We are concerned the ammunition shortage could affect hunting.
It is safe to say the last couple years have been rough on all of us. Combine tense political times with a global pandemic and it was a perfect storm for an ammunition shortage. We have been through ammo shortages before. Who could forget a few years ago when it was nearly impossible to find .22 long rifle on the shelves?
This shortage is different though. The years 2020 and 2021 have seen a slew of first time new gun buyers heading to gun stores wanting something for self-defense. Unfortunately, there was probably also some disruption to supply chains from long time gun owners panic buying and hoarding ammo.
While we have begun to see some light at the end of a long tunnel, many sporting goods stores and shooting ranges are still seeing a severe shortage of ammunition. With many firearms hunting seasons finally here, we are concerned how it could affect hunting for this year and possibly next year too.
How did we get here?
There were a ton of dominoes that had to fall perfectly in the place for such a massive shortage to happen. As we already mentioned, the coronavirus pandemic was a big part of that. As cases soared, some gun shops had lines going around the block with prospective new gun owners. Then a highly contentious election helped sow a ton of political tension and people reacted with even more gun sales.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a record-breaking 5.5 million firearms were sold just in the first three months of 2021 alone. Americans bought more than 21 million guns total in 2020. Ammunition sales also soared in response. Popular self-defense calibers for handguns and rifles were the first to disappear from retailers.
Adding to the supply problem, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased production for a time while the company was restructured again. When they started up again, they started running operations 24/7 to try and meet demand. Plenty of other ammo manufacturers have done the same.
Even then, it has been nearly impossible for these companies to keep up with the number of ammo and gun sales. You have probably noticed it on the shelves of your local stores.
Now, we have seen the many conspiracy theories on social media from people who are convinced ammo makers are holding back. "The government is hoarding it." "The ammo is going exclusively to military or law enforcement agencies." We don't buy it. As noted by Federal/Remington President Jason Vanderbrink, the factories were completely unprepared for the surge from a production standpoint and from a raw material standpoint.
They were not the only industry unprepared for panic buying. Remember trying to find toilet paper in Mach 2020? Earlier this year I travelled to the Berkely Fishing factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa. The floor managers there told me they had tons of problems with getting raw materials for lines and lures during the height of the pandemic. In short, all supply lines were affected. When production cannot meet demand, a shortage was inevitable.
Will your hunting season be affected?
There is a very real possibility some people's hunting seasons may be disrupted as ammo supplies are still uncertain in many parts of the country. During the height of the pandemic here in Michigan, you could only buy bird shot. The shelves were bare of everything else. Fortunately, I slowly started to see ammo start to make its way back to shelves late in the year and earlier this spring. Most of the stores around here had three box limits to keep scalpers from buying it all up.
I ended up buying about five or six boxes of .450 Bushmaster over the course of the summer. It wasn't exactly a pleasant experience at over $2 a round, but I was glad I bought when I did because now the shelves are bare of it. Living here in the "shotgun zone" of Michigan, that is not surprising. The straight wall rounds are the only way to legally hunt with a rifle here. I also noticed there is no more .350 Legend to be found as we rapidly approach the start of firearms deer season. I feel bad for the hunters who didn't stock up when they had the chance.
Oddly enough, handgun ammo is back in Michigan. The store shelves are starting to overflow with 9mm again after being absent for nearly a year. I have also noticed excess stocks of calibers like 6mm, .30-06, .30-30, and .308. Which is not surprising since those calibers are not legal for deer here, so not everyone owns rifles like that. Still, it makes me feel fortunate to know some of my local stores have stock. Here at Wide Open Spaces, we have heard from many hunters who say there is still no ammo of any kinds on their shelves.
I reached out to some of the other staff at Wide Open Spaces to ask about the ammo situation. Daryk Ganske told me he was able to get a whole case of shotgun shells for Texas' dove season. This was interesting since here in Michigan, the stores are looking depleted for shotgun ammo right now. We had pallets full of the stuff last summer. All you could buy for months was bird shot. Of course, right as I'm preparing for a pheasant hunt in South Dakota, the shelves are suddenly bare of what I need the most.
What can you do if your hunt is imperiled by the shortage?
Right now, I'm thinking my best option for some shells for pheasant hunting might be to go online and try to get something shipped to me. Because the stocks in stores are proving wildly unpredictable. The time to buy it is when you see it. Because you never know when the shelves may be bare again. That becomes a huge problem if you just booked the elk hunting trip of a lifetime.
If you are planning any new gun purchases for hunting season this year, it is worth it to ask around at your local retailers to see what calibers they having trouble keeping in stock. We hate discouraging anyone from buying the exact rifle they want, but desperate times may call for desperate measures to keep your season going. You may have to settle for a caliber you were not considering previously if that is what is available. You could always trade it in later when your preferred ammo is back in stock. Although I have found having an alternate backup option for hunting is always a good thing. I already mentioned I have plenty of .450 Bushmaster, but I also still have dozens of shotgun slugs for my Remington 870 as a back-up gun for deer. Just in case.
Another alternative is getting into reloading. While factory ammo stocks can be unpredictable, most stores are still well stocked with reloading supplies. The only downside to this is taking the time to learn and do it. It is a viable option for difficult times like this though.
Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot more we can do other than to wait for raw materials to become more abundant and for manufacturer output to keep up with demand. Hopefully you have kept on top of your ammo supply this year. One thing is for sure, we will probably be rationing out ammo a little more closely than we have in previous seasons this year. Just know you are not alone in your frustrations if you cannot find ammo. There are lot of us in the same boat. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the store to see if they got some fresh boxes of 20 gauge back in stock.
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