February 22nd, 2021

What Caused the Ammo Shortage? When Will Things Get Better?

Federal ammunition vista outdoors cause ammo shortage primer production Remington CCI Jason Vanderbrink

In a recent Federal Season Podcast, Federal Ammunition’s President Jason Vanderbrink discusses the shortages of loaded ammunition we have experienced for many months now. And it’s not just loaded ammo — powder and primers are very hard to find and prices are crazy, with 1000 primers selling for $300 or more in recent Gunbroker auctions.

This Federal Podcast episode attempts to answer key questions about the unprecedented demand for ammunition. Ammo buyers want to know what caused the shortage, when supplies will become normal again, and what Federal and its sister brands are doing to meet consumer needs.

Click Green Arrow to Start Podcast Audio:


Fast forward to 00:45 to skip intro.

We applaud Federal for addressing the issue. Many shooters think there is some kind of conspiracy — suggesting that the Federal Government is buying all the ammunition, or that companies such as Federal or Hornady have halted production. That’s nonsense. In fact Federal, Hornady, and Olin (Winchester) are all running at full capacity.

However, consumer demand has increased dramatically. This is because of political developments, with tens of millions of gun owners fearful that the new Democratic administration will impose new taxes or restrictions on ammo. In addition, demand has been driven by new gun owners. The NSSF tells us that over 7,000,000 Americans purchased their first firearm in 2020. If each new gun buyer purchased just two, 50-round boxes of ammo, that equates to 700,000,000 rounds of ammo. Think about that… the gun industry would have to produce an additional 1.91 million rounds of ammo EVERY DAY just to fill the demands from new gun owners.

ammunition ammo federal shortage supply podcast Vanderbrink

In the podcast Federal’s President Vanderbrink emphasized that Federal is running at full capacity. Vanderbrink also discusses the shortages of components, particularly primers, which are produced by both Federal and sister company CCI.

Vanderbrink pointed out that Federal had been at less than full capacity in 2017-2019, but Federal had also invested in new capacity over the last five years and that investment is now paying off: “We are investing where we need to invest… we have hired hundreds of new workers.”

Primers Are in Short Supply Because They Are Being Used in Loaded Ammunition
Vanderbrink explains why primers are not getting to retail outlets. The answer is that Federal is using a larger percentage of its own primer production for loaded ammunition. “We are making a lot more ammunition today. Our internal primer needs have gone up exponentially as we are shipping more ammunition. [Previously] we’d sell excess [primer] capacity to the reloading market. As the ammunition business picked up in March 2020, it came at the expense of the reloading primers. We are taking a bigger share just to make our ammunition” (Podcast 08:30 – 09:50)

Remington Bankruptcy DID Affect Ammo and Primer Supplies
Remington’s business problems HAVE reduced ammo supply said Vanderbrink: “When we acquired Remington, that factory wasn’t making hardly any ammunition, so that just starved that market already that was constrained. As we’re getting Remington up and going right now, we’re going to make more ammunition, so the market WILL have more ammunition[.] Along with the social unrest, along with the Pandemic fears that people had… you had Remington not making much ammunition, so that just added to the backlog.” Vanderbrink noted that Federal acquired the Remington factory in October and it plans to increase Remington ammo production significantly over previous levels.
(Podcast 10:20 -11:20)

Ammunition Shortage is NOT Caused by Federal Government Buying Everything
Vanderbrink also said flat out that the shortage has NOT been caused by huge new government ammo buys or Federal redirecting production to the government. The allocation to the commercial sector is actually higher than in recent years.

Federal Ammunition shortage

Vanderbrink asked for patience. While conceding that the pandemic has created challenges, Vanderbrink declares that the ammo plants are running at full capacity: “We know, ammo seems hard to come by right now. But rest assured, we are building and shipping more and more every day[.]”

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March 18th, 2020

Sales of Guns and Ammo Spike with Coronavirus Concerns

gun ammo sales pandemic coronavirus covid-19 california

Today a friend, who has never owned a gun before, called this Editor to ask for firearms recommendations after California officials announced a lock-down of six California counties, home to 6.7 million people. He wanted a gun for defense of his home and family (he has a wife and two young boys).

This story is being repeated around the country as many Americans seek to acquire guns for home defense, many for the first time. There are also concerns that governmental emergency powers, put into place to deal with the Coronovirus pandemic, will be used to throttle the sales of guns and/or ammunition.

gun ammo sales pandemic coronavirus covid-19 california

In some cities in California, people are lining up around the block to buy guns and ammo. Many do not realize ID is required and there are background checks and waiting periods. Apparently they believed false media reports that firearms are easy to acquire. Our friend Vu Pham posted on Facebook: “Had several calls today [from acquaintances] asking me about buying their first firearm. They were shocked that they had to wait 10 days to actually take possession.”

Ammoland.com reports: “Gun and ammunition sales are surging around the country, including the Pacific Northwest, thanks apparently to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential for, as noted by the Daily Wire, ‘a breakdown in civil order or even a suspension of weapons sales’.”

As reported by KTVU News, in Vallejo, Calif., “More panic buying has erupted due to the coronavirus. And in addition to disinfectants and other household goods, guns and survival gear are in demand.”

Dan Mitchell, owner of Sporting Systems in Vancouver, told Ammoland News via email, “400,000 rounds (of ammunition) sold last week. Line around the block.”

The Sacramento Bee interviewed Gabriel Vaughn, owner of Sportsman’s Arms in Petaluma, CA. Seeing many first-time buyers, Vaughn stated that people’s attitudes about guns have changed now that they feel threatened: “People … tell me that they don’t like guns, but they’re here to begrudgingly buy one.”

What if a neighbor asks to borrow a weapon for defense? You should follow all federal, state, and local laws. You need to be aware of the laws concerning firearms transfers, if the gun leaves your immediate control. This is not just like sharing a gun at the range. Dennis Santiago notes: “It is a illegal in California to transfer a firearm without a background check and waiting period. Tell that to your non-gun friends when they ask to borrow a gun. They will ask. The answer is NO.”

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April 7th, 2014

Why Can’t I Find .22 LR Ammunition? Sierra VP Speaks Out

Matt Reams, the V.P. of Sales for Sierra Bullets, recently addressed the burning question in the minds of many shooters these days: “Where did all the .22LR rimfire ammo go — why can’t I find any?” Here is Matt’s answer, from the knowledgeable perspective of a firearms industry executive.


Sierra Bullets Rimfire .22 LRWhy Can’t I Find .22 LR Ammunition? by Matt Reams

Even though Sierra Bullets does not make .22 LR ammo or projectiles, we are constantly asked “Why can’t I find any .22 LR ammo anywhere?” Even the conspiracy theorists are at a loss on this one as they can’t even blame it on the government. They toss around thoughts of warehouses full of .22 LR rotting away just to keep it out of their hands, but that does not seem very realistic – even to them.

So what is going on here? Why is it that 1.5 years later, the shelves are still empty and bricks of .22 LR can still be seen selling for upwards of $75-$100 at gun shows? I do not believe there is one answer, but rather a few. Here are my opinions on the matter, for what they are worth.

Hoarders – Some people are piling it away in their basements, garages, bunkers, and under their beds due to fear of not being able to find it again. This is not a huge factor in it, but it is still a factor to some degree. When these hoarders can’t find it on shelves, it only panics them more and causes them to buy even more when they do find it.

Gougers – These are the guys who prey on the fear of the hoarders. These are the guys that wait in line at Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. to buy up the daily allotment that Wal-Mart puts out at normal retail prices and then double or triple their price on the weekend gun show circuit. Again, not a huge factor, but keeping the shelves looking empty which keeps the panic level higher for those that are looking.

Demand – Now we are getting to the real meat of the issue. You hear manufactures say they are running 24/7 on their rimfire lines which is putting somewhere around 25-30 million rounds PER DAY (estimate on my part from numbers I have heard from the big rimfire guys) into the market – so how can there be a shortage? I have asked this myself – until we start doing even a little basic math. You hear all kind of numbers about how many firearms owners are in the USA, but you hear 70-80 million quite often. So for the sake of us not arguing that number – let’s cut it to 35 million. Do you know a gun owner that does not own at least one firearm chambered in .22 LR? Do you know any that are not looking for .22 LR ammo or would at least buy some if they saw it for normal prices? How many would they buy when they found it? A lot – right? But again, just to keep the argument on the low end, let’s say they would all be satisfied with just a single 500 pack. 35 million multiplied by 500 .22 LR rounds for them all – is 17.5 BILLION rounds. Let that sink in. Even at 25 million rounds being made PER DAY – that is 1.92 years’ worth of production.

Starts making some sense then doesn’t it? Hoarding and panic emptied the shelves. Gougers try and keep them empty and demand does keep them empty. Then factor in that I probably cut the real number of 22 LR shooters in half and probably underestimated the amount everyone would buy if they found it at normal prices by 300% and you can see how deep the problem really is and why it is not going to go away tomorrow. It also does not take into account the world market – just the USA.

How will it get better? Slowly. The hoarders will get to a point that they feel they have enough or will run out of money. The shelves will start getting enough on them that the gougers cannot buy it all. This will make people stop paying $50-$75 for a brick at gun shows. That will make it less profitable for the gougers to spend their money on and they will stop. The shelves will start to have product again which will ease people’s fears and get them back to buying what they need today instead of what they need for the decade. There is no fast answer.

Are the manufactures hiring people for extra shifts and adding capacity – sure they are. But it is easy to just expect them to ramp up production overnight to take care of our needs, but that is just not realistic. We get the same thing here. The market certainly has not grown 500% so what happens when companies add all that super expensive equipment when things get back to normal? They take a bath on it for sure and waste capital that they could have used to improve their company in a way that makes them stronger. Instead they just added equipment they may never need again and have to mothball while they lay off workers they no longer need. Not a great way to run a business and not a fair way to treat employees.

We all just have to trust that it will get better, do not buy more than we need and wait it out. It will not get better overnight. It will start out with a box here and there and then a few and then slowly the shelves will get back to having all the supply and selection we picky consumers are accustomed to and will certainly appreciate much more than we ever did before… if only for a little while.

Sierra Bullets Rimfire .22 LR

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