Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do years of ammo shortages loom ahead?

Noting there's been little to no substantial analysis in the media, my friend Don Dickinson takes a stab at calculating how long some of our current ammunition shortages may last:

I do not think I am on the same page with most of you as to what is going on with the ammo shortage. I am going to do a bit of back of the envelope quality math to try to clear things up. I am using .22 as an example because it is the most extreme shortage and we have some facts about supply.  
Many ammo shelves remain empty
A documentary on ammo maker CCI (available on YouTube in parts one and two) said they produce 4,000,000 rounds a day. Other big .22 producers include Federal, Remington and Winchester so call it 16,000,000 per day. Yes, there are other companies but I believe CCI is largest or near largest supplier so the average is certainly in the ball park.  
Assume a five day week to account for maintenance and we get 80,000,000 per week. 
Assume a 50 work week year and we get 4,000,000,000 per year.  
Assume that was the equilibrium level of production to keep the supply chain full and supply the new demand in terms of rounds fired. In other words, the users were firing 4,000,000,000 rounds per year before the unpleasantness and all was in balance.  
Assume 100,000,000 .22 owners (probably conservative) and that means the average user was consuming 40 rounds per year. Assume 2,000,000,000 rounds in the supply chain and 2,000,000,000 in the hands of the gun owners.  
If the average user, due to his recent “awakening,” decided to buy one extra box of 50 rounds (probably conservative), that would increase the annual demand to 90 rounds per .22 owner or 9,000,000,000 rounds per year.  
That kind of demand would take down the 2,000,000,000 rounds in the supply chain in a few weeks which is what we observed.  
It would also leave a 7,000,000,000 unfilled demand.  
If this math is even approximately right, it will take the ammo makers almost two full years to catch up with present demand.  
They have probably increased production you say? Yes, and demand has probably far outstripped my very conservative numbers.  
The part of the 100,000,000 .22 owners who had small amounts of ammo and shot a few times a year probably decided to dust ole Betsy off and do some refamiliarization. Those who had little or no ammo and had not shot in years probably decided to buy some ammo and do the same. By the time the people who generally had a little ammo were done practicing and went to buy more, they discovered that the new buyers had already cleaned out the stocks.  
The experience of not having enough ammo has been very disquieting to lots of .22 owners. Let us quite conservatively (I think from some field observations) assume that the new standard for having some ammo on hand is 500 rounds. That demand would add to the 90 rounds already developed so that the new demand for usage and to stock up is 590,000,000,000 rounds.  
At 4,000,000,000 per year and without increasing production it will take a little over 147 years for the ammo companies to catch up.  
Obviously something is going to give in supply or demand long before that much time but my point is made, do not look for the .22 shortage to get over any time soon.  
Tell me where I am wrong.


  1. Your math scares me. I hope that it really doesn't take that long to catch up to the demand, my Ruger 22/45 can't wait that long.

  2. I usually have between 4000-5000 rounds on hand. I have bought ammo on sale over the past 10 years for as little as $6.95 per brick of 400 rounds of Remingtion HP. Those days are long over.
    In the past I have shot several thousand rounds per Spring vermin season on Western ranches, that won't be happening as much until supply improves.

  3. I think the estimate of 100M .22 owners is way over the mark. There probably aren't 100M total gun owners in the U.S., much less 100M individual owners of .22s. Even assuming that there are 100M working .22s in circulation, many gun owners own more than one model of that caliber. Personally, I own two rifles and two pistols in .22, and that's not uncommon. There are many others who might own a single .22 that haven't shot it in years, and don't plan to. There's no way to really know how many people own an individual caliber, but as with any perceived shortage, there's a lot of hording and speculative buying. As with any demand bubble, the price goes up along with profit potential, existing manufacturers expand production, and new players will seek to enter the market. Once enough people finally realize that (1) Obama isn't coming for their .22s, and (2) they have enough ammo to last for the next several years, the demand bubble will burst and the market will return to a more normal state. This will take months, not years.

  4. hhm... 2014 and still no 22 ammo at walmat in my city.