So you’re starting to notice that there seems to be a shortage on firearms and ammunition, and you’re wondering why. Well, in case you’ve had your head under a rock for the past few months, this is what’s happening. Let’s cover ammunition first because the ammo shortage is the perfect storm.
First, the United States has no more lead smelting plants. They were all shut down by 2014 due to increasingly strict pollution requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency. Because it would cost these plants too much to meet those requirements, they opted to close down instead.
That means all of our lead is coming from outside the country. China is now the leading lead producer, having mined and smelted more than 2 million metric tons last year (40 percent of the world supply). China also produces a huge share of the primers used in ammo production.
Now, throw in a major seller of pistol ammunition making the decision to quit that business. Yes, that would be Walmart. Now that selling weight comes down squarely on the shoulders of your local gun stores. We were ready for that. However, our distributors were not. Walmart was buying millions of dollars in ammunition, and our distributors were not ready to take that on. That created a backup of inventory.
And here comes COVID-19 and all the wonderful stuff that came with it. We have increased our tariffs on Chinese-produced goods, and where is our lead coming from? And then China shut down for a month because of COVID. Now we can’t get ammo I,n and what we do have coming in is really expensive because of tariffs. The wholesale price for a box of 9mm ammunition is more than we were retailing it for just 6 months ago.
Mix in a panic buy unseen in history, and the recipe is complete. Ammo is very hard to get. We spend two to three hours a day on the phones with our distributors trying to find ammunition, and most of them have said that it sounds like we have more on our shelves than they have in their warehouses.
This is why nobody has ammunition. We probably have a better stock than most, but that’s because we spend so much time trying to find it. I believe our days of cheap ammo are done. Unless companies move their plants to other countries or the Chinese tariffs are lowered, ammo is going to be expensive.
The gun shortage is much simpler: Manufacturers just can’t keep up. The panic buy that has been going on since March has just run everything out. Popular guns are very hard to get in stock right now. Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Springfield Armory and other makers are running at full capacity, but demand remains much higher than supply at the moment.
COVID isn’t helping either. Most of our distributors are running on skeleton crews to protect their employees and they’re doing it in the middle of the largest panic buy. That puts our distributors a couple weeks behind just to process orders. And with manufacturers not being able to keep up, it’s very hard to keep firearms in stock.
Normally, you should be able to walk into our store and purchase a popular handgun model. If it’s not in stock, we can usually have it here in a couple of days. Right now if we don’t have it, it’s probably going to take three to four weeks to get here — and that’s if our distributors have it in stock.
Some distributors are doing better than others. Some actually had some foresight and added personnel to handle the demand. I mean, you saw what people did with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. They’re doing the exact same thing with guns and ammo. Just like they do with gas and water every time we have a hurricane on the way.
We are officially a panic society. People like me who are prepared just sit back and laugh, shooting our guns and running our generators with really clean butts.
Capt. Cayle Wills is a salesman and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.