Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in outdoor and travel markets. A former small-town newspaper editor and reporter, she constantly hunts for news headlines you need to read. Barbara also publishes Women’s Outdoor News online and pens columns for the National Wild Turkey Federation and Shooting Sports USA. Hailing from the Ozarks of Missouri, this avid hunter is now mentoring the second generation of hunters - her own little bevy of Realtree-wearing grandchildren.
Ammo Shortage: Simple Demand, Corporate Greed or Government Conspiracy?
It should be easy to figure out why shelves at local gun stores do not have ammunition.
At first glance, the reason for the shortage appears apparent, especially when you see that the National Shooting Sports Association (NSSF)-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) increased by 94.4 percent in January, compared to last January’s numbers. That means in January 2012, the adjusted NICS rate was 920,840 and in January 2013, it was 1,790,154. Many people speculate that this administration’s policies are driving people to stockpile guns and ammunition, in fear that they will not be able to buy these items in the near future.
Is this the only reason, though? Some people don't think so. So let's look at some of the rumors and facts regarding greed and conspiracy.
It’s a conspiracy by the ammunition companies!
We’ve all heard that the reason for the shortage might be because ammunition companies are greedy, corporate machines. They must be stockpiling that ammo in the backroom, just waiting for prices to go up, up, up.
Hornady recently published “A Word on Availability” at its website. It answers the questions that corporate conspiracy theorists have been asking.
Question: Have you stopped production or has the government forced you to stop?
Answer: Not at all.
Question: Did you stop selling bullets so you could only make loaded ammunition?
Answer: Absolutely not.
Question: Why can’t you make more? Ramp up production? Turn on all the machines?
Answer: We’ve been steadily growing our production for a long time, especially the last five years. We’ve added presses, lathes, CNC equipment, people and space. Many popular items are produced 24 hours a day. Several hundred Hornady employees work overtime every week to produce as much as safely possible. If there is any question about that – please take a tour of the factory. You’ll be amazed at what you see.
On Feb. 20, Winchester posted this statement on its website: Like many manufacturers in the shooting sports industry, we are experiencing an extremely high demand for our products. We are working as hard as we can to produce an increased supply of quality ammunition to meet our customers’ needs. We appreciate your patience and like always, thank you for choosing Winchester.
ATK: Federal Premium Ammunition
Here’s ATK’s official response to why it, too, has a supply shortage: “ATK, has achieved its market leadership position in the ammunition industry by delivering innovation and quality. We continue to work seven days a week, making multiple daily shipments to meet the current demand and deliver quality products to our customers.”
You may read the company’s FAQ webpage regarding ammunition questions.
I talked to two representatives at major ammunition companies and they referred me to the companies' statements listed above. I also reached out to Scott Blick, at Ammunition Depot, and asked him point blank if he was hoarding ammo. He answered, "I would love to help, but I'm clueless with what's going on right now. All I know is that I come home every night exhausted, and covered in packing peanuts."
So, if we are to trust what the ammunition companies are telling us, they are trying to keep up with orders. It's not easy to add more high-end machinery to these businesses, either. Would it be prudent or feasible for these ammunition firms to tool up to meet the current demand, when they believe it is a reaction to the political climate? Also, how long does it take to make this type of machinery? It's not like these companies are going to order over-the-counter reloading presses.
And then, there’s this conspiracy theory regarding the government:
Andrew Malcom wrote at Investors.com, "Why Are the Feds Loading Up on So Much Ammo?" He asked why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently placed an order for 21.6 million rounds. He also questioned why the Social Security Administration purchased several million rounds, claiming it was for special agents’ quarterly weapons qualifications. He also wrote, "To provide some perspective, experts estimate that at the peak of the Iraq war American troops were firing around 5.5 million rounds per month. At that rate, DHS is armed now for a 24-year Iraq war."
At “The Examiner,” writer Ryan Keller reported that the DHS has stockpiled 1.6 billion bullets in .40 caliber and 9 mm. What really has me wanting to add the foil, though, is Keller's assertion that the DHS redacted information pertaining to acquisitions of .223 caliber rounds last summer. I had to look that word up, but redacted means censored or obscured the information, usually done by Congress in regard to national security.
So, what is the real reason for the rush on ammunition? The answer, it seems, isn't so clear-cut. What do you think?