It continues to be a serious seller’s market for ammunition across the United States, and even as manufacturers have ramped up production the supply can’t keep pace with the demand.
The impact is especially being felt by law enforcement – worse still for small-town police departments – who continue to be impacted by rising costs and limited availability.
In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the nationwide ammunition shortage has increased prices of ammunition at a rate that it is taxing the budgets of some of the rural police departments.
“It is substantial and that causes us, our budget, to hurt at the end of the year,” Sheriff Greg Zyburt, Marquette County, told TV 6 News.
Although both the Marquette County and Houghton County sheriff’s departments have purchased enough ammunition for the rest of 2021, the rising costs could be a future problem, Zuburt added. “If it continues to be difficult to purchase ammunition it will be a problem and a challenge but at this point, we are still in good shape because we did anticipate this happening.”
A few hundred miles away from Marquette County the ammunition shortage is being felt by the Fergus Falls Rifle and Pistol Club in Minnesota. Gary Wahl, who runs the club and is also a licensed firearms dealer, believes that fear has driven sales of ammunition just as it has driven firearms sales.
A year into a global pandemic has been good for gun sales, but the fear isn’t just Covid-19, warned Wahl.
“First of all, the government has scared the people,” Wahl told the Fergus Falls Journal. “Everyone is real afraid they won’t be able to find it so they are stocking up. They walk into stores and buy everything they can see. You’ll find it on the Internet at about four times the normal price.”
As first-time buyers rushed to purchase a firearm they also bought ammunition, and the downside for shooters is that it drove up ammunition prices to levels never seen before. At the same time, the pandemic led to a slowdown in production a year ago, and industry has been hard-pressed to meet the demand. As a result, store shelves remain largely empty.
Another factor has continued – speculators.
Ammunition is selling out quickly because it isn’t just shooters who are buying it. Many individuals now regularly wait for gun shops and other retailers to receive their deliveries and buy up everything they can, only to resell the ammunition days later – in some cases just hours after – online or via gun shows. It is not uncommon for a box of popular calibers such as 9mm to change hands several times.
A colleague of this reporter even said that some retailers are happily providing the ammunition because they don’t want “fights to break out” over what is available in the stores. Instead, as soon as ammunition comes it is sold to the resellers, who then turn a profit.
Other retailers have taken a different approach and instituted a one-box per customer per day limit.
“If I could get more stuff, I could sell more stuff,” said co-owner Kenny Oswalt of Tombigbee Pawn in Amory, Miss.
In Illinois, even as ammunition supplies increase it is possible that consumers will have to get used to paying more. State lawmakers have introduced House Bill 238, which would impose an additional one percent tax on all ammunition sales and direct the revenue to trauma response for schools. The fund would help schools prepare for and deal with traumatic events including an on-campus shooting.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.