A lot of you will remember with explicit detail one of the most devastating ammo shortages in the United States. In 2012, shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, ammunition went flying off the shelves at an unprecedented rate leading to a 22LR shortage. Will this happen again given recent events relating to COVID-19 and the rush to buy firearms and ammunition? This week in The Rimfire Report we’ll explore this idea to see what the future might hold for the lifeblood of this article series.
The Rimfire Report: Are We looking at Another 22LR Shortage?
As you are no doubt aware, ammunition is scarce at the moment. Many gun stores have resorted to rationing in order to more evenly distribute their quickly dwindling stock. Distributors are in a mad rush to place orders to match the increased demand and as a result, prices have gone up for many other calibers – not just 22LR.
Previous to the 2012 ammunition shortage, there was a similar shortage in the lead up to the 2008 presidential election. The high demand for guns is generally the biggest indicator for large increases in ammunition purchases. Both incidents saw a massive surge in consumer purchasing due to panic of increased gun legislation the result unsurprisingly was demand far outstripping supply.
From just before the 2008 presidential election through 2014 ammunition prices doubled for most calibers while available stock remained very low. The price of 22LR, in particular, went from an average of 5 cents per round to 12 cents per round making a fun afternoon of plinking a more costly affair. The Sandy Hook shooting further spurred on concerns of increased gun legislation and consumers reacted by purchasing everything available. These two factors in tandem created a price bubble for 22LR ammunition.
Why 22LR gets the short end of the stick
The above-mentioned ammunition shortages saw all calibers go missing from shelves for quite some time, however, within a few months common calibers such as 9mm, 45ACP, 5.56×45 all start showing up with regularity. 22LR however, remained off the shelves for much longer.
The issue with 22LR is that it is an extremely low-profit margin item. Other common pistol and rifle calibers generate enough profit in order for companies to justify expanding operations or increasing production capacity to match the increased demand. Paying overtime and implementing 2nd and 3rd shifts can do a lot to keep the flow of pistol and rifle ammunition going as the supply rises to meet the increased demand.
For 22LR this is not the case, dedicating thousands of man-hours and investment either into more people or machines to crank out what is most assuredly your lowest profiting item just doesn’t make sense when everyone will happily buy up more expensive items. This leaves those looking for 22LR standing outside stores waiting to get the first crack at the pallet or two of 22lr that comes on the weekly delivery.
What 2020 and beyond holds for 22lr
Big box stores and brick and mortar shops alike are probably going to get one of their last normally priced orders of 22LR (and likely other ammunition) this week. After this delivery of 22LR ammunition, prices will go up as the handful of distributors increase their purchasing
Since places like Remmington and CCI have limited tooling many production facilities can only produce one or two calibers at a time and because of the associated costs and profits of other calibers, this gives the manufacturers more incentive to stick with the higher profit ammunition. The military will not see this demand or price increase however as dedicated facilities exist to keep military ammunition supplies fully stocked.
Some online retailers have already seen the price jump with 22LR costing as much as 10 cents per round. Even back in 2013, we saw the price of 22LR soar over 400%! A normally priced box of 500 rounds could be had for a Jackson by June of 2013 the same box cost just a hair over $100 at my local Academy store.
All the trends and circumstances very closely match those that existed in 2008 and 2012 so we can expect the same thing to happen this year. At my best guess, I would say that we can expect a very similar increase between now and the end of the year.
How to Prepare
We are still in the early stages of this ammo shortage. If you want to have ammunition to plink with, teach with or train with, my recommendation would be to buy now. If you can afford to, I would buy as much ammunition as you can at the prices they are at now. Online, I am still seeing prices ranging from 4 to 6 cents per round for standard plinking ammunition.
As of writing I just paid a hair under 5 cents per round for some bulk Federal 38-grain CPHP 22LR. It’s likely that prices will not come down for quite some time as no one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated social and economical stresses could last. Buy now, cry now as they say. Let us know down in the comments what you’re seeing out there on the shelves and online and thanks again for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report.
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