By: Bobby Reasonover
Have you tried buying ammo lately? Finding a box of 9mm ammo has been like looking for a rare beanie baby in the ‘90s. Why is this? As a gun store owner of over 33 years, with many connections nationwide, I’ll share my thoughts on the shortage, and when I believe it will return to normal.
The 2020 pandemic created a “perfect storm” causing a national shortage of some guns and nearly all ammo. First, the pandemic slammed the brakes on normal cycles of manufacturing. Ammo manufacturers usually load certain calibers for only a few cycles throughout the year. It’s timely and costly to continuously switch over the assembly lines from caliber to caliber even under normal circumstances. This is why we’ve seen a shortage of even the non-surplus ammo (hunting and specialty calibers). It simply wasn’t being produced as rapidly. Moreover, the supply chain has been dramatically altered due to COVID. Less workers and more safety protocols led to slower output.
Additionally, 2020 was an election year. Election years not only amplify sales on its own, but they can also bring uncertainty to the industry. Why would a manufacturer in the industry invest heavily in itself just to be slammed with costly regulations from the gun control advocates in government? Because of this uncertainty in the industry, many big box stores began to order double and triple their normal quantities with the hopes of getting priority orders over smaller shops. The increase in nationwide demand squeezed the supply chain and created a race among dealers to get their hands on the most and best goods. At times, we had to pay higher prices just to ensure we had product to sell. Still, we remained competitive, and we rarely ran out of popular ammo or firearms.
Finally, the firearm industry is as popular as we’ve ever seen it. There was a record number of new gun owners in 2020 (as many as 8 million new gun owners). Combine that stat with 2020 also being a record year in terms of total guns sold and it’s easy to see why ammo is so scarce. We believe there are three main reasons for the increase in popularity: (1) civil unrest, (2) social distancing, and (3) the ‘fear of missing out’ (“fomo”) buyers.
First, anxiety over the civil unrest in 2020 led to more folks deciding they were not going to allow themselves to become a victim. Gun and ammo sales erupted once news of increased crime and civil unrest grew nationwide. Americans demanded security in their homes and in their community. Responsible gun owners have peace of mind that they can defend themselves. We definitely saw an increase in first-time buyers. And it’s not just conservatives who are buying guns – those who identify as liberal are also buying. The first-time buyers are a more diverse group now than ever, which is what makes this surge different – this surge will last until there is sense of security again.
Second, gun and ammo sales are soaring because hunting was one of the few socially distanced things we were ‘allowed’ to do last year. More people are getting back to hunting or are beginning to hunt as a hobby. We couldn’t attend sporting events in person like ‘normal’ last year. Vacations were put on hold. But many still safely enjoyed the great outdoors with friends at the shooting range or at the hunting camp.
Third, the “fomo” crowd boosted demand in 2020. Americans are concerned over what the current president will do with gun control. Those on the fence about whether to buy a modern sporting rifle (AR-15) are now entering the market. Biden has demonstrated he will use every tragic event to criminalize lawful gun owners. As such, Biden and the gun control advocates in Congress are fanning the flame of gun sales.
So, when will we see ammo availability and prices return to ‘normal’ levels? Not anytime soon is our best guess. For now, we have as good a selection of guns and ammo at Bradford’s as we’ve had since the pandemic began. It’s not the volume we’d like, but it is getting better every week. The pandemic brought us new trends, such as a higher demand for premium guns and more accessories – which we are stocking more of now. Our suppliers are the same suppliers we have done business with for decades and those relationships give us an advantage we can pass on to the customer.
By: Bobby Reasonover