Ammunition is expected to be in short supply for the start of deer season again this year. Shortages may be even worse than those encountered in fall 2020. Local news around the country reports empty shelves, high demands, and hunters not sure if they’ll even bother heading into the woods.
“100 plus calls a day I get for ammo,” Greg Knutson of Andrus Outdoors in Bismarck, North Dakota, told KFYR. He said he has received calls from as far away as Fargo and Montana.
“It’s never been this bad before,” said Knutson, who has been in business for 19 years. “This year has been a real struggle.”
Business has dropped due to the ammo shortage, but his family-owned shop carries other sporting goods, which has allowed him to stay afloat. Other businesses haven’t been so lucky, and empty shelves of ammo resulted in some shops closing their doors.
The story is similar in Superior, Wisconsin, where Pat Kukulla, owner of Superior Shooting Supplies, told KBJR6, “In all the years we’ve been here we’ve never seen anything so bad as this.”
Supply Chain Woes
Customers around the country often wait for ammunition to arrive, which means it sells out in minutes. Increased firearms sales have created some additional demand, but there are several other factors in play.
Increased production—which is happening—won’t solve the problem so easily either.
Ammunition supplies are now being impacted by a nationwide supply chain crisis. Goods simply can’t be moved quickly enough, in part because there simply aren’t enough truckers. CNN reported last week that the United States has a shortage of around eighty thousand truck drivers, a record high and increase of thirty percent since before the pandemic according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Port backlogs also make matters worse.
Beyond that, the availability of the materials used in the production has created problems. Chris Metz, CEO of Vista Outdoors, Inc., which now operates four U.S. ammunition plants, told Axios this month that the company must compete with the automotive industry and even the U.S. mint for copper like never before. It is also costing Vista Outdoors more, which is why the price of ammo has skyrocketed.
Base Metal Woes
Copper prices have surged this year. The base metal is in high demand because it is used in so many green energy projects such as electric cars, but also for power grids that connect wind, solar, and hydro energy sources.
The demand is so great that in May of this year, commodities analysts at Goldman Sachs called copper “the new oil.” This has driven up the price of the raw material. Before the financial crisis in 2008, it was common to see thieves stealing copper wires and pipes out of homes as they were being constructed. That trend has returned.
“Copper has played a big role in the world economy for thousands of years,” said Jordan Smith of CNBC.com. “The Bronze Age? That happened because blacksmiths figured out how to forge copper with tin. Now copper is used in electrical and heating equipment because its chemical properties make it such a useful conductor. It’s used in car motors, household pipes, washing machines, all sorts of things we use every day.”
The good news is that copper is actually plentiful, and is among the most recyclable materials on earth. That explains why thieves can steal pipes from old homes and wiring from new construction sites. In fact, only about twelve percent of all copper in the world has been mined throughout human history, and nearly all of it remains in circulation. As CNBC.com noted, “Some of the copper in circulation right now could have once been jewelry or armor in ancient Egypt.”
Copper’s long history won’t help hunters of the present, or perhaps even the future. The great ammo shortage that began last fall could continue well into 2022 and beyond. The best advice for hunters is to load up on supplies as they find them.
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.