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What’s Behind The Ammo Shortage?

As WalMart limited the sale of guns, civil unrest gripped the streets of the US, Virginia introduced gun control legislation, concern over Joe Biden’s Second Amendment stance, and the Covid-19 panic took hold, 6.2 million additional people became gun owners in 2020, as reported by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Visa Outdoor, the parent company of Federal, Speer, and Remington brands of ammo reported a year’s worth of backing for their products. High demand and a shortage of product has led to price increases and online gouging. 

According to Dave Kiwacka, from Russian cartridge manufacturer Barnual, ammo seekers need to shop daily, if not multiple times per day.  “Most of the time, when we see a live posting for ammo, it’s gone in minutes,” he said.

Starting over the summer, Ron Menning, owner of K&R Firearms in Edgerton, Minnesota, began having difficult obtaining ammo from distributors. 

“Some of the manufacturers are only at 40 percent workers, 50 percent workers,” said Menning. “An ammo factory will say well we shut one factory down because we’ve got 16 people that tested positive.” Menning does not know what to expect next. 

Demand for guns and ammo is high, says Steve Dowdy, owner of Boob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk, Virginia.  “Overall sales are comparable to past holiday seasons, but I believe we would be up 30% to 40% if we had more inventory.”

When calling at the end of 2020 Legend Firearms in Monroe Township, Pennsylvania, customers are greeted by a recording saying the store is out of handgun ammunition. It also says there’s just one Glock in stock. “But, by the time you hear this message, it will probably be gone.” 

Since the start of 2020, more than eight million American bought a gun for the first time, according to Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shootings Sports Foundation, a gun industry group. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted 35.75 million background checks for gun purchases through November, exceeding 28.36 million over the entire year. Gun makers Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger reported double-digit increases in sales. 

Joe Biden’s gun control plan specifically focuses on assault rifles, which have increasingly become harder to find, capping sales. 

“What we’re dealing with in 2020 isn’t so much of a shortage as there is an overabundance of demand,” said Oliva of the NSSF. “It’s overwhelming, but manufacturers of both firearms and ammunition are working hard to meet that demand.”

Jason Hornady, vice president of Hornady Manufacturing, has seen shortages six times in his career. “But the difference this time is the string of events—Walmart, Virginia [anti-gun legislature], coronavirus, riots, an influx of [6-7 million] new gun owners, a bad election. It all adds up. Right then, hunting season comes along, and you know what consumer is the maddest? The ones who normally buy two boxes of deer ammo a year. They go into their local gun shops and can’t believe [the shelves are bare]…”

He added: “At the same time, COVID is a reality for us, too. If an employee has to quarantine, even if they’re not sick, we can’t just send a loading press home with them. We’ve had to spread out and guard against super-spreader events so that it won’t shut down a big part of the factory.”