity to give us the big green weenee.

  4. Steven

    September 21, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    There is Ammunition an it prices cause many selling or trying to sale is all they got for a living an why is that. Well i will point that out these individuals are either retired or nearing retirement age an trying to sub their income. But those bidding wars has two fools the seller and the buyer for idiots. Cause by next spring or sooner there will be ammo everywhere on shelves an these on them pages of auctions will be faced with ammo they cannot sale. Also some of these reasons is many have tons of say Russian Ammunition an trying to sale it as people better watch that stuff cause that powder the Russians use is corrosive an over time will ruin a gun. Also what will happen an its already happening in the hunting world aside from target shooting, be it non toxic bullets an shot in shotgun shells cause in most public hunting areas its strictly non toxic either Steel which i wouldn’t shoot, ITX shot , Bismuth , TSS etc: As for Clay Target Shooting its still legal in California cause of close distance of lead shot.

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