Explaining The Ammunition Shortage

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

Readers have no doubt encountered a severe ammunition shortage, affecting no only local supplies but online supplies as well.  There are some good explanations for this, some of which I didn’t suspect.

Political climate.

“I can’t keep guns on the shelf,” Carr said. “And I can’t find the guns to replace the ones I’ve sold. It’s the same thing with ammo, especially for the pistols, like the 9s, 38s, 380s – they’re not there. Our vendors don’t have them either. We’ve been advised to order our hunting rounds because it’s not going to be there as they’re trying to fill the pistol ammo that they’re already behind on.”

We’ve actually learned something else besides the affect of political climate.  First time gun buyers are purchasing primarily pistols.  In order to use them, they need ammunition.  Apparently, manufacturers are retooling to supply that ammunition.

So hunters needing 7mm magnum, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 and 30-06, should go ahead and try to scrounge up those rounds now.  They won’t be available for long.  That also goes for AR-10 operators.

Next up, the logistics chain.

“As far as the ammo is concerned, the number one thing you have to have in order to make ammunition is raw materials, being lead and copper,” Kastner said. “So all of the lead mines in the United States are in the state of Missouri; Missouri shut them down the first of March. All of the copper mines are in South America; South America shut them down in April. … The lead mines are now open in Missouri, but getting copper for the casings is one of the choking points.”

When you tell workers to go home, production stops.  The next thing we learn in this same article is what happened when the manufacturers eventually did open back up.

“A lot of the manufacturers were closed for a few months, and then they opened up and had to social distance inside their plants, so maybe every other machine may work instead of all of them,” Latsha said. “So their capacity is down below half and demand is up 400% because there’s a huge shortage. … All the rioting and things going on … people are scared. And then when a shortage starts, anytime somebody thinks there’s not going to be any they all run out to get some.”

The manufacturers are not at full production capacity.

So when you combine intense demand, with choked logistics chains, on top of manufacturers operating at partial capacity, it leads to a problem.

Will this return to normal?  That remains to be seen.  I’m not a prophet.

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  1. On July 19, 2020 at 10:56 pm, penses said:

    Whut? You haven’t been told. This is the “new normal.” Corporate has saturated the airwaves 24/7 with the phrase. And the masked mob is buying it.

  2. On July 20, 2020 at 6:47 am, Nosmo said:

    There are – some – valid reasons for business issues based on the COVID-19 requirements, but businesses are squandering their credibility by blaming COVID for everything from slow shipping departments to the heartbreak of psoriasis. More than one online retailer has turned off its phones and directed customers to their online chat and email forms, which, as far as I can tell, exist only to pacify customers, sort of like the “press button for light change” pedestrian gizmo at intersections.

  3. On July 20, 2020 at 7:42 am, Frank Clarke said:

    Then there are those of us who stocked up in the mists of time and who merely need to “top off the tanks” every now and then. Those others? Welcome to the party, pals…

  4. On July 20, 2020 at 7:51 am, Ned2 said:

    Honestly, if you didn’t get fully stocked with ammo 10 years ago you’ve been really slow on the uptake.
    Watch for price gouging. I mean inflation.

  5. On July 20, 2020 at 8:22 am, 41mag said:

    Replace ammo with any much needed commodity. Complicated logistic system to feed a mmassive demand, and a long term shortage is in order.

  6. On July 20, 2020 at 8:55 am, Foot in the Forest said:

    RELOAD I can not stress this enough RELOAD. They laughed at the preppers my family included. I didn’t run for toilet paper or meat or ammo. RELOAD

  7. On July 20, 2020 at 9:01 am, billrla said:

    The panic buying and supply chain disruptions we have been experiencing during COVID, and made worse by government incompetence and the scare-mongering media, present opportunities for businesses that learn how to adapt. To Nosmo’s comment, above, many companies seem to have their heads in the sand. Just turn off the phones, send customers to “Chat” and “Knowledge Bases” and hope that the whole thing just goes away.

    The better businesses are dealing with these demand and supply issues head-on, by maintaining open lines of communication with their customers.

  8. On July 20, 2020 at 9:56 am, Chris Mallory said:

    I think he might be a bit off on his lead comments. I looked into this back during the Obama regime when the US smelter was shut down. Most lead used in the US comes from recycled lead. Or it did. Car batteries are the number one use of lead. The use of raw/virgin lead was a minuscule number. Of course that doesn’t help with the recycling plants being shut down. Most virgin lead used in the US comes from Canada, or it did during the Obama years.

  9. On July 20, 2020 at 10:11 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Good info. I seem to recall something like that too. If you stumble upon anything else, let us know.

  10. On July 20, 2020 at 10:52 am, Paul said:

    There used to be copper mines in Montana. There are huge tailings piles as you drive down I-90, near Butte. Are they all gone?

    Vendors need to raise prices on ammo, substantially – at least enough so idiots who already have plenty are deterred buying any more, thus letting the newbies have a shot at it. The high prices newbies will have to pay is just the price of getting into the game late. Let the free market work!

  11. On July 20, 2020 at 12:32 pm, Sanders said:

    Ammo shortage? What ammo shortage?

    I learned my lesson after the last one.

  12. On July 20, 2020 at 12:37 pm, ambiguousfrog said:

    @Foot RE: Reload

    I tried looking into some once fire brass, my usual sites are out.

  13. On July 20, 2020 at 1:17 pm, Haz said:

    What NED2 said above. Anyone who is serious about preparedness already bought over the past few years (especially the past couple of years known as the “Trump Slump”) when supply was high and prices were low. I’m certainly glad the newbies and Fudds are waking up to what has always been our reality, but being a day late and a dollar short isn’t going to help get them ammo.

    For now, TP, canned foods, bleach, etc. are all restocked in stores, but distributors that delivery to the retailers are seeing their own supply down 30% since pre-COVID, and their sources are not going to be able to keep up with demand if/when a second panic hits (think Election Day in November). So in the same vein as ammo, stock up on whatever your family will need NOW. And if/when ammo becomes available again at some point down the road, stack it to the ceiling.

  14. On July 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm, Noveskes Rock said:

    The critical choke point is primers. 90+% of US primers are made by the Olin corporation. I bought stock in them when Obama was first elected. Nice little earner https://www.olin.com/

  15. On July 20, 2020 at 7:13 pm, Danny said:

    Just bought 2000 swaged, deprimed and polished 5.56 from Roberts and Sons brass. Looks like I cleaned them out – now out of stock. Lucky me.

  16. On July 20, 2020 at 7:19 pm, Danny said:

    I got 80 lbs of rifle and pistol powder, 6000 large and small primers and 5000 55 grain bullets – all from an estate sale. The entire reloading components of the estate sale was $160K plus. One guy bought the remaining components valued at over $125K. Oh, it was selling for 1/2 price. Again, lucky me. As @Fit says, RELOAD!

  17. On July 21, 2020 at 1:39 pm, BSHJ said:

    Is this what is happening with Silver? Mines being closed and then a ‘return to normal’ later when the mines reopen?

  18. On July 21, 2020 at 4:34 pm, john said:

    Hold it boss – bullet lead is recycled batteries – NOT fresh mined lead. What else here is inacurate?

  19. On July 21, 2020 at 6:14 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    I didn’t say where lead comes from. I quoted several people quoted in the articles.

    As for what is actually the case, I don’t really know what percentage of lead is taken from car batteries and what percentage is mined.

    The great thing about this blog is its readers. The comments are educational. If you have something to add concerning the real statistics of where lead comes from, feel free to supply us with that.

    But do your homework. Do the math. Cite the sources, provide URLs.

    As for what else is inaccurate – if anything is, IDK. Fisk it yourself and educate us in the comments. I don’t get paid for this. I spend money out of pocket to buy band width and server hosting.

  20. On July 23, 2020 at 2:45 pm, Lou Martinez said:

    Double whammy- big sporting good chains ceased reupping stuff likely to be targeted during communist criminal- er I mean peaceful communist democrat riots back in Feb/Mar, in likely riot cities. Shortage initiated.
    Now, those same stores are restocking at normal levels, but can’t keep anything in stock. Positive note- if tshtf towards November, there will be an abundance of “pickem off the thugs” antifa, and blm guns.

  21. On July 23, 2020 at 3:59 pm, Charlotte Guy said:


    Lawmans off Clanton road has ammo, cases of federal 149 gr, .308 for 250.00ea and other misc calibers too…

  22. On July 23, 2020 at 4:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    What’s their price for 5.56?

    For .45 ACP

    For 6.5 Creedmoor?

    If you happen to know.

  23. On July 23, 2020 at 4:06 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Hmm …

    $14 per box of 20 for 5.56mm.

    Kinda high.

  24. On July 23, 2020 at 8:45 pm, Danny said:

    @Charlotte Guy, what is round count for case of 149 grain. 308? Pre-apocalyptic price for same is approx <$0.50/round so $250 is a 125 round case – kinda light, never seen "cases" of that ammo at such a round count. Not being a ninny, just looking for better intel. That said, I be cruzin there tomorrow. For us Charlotte area readers, bear in mind PSA has several locations throughout the Midlands and the upstate of SC. Be advised their online inventory pulls from their warehouses and has no correlation to that in their stores for ALL products. Searched for months for an AR10 online with no luck only to waltz into a store to find Excalibur behind the counter. Same same applies to ammo, mags, BCGs, spares kits and upgrades. May pay a schosh more than online but with no shipping and cash sale…for me is a wash.

  25. On July 23, 2020 at 11:31 pm, tballard said:

    I just paid $0.35/rd for 1000 rounds of 9mm. Highway robbery, but that was still the cheapest I could find in bulk. There are the occasional boxes of 20 or 50 out there that I could find, but for the most part 9mm is all but impossible to find. I did not really need any, but when things start to heat up, I feel the need to buy ammo. Now I’m looking for 6.5 Creedmore.

  26. On July 24, 2020 at 10:32 am, Yeah, not worried. said:

    Hit commie WalM*rt this morning.

    Took the last two boxes of .308 180g for my rifle. Good ol’ Win .308 180g PP, I love it, the gun loves it. <$17 a box, not bad.

    Don't 'need' it (won't fit in a very full .308 ammo can) but figure it probably is going to be like hen's teeth soon. Deer season is coming and there's an ammo shortage. Yeah, glad I did it. Figure it'll work for commie season too once that opens, since they'll be no limit, might as well have plenty on hand.

  27. On July 24, 2020 at 10:53 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I thought Walmart had stopped selling ammo and guns?

    Right now there seems to be a glut of 30-06, 350 Legend, 7mm Magnum and 6.5 Creedmoor everywhere I look around here.

    Haven’t seen much .308.

  28. On July 24, 2020 at 11:52 am, Richard Roma said:

    Not everyone had the chance to stock up ten years ago, some of us are younger…. Anyway 9mm and 223 are wiped here, 45 and 308 are still available.

  29. On July 27, 2020 at 5:27 am, Doc Nova said:

    For bulk ammo, try https://www.sgammo.com/ They’re in Stilwater OK right up the road from me. Even though I have to pay in state sales tax when I buy from them, their prices are consistently lower than most others, so overall I still save. I don’t work for them or have any $ interest. They just always have same or better prices, & except for the UPS guy not liking the weight, shipping is also cheap & easy. Also, try https://ammoseek.com/ for good price comparisons of online retailers, round cost, & shipping costs.

  30. On November 16, 2020 at 3:22 pm, Adrian said:

    The bulk of current production ammo is made outside of the U.S. Philippines, S. Korea, Mexico, Eastern Europe, Europe, etc. That’s where most of our ammunition comes from. No ammo shortage in these places. In fact, would take a bet that they have plenty in inventory.
    Sounds like our distributors figure, why import 100 cases if we can sell 10 cases for the same price.

    Hold off buying! Price will come down. Keep buying and the prices will go up.

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You are currently reading "Explaining The Ammunition Shortage", entry #24888 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition and was published July 19th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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