No matter who you are or how well connected, there's one unifying truth about the ammo shortage of 2013 — it's no respecter of persons.
That much was obvious at the recent NRA Show in Houston, where everyone from law enforcement officials to industry personnel — all the way down to your average man on the street — noted the incredible difficulty of procuring ammunition over the last few months. As Chad, an NRA member from Austin, Texas, said, you know times are rough when .22 ammo is missing from shelves.
"You can't find .22 ammo anywhere," Chad said. "I found a 525-round box at Academy [Sports & Outdoors] and thought I hit the lottery. That's the first time I've seen it in probably six months."
Like Chad, many NRA members have dealt with the ammo shortage by implementing a strategy of persistence — they simply keep checking back with their local sporting good outlet, gun shop or feed store, hoping to catch the latest shipment as it hits the shelves. For the people who claimed to have at least limited success finding ammo, this was undoubtedly the most common tactic.
Others, like Houston natives Ronald and Gale, said they've simply cut back on range time.
"It's kept us off the range as much as we'd like to go," Ronald said. "I'm afraid it's going to put some of our good ranges — some mom and pop operations — out of business. Personally, this was coming for a long time. I've got enough to fend off a good attack, should I say. But like most good Boy Scouts, be prepared."
As Ronald pointed out, there's more than one way to deal with the shortage. You can either scavenge whatever is available when it's available, you can stay away from the range or you can do both. The anecdotal evidence from NRA members at the show seems to point in this direction — gun owners are not only scraping together whatever ammo they can find, they're also keeping more of it boxed up at home.
"Ammo is so hard to get, most of the people I know, when you do get it you don't go to the range," said Scott of Lufkin, Texas. "People that go to the range on a regular basis just aren't going because you can't afford to shoot the ammo and then not be able to replace it."
Supply and Demand
The obvious question many people are asking is why the shortage happened in the first place. The answers aren't always so obvious, but it starts with the political climate and the ongoing threat of anti-gun legislation. That threat — especially when it comes from the government — fuels an increase in demand for the buyer, who grabs and stashes as much ammo as he can.
Add an Associated Press report from Feb. 15 stating the Department of Homeland Security wants to buy up 1.6 billion rounds of ammo in the next few years — plus an ongoing discussion about it by the conspiracy theorists in the blogosphere — and you've got a veritable run on the market. Groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the NRA, meanwhile, have called a government attempt to stockpile ammunition a farce, attributing shortages to a simple increase in demand driven by anti-gun politics. Either way, demand skyrockets.
Manufacturers like Hornady, which gets questioned all the time about why it doesn't just amp up production, said it's just not that simple.
"We've been steadily growing our production for a long time, especially the last five years," Hornady said on its website. "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."
The Silver Lining
There is a silver lining in all of this, though. First, a good portion of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 was unceremoniously shot down on the Senate floor in the middle of April. With Feinstein's incendiary measures out of the way, there's at least some hope tensions will die down. With less for gun owners to fear, the expectation is for demand to settle down and production to play catch up. Many industry officials at the NRA show were at least optimistic about such a possibility, though nothing will likely change in the immediate future.
The ammo shortage has also caused a drastic increase in laser training sales, according to Aaron Moore, vice president and director of operations at LaserLyte.
"We've sold a whole lot more laser trainers," Moore said. "We've been up about 700 percent in sales over last year."
Adaptation may just be the key message for gun owners in America. It's a different world than even a year ago, which means persistent shopping around and utilizing alternative methods of training are plausible options for many. It also means there's never been a time to stand and defend your rights as an American and as a gun owner like the present. It's a constant reminder of how quickly our precious freedoms can disappear if we don't stand vigilant.