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What's Behind the Ammunition Shortage?

The ammunition shortage of 2020 is staggering but manufacturers are putting out more ammo than ever before.

What's Behind the Ammunition Shortage?

A pandemic, civil unrest and the fear of a gun-control-happy administration has caused both weapon and ammunition sales to skyrocket in 2020. With more people interested gun ownership and increased ammo hoarding, gun stores have been left barren. Many hunters looking to buy a box of their go-to ammo has been left heartbroken after walking into their local sporting goods store to find nothing but empty shelves.

The events of the past year have led the consumer to believe the only way they will have ammunition is to buy obscene amounts at one time. Your average shooter buys a case while other go so far as to buy pallets, just to ensure they have when they need it. The result is unused ammunition sitting in bulk in your friend’s gun closet instead of on the shelf at your mom-and-pop sporting goods store down the street.

This scenario has led purchasers to believe that there is a shortage of ammunition and there are even rumors that manufacturer’s production rates are down. While there is a shortage on shelves, there is more ammunition being shipped today than ever before. Manufacturers are operating at above-normal capacities and doing everything they can to supply retailers.

“We are running our CCI/Speer and Federal factories 24/7 and shipping products for commercial distribution every day,” said Jason Vanderbrink, President of Federal Ammunition. “We’re also proud to now own and operate the Remington ammunition factory in Lonoke, Arkansas, and are excited to get that great facility back up to full capacity in the coming months. There are a lot of rumors right now about ammunition and components not making their way to retail that are just not true. There are also resellers outside of our customer base who will always try to take advantage of pricing in times of high demand. We are proud to employ thousands of Americans across the country who work hard to make and ship products for hunters, shooters, reloaders and those who protect our communities. The health of our workforce during the pandemic is critical and we are proud to have kept running safely as an essential American business.”

Where did all the rumors of lowered production come from? It is easy to feel like production is down. This pandemic has done its best to shut down the workforce in our country, in pretty much every sector. With that being the case, it is easy to facilitate rumors that the lack of ammo on the shelf was due to lowered production because of the pandemic. The manufactures assured me, though, that just simply isn’t true.

Like Federal, Hornady is running at maximum capacity — manufacturing, producing and shipping ammunition to retailers every day. Unfortunately, due to the added demand — even when facilities are operating at max capacity — retailers can’t keep ammo on the shelves.

“We're shipping more than we've ever shipped,” said Jason Hornady, vice-president of Hornady. “Stuff we make today, we will ship tomorrow. You can only put so much corn in a field. We only have so many strokes we can get out of machines and hours out of employees. Are we increasing capacity? Yeah, of course. But you don't build your business around these kinds of events.”

A common question these manufacturers have heard is: Why don’t you expand and just make more ammo? Seems simple, right? Wrong. While it is easy to sit here on the outside thinking “we want more ammo,” it just isn’t feasible for the companies to expand. Production machines, factory space, shipping facilities and, most importantly, manpower is expensive. If these manufacturers increased their production to accommodate for shortage-causing events, they would lose money every other year. The investment to return ratio would just be way off.

This problem didn’t stem from manufacturers, it came from the consumer. I don’t say this to condemn anyone—as I am just as guilty of stockpiling as the next guy. With words of riots and possible societal breakdown I definitely hit the stores to add a few more rounds to my arsenal—and I was not the only one. The empty shelves are a reflection of our reaction to the events of 2020 and nothing more.

What made this year worse than shortages in the past are the multiple shortage-causing events that took place.

“We were in our fourth year of flatness,” said Hornady. “And the first thing that happened was Walmart decided to stop selling popular ammo. Which started shoving consumers into other places to purchase. Then we had the events in Virginia. (LINK) Then March 14th is when the panic really set in, that was our best shipping month ever. What we had in inventory left the building gone, just gone. We shipped more in that month than we did the first two years I worked here, put together. So then obviously after the COVID stuff started to hit, you had the riots, then you have an election and then you have the person who wins the election happens to be a Democrat. That makes five what would normally be shortage causing demand issues in one year.”

So, when can we expect to see something that resembles normal? Well, that remains to be mystery but speculation in the industry says around two years. Although upcoming events could possibly keep us in a higher demand for a while longer.


It is not a mystery that President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Harris are no friends to gun owners. If they start to enact gun-control measures as soon as they take office, we could potentially see yet another scenario of higher demand as well, keeping us in this limbo of empty shelves for even longer. With the way the incoming administration has acted towards guns in the past, I am afraid this is what we will be facing come January.

This may not bring the good news you wished to hear, but hopefully it will shed some light on the situation as a whole. And remember, when you’re in the stores and can’t find even a box of your preferred ammo, that the manufactures are operating a maximum capacity to get shipments out the door.

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