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Oh, great:

Ammo Shortage May Last Until 2021

As I read this story, I decided to do a little digging to see how bad the problem actually is.

Now I can understand that SHTF ammo (.223 Rem, 7.62x39mm Soviet, 7.62x51mm NATO etc.) and hunting ammo (.30-30, .30-06 etc.) might be in short supply.  And we all know about handgun ammo (9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Mag etc.) being scarce to non-existent.  But .22 Long Rifle?  Seriously?

And where it’s not out of stock, it’s running anywhere from 11 cents to 40 cents per round.  (19 cents for Remington Golden Bullet in the 525-pack?  I used to use this stuff as ballast.)

Here’s a sample of what’s (not) out there:

SGAmmoAmmo.comMidwayClassic FirearmsSportsman’s WarehouseJ&G Sales — (un)Lucky GunnerCheaperThanDirtBrownells* — and so on.  (Check AmmoSeek for a longer list.)

(I know, it’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a big enough sample.)

This is the equivalent of all supermarkets being simultaneously out-of-stock on salt, sugar and bread, never mind toilet paper and bleach.

Just out of curiosity, I checked my “tote” bag, which contains my “everyday plinking” supply that follows me to the range whenever I take my .22 rifles or pistols.  I gave up counting at 5,000 rounds.  In Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer, of course… well, ’nuff said.  I think my lowest brand quantity is CCI Green Tag, and that’s at about two bricks.  I last shot Green Tag about two years ago.

It’s a funny thing.  I think one always felt a little silly when buying that 500-round brick of .22 online, and checking the “10” quantity (which used to be my standard practice, per brand).  Hell, I’d buy a brick just to see how it shot, or as a cheap Christmas present for my buddies.

No more.  What interests me is what will happen when ammo supplies “stabilize”.  Given the situation now, I’m not sure they ever will.


*By the way, I’ve heard good things about the SK brand now available at Brownells, but unfortunately they’re only offering it in the 5,000-round bulk pack — and at 13 cents a round, it’s still too expensive for a bulk purchase.  When / if the ammo supply situation ever returns to sanity, I’ll buy a couple boxes and test them.

25 comments

  1. I have shot SK ammo which I bought from Widener’s, another online merchant you can add to your list. It was reasonably priced then, and works well. Try to find any .22 nowadays, never mind reasonably priced.

    1. Brownells is out of the SK stuff, but I see 50, 500, and 5000-round “you could purchase it if we had any” options.

  2. From this point onward, I doubt ammo supplies will ever “stabilize;” given the 2013-2015 ammo drought, our current bare shelf situation, and the – very welcome – influx of new gun owners, three things will contribute mightily to thin supplies: 1) Lots of new gun owners; 2) An improved understanding of the need for more training and more practice of that training, and; 3) Do you know anyone – anyone at all – who will not in future buy a case instead of a box because they remember what 2013-2015 and 2020 were like?

    It’s well past time for manufacturers to ramp up. Fiocchi has a new plant coming soon in Arkansas, Remington’s demise means their tooling being bought by ATK, IIRC Federal recently announced some changes upward in production, and so on. Capacities also need to increase upstream from ammo mnaufacturers – lead, copper, powder, primers, all impact ammunition manufacturing throughput.

    There’s little cause for expansion, however, because as long as 120% of production through the end of 2021 is already sold why should ammunition manufacturers spend a dime on new capacity? Just cash the checks and head to the beach.

    Something to watch for: Cheap, crappy ammo from Chinkland to cash in on the supplies gap.

    1. They will expand to get more market share if the demand will continue long enough to recoup the investment. Is the shortage manufacturing capacity, or components like brass, lead, copper or primers? Will a Biden victory kill the market? It those of us who own an AR-15 can’t take it to the range, what does the market for .223 look like?

      We live in interesting times.

  3. Something is still off about this scenario.

    Suppose ammo demand is through the roof versus “normal” demand. Twice normal? Three times?

    “Normal” would be “the factories are working a full eight hour shift, five days a week.”

    Are they already on a three-shift pattern? Or are they holding on to an eight hour work day? If they started at 24/7, then they needed more factories in the first place. IF they’re working eight hour shifts, they need to go to at least a two-shift system.

    I’ve heard that there’s a huge primer shortage. Great – just get the suppliers to make more primers. They’ve had a half a year to do so.

    All of the excuses I’ve seen for a lack of production were all “we don’t have things right now.” But it’s been months. Is there an external force holding things back? Should someone talk to Customs about what they’re letting into the country, and how fast?

    1. I have been shopping and delivering groceries for the last 6 months, which means I’m in 3-4 stores a day, 5 days a week. I have–and continue to see–really odd shortages.

      For a while certain varieties of soda weren’t being stocked–because the “bottlers” couldn’t get cans. I don’t know *why* they couldn’t get the cans. Maybe because the can company couldn’t get aluminum, or maybe because the can company is in China, and that interrupted supply for a while.

      Then there’s the periodic lack of paper towels and toilet paper. Some weeks the aisles are stocked, other weeks not so much.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67tHtpac5ws

      Instead of a pencil, think of a boolet. Primer, brass, powder, bullet. The primer is how many chemicals and processes? The bullet, especially jacketed rounds–how many processes and companies are involved?

      We’re still in a global pandemic, and supply chains are still disrupted.

      You ask if the companies are running 3 shifts–where are they getting the workers?

      When you factor in everything, yeah, it’s going to be *at least* 2022 before stocks normalize. And that’s if we’re not in CWII.

  4. During WWI, all the major combatants suffered from (artillery) ammunition shortages. In addition, Russia couldn’t produce enough small arms ammo. Neither the US or Russia could produce enough small arms. In the US, this led to such expedients as rechambering Enfields for the 30-06, 45 ACP revolvers and the acquisition of the infamous Chauchat from the French, a gun so bad that the French wouldn’t use it. Russia was limited to having unarmed soldiers pick up the rifles of dead guys. Not able to find anything about civilian ammo supplies then but gun culture was mostly about hunting with limited expenditure. Civilian supplies dried up during WWII but then we couldn’t get tires or gasoline either. So we have been here before and undoubtedly will be again. You are your own supply line.

  5. .22 RF ammo. CMP .22 ammo which is Eley standard in bulk boxes is fairly good standard velocity ammo. It’s use as practice ammo can be significantly improved by segregating by weight. Out of the box it runs from about 50.8 grains / round to 5.1 grains / round. Segregating into lots of 0.2 grains will yield ammo that is darn near match grade Eley Black box with occasional flyers. I found most were in the 52 ~ 53 gr range and that shot better in my Anschutz match rifle.
    SK rifle match ammo is excellent stuff, for the most part equal to Lapua Center X but again with occasional flyers. As is SK standard but with more flyers.

  6. > But .22 Long Rifle? Seriously?

    Yeah. It’s a response to uncertainty–an anxiety reaction. Just like toilet paper, paper towels. Just like people buying bread, milk and cases of water when a snowstorm is predicted.

    We get nervous about the future and we do *something* to make us feel like we have some control over it. Some people buy 5 years worth of toilet paper, some people buy 10 years worth of .22 ammo.

    Given the shocks of the last 10 years, I suspect there’s people out there with two or three lifetimes supply.

  7. Good morning Kim,
    What “Velocette” said about weight variations in ammo. A buddy of mine uses SK out of a Steyr bolt gun for a rimfire competition rig. Before he started weighing his ammo, he was scoring 885 out of 900 possible points. That’s after 3 weeks of competition, and that score put him in position 12 of 18 shooters. After weighing his ammo and removing the approximately 20% of outliers, his groups tightened up even further. So … he warms up the rifle with the outliers, and competes with the keepers. All normal caveats apply, draw your own conclusions, YMMV.
    I’ve lately been buying pink poly coated “high velocity” CCI clean from my LGS. They’re only allowing one canister of 400 round per person, per day, but every time I’m near the place, I stop in and grab some. My “out the door” cost is about $35 per can. It runs like “the bees knees” in my Browning Buck Mark Camper … which is a suh-WEEEET little pistol. I am SO GLAD I dumped the Ruger Mark III and picked up this little beauty. Best part? My total cost, gun, shipping, tax, and transfer – total – all under $400 !!! It more than satisfies my .22 plinking needs. It’s also a great gun for introducing new shooters …
    And speaking of CCI clean … Kim, I’ll prolly grab one more canister for National Ammo Day.
    Enjoy the weekend … stay safe … protect those lungs of yours.

    1. Any competition shooter who doesn’t weigh his ammo is ensuring a loss to someone who does.

      Son&Heir’s Free Pistol average went up by 8 points when I started doing that for him. (For those who don’t know the discipline: 8 points in a competition at that level can mean the difference between coming 1st and not making it to the final round. He was Texas Junior State Champ three years in a row.)

      1. I’ll second the motion on weighing ammo; it’s anal retentive OCD PITA, but very much worth the time, even in things like Gallery Match with a semi-auto, and you’ll be surprised by the variations in even high quality high $$ ammo.

        Pro Tip: It goes much faster by using multiple scales, but you have to trust each of the scales (become friends with the guys in the metrology lab).

  8. Obama’s EPA regulated the last lead smelter in the U.S. out of existence. We import all of our raw lead stocks now.

    Kim, with your vast influence and reach, could you possibly make a discreet call to someone to whisper this to President Trump, and get him to reverse that Obamanation of a regulation?

    Used to be “Get the Lead Out!”, was an exhortation to induce movement to the lazy sort. Now though? We need to get the Lead IN. Back IN to the U.S.A., that is.

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. There is a LOT of lead in old plumbing waste stacks, which are cheap and easy to replace with PVC pipes. 😉

  9. When I first started shooting Western Auto regularly sold .22LR for around $7.50/brick. Seasonal sale price would drop down around $5/brick. A local gun store had 55 gallon drum of delinked machine gun ammo in .30-06. That sold for .05/round.
    I wish I’d be wise enough to stock up.
    I occasionally find the odd box of old .22, and single rounds of .06. Shootable but not target material – though the .22 is more than 50 years old now, and the .06 probably dates back to Korean or early Vietnam.

  10. Having 10k+ of assorted rounds stashed away, I *can* go shooting.

    At 17 cents a round for .22lr and something like $8-$15 per mag for everything else, I can’t afford to replace what I shoot, and this is the wrong time to deplete stockpiles.

  11. SK ammo is made in Deutschland and it seems to me they make the Wolf brand .22 Match there as well at the same factory. That used to be available from Widener’s , but that was then, not now. I bought a bunch of factory primed new brass in a few calibers from Widener’s back a while ago, and that was nicely lacquer sealed stuff and it was very cost effective. A year ago it was not cost effective to load 9mm as you could get it for 18 cents a round or less. I should put together my 9mm rounds as I am precariously low on that caliber and I will be hard pressed to pay 85 cents a round, thank you very much.

    Ah the good old days.

    1. I still have just under 3 bricks of the German made Wolf match ammo. It shot great in the single shot target rifles but it was oily/greasy and would rapidly cause the 10/22 action and magazines to foul (but it was darn accurate in that as well)

      I have tons of the Federal and Winchester bulk; I should try weighing it and separating batches out to see how they do.

      I took the three revolvers to the range yesterday; first time in over a year because I’ve been swamped and concentrating shooting time on EDC handgun and rifle. When I got home I priced out what it would cost to replace the ammo I used and it came to almost $88. For a one hour range trip. I probably had about $30 into that ammo.

      I reload so that helps but damn, that made for an expensive hour of enjoyment.

  12. I wanted to make my usual early morning comments but I’ve been busy helping a friend do storm clean up. As the national media might have briefly mentioned (we’re in a red state so we’re not really “important” enough for air time) Oklahoma got hit pretty hard by an early ice storm on Tuesday. Lots of people like my friend are still without power and that just proves how fragile our infrastructure is. To the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been any major lawlessness such as you would see in New York City or LA. People just go about their business and try to help their neighbors. Friend does have an 870 close by just in case but I doubt that he’ll need it.

    Now to my thoughts on the great ammunition drought . I don’t know how long it will last so I’m hesitant to put a year down. When Reagan was still around it used to be fashionable to talk about “supply side economics”. I think that we’re in the middle of an ugly demonstration of what happens when the demand side far exceeds the available supply of ammunition.

    Recall that the Japanese introduced the idea of “just in time” inventory many years back. They basically created a system that has no reserve capacity. If X number of widgets are needed on Tuesday afternoon, they are supplied on Tuesday morning. The product comes in, goes on the shelves and is immediately sold. No warehouse space is needed . There is no spare production capacity because that would be inefficient and wasteful of resources. That’s a great concept as long as the demand remains relatively constant. Federal makes five million rounds of ammunition a month, they sell five million a month and life is good.

    Now its 2020 and things go down the toilet. The virus disrupts the supply chain – although I don’t think that when this all dies down the disruption will have been as major as many people think. The politically motivated Antifa and BLM movements reduce some urban areas to anarchy – and again we’ll probably never know the true extent of lawlessness in those areas in the same way that nobody really knew how bad (or not bad) the riots of the late 60s were. The Democrats threaten to ban weapons, stop the mail order sale of parts and ammunition, and talk about California style restrictions on ammunition sales.

    We shooters like to think that we’re “smarter” than everybody else. We see ourselves as the survivors in the apocalyptic $5.00 Amazon prepper novels. We see ourselves as playing “get off my lawn” with zombies and/or Democrats. Since we’re smart people we’re convinced that the bad guys will turn suburban Oklahoma into a war zone should Donald pull off a victory. Should the other guys win we’ll be shooting the UN blue helmet guys who come to take our guns. In either case we’ll need ammunition and lots of it. We’re willing to pay $1.00 a round or more for 9mm ball because we’re convinced that we will really need it and we’re not really sure that there will be any more available after January.

    I used to joke that I had enough ammunition in stock to last me through one term of a Democrat president. What happens after that? Our friends in the Philippines demonstrated that two pieces of iron pipe and a shotgun shell (or a sheet metal smooth bore single shot .45) could get them a rifle and ammunition. This old man doesn’t want to see us go to that place.

  13. People got somewhat justifiably scared and a lot of normal folks wanted to pick up a couple boxes for their 1-3 guns. Well a crapload of people have a .22 in that collection. So it doesn’t surprise me.

  14. Sounds like a great excuse to pick up a 10mm, it seems to be more available than other popular calibers and fairly reasonable at ~60 cents per round and up.

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