Ammo Shortage and .22 Production

By Dean Weingarten

ammo shortage
22LR ammunition
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- The first time I heard about an ammo shortage was from my father, who talked about how ammunition was impossible to get during World War II.  As I now own the .22 rifle that had kept much of the neighborhood in venison during the depression (he told me that it had accounted for about 200 deer over the decades, as it was loaned out to neighbors),  I made the mental note that I would not be caught short in a future conflict.

As a young adult I noticed a special on Remington .22 ammunition under the Peters brand at the local Farm and Fleet.  I bought 10,000 rounds.  So did my brother.  I finally used the last of that reserve quite a few years later, after burning through multiples of the amount in target practice, informal plinking, training of new shooters, competition, and a little for hunting.

The next notice was in the early 1980's.  I had picked up a “sporterized” Enfield MK IV (.303 British, of course) as a truck gun.  I had seen the prices on surplus .303 in Shotgun News at very reasonable rates, not six months previous, and figured that I could buy a few hundred rounds inexpensively.  I was wrong.  Surplus .303 had disappeared!  It took me a couple of weeks to figure it out.  The Russians had invaded Afghanistan.  Ronald Reagan had been elected.  Surplus .303 disappeared off of the world market.

Afghans love Enfield rifles, and even make copies of their own, in relatively primitive shops.  They make AK copies, now, as well.  The CIA or proxies, were buying up the entire available surplus .303 on the world market, and sending it to the Afghans who were fighting the Russians.  I remember an astute friend, who taught me much about power politics, warning that we needed to be very careful about arming Islamics.   Prescience noted, 20 years later.  Surplus .303 would be not be available again for many years.  I sold the Enfield and did not buy another for two decades.

There were golden years during the 1990's when surplus ammunition was cheap, and I stocked up.  I ended up selling most of it at a profit, at prices that seem ridiculously inexpensive today.

Everyone who has bought ammunition in the past few years has noted that there have been of shortages.   We are in the middle of one for .22 rimfire ammunition and to a lesser extent, centerfire.  As with earlier shortages, they are caused by politics.  I do not credit the various conspiracy theories when the simple, obvious mechanism of supply and demand explains the process easily.

Machinery for manufacturing new (not reloaded) ammunition is very expensive, has a very long life, and is a major capital expenditure.  Manufacturers are reluctant  to make major capital expenditures for momentary spikes in demand, and for good reason.  A company does not stay in business very long if they are imprudent with capital expenditures of this type.   Winchester nearly went bankrupt after WWI because it had borrowed too much for capital, and passed out of family ownership in 1919.

The demand for ammunition stems from a fairly new awareness of multitudes of the American public about what my father passed on to me about 1960.  Ammunition shortages happen, and it is a good idea to have a stockpile.  The uncertainty of the Obama administration, the attack on second amendment rights, and world wide conflicts escalating with the current administration channeling a combination of Neville Chamberlain and the Muslim Brotherhood make it hard for any but the most obstinately polyannish to be unconcerned.

There are about 80-100 million American gun owners.   Millions of them are new, thanks to the Obama administration.  A majority of them own a .22.  Rimfire ammunition is not practically reloadable (yes, there were a few kits sold in the 1980's).     Most people did not buy 5,000 rounds as a strategic reserve.  Most probably had less than a box on hand.    Suddenly, tens of Millions of people became aware and thought that a thousand rounds of .22 would be nice to have.  Maybe a couple of thousand.  Demand for .22 has historically run under 4 billion rounds a year in the United States, which is by far the largest market in the world.  My friend Alan Korwin reports that the U.S. manufacturing capacity is 4.2 billion rounds a year.

Suppose 50 million Americans decided that they would like to have 1,000 rounds of .22 on hand for a rainy day, rather like I did in the 1970s.  That is 50 billion cartridges, or about 12 times the annual manufacturing capacity for .22 ammunition in the United States.  My observations show me that virtually every .22 manufacturing plant around the world is running flat out making .22 ammunition for the American market, and it all gets snapped up as soon as it becomes available, at prices about three times the rate of even a year and a half ago.

Basic economics: when demand outstrips supply, prices go up until the demand drops to supply levels.  This puts money in the hands of suppliers, who then ramp up production to increase supply.  It is happening, but it will take a while.

Now with the Ukrainian crises, Mike Vanderboegh is forecasting an importation cut off of Russian ammunition  by the Obama administraiton.  If that occurs, there are a few months supply in the pipeline, but panic buys will empty  the domestic stockpile and drive up prices.  There seems to be plenty available at the moment, in spite of rumors of a cut off by the Russians instead of our government.

Aren't you glad that we live in such interesting times? (Chinese curse reference)

I am going to look for another gun show to give away some more .22 ammunition as a promotion, but I have to replenish my supply of business cards that go with the ammo.

I learned foresight from my father.  I predict a rising popularity of air guns for target practice, pest control, and small game hunting ( I have a couple, and thousands of pellets).   Integral suppressors included on air rifles are common, legal, and cheap, making a mild report even quieter.

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

20
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
16 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
DavisdarrinJerryjoebryon Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Jerry
Guest
Jerry

It is not only 22 ammo that is hard to find. Pistol powder is not very plentiful either. I have a couple of pounds to reload some of my pistols. Another thing I noticed about 22 ammo. is that I can spend maybe 3 cents more per shell and get a 9mm, which then I can reload, cheaper than buying 22 ammo.

joe
Guest
joe

I had stocked up on .22 long rifle after the first shortage in 2008 – 09. Learned my lesson that time. I have been shooting my air pellet guns more now and saving the rim fire. I have several fairly powerful ones that will shoot a 22 caliber and .177 pellet as fast as most 22 rim fire. In some cases, they are more accurate . Targets are a bit closer, but they are much smaller. An Aspirin is hard to hit at 10 meters.

bryon
Guest
bryon

did anyone notice that during the big ammo shortage that was lots of shotgun ammo and after the price on center fire went up twice as much all Tha ammo came back except rimfire which vanishd around here

AmericanHeretic
Guest
AmericanHeretic

Find out when your favorite store receives shipments. Arrive at least 30 minutes before opening and be prepared to stand in line. Surprisingly, a brick of 525 rounds can be found for as little as $25, not that much more than the price before the shortage began.

jeff
Guest
jeff

As a first hand witness, I will let you know that I see weekly semi trucks completely loaded with pallets full of .22 ammo headed north into Canada. There is no shortage in Canada, and prices a dirt cheap.

Why is the manufactures exporting all the .22 ammo is what I would like to know.

darrin
Guest
darrin

There is a ammo shortage in canada same as in the USA and the prices are higher they always have been and always will we also have much stricker gun laws so you should be happy with what you have

Craig
Guest
Craig

I usually buy my firearms & ammo from the local Gander Mountain in Wisconsin. The get there ammo shipments in every Tuesday night. The store opens at 9:00am Wednesday morning & they are sold-out of .22LR ammo by 9:01am. I visit the store frequently & have become friendly with the employees behind the firearms counter. I asked them why they are always out of the 22LR ammo & they told me that they get a lot of gun dealers who will get there at 6:00am & wait until they open at 9:00am. These gun dealers are purchasing the 22 ammo… Read more »

brian
Guest

‘(c) Preference- No small arms ammunition or small arms ammunition components in excess of military requirements, or fired small arms cartridge cases may be made available for commercial sale under this section before such ammunition and ammunition components are offered for transfer or purchase, as authorized by law, to another Federal department or agency or for sale to State and local law enforcement, firefighting, homeland security, and emergency management agencies pursuant to section 2576 of title 10, United States Code, as amended by this Act

brian
Guest

as a matter o fact the gov’t is buying it up. the website is tough to navigate,but when you have hours to go through it like I do you can find it. the gov’t is buying until it replenishes it’s supply plus the demand for marshal law,even though it does not state marshal law. it is truly government buyout not just supply and demand.

dave in Houston
Guest
dave in Houston

another good source is lucky gunner….real time inventory and most have a price per round.

Lucian Lafayette
Guest
Lucian Lafayette

There’s plenty of 0.22 long rifle available. You just have to be willing to pay $60 to $80 for 500 rounds. Go to gunbroker.com and you will see hundreds of listings for twenty-two long rifle ammunition. Where is it all coming from? Chances are, that same dealer who sadly tells you he has nothing for sale is not putting his quota of ammunition from Olin Enterprises up on the shelves but is putting it up on the internet. If you can’t find it locally, you have to pay the inflated auction price for it.

ConspiracyTinFoilHat
Guest
ConspiracyTinFoilHat

Mike, thanks for that very informative source. Thank you for siting such relevant sources that let us know you aren’t a tinfoil hat wearing nutjob. Ammo manufacturers are producing the same amount of ammo they always have, running 24/7. There isn’t a shortage of metals to make the bullets. Your extra chromosome is showing.

Davis
Guest
Davis

If you don’t think the shortage of industrial metals is part of the ammo price problem, you are fool. Why do you think crooks are stealing copper from old homes, industrial air conditioners, or where ever the hell else they can?. Why do plumbers complain about the price of copper pipe and solder now, and are forced to used crappy PVC? The whole developing world is demanding metals now. When metal supplies go down, delivery schedules start slipping, and with constant demand, prices go up. Ammo manufacturers are in market competition for the same metals I am in an engineering… Read more »

Bob Geller
Guest
Bob Geller

Excellent advice. I’ll start hoarding .177 pellets and BBs!

Mike
Guest
Mike

Brass is made of copper and zinc. If you want to know the actual facts for the brass shortage just check the metals market, Bloomberg News, Kennecot Copper Mine, Canadian Zinc Mine and several others.Once you do you will know the reason for the ammo shortage. Metals traders, Mine owners and investors have been discussing the shortage of both for several years. Copper is in short supply, recycling stockpiles are dwindling and the price is rising for refined copper. Zinc is in even shorter supply with several mines closed as the zinc is mined out. Copper is the third most… Read more »

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

I still hear people talking about buying .22 guns. I would not recommend it you can’t find a reliable source of ammo. I only have about 600 rounds of .22

james
Guest
james

Many new .22 rifles on the market that are modeled after the AR-15 so that is one reason for the short supplies.

John
Guest
John

“There seems to be plenty available at the moment, in spite of rumors of a cut off by the Russians instead of our government.”

Nope, almost entirely sold out at every retailer as of this morning