A rise in firearms sales has been very good for the industry, and while sales may be down from last year's record-setting numbers, 2021 is still on track to be the second-best ever in terms of overall sales. However, that may not mean much for the overall shooting community because the strong sales have also driven up demand for ammunition across the country.
The situation will certainly get worse as the Biden Administration has imposed new sanctions against Russia, which includes a ban on all Russian-made firearms parts, but also ammunition. That means the "cheap stuff" will likely dry up quickly, and further drive up prices. However, the ban on Russian ammunition is just one piece of a complex puzzle that remains the great ammunition shortage.
There have been multiple factors including the shuttering of factories in the early stages of the pandemic last year, but even when business resumed it didn't simply go back to normal as the supply chain was disrupted for months. Even though lines are now running at near capacity, there were back orders that needed to be filled, and retailers have struggled to keep ammunition on store shelves.
Now a year a half into the pandemic, supply is starting to meet demand, but there are simply more shooters today than there were prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Last year saw between eight and eleven million first-timers purchase a gun, and as the National Shooting Sports Foundation noted, each sale of a gun meant an additional sale of a box or likely two of ammunition. That quickly upended the supply. Even in a normal year, it might have led to some ammunition being harder to find, but with those other factors coming into play it made for a perfect storm of demand outstripping supply.
The story of last year's strong sales in firearms has continued, and again 2021 sales may be down from last year's record, but they have vastly surpassed the sales of 2019 and every year prior. In other words, had last year not seen such a spike this year would have easily been the best on record.
"There's a big spike in overall gun sales for the last two years,” Dave Bloom, owner of JLM Shooting Supply in Urbandale, Iowa told KCRG.com. "Are we higher than we typically are in June, July, and August? Yes."
The continued strong sales this summer is further impacting the availability of ammunition.
"It's going to be hard to get ammo on a consistent basis for another year in my opinion," Bloom added. "It's because the backlog is so far, they're just never going to be able to keep up."
Hunting Season Impacted?
A question being asked across the country by firearms retailers and sportsmen and women is what the ammunition shortage might mean for the fall hunting season?
"It's going to be terrible, I have the feeling," warned Nick Adamczyk, owner of Gene's Sports Shop in Perham, Minnesota.
"There's been a shortage of ammunition, and when it comes in, it comes in big chunks," he told The Perham Focus. "A big chunk of handgun ammo came in last week, nothing else. There's nothing to sell anymore."
Deer season in Minnesota begins on November 6, so there is still more than two months for ammunition supplies to pick up—but given the demand, hunters may first have to hunt for ammunition before they even head into the woods.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.