Where Did All The Ammo Go? What Can You Do?

I was at Cabela’s the other day … just looking around mostly. One of the things I looked at was the ammo shelves. I say shelves because that was about all there was to look at. The view is the same at the local gun shops around home. All the ammo is gone!

Why? It’s simple, really: We’ve bought it all. Oh, if you want shotshells for shooting clay birds you’ll find some. If you want ammo for your—not the most popular—deer rifle, you might find some, but even that isn’t a given. I’ve been trying to find .250 Savage ammo for months. It’s just not available.

I guess the next question you might ask is, “Why did we buy all the ammo?” That answer is a bit complicated, but for the most part, it’s because shooters are worried legislation might infringe on their ability to obtain ammo. This has resulted in a rush to purchase just about every kind of ammunition, particularly the types associated with high-volume shooting and personal protection.

The list of really-hard-to-find ammo for rifles includes .223 Rem., .308 Win., .30-06 and yes, even .22 LR. For handguns, just about everything is in short supply except maybe the large-caliber hunting cartridges. Interestingly enough, while at Cabela’s, the only defensive handgun ammo they had was about 500 rounds of .327 Fed. Mag. This is a very useful and potent defensive handgun cartridge, and I will bet a lot of folks are wishing they had one of these revolvers because of a .327 Fed. Mag. can fire five different cartridges.

When will this lack-of-ammunition situation end? That’s difficult to answer because it appears that, as long as our political leaders are struggling with the question of how to best infringe on our Second Amendment rights, shooters will continue to stock up on ammo that they feel will be hard or impossible to get later on.

Many want to blame the manufacturers for not meeting demand. That’s absurd. If you were in the business of making ammunition, wouldn’t you be making all you could right now? Sure you would. Like grandpa used to say, “Better make hay while the sun is shining.” Ammo companies are making ammo as fast as they can … they’re just not making it as fast as we’re buying it.

Another reason ammo is disappearing off shelves so quickly is that shooters who used to purchase one or two boxes at a time are now buying a case at a time. We have become so ammo greedy that some gun stores are now only selling ammunition to customers who actually purchase a firearm. “That’s not fair!” you say. Well, it might not seem fair, but imagine buying a new firearm and not being able to buy any ammo to shoot feed it. There’s one way to sum that up: It would suck!

There’s another dynamic at work in this ammo-availability dilemma: Ammo manufacturers build ammo on a schedule. For example, they might load the very popular cartridges such as .223 Rem. and 9mm Luger year round, but during this time of year they often load the less-popular stuff such as .250 Savage, .35 Whelen, .32 H&R Mag., etc. If they don’t load these cartridges, then the distributors who ordered them last spring will be mad when they don’t get any. They have to meet their orders, so they can’t just shut down and only load what folks are buying; if they did, they’d just be continually chasing their tails.

I have some friends in the business of making ammunition—some at big companies such as Remington and some at smaller companies such as Buffalo Bore. All tell me that, like many handloaders who make their own ammo, they’re loading ammo as fast as they can. But handloaders are having problems getting components such as primers, brass and even bullets. Guess what? The ammo manufacturers are, too.

Companies that make their own primers have to choose between selling them as components or using them to load ammunition. Same goes for bullets and brass. Gunpowder is about the only thing there’s no shortage of, but problems exist there as well because companies are struggling to get the powder into containers, which they can’t seem to get enough of.

Just imagine if you made your living building high-quality bloodwood vampire stakes in your garage. You build and sell about 2,000 per year—about five per day. Suddenly, the vampire community decides they no longer want to live in the shadows and they start a feeding frenzy. Overnight, your orders increase 100-fold. You can’t make stakes fast enough and you can’t even get enough bloodwood to build them with. That’s exactly what’s happening with ammo right now.

A healthy supply of ammo isn’t always easy to come by.

What Can You Do During An Ammo Shortage?

  • Start looking at the smaller ammo companies such as Buffalo Bore and DoubleTap. Their ammo might be a bit more expensive, but they just might actually have it in stock.
  • Shop on the Internet at websites such as GunsAmerica.com and Gunbroker.com. Sometimes you’ll find ammo for the not-so-popular cartridges there at auction.
  • If a backorder option is available when ordering ammo online or even from a local dealer, take it. It might be awhile, but eventually you’ll get your ammo.
  • Start saving your brass when you shoot. You might not be able to get primers, bullets and powder right now, but eventually it will be available, and then you’ll wish you had brass to reload.
  • Consider investing in a reloading setup so that you can be better prepared for a situation like this when it comes around again. You know it will. Primers, powder and bullets will last a long, long time if stored properly.

In the meantime, beg and borrow from friends. Maybe even steal from your in-laws. (Hey, they’d take your ammo if you weren’t looking, right?) Or, you can just wait it out. The supply will eventually catch up and prices will go back to normal. How long will that take? It’s anyone’s guess, but hopefully by deer season we will all be able to buy at least one box of .30-30 Win. ammo.

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