Where Has All The Ammo Gone?

by Gary Evens

I've often said that there is no such thing as bringing too much ammunition to a gun fight. These days you might be lucky to have any ammo for that gunfight. It seems that it is virtually impossible to find some of the most popular calibers on dealers' shelves these days. I went out the other day in search of 9mm Luger ammo — I need about 400 more rounds for an upcoming class I will be taking this coming Spring. Yet it seems there is none to be had. Where one of my local gun shops used to have pallets consisting of thousands of rounds of 9mm ammo, now they are lucky to have just a few boxes, if that. One of the gun shops in my area will only sell you 9mm ammunition if you are also buying a handgun chambered for it at the same time, and then they limit you to just two boxes. Most other dealers have also instituted a "two box limit" when they do have ammunition in stock.

My informal survey of four local gun stores — including a Gander Mountain store — showed that 9mm and bulk .22 Long Rifle ammunition have virtually disappeared from their shelves. I also noted a lack of .223/5.56 and .308 caliber rifle ammunition. Stocks of .380 ACP and .45 ACP are down considerably. Just about any common semi-automatic pistol caliber ammunition, except surprisingly .40 S&W, are rare finds indeed, at least where I looked. Ammunition for use in revolvers appears to still be available. When you can find ammunition, it has gone up considerably in price unless it is one of the less common calibers. For instance, .45 ACP seems to now be going for $0.50 to $1.00 per round. I was able to get some .38 Super +P for just a couple bucks more than I was paying before this latest ammo shortage began.

Even reloading components are in short supply. Once again, primers seem to have disappeared. Stocks of bullets are also down considerably. Gun powder is still available, but cartridge cases in the popular calibers are getting hard to find.

So what has caused this dramatic decline in the availability of ammunition?

The re-election of President Obama started a new rush to buy firearms — not that the previous "rush" from his initial election in 2008 had really slowed down at all. Then the Sandy Hook tragedy brought renewed calls for more gun control laws. In reaction to this, concerned citizens have decided they better buy up all the guns and ammunition they can now while they can still get it. Thus there is a large degree of hoarding going on right now. Another cause is the large purchases of ammunition being made by the federal government, not just for the military, but also for those federal agencies that have a role in law enforcement. Finally, there is a shortage of some of the raw materials used in the manufacture of ammunition, brass for cartridge cases for instance.

Ammunition manufacturers are ramping up production to the extent that they can, but it will take a while to replenish stockpiles to the point they were at before the latest buying rush. The supply of raw materials will likely keep them from reaching 100% capacity though. Prices will go up in response to "supply and demand" and restrictions on the quantities that can be purchased at one time will likely continue. Whether prices will stay high after the shelves are restocked remains to be seen, and it is likely those shelves won't be back to "normal levels" before the end of 2013. As long as renewed calls for an "assault weapons ban" and limits on magazine capacity remain, the scramble to buy all the ammunition in sight will likely continue.

So what should you do? Buy what you need, but don't hoard it. Plan ahead so you have what you need on hand when you need it. You may have to resort to more dry-fire rather than live-fire for your practice sessions. Most of all, don't panic. "This too shall pass."

Gary Evens is an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.

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