Ammo Shortage and .22 Production

By Dean Weingarten

ammo shortage
22LR ammunition
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -( 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 thoughts on “Ammo Shortage and .22 Production

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

      1. 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

    6. 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 at .05 cents per round and re-selling it at gun shows for .25-.50 cents per round. So for the average target & plinking shooter, we are just S.O.L. The reason I purchased the .22 firearms in the first place was to save on ammo. (and the are just plain FUN!)
      But now, it is almost cheaper to shoot 9mm

    7. ‘(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

    8. 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.

    9. 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 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.

    10. 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.

      1. 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 company making industrial products. And our metals prices are way up and delivery is way down. And if you don’t recognize the sources in the comment about the metals shortage, then that says a lot.

        Sure it doesn’t help that the hoarders are showing up at Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. to gouge people at the gun shows. But my local large sporting goods store hardly gets ANY 22LR any more. They have to put aside two 100-round boxes for any customer who will buy a 10/22. It also doesn’t help that DHS is buying millions of rounds of 5.56 mm as confirmed on goverment bid websites and by Congress. It’s the perfect storm of supply and demand. Just wait until the EPA bans lead bullets if you want to see what metals market disruption is.

    11. 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 widely used refined metal with first and second going to gold and aluminum (which is also in short supply). Ask electritians or plumbers about the copper shortage. Demand for copper is at record levels in electrical manufacturing, plumbing, computers, robotics are just of few of the copper users. Kennecott (in Utah) produces about 300,000 tons a year and they are the largest in the world, with only four other mines world wide in that producing range. There is not a lot of copper to go around, so shortages and prices (including miners wages)will continue to increase. The shortage of Zinc is very serious, and there are only a few places where it is found. All you have to do is spend some time looking at annual reports of copper and zinc mining companies, look at the metals market forcasts and world wide mining reports, global usage forcasts, electrical copper usage statistics, geological survey reports, metals futures and stock forcasts and stockpiles reports for starters. Just spending a few hours of research concerning the use of these and other metals will give you an accurate and factual education as to these shortages. I would also recommend looking at the statistics in the US and the globe at the number of persons entering the job market in Mine Engineering and Miners. The Colorado School of Mines is a good place to start.
      These metals are not unlimited in supply. Mining experts have been warning about this for decades now. New mines are exceptionally expensive to start and the current mines don’t have unlimited amounts of the raw materials and new smelters are not being built in quantities sufficient for demand. There is only so much brass that can be made, and there are other manufacturers and users who have a higher demand for brass than those who like shooting. So if you want more brass then recycle more, invest in mining and learn to cut back on usage.

    12. 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

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

    14. “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

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