Andrew Scott, CEO of A&A Ammunition, has been reading signs in the ammunition supply chain that he thinks may presage a “tipping point” in the supply of affordable .22 LR ammunition.

People began panic-buying and hoarding .22 LR ammunition after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 children and six adults killed and two adults wounded, in addition to the murderer’s mother (who somewhat ironically, was the only person killed with .22 LR bullets). Shooters who never kept more than a few boxes on hand began stockpiling thousands of rounds, and serious shooters who used .22LR for training on a regular basis began stockpiling .22LR by the pallet (roughly, 360,000 rounds).

For the longest time it was nearly impossible to find any .22LR at any price, but Mr. Scott has noticed that .22LR is once again piling up… if you’re willing to pay for the premium target brands that cost almost as much as centerfire ammunition. He says that:

For your average Joe, still waiting to spend 4-5 cents a round, this might not seem significant, and maybe it isn’t, but I think it is.

Here’s why:

  1. The pricing I’ve seen from my distributors for brick-pack premium .22, around 8-12 cents/round, is roughly in line with what I’ve been seeing at gun shows recently in Arizona for non-premium ammo. Add in a profit margin for the business selling premium stuff to customers on the one side, and add in the $8-$10 cost for gun show entrance on the other side, and this pretty much evens out. Most customers, when faced with buying from a gouger at a gun show for common ammunition, or buying premium ammunition from a local business (who might be able to stock it regularly now) for roughly the same price, will opt for the Premium Ammunition.
  2. This shifting of demand away from gun-show price gougers will force them to drop their prices (which I’ve been observing in my area). If this continues, their profit margins will become too slim for it to be worthwhile and they’ll cease their operation, which will help eliminate the artificially driven price increases.
  3. It makes sense for a .22 manufacturer to stabilize their supply on premium brands prior to tackling their common brands. Not only do you get greater profit margins, but the lower demand will make it easier to stabilize. Once supply and demand has stabilized there, it is easier to transfer resources to stabilizing mid-level brands, and then rinse and repeat for common plinking ammo.
  4. This shows that the panic-driven demand for .22 ammunition is tapering off. A year ago I couldn’t find any .22 ammunition at all, not even the Eley I’m-Training-For-The-Olympics priced rounds. The fact that these are available, regardless of their high-end pricing, shows that the demand and the panic are both waning.
  5. The laws of supply and demand are, at times, self-fulfilling prophecy. If we begin to see a shortage, we as consumers panic, buy everything we can, and make the shortage worse. Conversely, when we begin to see product on the shelves regularly, we’ll no longer feel like we have to stock up, and demand drops. As we see more and more brands becoming regularly available, starting with the high-priced and moving towards the low, demand will weaken and it’ll help the situation even more.

What all of this boils down to is this: I think we’ve hit a tipping point in the .22 market. Now that we are beginning to see high-end brands in stock, I think the rest of the obstacles standing between us and cheap .22 ammo (price-gougers, panic-driven demand, scarcity-driven demand, etc.) will begin to topple like dominoes.

His logic seems sound enough.

There is no reason for panic buying, so panic buying has stopped.

Even the most cautious stockpiler has almost certainly had their fill after years of hoarding, especially now that it is obvious that Congress isn’t going to ban ammunition, and is instead actively attempting to increase the supply of ammunition from overseas. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep adding to stores of .22LR right now if you aren’t shooting.

Likewise, the price speculators (he calls them price-gougers) who have been buying low and selling high are finding that when customers have the choice of paying premium prices for their regular ammo, or premium prices for premium ammunition, that customers are going to buy the better ammo. This is going to drive the gougers out of business.

Once the gougers go out of business, Scott seems confident that the scarcity-driven demand will let up, and gun stores and distributors will be able to start resuming normal stocking and supply practices.

Scott even offers a suggestion on how your purchasing patterns can help speed up the process.

I’ve encountered a ton of frankly idiotic conspiracy theories in recent years as people who don’t understand the ammunition industry attempted to craft theories of why .22LR is so difficult to find, but it has never been any more complicated than the simple economics of supply and demand.

I think Mr. Scott is onto something, and hope to see prices and .22LR ammunition availability begin to normalize, hopefully by the fall.