Run on guns, ammo could affect hunters this fall

With hunting seasons approaching ammunition, including some hunting loads, are in short supply. New gun buyers and panicking buying have created the shortages.

With a year like this one you have to look ahead. If you look back all you see in the rearview mirror is a train wreck.

Hoping things are going to be better I am jumping ahead to the fall hunting season. There is no doubt it will not be like it was a year ago, but hopefully, by then things will have improved over the first six months of 2020.

If you have walked into a sporting goods store any time in recent weeks you have noticed empty shelves. Fishing baits are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Ammunition is non-existent or like hand sanitizer, limited to one item per customer.

When it comes to ammo I get it in some instances because it has become commonplace in recent years for people to stockpile self-defense caliber ammo around elections and periods of insecurity. This time it is nearly everything. Pistol, rifle and shotgun ammunition. It is all gone from stores and websites.

What I do not understand is the disappearance of shotgun loads intended for hunting. I have been looking high and low for shotgun shells for dove season and nothing. Ok, I sort of understand the more common ammo, like 20 gauge being gone, but not the less sought-after 28 gauge.

According to industry officials it turns out ammunition, all kinds of it, has become toilet paper-like in that some are buying it because of need, some are stockpiling out of fear and others are buying because everyone else is buying.

“I talked to some folks on the ammo side recently and I think what is happening is that there is such an increase in the sales of guns. There were 2.3 million (adjusted for gun sales NICS background) checks in March, 1.7 million in April and 1.6 million in May. All were record setting. The 2.3 million was a record for any month since they started doing checks. Along with that we are seeing ammo spikes,” said Mark Oliva, director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Oliva said NSSF surveys indicate that about 43 percent of gun buyers during that three-month period were first time buyers who naturally need ammunition.

And that set off a domino effect.

Take the ammunition bought by the new gun buyers, then add the purchases of those who regularly shoot or were just low and supplies began to get scarce. Then walks in you and me, looking for some practice rounds or starting to look ahead to hunting seasons, and suddenly we start panicking at the low supplies and we buy whether we need it or not.

“I think a lot of it has to do with people seeing ammo being bought up so they are buying,” Oliva said. He added that again going to survey results a lot of the purchases are supposedly geared toward self-defense, but there are crossovers.

“Take a shotgun. Is it a self-defense? No, but it can it be used for it,” Oliva said.

However, he added that pistol sales are two to one over shotguns, which again points to the run on ammo.

Oliva said he had not heard of any of the manufacturers having to shut down because of Covid-19 outbreaks. Instead some are running double shifts to meet demand.

Unlike items like fishing tackle and even paint brushes there is not a supply chain issue caused by politics. Many of the items that are in short supply in stores now come from China. While some ammo is imported into the U.S. it is not from China. Nor are components for making shells. That at least alleviates that potential problem going forward.

That leaves only manufacturers being able to keep up with the run on the market. If there is a wrench in that, it might be the recent announcement by Remington’s owners that the company was filing bankruptcy and would be sold possibly to the Navajo Nation.

Oliva said he expects shelves to be restocked soon, but to what degree he is uncertain especially with elections coming up and other political issues simmering around the country.

Another question seems to be at what price. Buyers are already seeing retail prices inching up, and it could get worse come hunting season.

All I know is for now when I find 20- or 28-gauge shells I am a buyer. Plan B, does anyone know of any good deals on a 24-gauge?