Although manufacturers claim they are producing the most ammunition possible, many gun stores have empty shelves and prices continue to rise. While ammunition imports are on the rise, at least one U.S. company is still exporting ammo. Despite all this, the pandemic and rise in violent crime has prompted millions of people to purchase guns to protect themselves or to learn to shoot for fun.
Jason Wuestenberg, executive Director of the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, stated that "we have had a lot of firearms instructors cancel our registrations to our courses because they were short on ammo" or that they couldn't find ammo to buy.
Doug Tangen, a firearms instructor at Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (the state's police academy), said that the academy has also had difficulty obtaining ammo.
He said that a few months back, our shelves were almost empty of 9mm ammunition. Tangen explained that instructors responded by taking conservation measures like reducing the number shots per drill. This helped them get through several months before new supplies arrived.
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Larry Hadfield said that his department was also affected by the shortage. He stated that they have tried to conserve ammunition whenever possible.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association representing the industry, more than 50,000,000 people are involved in shooting sports in America. It estimates that 20 million guns were purchased last year with 8 million being first-time buyers.
Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the company, stated that "when you talk about all those people buying guns it really has an effect on people buying ammunition." "If you take 8.4 million gun purchasers and assume that they want one box with 50 rounds, it's going to come out to 420 million rounds.
According to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, there was an increase in gun sales. In 2010, 14.4 million background checks were performed for gun purchases. This number jumped to nearly 39.7million in 2020, and to 22.2million by June 2021.
Because multiple guns can be linked to one background check, the actual number of guns sold may be higher. Because ammunition is not regulated, and therefore no license is required to be sold, there is no data available.
The pandemic swept across the country in the early 2020s. Police response was cutbacks and lockdown orders created safety fears. This led to an "overwhelming need" for guns and ammunition, Oliva stated. He said that ammunition was still being produced by factories, but that sales were far higher than the shipping volume.
Ari Freilich, of the Gifford Center to Prevent Gun Violence, stated that "where there is an increase in instability, fear, and insecurity, people will buy guns."
Feilich stated that gun owners started stockpiling ammo as supplies began to decrease.
He said, "Early in the pandemic we saw people hoarding sanitary paper, disinfectant and now it's ammunition."
Wustenberg stressed the danger of first-time gun buyers being unable to practice with their guns.
He said that going to the gun range is more than just hitting a target. Shooters can learn basic skills such as pointing guns in a safe direction, keeping their fingers away from the trigger until they are ready to fire.
Wustenberg stated, "It's the old adage: Just as you bought a guitar doesn’t mean that you’re a guitarist." Some people believe that they can shoot a target from 5 yards and do just fine, so it's okay if someone breaks in to their house. But you have to practice.
According to Justine Barati (spokesperson for the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command), the U.S. military is not affected because the Army produces ammunition at six locations across the country for all branches.
The U.S. shooting team won four Olympic medals at Tokyo Olympics. However, the sponsors provided the ammunition needed to train, and membership and junior programs were struggling, stated Matt Suggs chief executive officer of USA Shooting.
The U.S. Biathlon Team, which is training for the 2022 Winter Olympics, has also been provided with ammunition by Lapua, a Finnish sponsor. Max Cobb, president, U.S. Biathlon Association, stated that local clubs are facing shortages.
Jason Vanderbrink is a vice president of Vista Outdoor, which has the Federal, CCI and Speer ammunition brands. He said that the companies ship ammo as quickly as possible.
He said, "I'm tired reading the misinformation online right now about our not trying to serve the demand that's being experienced," in a YouTube video aimed at dispelling speculation.
According to Panjiva Inc.'s independent analysis, imports of ammunition from Russia and South Korea, as well as the European Union, were up 225% in the past two-years. However, some U.S.-made ammunition is leaving the country.
According to Panjiva, Winchester has received 107 shipments in the past year. The majority of the shipments were to Australia as part of a contract Winchester had with NIOA (the country's largest supplier of small arms). Nigel Everingham is the chief operating officer of NIOA. He said he couldn't disclose how much ammunition Winchester supplies.
A few shipments were also sent to Israel and Belgium.
The majority of ammunition shown on Champion's Choice's website, a LaVergne gun store, Tennessee, is out of stock.
Kyle Hudgens, sales manager, stated that "We keep ammunition on order but don't know when it will be available." It puts us in a difficult position with our customers. They are asking about the deal.
Bryan Lookabaugh, Renton Fish & Game's skeet & trap range in Renton Washington -- where shooters attempt to hit discs flying at 35-70 mph -- stated that there is a limited supply and that some people couldn't take part in a recent competition because of this.
He said, "We haven't had a complete shipment in a whole year."
Duane Hendrix, range master at Seattle Police Athletic Association (a civilian and police gun range in Tukwila), Washington), said that he has now limited ammo sales to just two boxes per customer.
Hendrix stated, "I have never seen anything like this before." "There is a lot we don't have, especially rifle ammunition. It's not worth having your doors open if you don't have ammunition for your customers.