EDITORIAL: When will we have ammo again?

I was in Kansas this Christmas, hanging out with the in-laws, when Jacob (my right hand man for all things firearms related) sent me a text saying that I needed to buy up any available ammo. I thought about it for a while and then didn’t. I was too busy watching It’s a Wonderful Life again and again. What did I care?

Now I feel like a bit of a dolt. As a review writer, I use up a lot of lead. For some guns, like the Savage Model 42, my ammo use is minimal. Other guns end up getting a much more thorough workout. I put more than 1,000 rounds through the Springfield Armory TRP 1911 before we ran the review. I run through buckets of ball ammo, and boxes of the good stuff from companies like Hornady and Nosler.

And now I’m slated to do some reviews for which I no longer have ammunition. I’m almost out of .223. I’m precariously low on 7.62×39. I have enough miscellaneous left over left to fill some magazines, but nothing like what I will need to honestly evaluate the performance of any review gun.

Where did it go?

We bought it. I didn’t buy it; I wasn’t smart enough, but the shelves are empty, so someone bought it, so much of it in fact, ammunition seems to be gone from almost all of my traditional sources. So it still exists, but it seems no one I know is actually shooting any of it.

Walmart

I was standing shell shocked in the Walmart yesterday when the sales clerk passed by. “What’cha lookin’ for, honey?” She asked, but she didn’t wait for me to reply. “Something we don’t have?”

She knew the answer. They are still receiving ammunition shipments, every day, but they don’t ever know what calibers or quantities will come in.  Additionally there are people waiting at the store to buy whatever arrives in the morning. They do have some ammo on the shelves; if you are stocking up on 7mm, or .40 S&W, you are in luck. Or you can wait your turn with the other desperate shooters in the wee hours of the morning when the truck arrives. The going price for most .223 starts at $1.00 a round.

Rebel Sporting Goods in Keysville, Virginia

Rebel Sporting Goods

The local mom-and-pop in my neck of the woods (Keysville, Virginia) isn’t fairing much better. They’ve seen a big jump in their sales, like most everywhere else. They are out of .223, .308, 7.62, 9mm and .45 ACP. As of yesterday, they had some .357 in stock. And as far as I can tell, they haven’t jacked up any of their prices in response to the scarcity.

But they’ve sold boxes of ammo recently that have been sitting around in that store for a long time.

It helps to have one of these stores available, and to have a relationship with the staff. I’ve heard tales of people being tipped off about the arrival of ammunition, which would make things much easier. But Rebel doesn’t deal in bulk, so you’ll have to stockpile a box at a time.

The Lucky Gunner

Some online retailers are adjusting their prices based on real time economics. The web makes this easy and it is completely fair in my book.  Nothing beats the ease of price-per-round calculators.

But it can be hard to get answers to questions. I’ve called a lot of companies this week and gotten nothing. Some phones empty into endless queues or all of the representatives are busy…leave a message. Or nothing; the phones just ring.

While this lack of communication is frustrating, it is a logical business practice. Retailers have no control over production. They don’t want to make guesses that might be seen as guarantees, so almost every company has an official “no comment” protocol to certain inquiries.

Searching online seems to yield the most results these days though some websites are allowing shipping delays of up to three weeks on orders that are in stock now (.40 S&W).  Still, there are options.

Feeling Lucky?

Lucky Gunner has set up a live blog. As ammo is unloaded, the news gets posted. Some of the comments on the blog complain about the rise in prices, but everything available is selling out as fast as it is posted. So the prices must be right. Bulk .223 is selling for close to 75 cents a round.

What I’m seeing on the web seems consistent. At 75 cents a round, 1,000 round cases sell out immediately. At $1.00 a round, 1,000 round cases are still available (mostly antique linked ball ammo, with the occasional tracer thrown in for good measure).

The Other Option

If you just want to shoot, you can buy a really nice SKS and about 4,000 rounds of 7.62×54 for what you might spend on 1,000 rounds of .223 that you won’t want to shoot. But who am I kidding?

If you want any of the popular calibers, the truth is they are still available. Thousands of rounds. Right here and now. If you know where to look.

For me, it is VAGunTrader.com. The message boards and forums are full of people who have stockpiles that they bought cheap and are selling high. But be prepared to pay for it.

Conclusion

I’m staring into my crystal ball, trying hard to figure out what’s going to happen next. But the future is all cloudy. I think I see two possibilities.

The first is that some draconian legislation passes and rounds like .223 and 7.62×39 become even harder to find. But I think that is a long shot.

The second option is better for me. I’m banking on a typical supply/demand breakdown. Right now supply is low and demand has never been higher. But production hasn’t stopped, or even slowed. And it is likely increasing to meet the demand. This will tip the balance, eventually. The shelves will again fill up. The prices will plummet. And those of us who missed their chances in the last few weeks can get back to the range.

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