2020 Ammo Shortage, ammo famine
Photo by Alex Landeen
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They say that history repeats itself. But we’ve had four ammo shortages in the last dozen years and that’s a bit much. Even worse, two of the shortages lasted close to two years. As I write this, there is a world-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that created what will likely be known as the 2020 ammo shortage. Ammo demand is so high that stores are limiting the amount customers can buy. Dealers aren’t happy about rationing. While they realize that customers who go home empty-handed might never come back, they also know it’s hard to sell guns when you can’t provide ammo for them.

The 2020 Ammo Shortage

Until 2008, there hadn’t been a major national ammo shortage since the end of WWII. However, all that changed as the “national conversation” about guns started heating up. So it’s no surprise that these ammo famines occurred shortly before or after national elections. Of course the current COVID-19 pandemic and resulting downturn in our economy played a big role in generating the current demand. So what can people do to be sure that they have enough ammunition to maintain their shooting skills and still have a reasonable supply for personal protection?

Planning Ahead

First of all, we have to realize that some people will always get caught short-handed in a crisis; that’s because while most of us hope for the best, far fewer even consider preparing for the worst. Prepping is essential. So stock up when ammo prices are low. If a local gun store doesn’t have what you need, there are websites like Gunbuyer.com, luckygunner.com, Ammoman.com, and many others to buy from.

Also, remember that manufacturing ammo is a business. Ammo makers must continually work to keep their costs low, prices reasonable, and skilled workers on the payroll. Therefore, they normally have some excess capacity on their production lines to handle seasonal increases in demand. However, they can’t afford to maintain huge inventories. If they produce more product than the market can consume in normal times, ammo prices drop below production costs; that leaves manufacturers stuck with excess inventory. Eventually, they’ll be squeezed out of business.

How Much Ammo?

How much ammunition should you keep on hand? Before answering that question, ask yourself how much ammo you need to protect yourself under the two most likely scenarios. Those scenarios are sheltering in place and relocating to a safer location if staying home becomes untenable. Do you stay put or bug out?

If sheltering in place, most of us would choose a semi-auto centerfire rifle or a shotgun, along with a centerfire pistol or revolver. Under those circumstances, 300 rounds is a good starting number to have on hand for each primary defensive firearm. That means every time you practice, you should replace the ammunition used with new fresh ammo; that way you won’t be unprepared if there’s a sudden increase in demand. If there’s more than one household member with a gun, then this would apply to each primary defensive gun used by each person.

Bugging Out

Relocating is a very different story. You have to go light when you “bug out,” especially if there are blocked roads are blocked and you must evacuate on foot. In that case, your backpacks should have food, water, medicine, first aid gear, communications equipment, compasses, a bedroll, etc. So does the average person really have the ability to carry half-a-dozen 30-round mags for an AR and several high-caps for a 9mm handgun?

The standard Army kit weighs about 80 pounds. Most people—especially those who are older or unwell—won’t be able to carry nearly that much. Therefore, any person who lacks strength or has an illness may be best served by a rifle and handgun chambered in .22 LR. Approximately 200 rounds .22 weigh less than a 2 pounds. It can also keep both rifles and handguns shooting. Meanwhile, 100 rounds of 9mm weighs 2.5 pounds. Sure, a .22 isn’t as powerful as gun chambered in 9mm or .223 Rem., but in a situation where antibiotics are hard to get and where it may be a five-mile hike to a hospital, .22 can still be a powerful deterrent.

What About Today?

Right now ammo is in short supply. Stores and distributors are running out of product. However, as of March 27, large local gun stores like the Florida Gun Exchange and some large sporting goods chains still had some ammo for sale in a number of calibers. In addition, I still get emails from Internet dealers saying they have some ammunition remaining in stock. So call around and/or search online. Your favorite loads may not be available right now, but you may be able to get something you can shoot in your guns while we all wait for the situation to return to normal. We’ll survive the 2020 ammo shortage together.

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