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Boch Ammunition shelf
A scene from Wally World in The Time Before (Image by Boch)

Here in the middle of America, those of us in our regional Guns Save Life group hear a wide range of perspectives from local gun industry insiders. Some have shared their observations in the past few days on gun and ammunition availability. Much of it will scare the empty brass off of people who like to shoot – or who need to shoot.

If you’re like anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention for the last year, you already knew ammo was scarce. But you may not have known about the price hikes. Or how those precious few who have ammo secured it.

Hopefully this will help everyday people understand just how voracious today’s consumer demand for ammunition is right now.

Ammo: Supply & Demand Economics

Welcome to the biggest shortage of consumer ammunition since World War II. You thought ammo supplies seemed scarce in early 2013 and again early in 2020? Welcome to 2021, the year of the empty ammo shelves – for most.

Gun food in stores remains somewhere between extremely scarce and non-existent. A few shops have ammunition, but you as the customer, will pay dearly for it.

Meanwhile, some shops do have ammo in stock. Those shops that formed purchase agreements directly with factories receive their product by the pallet on a fairly regular basis. Other large, cash-flush gun shops have teamed up with their peers to buy imported ammo by the shipping container as part of group buys.

Yes, many of the gun shop/indoor range facilities earmark much of that ammo for range and class use, but some of it is available to the public, usually with purchase limits to make it last longer.

On the other hand, dealers who always relied on distributors for their supply must get by on the dribs and drabs that come through the system, a case here and a case there. Sure, distributors have agreements with factories too, but with hundreds of retailers wanting every round that’s available, a hundred cases of ammo don’t go far.

Gun shops that have maintained their pre-”market rush” profit margins are rationing product to customers to keep supplies from selling out in mere minutes. Other shops have hiked prices dramatically to counter the hoarding.

At the same time, manufacturers have reportedly applied at least three separate 15% price hikes on their products over the past six months or so for one local gun shop. That’s roughly a 52% increase in the wholesale cost of ammo for them.

9mm

As an example, 9mm is the most popular caliber of handgun ammo. The days of $10 or $12 boxes of 9mm practice ammo are long past, a relic of The Time Before. Anything under $25 per box of 50 rounds is a downright bargain today, according to one of our sources.

A few shops have 9mm without purchase limits – but they’re asking at least $1 per round.

And then there’s this . . .

100 rounds of 9mm Winchester White Box for $119.89. Plus $16.95 for shipping and your state’s sales tax. Call it $1.50 per round.  Screencap from Cheaper Than Dirt website.

Online, for in-stock product, prices start at about $.70 a round or so before shipping costs and sales tax. Meanwhile, self-defense rounds are selling for about $2. Each.

Rest assured manufacturers continue pumping product out as fast as they can, but the demand outstrips production by a wide margin.

It’s almost like gun owners have become piranhas.  An email from Fenix Ammo in Michigan describes it perfectly.  But first, who is Fenix Ammo?  The company achieved some national notoriety recently by refusing to sell to Joe Biden voters.

They also were cited for failing to wear masks in Michigan.  Their response:  “Guess who isn’t doing business with law enforcement agencies ever again?”

They sent this out in an email to customers in late February:

Q: Did you actually list anything yesterday? Or, ever? I never seem to be able to get any ammo.

A: On February 25th, we listed 300,000 total rounds at 10AM EST, just as we said we would. 100,000 9mm 115gr were sold in under 60 seconds; 100,000 9mm 147gr were sold in under 110 seconds; 100,000 9mm 124gr were sold in 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Our last inventory update on February 11th took approximately five minutes to sell the same quantity of ammunition. So far in 202[1] we have posted four separate inventory updates totalling 1.2 million rounds which have lasted a combined total of 20 minutes. We do not expect things to change in the near future.

That ammo wasn’t cheap, either. Fenix charged $31-34 per box of 50 rounds of that aforementioned product. And they had a whole lot of buyers. One guy didn’t say, “I’ll take all 100 cases of that.”

.223/5.56
Meanwhile, practice rounds of another popular caliber, .223/5.56 ammo are selling for anywhere from $.80 to $1.50 per round where available. If you should luck out and see some for 50 or 60 cents per round, you really ought to buy all the store will let you have.

Image by Boch

Got an ammo fort?

Do you have an ammo fort in your basement? Are you considering selling some ammunition to pay for your kid’s college tuition?

Think long and hard. It may be a long time before you can buy a case of ammo at anything that used to be considered a reasonable price again. Or even pick up a few boxes in a single trip to the store due to strict rationing in most stores that actually have product.

“Normal” ammunition inventories won’t return any time soon and when they do, our sources tell us you will yearn for the prices you were paying a year or two ago.

Guns

At last, firearms have begun to arrive at dealers in larger numbers. But in many cases, there’s catch.

Distributors, seeking to unload slower-moving merch from their warehouses are frequently bundling the hottest-selling, most desirable firearms with less desirable product in package deals. While his helps distributors clear their shelves, it burdens local shops with stuff their customers don’t really want.

Not only that, but the wholesale firearm prices continue to climb. For instance, those semi-automatic pistols that sold for around the $500 mark just before COVID are now $600-700 guns in many places, if you can find them. Remember that popular SIG P365 you saw for $499 in early 2020? It’s probably selling for closer to $599-$649 today. Or more.

Magazines

Thankfully, one bright spot at the moment involves magazines. Most forward-looking shops have stocked up on mags. For now at least, they remain plentiful. Unlike ammo and guns, prices have not (yet) spiked, but that will change soon if the “high capacity” magazine ban makes progress in Washington.

The US House will take up gun control legislation soon, and will likely pass a ban on production of standard capacity magazines and probably some semi-auto firearms. That will kick off yet another buying frenzy, especially for AR-15 magazines.

If you need magazines that would be covered by a “hi-cap” ban, now is the time to stock up.

Scarcity to the horizon

Given the Democrats’ and the BidenHarris regime’s eagerness to embrace gun control measures, extreme volatility, scarcity and higher prices will likely remain the norm for quite some time to come. A year from now, a dollar a round might be the new normal.

Here’s some sage advice: If you find ammunition available for anything approaching a sane prices in stores, buy it. Even if you don’t need it, there’s a strong likelihood someone in your circle of friends does. Do them a square and they’ll likely reciprocate down the road.

In the coming weeks and months, watch for stories about local law enforcement agencies scrambling for ammunition for training and qualification. At the rate it’s going, they will be begging, borrowing, and stealing from members of the community to have enough ammo to do their legally-required qualifications.

Those departments that have built a lot of goodwill among their communities will probably have an easier time acquiring ammo from within their jurisdictions than departments that treat gun owners poorly.

Here’s the high-res version of the featured image if you want to look at prices from The Time Before. Note that those 100-round Winchester White Box 9mms were on sale at a Walmart for $17.97…or about $100 less, per box, than Cheaper Than Dirt sold them before eager consumers bought them all.

Image by Boch. September 3, 2019. Pontiac Illinois.  Right-click “view image” to see full size.



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