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Why Ammo Prices Spiked in 2021 (And Could Keep Going Up)

Ammo Prices
Ammo. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Inflation Continues to Kick In for Ammo Prices: Americans have been dealing with inflation for months now. Everything from food to gasoline is going up.

Same for ammunition. Ammo prices just won’t go down. “Gimme back my bullets,” as the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang in a hit song during the 1970s, is a lyric that is still apropos in 2022.

Here is a quick explainer on why ammo prices are so high and could go even higher.

One Buck, One Bullet

How would you like to pay a dollar a round for ammunition? That’s what writer Matt Stoller asked in a recent article. Stoller provided a telling quote from Mark Oliva, chief of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“5.56 ammunition for an AR-15 used to be about 33 cents a round. 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,” said Oliva.

Inflation Hits Hard

1945 reported in 2021 that according to a gun shop owner in Florida, ammunition prices for some calibers have gone up as much as 400 percent during 2021. “Boxes of nine-millimeter rounds were selling for $12 pre-pandemic but that surged to $40 to $60 during the peak. Meanwhile, a box of .380 caliber rounds that are usually only $15 were going for $50 to $60.”

Gun manufacturers are getting hit with price increases for copper and clearly passing them along to the consumer–and maybe then some. This has increased profits for firms such as Vista Outdoor. Profit margins went up in 2020, and 2021 for Vista, when profit margins blasted upward to a record 27 percent in the second quarter of 2021. This beat totals year over year.

Gun Ammo Scalpers Send Prices High

Brent Frantz at Ammo-Up wrote that people are scalping bullets in the same way that they used to scalp sports and concert tickets. They hoard and then sell back to gun stores for a profit. The mantra for these folks is simple, buy up as much ammo as possible and then sell it online to make extra cash. But this creates back orders on ammunition and new purchasers often strike out when they make an online order.

Gun Stores Must Be Quicker on the Trigger with Orders from Distributors

Some middle-men such as distributors are getting ample shipments of ammunition to their warehouses, but it is up to your local gun shop to plan ahead and make timely orders from the distributors. If they are not “Johnny on the spot,” with their order flow, they are out of luck. This leads to empty shelves at your small-town gun shop.

Did Government Stimulus Lead to More Demand for Guns and Ammo?

Others have attributed the high ammo prices to more people who bought guns and ammunition with their stimulus checks. Personal protection is a factor for those buying more ammo as they see political unrest and violence in the cities and a nationwide crime wave. As discussed earlier, some who stocked up during the early days of the panic with extra money from the stimulus are selling ammo back to the dealers, as Outdoor Life has pointed out.

The Great Gun Ammo Price Hike: A Lot of Blame to Go Around

This is a supply and demand story in which the gun and ammunition buying public is suffering. Inflation looks to be one of the main culprits for the prices increases. But scalpers, Internet opportunists, and distribution bottlenecks are also contributing to the problem. These high ammo prices look to continue into the rest of the year.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

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