A few weeks ago, Jason Vanderbrink, who’s the president of multiple ammunition brands including Federal and Remington, released a short video explaining the current spike in demand and what the companies (and broader industry) are doing in response.
That video has received more than 2-million views to date, and on Thursday Vanderbrink released a follow up to answer some of the 13,000 comments that his last video received.
One question that came up quite a bit, according to Vanderbrink, is what the companies are doing for the health of the workforce? Obviously we want everyone to be as safe as possible, but there’s also a practical reason for the company to try to ensure that employees remain COVID-free. When people get sick production lines are likely to go down, at least temporarily for cleaning, and employees stuck in quarantine for two weeks have to be replaced or else adjustments in output have to be made.
Vanderbrink says that they’re strictly adhering to CDC guidelines; with office staff working from home and temperature checks, masks, and social distancing among the requirements for those still working in the physical plants.
Next, Vanderbrink addressed a question that he says he hears every day; where’s all the hunting ammo?
“Without giving specific numbers, Federal’s been around for 99 years and we made more hunting ammunition [in 2020] than in the 99 years of our company. Certainly that wasn’t enough. We understand that, but it’s safe to say that we put out a lot more hunting ammo in 2020 than we have in 2019 or any other previous year of our 99-year history.”
Vanderbrink goes on to point out that there was an increase in hunting last fall, fueled in part by the desire to get outside and renew family traditions, but also to put food on the table during uncertain economic times. It’s important for the industry to increase its output of hunting rounds to help keep these new hunters around, and Vanderbrink indicated this will be a priority in the months ahead, calling it the “lifeblood” of all of the brands he oversees.
Another big question for gun owners is addressed by Vanderbrink in the new video: what’s going on with primers?
As he explains, with the demand for ammunition still at unprecedented highs, “the primer market suffers.” The primer market for re-loaders is based on excess inventory among ammunition manufacturers. The primers they don’t need get diverted to the civilian market. Well, at the moment the industry needs to keep far more of the primers it produces than under ordinary circumstances. Primers are still being shipped, but Vanderbrink acknowledges that they’re scarce, and likely to remain that way as long as the demand for ammunition remains at these historically high levels.
I wish I had better news to report, but almost everyone I talk to within the industry expects that this is the new normal, at least for the time being. Sales for firearms and ammunition would usually slow down a little this time of year, but there’s no sign of that at the moment. I expect that when the January NICS numbers come out in a little more than a week, this month will be the busiest January in the history of the NICS system, and if you’re buying a gun chances are you’re buying ammo for it too.
My optimistic scenario is a gradual easing of the shortages come springtime, but there are still a lot of variables that could cause yet another spike in demand; Biden moving to enact his gun control agenda, continued high levels of violent crime in many cities, and further civil unrest, to name a few. Vanderbrink is right to point out that factories can’t be built and production expanded overnight, but I do wonder if this isn’t at least close to what the “new normal” is going to look like in terms of demand, and when companies should start to have those conversations about permanently increasing their capacity in order to keep up.