Everyday Hunter: Shortages — My Perspective

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Ammo cupboards are nearly bare in every sporting goods store as shooters wait impatiently for ammo.
Ammo cupboards are nearly bare in every sporting goods store as shooters wait impatiently for ammo.

A shortage has shooters fired up — a national shortage of ammunition and reloading components. Hunters are worried about it, but the ones it affects most are reloaders, shooters who train heavily, and competition shooters.

What’s happening? Is the government buying it to keep it from citizens? Has some wealthy left-wing zealot bought all the ammo companies and slowed down production? Are the ammo makers smothered with red tape and red ink?

While conspiracies can and do happen, evidence does not support those ideas. The evidence points to much better news — more and more people are buying guns. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, at least 8.4 million people bought a gun for the first time in 2020. They’re 40 percent of the 21 million gun purchasers last year overall.

If you believe in the Second Amendment, be happy about that. More gun owners should add up to stronger political influence, but that comes with a downside. All those new gun owners bought at least two boxes of ammo. Many bought four, five, maybe ten boxes. Multiply that by 8 million and it’s a lot of ammo. Add ammo purchases by folks who were already gun owners, you have a major ammo shortage.

Then, this real shortage is magnified even more by panic buying so extreme that some customers hit the stores every day and when they get lucky, it affects every shooter. In some cases, they buy not for their own use, but to resell at inflated prices. That’s an injustice to all shooters.

Ammo companies can’t keep up with the demand. They can’t add factories because once this shortage ends normal production levels would not pay for the investment. Instead, they’re working around the clock to produce ammo. The COVID pandemic doesn’t help.
Check online for anything related to ammunition — gunpowder, primers, brass cases, bullets, reloading dies and other tools of the trade, and even ammunition itself. You’ll see “Out of Stock” on almost everything. Most of what is manufactured is going to retail brick and mortar stores who have had orders in since last year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show. When it arrives it flies off their shelves.

Selling to retailers puts the most product into the hands of the most people, but it’s still not enough. Every store is begging for more than it can get, so some establish limited quantity policies which enables more people to get at least some ammo. No one gets all that they want.
Most avid shooters and those who take hunting seriously are OK right now. And most will be OK through this shortage, but we can expect some differences once things loosen up. Last year, rifle and pistol primers cost about $40 per thousand. Handloaders are now paying upwards of $300, and that may not be the limit. Will the price ever drop back to $40? We can only hope.

What about bullets? Bullets come in such a wide variety of calibers, designs, weights, and shapes that you’d think some of them would still be plentiful. Nope. Powder is hard to get too. Those who “roll our own” ammo can’t get what we need because we’re in a minority. All resources go to retail ammo because that serves the most customers.

The biggest surge of gun owners in America’s history means less ammo for everyone. That’s a double-edged sword. Or, if you prefer a shooting metaphor, a double-barreled shotgun — a certain President’s nonsensical self-defense weapon.

Speaking of politicians, all their talk about “common sense gun laws” (sometimes more nonsense than common sense) contributes to the shortage, but that’s a question for another day. Until then, in times of shortages black markets thrive, and some say it’s going to get worse.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.

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Steve Sorensen
Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning outdoor writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, and insights on how to think about hunting. His byline has appeared in the nation’s top hunting magazines including Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Deer & Deer Hunting, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur-Fish-Game, North American Whitetail, Bear Hunting Magazine and more. He contributes regular website content to Legendary Whitetails and Havalon Knives and is a field editor for Deer Hunters Online. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com to invite him to speak at your next sportsmen’s dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).