While some ammunition is starting to show up in stores and online, shortages are expected to impact hunters this season and possibly next year.

For the second year in a row, the lead up to fall hunting seasons is starting with pre-season hunts for ammunition.

Store shelves that used to overflow with ammo this time of year remain as bare as the pegs holding fishing lures. Online dealers’ pages for almost any caliber or gauge continue to read out-of-stock.

It has been an ongoing problem caused by COVID-19. In the past year it impacted production initially with forced shutdowns, then lost employee time due to illness, and has continued to be impacted by supply chain issues primarily getting components into factories, but also getting products shipped to retailer.

It is a problem that hunters may face ongoing in part because of a growing interest in firearms ownership for a variety of reasons and because of panic buying.

“Ammunition manufacturers are still warning that supplies are going to be challenging for the next one to two years because of the market demand. We’ve had over 9.8 million background checks for gun sales this year. That’s on top of the 21 million we had last year, so we’re tracking for another year of unusually high gun sales. Along with that goes ammunition sales,” explained Mark Oliva, director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

To put new gun sales in perspective, if everyone bought just 50 rounds of ammo for those guns it accounts for a staggering 490 million rounds since Jan. 1.

Along with that demand, hunting license sales were up about 6% in Texas last year and climbed even higher in other states as many Americans with free time spent it outdoors. Add the regular demand from hunters, competition shooters, target shooters and those who feel the need to stockpile, and it is easy to see why manufacturers are having trouble catching up.

“The good thing is that since this all started, Remington Ammunition has come back on line. Remington’s president, Jason Vanderbrink, just released another video reassuring the customers that the plant is working around the clock, each day of the week to meet customer demand,” Oliva said. Vanderbrink is president of Vista Outdoors Ammunitions Division, which bought parts of Remington’s ammunition business out of bankruptcy last year.

He added Sig Sauer has also announced it is expanding production, which will also have an effect for non-hunting calibers.

“All manufacturers are producing more ammunition now than they ever have. Manufacturers are reassuring us and their customers that the ammunition made today is boxed and put on a truck to go out the door tomorrow. It’s not being held back and it’s not sitting in a warehouse. They’re getting it out to the store shelves as quickly as possible,” Oliva said.

Oliva said he has personally seen an improvement in supply where he shops.

“I know at my local retailer I’m starting to see the common handgun and rifle calibers start to show back up. That includes the hunting calibers. I was recently able to find and purchase my preferred .30-06 ammunition for my deer season this year and likely for next season. I had to wait nearly a year for that particular ammunition to show up as available on the website I purchased it from,” he noted.

In other cases he has had to settle for different brands than he would normally buy for the specific caliber rounds.

“As far as hunting loads for bird hunting, I was able to see some boxes of shotgun ammunition hitting the shelves near me. Those were mostly loads for dove and teal, telling me the manufacturers are working to make sure they’re meeting the demand as the hunting seasons roll through,” Oliva added.

As September’s dove and teal seasons along with November’s deer and duck seasons near, there will still be uncertainty. What hunters can be sure of is that prices will be higher than last year, and last year was higher than the year before.

“The ammunition issue will be with us for some time. Costs are higher than they were before the pandemic and increased market demand, but that’s largely the free market at work. The laws of supply and demand are dictating those prices and right now, demand is still outpacing the supply,” Oliva said.

For now, hunters need to start shopping, and if things like cost, brand and load specifics are an issue, cast a wide net. That could mean not only talking with local gun shop owners, but regularly shopping the internet.

“The ammunition is out there. It is just going to take a little more resourcefulness than checking with the local gun shop to find what you need. Spend some time on the internet and check the ammunition sellers. Make sure they’re reputable and do some price comparison,” Oliva said.


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