The great ammunition shortage of 2013 has come to an end...if you aren’t picky about what you are buying.
Store counters are a lot more full than they were this time a year ago, but probably not where hunters and sport shooters would like to see them.
Now the problem is what is available isn’t always what shooters are looking for. Even hunters, especially duck hunters, were still having trouble late in the season finding a variety of shot sizes, and .22 rimfire ammo continues to be a near non-existent commodity rivaling the price of beef when it can be found.
A year ago there was a panic among gun owners. Ammo was harder to find than a new AR 15, and the blame, well of course it was the government’s fault as it either tried an end-run to get rid of guns or because it bought up tens of millions of rounds to corner the market in an effort to keep the ammo out of the public’s hands.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry organization underwritten by gun and ammo manufacturers and dealers, denied the government plot and instead said the buying public was the cause along with a change in retail buying.
Although gun sales have since slowed, last May the industry had experienced three years of month-after-month increases in gun sales. That included a lot of new buyers and the increased sales of sporting rifles that were being shot a lot more than traditional hunting rifles and shotguns.
A year ago the public would have nothing to do with that explanation. Anyone who wrote it, including myself, was a part of the conspiracy.
So with things calmed a little, let’s take another look at the shortage, but this time using numbers from the National Rifle Association.
According to the NRA the excise tax to the federal government on ammunition sales tripled from 2000 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012 the dollar value of ammunitions sales increased 100 percent, mirroring the increase in gun sales that started around the 2008 presidential election. In comparison, the tax dollars from ammo sales were basically flat from 1996 until sales took off in mid-2000.
Probably a couple of things have happened to change the situation the first being that manufacturers are now producing the ammo most in demand. The one exception continues to be .22 rounds, which apparently are being shot as fast as they can be made.
According to one report the .22 shortage can be explained this way. The industry is set up to make 4.2 billion .22 long rifle rounds a year. Sounds like a lot, but broken down that is only 460 bricks of 500 rounds per day per state. Not much in the real scheme of things.
Like gun purchases, the rush to hoard ammo has also slowed. We are now 471 days removed from the last presidential election, and while fear has certainly not subsided it seems at least to have calmed down at the checkout counter.
Another factor is that ammo purchases by the Department of Homeland Security have been going down. Purchases actually dropped about 25 million rounds between 2010 and 2012, the last year numbers are available.
And of course there is the 600-pound gorilla in the room, the fact that the price of ammunition has gone up. Way up. In some cases it has doubled for the more popular shells. Who would have ever guessed that a .22 round could cost 8 cents or that a .223 would cost ten times that?
This is quite possibly the lull before the storm. The next big election isn’t until 2016, but campaigning will kick off two years sooner and depending on who is in the race another arms race could begin again.
Rule of thumb moving forward, if you see it you might want to buy it before next season. That doesn’t mean hoarding shotgun shells. Those should be readily available next fall and chances are dove season prices will be cheaper than they are now.
It does mean if you think you will need a box of ammo for deer season this might not be a bad time to buy, and then hope that the marketplace clears up by fall.
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