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How the Great Ammo Shortage of 2021 Started and How It Will End

Ammo Shortage
Image: Creative Commons.

For much of the past year during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, rising inflationary pressures and frustrating supply-chain issues have taken hold in many sectors of the U.S. economy—and it appears that ammunition was not spared one bit.

Adding to the acute ammunition shortage is the fact that more Americans have decided to buy firearms, largely due to the social unrest seen over the past eighteen months. With more guns out there, experts say, the greater the demand for bullets, of which fewer were available, to begin with.

In fact, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has estimated that about 8.4 million people purchased a gun for the first time last year. Furthermore, federal background checks for gun purchases surged 40 percent last year to a record of nearly forty million, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With the dearth of available ammunition, prices have unsurprisingly skyrocketed.

“There comes a point when you say, ‘I’m not going to buy it,’” Jeff Williams, a range instructor at the Westside Pistol & Rifle Range, one of two remaining gun stores in New York City, told Forbes. “Every time you pull the trigger, it’s a buck and a half.”

Mark Fiacable, who runs FloridaGunSite.com, claimed that ammunition prices for some calibers have risen four-fold in recent months. For example, boxes of 9mm rounds were selling for $12 pre-pandemic but that surged to $40 to $60 during the peak. Meantime, a box of .380 caliber rounds that are usually only $15 were going for $50 to $60.

He told the magazine that ammo shortages still persist, adding that popular calibers like .38 and .380 are “very, very difficult to get, if you can get it at all.”

Hunters Suffer

In Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest, the deer hunting season is underway, but some hunters are already complaining that they aren’t able to find any bullets to make their kills with.

“I’ve been in the sporting industry, sporting good industry since I was twelve. You know, I was hunting from northern Wisconsin and I’ve never seen ammunition this scarce, ever,” Dan Marcon, the owner of Marc-On Shooting in Lake Hallie, Wisconsin, told WEAU.

He tries to contact about a dozen vendors each day, but the supply just isn’t able to keep up with demand.

“This spring I had several cases of hunting ammunition in stock, I was out by September. So, I’ve probably had several hundred boxes of any caliber hunting ammunition and gone. I get them every day. I get two boxes or twenty boxes and within hours, it’s gone,” Marcon said.

“The problem is we’ve lost one manufacturer in the United States, Remington we lost this past year in 2021. Hodgdon is a powder manufacturer, I was just informed in the last couple of weeks that they’re no longer in business, so they’re a powder supplier. All the primers come from different places, there are only five manufacturers of primer, only two manufactures of glue,” he continued.

Such ammo shortages are also being witnessed in Iowa, a state popular with pheasant and deer hunters.

“We are in fact seeing the impact here in Iowa not only for hunting but for recreational shooting as well,” Jamie Cook, hunter education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“Certain rounds are hard to get, there are limits being put on how many you can purchase and manufacturers just can’t keep up with the demand due to the spike in interest and the fact that factories were shut down during COVID,” he continued.

Law Enforcement Agencies Hit

Police and law enforcement agencies are being hit hard by the ammo shortage as well. Baltimore County Police and other area law enforcement agencies are facing “critically low” supplies and are busy trying to stock up on bullets and cartridges.

“Baltimore County’s tactical unit—a group trained for special operations—nearly depleted its .223-caliber rifle cartridges at the end of July after the department’s ammo vendor, New Jersey-based The Gun Shop, couldn’t get them from the manufacturer it uses,” the Baltimore Sun wrote.

According to the Pennsylvania newspaper Tribune-Democrat, the shortage is also being seen at Cambria County Prison, whose Warden Christian Smith has claimed that “there’s a six- to eight-month wait time for ammo.”

Conspiracy Theories

The ongoing ammo shortage also has prompted rumors and conspiracy theories of gun dealers or manufacturers hoarding what’s left of the dwindling ammunition supplies.

“It’s no big conspiracy at all. It’s simply there was eight million new shooters, and the new shooters want guns and ammo,” Pat Kukull, owner of Superior Shooters Supply in Wisconsin, told Wisconsin Public Radio.

“That started it. And, then with the riots that went on in the (Twin Cities) area, that self-defense (gun purchases) went way up. It’s just a perfect storm,” she continued.

Elle Ekman, who formerly served in the Department of Defense, wrote in the American Prospect that “folks on the internet speculate that ammunition plants have shut down, and that companies and/or the government are stockpiling bullets to drive up demand and prices.”

She added that “it got so bad that the president of the biggest ammunition producer in the U.S., Jason Vanderbrink of Vista Outdoor, made a YouTube video because he was ‘tired of all the hate mail.’ Vanderbrink walked through Vista’s production process and told angry gun owners that hearing about the conspiracy theories related to the ‘so-called ammunition shortage’ is ‘getting really old.’ The video has nearly two million views.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. David Thompson

    November 26, 2021 at 10:57 am

    So, ho will it end?

  2. BR

    November 26, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    This is poorly researched as Remington ammo was picked up by Vista in the asset auction after Rems. bankruptcy. Remington ammo is back up to full capacity and has been since late summer.

  3. jeff

    November 26, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    It also appears that some middle men have cut out the retailers and have gone straight to the consumers charging outrageous prices. They are selling bulk ammo on the internet and have up to 100 items in stock for each listing.

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