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The Great Ammo Shortage of 2020

Who would have thought for a second that you wouldn’t be able to find ammunition (ammo) in the heat of summer 2020?  It’s perplexing and exciting.  I want to explain both.  New firearms enthusiasts are entering the market daily.  In a very non-scientific data collection, our staff are reporting at least 8 out of 10 (many say 10 out of 10) clients are brand new.  They have never owned a firearm, and some will go so far as to say:  I never wanted a gun and swore I would never own one!  But, here they are.  Who can blame them?  The evening news brings the gripping tale of the division of America and the violence ripping through our urban centers—some hate groups even suggesting “take it to the suburbs”.  Enter the new generation of firearms owners.  And, yes, they are training.  Ammo sales are up; firearms sales are up and training is through the roof.  The newbies are impressively interested in safety and training.

It’s exciting.

Yes, it’s great for sales, but it’s even better for the Second Amendment!  Many of these new firearm owners are realizing what we already knew.  Firearms are safe and it’s not rocket science to use one.  The peace of mind that being able to protect yourself brings, is priceless.

This urgency in buying has created shortages in all products, especially ammo—and to many, especially those new to the industry, it is perplexing.  I sat down with the buying team at Frontier Justice and interviewed them to get some answers in order to shed some light on the empty shelves. (But, let it be known, Frontier Justice is doing a great job of getting all that is available!).  We talked specifically about ammo and here is what it sounded like:

Who is this ammo shortage effecting?

Frontier Justice, big box stores, “Mom & Pop” locations, distributors, manufacturers, and law enforcement agencies.

What is causing this supply chain shortage?

There are many factors contributing to this shortage-

  • COVID-19: The corona virus pandemic seemed to be when this shortage began. This is multi-layered.
          • -First, people all over the country “stocked up” once a potential lockdown was announced. Much like toilet paper, people bought large quantities of guns and ammo very quickly. This eliminated available supply at distribution and at manufacturers. Once the distributors ran out, most of them placed several multi-million dollar purchase orders with manufacturers which put the manufacturers in a bind. Large dealers and big box locations also placed large purchase orders with these manufacturers which strained the supply chain almost overnight. 
          • -Second, COVID-19 restrictions at manufacturing facilities drastically reduced the number of employees supplying materials such as gun powder, casings, primers, bullets, etc. This has occurred in the United States as well as overseas. 
        • -Third, COVID-19 restrictions at the ports slowed the supply of materials such as gun powder. A shortage in primers also started around this time. Currently, primers seem to be the most difficult to get.
        • -Fourth, another domino-effect of the DMV’s being closed is that freight companies cannot get their driver’s certified with their commercial driver’s licenses they need. A shortage in freight company employees is further slowing the supply chain.
  • Rioting: Nationwide riots are causing more and more people to purchase firearms and ammo. Many new first time gun owners are buying. Current gun owners are buying more. There were a record number 10.3 million NICS transactions the first half of 2020. Remember- not all states require a NICS check if you have a CCW, and a single NICS check can be for the purchase of multiple firearms. NSSF states that most retailers claim their firearm sales are up 96% and ammo sales are up 139% year over year. The supply is gone.
  • Defunding of the police: Increase in first-time gun buyers.
  • Election year: Historically, there is a spike in gun sales every four years. This year is no different.

When will this shortage end?

There is no definite answer to this. Many experts in this industry believe this will continue into late 2021. Every manufacturer is different and will have different rates of catching up each of their products. We have heard some manufacturers would not catch up until 2022 even if they stopped taking new orders today.

Why did the price go up?

Manufacturers are doing their best to rapidly increase production. This has a heavy cost- new facilities, new machines, employee overtime, the cost of hiring and training new employees, increased freight charges, increased cost of raw material, making up for lost sales when raw material supply is gone, etc. Most manufacturers are raising prices between 5%-20%, which is then passed to distribution wholesale prices increasing.

              -Supply and demand. 9mm, .223/5.56 will be affected most as they have the highest demand.

-In order to provide our clients with a solution, Frontier Justice has had to branch out into other brands of ammunition which sometimes carry a higher price than what clients are accustomed to.

When will a particular item ship to the store?

There is no definite answer to this. Manufacturers seldom give ETA’s (estimated time for arrival) for shipment deliveries due to their inability to meet those commitments or their uncertainty of acquiring their raw materials. Most ammunition manufacturers are over 180 days for delivery from date of order. Many have stopped taking orders altogether.

That is the summary of our interview on ammunition.  Firearms are a bit different, but in a lot of ways, the same answers apply.  Our buying power and our relationships are being tested for the first time since we opened six short years ago.  We have many great partners in the industry and we are working hard with those partners to do the very best we can.  At times, we will (may) limit quantities of ammunition you can buy; we will limit ammo that is available to range use only and even limit ammo to new firearms sales. The reason that we would do this is to ensure that those who are new to firearms and are trying to take the steps to protect themselves are able to get some ammo.  We are trying our very best to keep you able to get on the range, rent firearms, and take classes that require shooting.  We are suggesting you consider using the shooting simulator while ammunition supplies are short to learn and stay trained up.  No ammo is required but the laser light on the actual firearm is the exact trajectory of a bullet.  The simulator is great training and it’s fun! 

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