Rifles and their advocates are in the news and blogs these days. It doesn't take a handgun to perform home defense. A man using a rifle recently detained three burglars until police arrived. It could have been any type of rifle. Rifle Shooter Magazine recently did a piece on the best bolt action rifles of all time. Brad Fitzpatrick covers a number of the ones you would expect to see, including the Remington 700, Winchester model 70, Weatherby and so on. But he includes one [read more]
America’s shooters have had around five years of trouble finding enough bullets for their guns. In the years after President Obama’s 2008 election, then again after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, with barely a lull in between, big-spending gun aficionados left manufacturers struggling to keep shelves full. Now, the shortage seems to be winding down.
Demand has remained high since 2008, in part because some gun owners, frightened that Obama would tighten gun control laws, went into panic mode. But that’s only one side of it. The problem is that supply never seemed to quite meet that demand. And that’s in part because even though they haven’t said so, skittish manufacturers don’t believe the panic will last long enough to make it worth the investment in costly new factories.
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Whatever the numbers might be, there’s plenty of evidence that ammunition demand has been unusually high. According to one ammunition manufacturer, the shortage situation has been in effect nearly every year since September 11.
“Our company has been in a backorder situation since 9/11. There’s only been one year since 9/11 where we haven’t been working overtime,” says Kristi Hoffman, co-owner of Black Hills Ammunition in Rapid City, South Dakota.
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he gun industry has acknowledged that politics drive gun-buying. Knowing that, manufacturers are reluctant to invest in lots of expensive new facilities when they’re afraid the political mania could vanish at any moment. But as Guns and Ammo reported last year, America’s ammunition manufacturers have been operating at or near capacity for a decade, and reluctant to boost that capacity.
many companies will only expand as far as their current workers and machinery will take them.
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“Beyond that, you have to say, ‘How is my crystal ball here? Is this going to go on for the next 10 years so I can hire more people, I can build on to my facility? or is this going to be done in 6 months or 18 months?” says Hoffman. “Typically in our industry what people do — like us — you run as hard as you can with the people you have.”
It’s as I had suspected all along. There has been crisis buying, but beyond that, the stocks have been depleted and are slow to recover. Manufacturers are understandably reluctant to hire people and then have to lay them off later if demand subsides. Good people in manufacturing don’t like affecting livelihoods.
Larry Hyatt (of Hyatt Gun Shop) and I were having a conversation recently, and he told me that his experience is that the gun control threat from the administration had caused crisis buying of guns and that peak has subsided, but that the trajectory is still upward.
Mike Vanderboegh once said, when asked what he was doing, “I’m trying to buy more time.” Good. We all need more time. Prepare now for your needs in the future. And don’t ever expect the ammunition stocks to completely recover. Demand, like gun ownership, will be on an upward trajectory, while manufacturing will continue as is.