Explaining The Ammo Shortage From Behind A Gun Store Counter

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

In this column, I’m going to try to give you true insiders into the hunting and shooting industry. No fluff or sugar-coating, just a point of view from someone who truly hunts, fishes, and shoots and isn’t getting paid to say nice things about okay products. If you spend enough time in your local gun shop or sporting goods store you probably have a favorite person behind the counter that you truly believe their option and know it’s not a sales scheme. Growing up my dad would drag me to few different shops around the area. Most of the time he either knew the owner or the guy who was always behind the counter, as I got older I understood the value of having someone else option that is deep knowledge. This is what I’m hoping to bring to the table. I have to bring something, and it’s not going to be a case of ammo.

In fact, that’s a good place to kick off my first piece here at Bearing Arms; has the price of ammunition really gone up this much over the last year? I can’t speak for all the other shops, just what I see in the one I work at. Currently as I write this I’m looking online at 9mm and 5.56. Last year at this time 9mm was about 20 cents per round. Depending on the 5.56 round, it was running around 45 cents per round. Right now those same boxes are going for between $1-1.50 a round. Everyone thinks that because demand jumped through the roof over night and supplied dried up, that the prices were driven up as well. Well, here is the dirty little secret; it hasn’t gone up much at all. I honestly think we are getting ripped off and scalped.

Now, I don’t work at a very big shop. So we don’t have a lot of buying power, which translates to our prices being a little higher than most. But here is what we are seeing and I’m going to try to fill you all in without upsetting some other shops. As it stands the shop’s average cost of 9mm for 115gr FMJ goes up to about $10 a box. That same box is being sold online for $50 plus. As for 5.56 they are running around $9 a box but are being sold for $20 plus.

So what’s going on? Well, sadly I think we’ve done all this to ourselves. Most people have traded going to their local gun shops to get ammo to buying it online to save a few bucks. I’m talking only a dollar or two per box. What this has done is move online retailers higher in order on the distributors’ lists. Since demand is up those places that are higher in the pecking order with get their supplies filled first; and since they are the only ones getting ammo they get to set the price to whatever they see fit. Which means if they want to mark it up 400-500% they can because they have no one else to compete with, since they have all the ammo.  One online retailer has already been sued for price gouging and there are several that probably should in my option.

As for solutions, I know of one, but many people are going to like it, even if it’s something that’s long overdue if we want to see this industry survive. Unless you absolutely have to (and I do mean have to), quit buying ammo online. Otherwise, we’re going to see a lot of small, independent gun shops not survive over the next few years. With little to no inventory left to sell it’s going to be hard for these places to stay open. Everyone thinks gun sales are where shops make money, but it’s not. Ammo and accessories is where most shops are really able to turn around enough product to stay in business.

Right now on a good week the shop where I work is lucky to see ten boxes of ammo come in. Not ten cases, but ten boxes. There just isn’t enough money to be made to keep the lights on going like that and I don’t see it getting any better. At some point we have to swing the pendulum back to the local shops. Not only are they the ones that got us this far, but decentralized and independent shops (and independent supply chains too) are really important to the future of the Second Amendment and any attempt by the government to target the industry. We have to get back to supporting them before there is nothing left to support.

 

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Apr 09, 2021 5:00 PM ET