FROM THE CONTROL BOOTH
By Steve Tracy I Editorial director
Heavy-duty store shelves are supporting dust instead of the weighty ammo boxes they were designed to hold. There are several reasons for the current ammo shortage, but the economic law of supply and demand is first and foremost on the list.
The ammunition manufacturers are cranking out rounds as fast as they can. Although they have ramped up production, they are leery of investing millions of dollars in new equipment when demand may slow down a few years from now. Still, conspiracy theories rear their ugly heads that something more nefarious is going on.
To help dispel some of the conjecture, Hornady ammunition posted a letter on their website stating that no one wants to ship more ammo than they do. But as fast as the product is shipped, the supply is bought up due to high demand. A portion of this demand is from first-time firearms purchasers. These numbers are at their highest level in years. Civilians are purchasing firearms for self defense (both at home and for concealed carry), and it’s no surprise that the most popular weapons they want are the same ones we choose for police use.
All these new gun owners need bullets to go with them. Ball ammo is snapped up for practice and hollowpoint ammo is needed for carry. Catering to these gun owners are new gun ranges with a business model of providing quality training and instruction. Because they need plenty of rounds for their classes, many ranges are selling ammunition only to their customers for use on their range.
Other aspects of the demand are ammo hoarders and panic buying. If a particular caliber happens to be in stock, many will buy it even though they have plenty already. They’re afraid it will be a long time before they have the opportunity again. Rumors and third-hand stories abound that ammo is also being bought up by big-box store employees and then resold to gun stores for a profit. Prices have gone through the roof at certain stores, but large retailers have been pretty fair about not gouging at the register. The ammunition manufacturers have stated that they have not raised their prices. The laws of supply and demand leave the retail price to the final seller, so the buyer must beware.
The reason most often cited for the hoarding and panic is politics. The fact is that common handgun cartridges (9mm, .40, and .45) used by police officers are sparse. Departments and individual officers also find that procuring 5.56mm rifle rounds is just as problematic since the AR-15 is the most popular long gun in the U.S. today.
The popularity of .22 pistols and conversion kits has even caused a drought in .22 long rifle rounds. Just about every combat handgun has a .22 counterpart these days and shooters had the epiphany that it costs less to shoot 500 .22 rounds through their S&W M&P22 trainer than it does to shoot 500 .40 caliber rounds through their M&P .40 duty gun.
It doesn’t really matter why ammunition is so difficult to get your hands on these days. What does matter is that you and your department get your ammo orders in right now with your suppliers. If you don’t, it will just delay the order and that delay may be exponentially multiplied.
Police officers who shoot on their own time or are involved in competition are probably already aware of the ammo problem. Even reloading supplies like primers and powders have disappeared from the sales shelves. Be sure your department’s ammunition purchaser knows about the current situation. We have a difficult enough time with our range training budgets; it would be even more distressing to have the money and not be able to spend it because we can’t get the ammo. PM
Pull Quote: “Be sure your department’s ammunition purchaser knows about the current situation. We have a difficult enough time with our range training budgets; it would be even more distressing to have the money and not be able to spend it because we can’t get the ammo.”