I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on prices for firearms and ammunition over the past year. With the drastic increase in demand earlier this year, plus the production shortages caused by COVID-19 disruption to factories, bottlenecks in critical ammo components like primers, plus shortages of imported ammunition due to the same causes (normally supplying a significant proportion of the US market), things have gotten really stupid out there.
What’s worse, they aren’t going to improve anytime soon. US factories are churning out ammo as fast as they can make it, but there are about seven million new firearms owners out there, who bought their first gun(s) this year. If each of them bought 4 boxes of ammunition (a very conservative estimate, IMHO), that amounts to market demand for almost one and a half billion rounds of ammunition, over and above the ten-billion-odd rounds sold in a “normal” year. Add to that the many gun owners who have never built up stockpiles of ammunition, and are now desperate to buy whatever they can at any price, and the result is total market distortion.
Here are a few vignettes from readers with whom I’ve corresponded, and from other bloggers. First, The Feral Irishman notes:
I was in Rural King in Muscle Shoals, AL this past Thursday for a few items and thought I’d check out the gun department. There were four AR rifles (2 in .22 caliber and 2 in .223/5.56). I saw four .22 revolvers (2 Ruger Wranglers and 2 Heritage Arms ( 1 was the “Annie Oakley” edition and the other had a 16″ barrel). I saw four other revolvers that were of that funky new style of double action. They looked to be .38 Special. I didn’t see any automatic pistols (might have had some, but I didn’t see them). I didn’t see any shotguns. I was looking around and the guy behind the counter asked if he could help me and I asked where the rifle and pistol ammo was located. He chuckled and replied that he did not have any pistol or rifle ammo. The only thing he had was shotgun shells. I wasn’t shocked. This has been the norm for a few months before the election here in north Alabama. He did say that he occasionally receives a shipment of various calibers, but it is gone before he can put the price tags on it. Basically, this is par for the course at any gun show around here. My son told me he had seen 4- one thousand round cases of 9mm sell in a gun store in Hartselle for $770 per case a couple of weeks ago. I also know a guy who had 3-1,000 round cases of .223/5.56 who turned down $2,500.00 for ONE case last week. I know that sounds crazy, but that is where we are.
Those prices are quite a lot higher than I’m seeing locally, but I guess some areas are better connected to suppliers than others. Around here, .380 ACP, 9mm Luger and 5.56mm are almost unobtainable, and you can expect to pay up to a dollar per round for standard ball ammunition. For anything exotic like quality defensive hollowpoints or softpoints, that can hit $1.50 per round in no time at all, and sometimes approaches $2.00 per round for the really good stuff. Other common defensive rounds like .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W or .45 ACP are a little easier to find, but not much, and most are limited to ball ammunition. There’s very little quality defensive ammo available.
.22LR ammo is available, but expensive. Around here it’s about $50-$75 per brick of 500 rounds, and rising steadily. I’ve heard reports from some areas that it’s fetching as much as $20 per box of 50, which sounds absolutely ridiculous – except that if there’s none available at a lower price, you’re stuck with it. Fortunately, I invested in a lot of it in earlier years, at much lower prices (my stash cost me on average under 5c per round, including a lot of more expensive ammo like CCI rather than bargain-basement bulk stuff). With the price of centerfire ammo so extraordinarily high, Miss D. and I will be doing a lot of our training and practice using .22 firearms instead.
Hunters all over are complaining that .30-30 is very scarce, and priced extraordinarily high when it can be found. On Gunbroker, hunters are so desperate that they’re bidding it up to insane values. Consider this auction, where the current bid is for more than $3.00 per round, or this one, where (at the time of writing) the top bid is $3.99 per round! Fortunately, I’m able to supply some friends who need it. (There’s a lot of ammo swapping going on. I recently traded 250 rounds of .38 Special for a similar amount of .380 ACP, and both parties were happy with the deal. Fortunately, most of us in the informal North Texas Writers, Shooters and Pilots Association have experience of prior ammo shortages. We learned from that to build up our reserves, so such trades are relatively easy to arrange.)
A friend who’s looking for a decent-quality AR-15 carbine writes: “The entry-level price for an AR is now in the plus-or-minus $900 range, before shipping, tax and transfer costs, and that’s not for anything special – a Radical Firearms or DPMS or Anderson unit, with no bells and whistles. Where the dealer used to throw in “freebies” like front and rear sights, or a cheap red dot sight, or perhaps a Magpul stock, that isn’t happening any more. High-quality AR’s from manufacturers like Bravo Company or Noveske or Daniel Defense start at well over $1K, and run much higher for their top models.” Sadly, I had to inform him that those prices sound realistic in today’s market. However, I also had some good news for him.
In January there’ll be a gun show nearby. I’m going to sell three or four AR-15’s in various configurations, plus about a thousand rounds of ammunition, to fund other needs. I’ll be following the market as far as pricing goes. My “marketing edge” is that I can provide free ammunition with each rifle. When a hundred rounds of 5.56mm ammo can easily cost up to $100 or more, but I throw it in as a lagniappe to the deal, with more available to purchase if needed, that should help sell the rifles fairly quickly! (If any of my readers are interested, drop me a line – my e-mail address is in the blog profile, under “About Me & Contact Info” in the sidebar. Local face-to-face sales in the Wichita Falls area of North Texas preferred, or within an hour or two’s drive of there, because shipping ammo is a pain in the patootie! Normal laws, rules and regulations apply, of course.)