There’s a national ammo shortage. Prices skyrocket, supply ain’t supplyin’, demand demands even more.

We’ll all remember 2020 for COVID-19, as well as the volatile presidential election. It was tough for all of us, and our collective resourcefulness and endurance were harshly tested.

Gun owners will also remember it as the year of one of the worst ammo shortages.

The additional paranoia that ensued immediately after the outburst of the pandemic triggered impulsive buying, and many still scramble to grab whichever ammo boxes they can get their hands on.

We talked to some gun enthusiasts, dealers, retailers, and we heard a lot of word-of-mouth rumors about this year’s ammunition situation, the reasons for the ammo shortage, and the foreseeable future. We didn’t like what we heard, and neither will you.


Hoarding Ammunition
Ammo Hoarding

Why Is There an Ammo Shortage?

Let’s cut to the chase. We won’t see any restocking or standard ammo prices any time soon.

I remember the 2019 Gun Show in Monroeville, PA, where you could find mountains of ammo boxes at the stands. Last year, they only had ammo for two tables. I also remember the 2008-2016 ammo shortage too, when Democratic President Barack Obama took office.

Now, we have desperate gun owners who are more than willing to drive for hours just to grab two boxes of .223 Remmington ammo.

Since the pandemic, there has been a surge in panic buying. Gun owners scrambled as every box of ammo went flying off the shelves. Handgun rounds, rifle rounds, .308 Winchesters, rimfire rounds…

What’s more, there are still cases where customers and retailers don’t respect the ‘two boxes per family’ rule.

The 2020 Ammo Shortage

In January 2020, you could see piles and piles of ammunition and firearms inventory. And somewhere around March – poof.

By December 2020, you got empty shelves and racks, and a lot of angry customers lining up at various gun stores.

It was an election year with threatened gun rights, along with a global pandemic event. Top that with rioting and civil unrest, and you get increasing demands for self-defense.

2020 was an absolute downward spiral. Supplies were scarce, regular hunting equipment was limited, and prices were soaring high, with many gun owners stockpiling ammo for guns they didn’t even have.

Still, that’s nothing compared to the shortage we’re dealing with today.

Looking at the Firearms Statistics

In November 2020, merely two months before President Biden took office, the FBI conducted 3 million background checks, the biggest number of background checks since 1998.

This unveiled that there was a drastic increase of 1 million gun purchases compared to 2019, in which a staggering 2 million guns were purchased by regular and new gun owners.

The report made it obvious that firearms demand has been rising at an unprecedented rate.

But What Is Causing This Massive Demand?

There are a lot of factors at play, but the final nail in the coffin could have easily been anxiety over government change, simply put.

The current state of affairs seems to be an unfortunate combination of the election of a Democratic president while the pandemic that stopped the world in its tracks is still raging. 

Most industry experts and stock market observers are not surprised.

Gun owners began stockpiling when the first COVID-19 cases appeared in the US. The frenzy continued twofold when President Joe Biden, a Democrat, was elected.

Jason Hornady, vice president of Hornady, says “I’ve seen this cycle six times during my career. First, it was the ’94 ban. Then it was Y2K. Then Hurricane Katrina, September 11th, the election of [Barack] Obama, and then Sandy Hook.”

Understanding the Ammo Hoarding Paranoia

Georgia State University law school professor Timothy Lytton, an expert on the US gun industry, also believes that the new gun and ammo sales are spurred by the volatile political climate and the coronavirus crisis.

“Some people are worried about the fact that government’s falling apart and won’t protect them, and other people are worried that the government is getting too strong and is going to limit their freedom.”

He adds, “Or in this case, it’s anxiety about the deterioration of government – or the growth of government.”

It’s not just the fears of social disorder, but the political climate over gun control, as well.

This creates the perfect storm, which results in dwindling supplies, jacked prices, and an overall supply/demand imbalance.

So, we have the combined, panic-driven hoarding caused by both the pandemic and the election, along with the manufacturers’ inability to keep up with demand.

Truly, a vicious cycle in which all gun owners are affected.

Newcomers Are Another Reason

With the lockdowns and safety regulations, more and more people have been turning to the great outdoors.

The NSSF reports a new massive influx of gun owners in 2020 who purchased their first guns, hunting/fishing supplies, and ammo.

This, unfortunately, coincided with the great ammo shortage of 2020. Keep in mind that over 20 million firearms were sold in 2020, and the previous annual record was around 15 million in 2016, and over 8 million of those purchases were first-time buyers.

On one hand, manufacturers and retailers are delighted to hear about the massive demand for firearms, and on the other, they are forced to double down on production.

The industry desperately braced for every scenario possible and was bled dry with significant drops in material supply.

Manufacturing During the Ammo Shortage

When the crisis started out, overseas manufacturing operations had to follow strict lockdown measures, which halved primer and raw material production. After COVID-19 hit American shores, it got even worse.

A Gun Shack manager in Helotes, Wolf Laughlin, believes that the ammo shortage began right after the pandemic announcement last year, as guns and ammunition factories and mines were ordered to shut-down and reduce ammo production and manufacturing.

“All of the mines being closed means that you have less raw materials, less raw materials mean less components. Less components means less ammunition. And, again, as your supply goes down, your demand goes up,” states Laughlin.

Small ammo companies are unable to secure materials and components, suppliers scavenge brass and primers, Hornady scrambling to find boxes and packing tape… Primers and cartridges for 9mm and 5.56 NATO are the most sought after, and the manufacturers have a hard time utilizing all their manpower and machines to keep up with the demand.

However, it seems that firearms manufacturers haven’t exactly reached a consensus regarding this issue.

According to firearms manufacturer Hornady, despite the disruptions, American firearms and ammo manufacturing hasn’t slowed down. It’s actually on the rise.

The Marketing Director for Hornady stated, “There’s more ammo being made for the consumer market right now than, presumably, has ever been made in history. We are putting out more than we ever had. And I am positive that all of our colleagues in this industry are doing the same thing.”

The company president of Federal Premium agrees, “We are running our CCI/Speer and Federal factories 24/7 and shipping products for commercial distribution every day.”

How Can People Purchase Ammo?

No use going to the store just to be disappointed, right? We strongly suggest you keep an eye on the online stores and look for deals that are in stock.

We advise that you purchase only as much as you need instead of hoarding. If you aren’t sure where to start looking, check out these two guides for the best places to buy guns and ammo online.

There are many retailers and online stores that offer great deals for 9mm, .45 ACP, Federal, .223 Rem., 12-gauge buckshot, and AR-15 magazines.

When Will the Ammo Shortage End? What Can We Do?

Experts have held off making any exact predictions, but most agree that there are no indicators the ammo shortage will be stopping any time soon.

In the meantime, is there anything gun lovers can do?

We can practice buying with moderation, refrain from spreading misinformation and panic, and maybe even try taking matters into our hands by reloading, as some resourceful folks are already doing.

Additionally, branching out to new ammo types and calibers could do a lot for certain gun owners, and if you were thinking about buying firearms in .450 Bushmaster and 7mm Remmington, you’d do well to take that lucky shot right now.

This guest post is brought to you by our friend Brady Kirkpatrick *

Brady is the owner of GunMade.com. He is from Omaha, Nebraska and has been an avid gun enthusiast ever since he moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It’s his passion to share his knowledge and expertise whether he is writing about purchasing your first firearm, shooting at the range, hunting, or any other related sports.

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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