Saturday, February 9, 2013

Taking stock of ammo inventories

If this was a typical run on ammo, I thought we'd be seeing it ease by now.

We're now nearly two months into this episode of short inventories. But a walk through some retailers and some checks online indicate the American ammo shortage may be getting worse, not lessening.

A mix of rifle calibers were available at one big box sporting specialty store on Atlanta's northside tonight, but some popular calibers were out. Handgun ammo, on the other hand, was frightfully depleted. A few boxes of .380, a few boxes of .45 acp +P were about all I recall seeing.

No stripped shelves at the next major sporting goods retailer I popped into. But then I realized they'd eliminated space for most handgun calibers nor was there space reserved for some popular rifle rounds. The shelves looked fuller because space dedicated to shotgun shells looks like it had been doubled, maybe tripled. I wanted to ask the sales guys where the pistol ammo was, but they had five or six customers at the handgun case (I hope they're holding back something to go with those new guns going out the door, a handgun without ammo is no better than a rock).

On my way out the door, I noticed this second store did have some of the more popular calibers behind the customer service desk at the front of the store: Three 20 round boxes of .38 special, and a few boxes each of .223 and .308. The .223 was of the more expensive varieties, and started at 29 bucks a box. The store now has a one box per day per customer limit for certain high demand calibers, so I guess it makes sense to dole it out up front to better police the policy.

Like the brick and mortar counterparts, online sellers are showing stripped inventories. I spot checked about a dozen sites today, and found only a few had any 9mm to offer. And what little I found was priced way above what was considered market in November. I have a hard time coming to grips with 80 cents a round for run of the mill 9mm when the same stuff was 20 cents a round last fall. But if that's what you need, you might be happy to find it at any price, and even be grateful the seller set a higher threshold to make sure something was still left to sell.

Keep in mind, I did these spot checks on a Saturday afternoon and evening. Friday night and Saturday shoppers had likely taken their toll on inventories. It's very hit and miss, but I've had better luck spotting the more popular calibers being in stock when I shop weekday mornings. Holds true for both brick and mortar and online retailers.

I still wish I had a better handle on how much of the current ammo shortage is still being caused by panic buying or hoarding, or if there are others factors limiting the flow of product from maker to marketplace right now. It's kind of disconcerting to walk into store on February 9, and see out of stock notices that indicate resupply was expected twenty to thirty days ago but for one reason or another, it apparently didn't happen.

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