Great Primer Shortage of 2020

Great Primer Shortage of 2020

It’s no secret that the demand for firearms and ammunition has reached record levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest in cities around the United States, and the prospect of an anti-gun president on the horizon. As with previous surges in ammunition sales, primers are the current weak link in the supply chain. After interviewing several manufacturers, Guns & Ammo has learned that the lack of primer supply is a part of what’s preventing ammunition makers from meeting this unprecedented demand.

We have seen shortages before. When the semi-auto ban was passed in 1994, there was a shortage. In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president and again in 2012 through 2013 during the aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook School shooting. According to various sources, manufacturers are confirming to us that we are in the midst of the greatest primer shortage of all time.

Bullets are relatively simple to produce. Brass cases can be reused and powder is still plentiful. Hence, primer production is the bottleneck in ammunition production process. Though there are dozens of major and minor ammunition manufacturers in the U.S., only four domestic manufacturers produce primers: Federal, CCI, Remington and Winchester. Those four firms feed the entire primer supply including ammunition sold to the military and law enforcement. Millions upon millions of primers are produced every year by these companies.

Great Primer Shortage of 2020

Like any product, primer manufacturing is designed to meet the average demand. Just as we saw with toilet paper, when individuals begin hoarding, supply dries-up quickly. When customers who ordinarily purchases 100 rounds of 9mm practice ammunition per year suddenly begin buying several thousand rounds at a time, there is no way for production to keep up with that the effects of that demand. Many warehouses that suffered through the “Trump slump” in sales have been wiped out.


Internationally, primers are manufactured by several firms in different parts of the world. Armscor in the Philippines, for example, Sellier & Bellot in the Czech Republic, Fiocchi in Italy and JSC in Russia are some of the more prominent companies. An industry insider told G&A that several million primers are currently en route from Europe to the U.S. by way of ship, which may help meet at least some of the demand for loaded ammunition. Still, those primers need to arrive, be offloaded, clear customs and then be distributed to the various manufacturers who can use them to produce ammunition. This will take time. 


Primer manufacturers are working hard to feed the market. “We continue to operate at full capacity and are committed to meeting the current strong demand for ammunition and primers.” Federal representatives told G&A. Remington is also working overtime: “We are producing at record levels to attempt to satisfy the unprecedented demand for primers in support of the hand loading consumer, our own loaded rounds, and our industry partners loaded rounds.”

In the meantime, customers shopping for ammo are likely to see “sold out,” “product temporarily unavailable” or “out of stock” in stores and on the websites of popular online retailers. Gun store ammunition shelves have been emptied of common cartridges such as .380 ACP, 9mm, 5.56 NATO/.223 and .45 ACP. Ammunition that was available by the pallet load in January is all but unobtainable today. Customers are scrambling for product, so retailers are getting creative.

Great Primer Shortage of 2020

One company in particular has come up with an innovative solution to the current shortage. Nevada-based Super Vel Ammunition came up with a Bring Your Own Primer (BYOP) program where customers who are able to find primers at retailers such as Brownells or Midway USA can have them shipped to the company’s location where they will be used to load factory ammunition for you. Super Vel told G&A that more than 500,000 primers have been shipped by customers in just a few days.

COVID-19, rioting on urban streets and a historic election have created a perfect storm for firearm and ammunition sales. Don’t expect the demand for ammunition and components to wane anytime soon. If popular polls are correct and Joe Biden is elected to be the next president in November, the real prospect of anti-gun legislation is likely to create even more demand yet. Hang on, folks.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H

Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .375 H&H are almost complete opposites, or are they? The 6.5 Creedmoor is a newer and popular cartridge that transcends long-range precision rifle shooting and hunting big game. The .375 H&H is more than a century old, but still a popular and versatile choice for hunting big and dangerous game. For this shoot, Pro Tom Beckstrand, former U.S. Army Special Operations officer and sniper team leader, faces off against Guns & Ammo TV cameraman Ben LaLonde in a challenge that highlights the differences between these two cartridges.

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

How much of an edge do optics give shooters? In this segment of Pros vs. Joes, Guns & Ammo TV puts Coordinating Producer Jeff Murray against Professional Shooter Chris Cerino.

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

In this Guns & Ammo TV segment, Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr discuss the benefits of airsoft training for uniformed professionals and armed citizens alike.

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range to wring out the Umarex Air Ruger 10/22.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick Sweeney compare the visibility of red and green lasers in outdoor, sunny conditions. Accessories

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 24, 2020

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick...

How-To

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington. Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

Some guns are easier to work with than others, but the Ruger American Rifle doesn't require an engineering degree to tinker with; here's a look at some upgrade options to take your Ruger American to the next level, and make it something a bit different. Accessories

Top Ruger American Rifle Upgrades

Philip Massaro - March 15, 2018

Some guns are easier to work with than others, but the Ruger American Rifle doesn't require an...

See More Trending Articles

More News

New York Attorney General sues the National Rifle Association. Industry

More Trouble for NRA

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 06, 2020

New York Attorney General sues the National Rifle Association.

True Velocity officials confirmed recently that the Texas-based technology company delivered more than 170,000 rounds of its 6.8mm TVCM lightweight ammunition to the U.S. Army in May as part of the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program. Military & Law Enforcement

True Velocity Delivers 'Next Gen' 6.8mm Ammo to U.S. Army

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 05, 2020

True Velocity officials confirmed recently that the Texas-based technology company delivered...

Guns & Ammo goes on location at Independent Studio Services (ISS) to examine the guns used by actor Chris Hemsworth as “Captain Mitch Nelson” ODA 595's commander, in the movie “12 Strong” (2018). The film was based on Doug Stanton's non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers,” which told the story of U.S. Army Special Forces sent to Afghanistan following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Industry

Guns & Ammo TV: Guns of '12 Strong'

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 07, 2020

Guns & Ammo goes on location at Independent Studio Services (ISS) to examine the guns used by...

Taurus announced Shooting Team Captain Jessie Harrison captured a big win at the recent USPSA Area 3 Championship held August 2 in Grand Island, Nebraska. Industry

Taurus Shooting Team Captain Jessie Harrison Wins at USPSA

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 07, 2020

Taurus announced Shooting Team Captain Jessie Harrison captured a big win at the recent USPSA...

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now