I Had No Idea How Bad The Ammo Shortage Is!

February 14, 2013

Don't panic.It’s way worse than I thought.

I have to admit, I’ve been a little insulated.  Winchester, Barnes, and Federal/CCI have pretty much set me up with enough ammo to keep my relatively modest needs met for a while now.  Beyond that, I’ve got enough reloading components to satisfy my basic needs of target shooting and hunting for a pretty long time.  So, at least for my go-to guns, the 30-06, .243, .44mag, and .17hmr, I haven’t really done much shopping. 

But recently, Kat has taken a new interest in shooting handguns, and she’s been talking to one of our neighbors about a women’s “shooting club”.  Most of her shooting will be with a 9mm or a .22LR, and while I’ve got a few hundred rounds of each laying around, I thought I’d hop out on the Interwebz and see about laying in a couple of bulk boxes of ammo. 

Holy crap!

I hit the major sites first.  You know, Cabelas, BassPro, CheaperThanDirt, Sportsman’s Warehouse, MidwayUSA, and the dearth of available options was shocking.  Every site showed a complete lack of 9mm ammo, and most wouldn’t even backorder!  I figured, “well, OK.  This sort of makes sense.  With all the gun and ammo ban talk, the self-defense and AR guys are stockpiling this stuff while they still can.”

So then I looked around for some .22lr ammo, and was absolutely shocked to find that the situation was identical!  Nothing to be found!  Now I know that there are a lot of .22lr “trainer” rifles and handguns out there and they’re a cheap way to shoot the ARs.  But I didn’t expect to see the virtual shelves bare of options (Cabelas did have some tracer rounds, but I’m not really interested in shooting those…especially in this drought). 

Local shops are almost as bad.  We hit a place in San Antonio yesterday, Nagel’s Guns.  They had a few boxes of 9mm on the shelves, but it was mostly the rapid expansion, self-defense ammo.  That stuff is pricey, and I have as much of that as we should ever need.  We don’t target practice with that stuff.  As for the basic ball ammo and cheap target rounds, they had nothing…nada… zip… zilch.  They were almost completely sold out of .22lr. 

I’ll add that gun sales in that shop were off the hook!  We could barely find room to belly up to the counter to get service, and the counters were covered with 4473 forms in various states of completion.  As I looked around the shop filled with a wonderful variety of new and used hunting rifles and shotguns, almost every customer was purchasing or inspecting either ARs or handguns. 

One of our local shops in Uvalde, Oasis Outback, is a similar picture, although since their stock of handguns, ARs, and ammo has almost been completely depleted, there were no crowds.  They do have a few ARs on the shelf, but closer inspection shows that all of them have “Sold” marked on the price tag.  In speaking with the gun shop employees, there is no clear idea of when they’ll see more ammo or more guns.

Is this simple hysteria?  Is there a panic on, amongst gun owners?  I found it interesting as I have visited shops in the recent weeks, that many of the buyers aren’t “gun nut” types.  They’re not stockpiling weapons.  A few of them are hunters looking to lay in something for self-defense in addition to their hunting rifles.  Others are folks who’ve never owned a gun before, or have only passing familiarity.  They want to get something “while they still can”. 

I remember the madness in 1994, prior to the passage of the first assault weapons ban.  I also saw it right after 9/11.  And, of course, there was 2007-2008, as it became clear that Obama was going to take the presidency and madness reigned over the fears of harsh new gun control laws (that were never even proposed, much less enacted). 

But this time, on the heels of Obama’s re-election and the spate of mass killings (Phoenix, Aurora, Sandy Hook), it’s worse than I’ve ever seen.  Of course, this time there are some pretty draconian proposals on the table.  I feel for the good folks in New York, California, Colorado, and probably a handful of other states who will rush to enact similar restrictions on guns, ammo, and certain accoutrements.   I’m also pretty sure we’re going to see some sort of restrictions come on the federal level. 

There are, of course, other factors related to the ammo shortage.  I pointed them out in my last post, and also had some conversations about this a while back in regards to the limited availability of lead-free ammo.  Raw materials have gone nuts in price, with increased export to China and some other countries.  The simple reality that the increased interest in the AR platform over the past decade has resulted in an increased demand for the popular AR calibers.  And, of course have been several “interesting” theories put forth about why ammo is becoming scarce.  I’m not going to go there, but the truth is, as usual, much more blase.  People want more ammo than the industry can provide. 

This, it seems to me, should have been one of the big stories coming away from the SHOT Show this year.  It had to have been a topic of conversation. 

By the way, the shortages are relatively wide-spread, but they primarily affect the various self-defense and “AR” chamberings (e.g. 9mm, .223/5.56, .308, 6.8spc, etc.).  The price of more common hunting calibers has gone up to reflect diminished supply, but you can still find most of them on shelves or online. 

Don’t panic.



9 Responses to “I Had No Idea How Bad The Ammo Shortage Is!”

  1. Neil on February 14th, 2013 18:30

    Yep. I had thought of buying a bit of .22 ammo. It seems to be sold out almost nationwide. No exaggeration. My local gun store rations it when they get it, and the local big 5 has folks lining up an hour before store opening on ammo delivery day, for .22.

    And then there was the time my buddy called me from a gun store to let me know they got in some take down Ruger 10/22’s. I had been thinking of picking one up, so I could take “never shot a gun before” folks shooting and have two rifles (I would have them use my bolt action CZ while I use the semi-auto). I combed my hair, got in the car, drove 20 minutes- SOLD OUT. Yes, I should have called ahead. That gives you a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

    It still seems pretty easy to get my 7mm-08, and .300 savage, but I suspect that’s because they’re calibers not used for recreational shooting so much. We’ll see what happens next. I am in California, so the probability of wacky, pointless, draconian laws are pretty good.

  2. JAC on February 14th, 2013 18:42

    My dealer put together an ammo purchase. A friend of mine bought 11,000 rounds. I think 7,000 were .22, but still, that’s a pile of 9mm, .380 and .357 Mag ammunition. And his order was not nearly the largest presented to my dealer. I

    ‘ve got a ton myself. And since nothing is going to happen to any of it or any of my guns, I’ll have it next year too.

    No panic here.

  3. Phillip on February 14th, 2013 21:30

    I hear ya, Neil.

    Like I said, I haven’t really been actively shopping in a while. This past week’s little outing was quite a surprise. I mean, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on, but I seriously underestimated the extent of it.

    Of all places, Texas is the last place where gun prohibitions, restrictions, or anything else of the sort will have much impact. But even here, folks are simply going nuts. And, of course, once there’s a recognized shortage, the madness increases because now it’s “real”.

    If I still lived in CA, I’d count on supplies from Reno… just as I would have if the previous proposals had passed. But now? It’s getting pretty serious.

    The 2008 run on guns and ammo didn’t really level out for two years. This one has all the markings of really setting supplies back significantly. But it will level out.


    John, I’m glad you remembered your towel. 😉

  4. Bruce on February 15th, 2013 10:53


    I reload everything other than 22LR, which I rarely [if ever now] use. I had a few bricks of 22LR ammo and took it to the local gunshop [Kona Reloads] and it was such a hot commodity that I traded them for a lot of gunsmith work on my antique rifles. He was happy and so was I. I have quite a nice stockpile of bullets and brass and powder for my hunting rifles, which is good because the bullets I use are all either on backorder or unavailable, but I can’t find primers anywhere. You can’t ship them to Hawaii without incurring huge charges and I can’t buy them on the mainland when I’m there and bring them back with me to Hawaii. I’m down to 37 large rifle and 47 magnum rifle primers, so target shooting is out. I need to save those for hunting because it may be a very long time before I can get more.

    By the way, speaking with the UPS man, the huge charges to ship explosives [primers, powder, loaded ammo] are not in place because UPS has to take extraordinary measures to ship this stuff. They are in place to discourage people from shipping. Terrorists, you know. Along the same line, I can’t sell my stockpile of lead muzzleloading balls on Ebay because, according to Ebay’s rules, these are firearms or firearm “components” that can be used by terrorists. I can just see a howling band of swarthy terrorists storming the Pentagon, waving their flintlocks in the air, laying waste upon the land and leaving Nancy Pelosi in tears.

    I’ll bet anybody on this forum even money that Congress will realize that it can’t ban ownership of firearms without taking a beating so what they’ll do is dramatically raise the federal taxes on ammo, guns, and components. One way or another, they will do whatever they can to discourage gun ownership and making it costly and a hassle to be a gun owner is one way to go about it.

    One of the reasons brass and bullets are so hard to get is that raw material firms have made long-term commitments with ammo manufacturing companies to supply lead and brass to them exclusively and they can make a lot more money with a lot less hassle selling tons at a time to the Big Boys than little lots of 50 to individuals like me.

    I don’t think this is just going to be short-term problem. I think we’re going to see significant changes in how we gun owners are going to go about our business.

  5. Dann on February 19th, 2013 10:01

    Oh it’s bad alright. And all over the country. Some of my co-workers having been in touch with friends in Florida, Wyoming, Montana and AZ. It’s the same all over.

    I did much the same as you Phillip, in my search for .22LR, I went to the usual shops, the websites and realized that the absence of .22LR availablity is really a “tripwire” indicator on how bad it is. And how bad it’s going to be.

    The scary part is that there’s no sign that it’s going to let up in the near term.

    I found that I was under 20 rounds of lead-free e-tips for my Tikka and it took over a month to locate ONE box available for sale, which I snapped up.

    I’ve got to agree with Bruce here, I think the paradigm has shifted, and maybe permanently.


  6. Phillip on February 20th, 2013 11:00

    Look out, Dan! The statewide lead ban is back on tap in CA! With this ammo shortage, getting lead-free ammo is going to turn into a real nightmare.

    There was a similar event in 2008, and it took the better part of two years to recover from it. However, this one is more of a perfect storm scenario. No one has ever seen anything like it. It’s almost a guarantee that things will be different in its wake.

  7. Rick on March 14th, 2013 08:58

    Found a good overview on the top 3 places to find .22LR Ammo today.

    Hopefully it helps you

  8. Phillip on March 14th, 2013 09:33

    Thanks, Rick.

    I hope folks will check this out and find it helpful.

    Another good option is to start searching websites that sell ammo. Many of the smaller, less known sites may still have ammunition in stock. Unfortunately, this list is dwindling quickly.

  9. mike jones on March 22nd, 2013 00:27

    I have over 50,000 rounds of 9 millimeter almost 10oo 38 specials and 2000 357 mags and I’m still by 9 millimeter like it’s going out of style. an outdoor 9 millimeter ammo is everywhere