Gun owners increase in number, ammo supply decreases

·4 min read

Mar. 7—Annie may have gotten her gun but she's probably out of bullets, thanks to a nationwide ammo shortage.

That's what Allen Howell and his wife, Megan, from Pell City discovered in Anniston Saturday as they shopped for ammo at Shotgun Sports and Outdoors on U.S. 431.

The same as many other gun owners in the area, Howell is beating the bushes for boxes of bullets to accompany the couple's firearms.

"I don't like it," Howell said, who described himself as a lifelong gun owner. He was looking for 9mm, .40 cal. and .45 cal. ammo and his wife was looking for .40 cal.

"I love to shoot," Megan said.

Opinions vary on what the smoking gun is for the shortage, but Richard Patty, the owner of Shotgun Sports, said there have been more than 1.7 million new gun owners since December of last year, which has created the shortage.

"Factories can't keep up, they're making just as much ammo as they have but they can't keep up," said Patty.

Patty attributes the current situation to one of the most basic principles in economics.

"The only reason there is shortage is because of supply and demand," he said.

The store was crowded with customers but the ammo shelves were almost empty.

"We get in ammo in every single day but it sells out every single day," Patty said, naming the 9mm and the .22 long rifle as the top two bullets that customers demand.

Another reason for the shortage, according to Patty, is that gun maker Remington went out of business last year.

"Remington probably made 48 percent of the actual United States ammo so that's half of our supply plus all the gun buying, that's the only reason there's a shortage," said Patty. "It's not really as much panic buying as it is new gun owners, it creates a panic when there are none on the shelves."

"Right now there is nothing to be had," said Patty.

Patty said that Federal bought out Remington and production of ammo should commence soon at the shuttered Remington plant. Patty estimates that the supply of ammo should fill out by year's end.

Heflin police Chief Ross McGlaughn said the ammo shortage began at the beginning of 2020.

"You had several things going on, you had the civil unrest due to some of the larger criminal cases going on with George Floyd ... COVID had hit, people were scared about whether or not we were going to get anything, food, supplies," McGlaughn said.

McGlaughn said that anarchist groups started springing up along with election concerns which increased gun sales dramatically.

"Everybody bought a new gun and they wanted some bullets to go with it — it overwhelmed them and depleted the market," said McGlaughn.

"It's not just the bullets themselves, it's the components, the brass casings, the primers, the powders, the actual projectiles, each company has to make each one of those things," he said.

McGlaughn said only two companies make primers for the bullets in the U.S., Federal and CCI. (A primer ignites the propellant powder in a given cartridge.) According to McGlaughn, those companies' primers, which are usually sold to other ammo manufacturers, are going to their own products right now.

"They don't have any excess to sell to other ammunition manufacturers," he said.

McGlaughn buys the ammo for the police department and he said it's getting tougher to find it for the officers required training.

"We have guidelines set forth by the State as far as what we have to do with firearms qualifications as a police department...we have to qualify once a year to just show proficiency with a weapon," said McGlaughn.

McGlaughn, who attends area gun shows, said the prices he has seen reflect the current battle of supply and demand.

"Prices are crazy on loaded ammo, all across the board," he said.

McGlaughn singled out the .22 long rifle ammo as an example.

"It's a common caliber, everyone's got one, kids can shoot them, generally you can buy a brick of 500-1000 for $12 to $15 bucks, I saw them at gun shows for $200 for 500," said McGlaughn.

"People in the gun community, they'll post on Facebook when someone has a shipment and that store is pretty much flooded," he said.

Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.