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U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- This correspondent was in a Walmart in Yuma, Arizona on 9 July 2021. Visits to Walmart have been regular, but sparse, about one every two to three weeks.
When in Walmart, a quick look at the ammunition display is taken to see if there are any significant changes. There has been very little ammunition displayed for over a year. Common calibers have been in short supply, especially .22 rimfire.
It was with considerable surprise these four boxes of .22 ammunition, 2 – 325 round boxes of Federal and 2- 333 round boxes of Winchester Long Rifle bulk packs, were available.
There was a larger amount of 12 gauge shotgun ammunition on the shelf than seen in months; there was a smattering of centerfire rifle cartridges, in 20 round boxes. There were 4 boxes of .270 Winchester cartridges, 4 boxes of 243 Winchester cartridges, 2 boxes of .30-30 cartridges, and 6 boxes of .350 Legend cartridges.
Online, it appears ammunition prices have been dropping a bit from the highs experienced over the last year.
The Federal . 22 LR cartridges are the 40 gr Automatic, at $18.73 for 325 rounds, or 5.76 cents per round. The Winchester bulk pack is the 36 grain hollow point, at 18.88 for 333 cartridges, or 5.67 cents per round. This is a significant price drop from Internet prices which were often seen at 25 cents per cartridge, or more.
The cartridges had been there for at least a few hours. The lady behind the counter said it was the most ammunition she had seen displayed for months.
It is too early to be sure if this is the start of a return to “normal” pricing, or if it is a fluke of the delivery system and local variation in the supply chain. It may be an early indicator that supply is starting to meet the demand. .22 cartridges from all over the planet have been coming to the United States to meet the exceptionally high demand.
A “bubble” in cartridge prices can easily happen if demand suddenly exceeds the supply. Commodities which have expensive capital requirements to produce are especially vulnerable, as seen recently with toilet paper and ammunition.
The largest producer of .22 rimfire ammunition in the United States (and the world) is Vista Outdoors, with its Federal and CCI brands. Stock in Vista Outdoors plunged during the Trump administration, as the .22 ammunition bubble from the Obama years finally collapsed. In 2018, .22 rimfire ammunition was selling for as low as 2.5 cents per round.
A new bubble inflated in 2020, with the uncertainty of the Presidential election, COVID-19, and BLM and Antifa riots in the cities.
With its expansion of production capacity validated, Vista Outdoors is producing and selling all the ammunition it is capable of. The total .22 rimfire ammunition for the United States Market has been in the neighborhood of 5 billion rounds per year, increased from a base of about 4 billion rounds per year in 2012.
Total ammunition for the United States Market has been estimated at 9 billion rounds per year in 2020, including all centerfire and rimfire rounds for the non-military market.
That bubble may be leaking. Unrest in the United States and uncertainty in future stability around the world may re-inflate the ammunition bubble at any time.
Readers are invited to comment on ammunition availability in their local area. The availability of .22 ammunition has been shown to be highly variable by geographical location in the last .22 ammunition bubble.
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 retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.