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Demand for ammo, guns exceptionally high

Jeff Bahr - The Grand Island Independent  | Published on 5/15/2021

Since last year, demand for ammunition has been exceptionally high and gun sales have skyrocketed across the country, including in Grand Island.

“Ammo is in incredibly short supply right now,” says Tice Forgy, owner of Boop’s Shooters Supply.

Gun owners also had trouble finding ammo in late 2012 and all of 2013, but it was “not to the degree that it is today by any stretch of the imagination,” Forgy said.

Another area gun shop has a good supply of PMC .223 ammunition. But for any other ammo, customers are limited to two boxes per caliber, per customer per day.

An employee of that store, who didn’t want his name used, predicts the ammo shortage will last for at least 24 more months.

In March of 2020, a box of 9mm 115 grain full metal jackets sold for $9 a box. The cost is now $36, he said. In some places, the price is $60 or more.

Much of the ammo shortage is due to shortages in raw materials.

COVID-19 has affected the firearms business just as it has many other industries, Forgy said.

The need for raw materials has “been a big issue, right down to the plastic that wads are made out of for shotgun shells,” Forgy said. “We’ve never seen a shortage in shotgun shells before, but we do this year. So yeah, it’s definitely a unique time.”

Many people are also anxious to buy weapons. Guns were in big demand in 2012 and 2013, Forgy said. But the current level of purchases “has superseded those sales by quite a bit,” he noted. Gun sales have been good for a little more than a year, he said.

Jason Hornady of Hornady Manufacturing says there’s not really a shortage of ammunition.

“It’s a demand issue,” Hornady says.

In 2020, the ammunition industry produced 20-30% more ammunition than it had the year before.

Until late 2019, the industry had just gone through “four years of flatness,” said the Hornady vice president.

A couple of things happened that affected demand. In the fall of 2019, Walmart announced that it would no longer sell handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition and some types of firearms. That drove a lot of consumers to places like GI Loan Shop, Boop’s Shooters and large retailers, Hornady said.

Then, Virginia passed “some anti-gun legislation that got a little close for comfort for most of our consumers, and that always gets people wound up,” he said.

When COVID-19 arrived in March 2020, the inventory of every ammo retailer “vacated every building, literally,” Hornady said.

An increase in production of 20-30% is highly unusual. The ammunition business is trying to catch up.

When demand “basically triples, there’s just no way for manufacturers to get in front of that,” Hornady said.

“Nobody has an extra factory just sitting around waiting for demand to magically quadruple.”

Normally, “our inventories would turn somewhere around six times a year, and last year it turned 19,” he said. This year, it’s on pace to turn 24.

“We’re literally making more than we ever have. Everything that ships today was put in a box yesterday,” Hornady said. “We have two years’ worth of production on order today.”

Raw materials are in short supply.

“Everything is tight,” he said.

Every vendor “that we deal with has the same problem, because we’re screaming for more cardboard, more lead, more copper (and other raw materials), which is unfortunately driving prices up,” Hornady said.

“Thus far, we have managed it very well. But it is a strain. There’s no extra inventory sitting around,” he said.

The pandemic was just one of the big stories of 2020.

“Then you had all the protests and the riots and all that stuff. And what happens is when the firearms consumer gets scared, he goes and buys stuff,” Hornady said.

It’s estimated that 7 million people bought a gun for the first time in 2020.

Between the pandemic, the protests and civil unrest, many people decided they wanted some way to protect themselves, Hornady said. When people hear appeals to defund the police, they fear that the police won’t be able to protect them.

Having all the new gun owners put stress on the ammunition business, he said.

Manufacturers are still shipping ammo. It’s just that deliveries have become more sporadic.

Rumors have sprung up about the ammo supply, Hornady said.

One person believed Hornady Manufacturing “was completely shut down because they’re obviously not shipping,” he said.

Another rumor claims “that the government is paying us to not ship,” Hornady said.

The ammo issue is similar to the supposed shortage of toilet paper, he said. “There was never a shortage of toilet paper. Everybody just went and bought six months’ worth.”

In Nebraska, people are required to take an approved training course before applying for a concealed handgun permit. Those courses, administered by the Nebraska State Patrol, normally take eight to 16 hours.

A purchase permit is required for the purchase of handguns in Nebraska. Those permits may be obtained from local sheriff’s offices. People who obtain concealed handgun permits are exempt from the purchase permit requirement.

To hunt with a firearm or airgun, Nebraskans ages 12 to 29 must carry proof of successful completion of a hunter safety course.