If there’s one question asked by both new and experienced shooters alike, it’s: “Where have all the bullets gone?” Theories abound as to what caused the ammo shortage, but the answer is quite simple. The same place they’ve always gone: to armed Americans.
Numerous factors compelled the panic buying we have seen for the last year or so. The pandemic has people scared. The dread of police abuse and the fear of Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters drive those on the left and right, respectively, to buy guns and ammo. Rumors that the government is buying up bullets just to make it harder for the rest of us and the constant media coverage of progressive politicians pushing for strict gun control keep the Second Amendment and the fragility of our liberty at the front of everyone’s minds. To make matters worse, production came to a halt for many manufacturers during the lockdowns of 2020. So, at a time when more Americans – of all political stripes – want to buy guns and ammunition than ever before, there just aren’t enough to go around.
But It’s the Government’s Fault!
Anytime there’s a shortage of ammo, rumors fly about the federal government buying in bulk to keep us all unarmed. Is the government buying up massive quantities? Yes, absolutely, just as it always has – but it doesn’t appear to be taking civilian rounds off the market. The ammunition manufacturers who supply government agencies – from U.S. marshals and the FBI to the EPA and IRS – use separate production lines for the most part and pump out rounds that are slightly different from what the average shooter picks up in the local gun store. As for what the military uses, the vast majority of that is produced in a government-owned plant in Missouri, which produces an estimated four million rounds a day.
Are the rumors of malicious market manipulation true? Well, it is possible, but if federal agencies are intentionally starving citizens of ammo, why aren’t they sharing with police departments, most of which receive federal tax funding? No, the government – for once – most likely isn’t the real problem here.
According to the FBI, nine million Americans became first-time gun owners in 2020. That’s more than twice the number of all military and federal law enforcement personnel combined. Now let’s say that just those nine million bought 50 rounds apiece. That’s 450 million rounds spent that didn’t go to government contracts or experienced shooters. Blame the government for shutting down production, sure – but the panic buying that keeps this shortage running isn’t all Big Brother’s fault. In fact, it isn’t really the new shooters who are to blame, either. This problem is the result of several things going wrong all at once – but one group of gun owners has had a bigger impact than any other: the hoarder.
Who’s Really Buying It All?
Do you have a gun store and pawnshop you check each day or even week, buying up anything they manage to stock that you can chamber in any firearm you own? Congratulations, you’re stocked up – now stop! You probably don’t have to worry about the shortage, and that’s great – but you’re the biggest reason, at this point, that there still is a shortage for everyone else.
For some popular calibers, like 5.56 and 9 mm, the backlog of orders already stretches out two years or more, according to Brett Flaugher, president of Winchester Ammunition. But the industry can catch up, if we let it. Now the primary issue is the people who have tens or even hundreds of thousands of rounds or more and are still buying every chance they get. In order to stay competent, gun owners need to fire their weapons on a regular basis. Everyone who shoots needs ammo – but no one needs more than they’re going to use. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with general stockpiling over time. If you built up a million-round stash over five or ten years, great! But those who are panic buying as much as they can right now are doing it backward. Remember: Buy it cheap, stack it deep. That has long been the mantra of prepared shooters – well before the current crisis.
The problem is all the people who freaked out when toilet paper got scarce started buying every bullet they could find, no matter the price or even if they had a gun in which to chamber it. It’s a free market, more or less – buy what you want. But remember, if you’re buying thousands of rounds a month when you only shoot a few hundred or even a few dozen in that time period – or even if you shoot 1,000 rounds a week, but you try to buy 10,000 – then you’re the reason the next guy can’t keep up his training regimen. For those too self-centered to care, look at it this way: If it all falls to pieces tomorrow, would you rather have a well-armed and well-trained neighbor or a stockpile of weapons and ammo that you would never survive long enough to exhaust?