Been searching for ammo online lately? Well, you aren’t the only one. Chances are you’ve noticed there’s an ammo shortage. Both online retailers and brick and mortar shops have a dwindling ammo supply. But, why is there an ammo shortage and what can I do about it?

In fact, there are several reasons for any ammo shortage. But 2020 has a unique set of circumstances. To speak plainly ammo is in short supply because it is an election year, the COVID 19 pandemic has practically shut down the nations economy, and there is civil unrest throughout the United States.

During the last gun show, I got curious about the astronomical spike in ammo pricing. Additionally, vendors who had literal tons of ammo were running only a handful of cases on opening day. I spoke with several vendors and below is my deduction based upon their responses.

picture of white house symoblizing election year

First and foremost, 2020 is an election year. As with every election year prior, there is either a shortage of ammo or prices skyrocket. Check my article on gun prices to understand the impact of political climate on all things gun related.

Whenever the incumbent is a Republican, and presumably pro gun, there is a rush to stock up on ammo before the election. Fear of a Democratic candidate unseating the incumbent and ultimately working to pass some useless form of gun control leads to higher volume ammunition purchases.

However, the 2020 election is particularly divisive and many pro gun enthusiasts are erring on the side of caution and attempting to stock up on ammo. But, as you already know the ammo shortage is making this difficult. Thus, the prices are up and ammo is down — simple supply and demand.

Lesson learned: Buy ammo when it’s an off election year and there is a Republican president. And buy more than you will use!

COVID 19 – Global Pandemic & Ammo Shortage

Unlike previous election years, 2020 is a bit different. The COVID-19 virus is wreaking havoc on the nations industrial production which contributes to the ammo shortage. Both raw materials and the actual production of cartridges have ground to a halt.

Remember my comments about politics earlier? Prior to the Coronavirus, gun sales were in a slump likely due to a Republican president occupying the White House. However, come the “Coronapocalypse” gun ownership spiked. In fact, an article on the NY Times puts about 2 Million guns being sold in the first couple weeks following the nations shutdown.

Industrial Complex & Low Ammo Production

covid 19 decrease production leads to ammo shortage

So, what does this have to do with the ammo shortage? Well, a surplus in guns allowed the industry to match the demand. But guns last much longer than ammunition, and even anti-gunners know that a gun without bullets is a glorified paper weight.

The Coronavirus has left many without jobs, or those more fortunate to work from home during quarantine. Running an ammunition production facility is not a job that can be done remotely. Additionally, raw materials – bullets, primers, and powder – are also produced in physical locations.

My neighbor works in a factory setting, albeit not producing ammo. His companies response to the virus was to split people into teams for shift work. If anyone on the team were to get the virus, the rest of the team was automatically quarantined. Great for stopping the spread of the virus, not so great for production numbers.

Civil Unrest and The 9mm Ammo Shortage

riots contribute to ammo shortage

Although the 9mm round is the most widely available handgun cartridge — or was — it probably led most of these first time gun buyers to invest in a 9mm handgun.

The problem with a popular round like the 9mm, is that it’s popular. I’ve already talked about production issues due to COVID. But, when ammunition is produced who do you suppose gets the first call that a shipment is ready?

You guessed it, law enforcement and military get priority when it comes ammo. And, guess what round they primarily use — 9mm.

Riots, Civil Disobedience, and Law Enforcement

Following the untimely death of several individuals, riots and civil disobedience have sprung up all over the country. Increased police activity to address riots and looting definitely contributes to the shortage of 9mm ammo.

One of the vendors I spoke with at the gun show, flat out told me that part of the reason he was having trouble obtaining stock is that any ammo coming off the production line was first being offered to military and law enforcement.

When Will The Ammo Shortage End?

When the ammo shortage will end is anybody’s guess. Additionally it will depend on both the election results and the duration of the pandemic. Optimistically, my guess is sometime in the mid to late portion of next year. Probably the end of Q2 or early Q3.

This relies on two things. First, a Republican maintains control of the White House. Second, there is not a significant resurgence in the COVID-19 pandemic.

If a Democrat wins the election, panic buying in bulk will continue as soon as the ammunition is available. Furthermore, if Coronavirus causes another shutdown of the economy, ammo production will remain low. Should either, or both, of these happen, I’m guessing ammo will again become readily available late this upcoming year or even into the following year.

How To Obtain Ammo During The Shortage?

First and foremost, buy your ammo during an off election year and buy more than you think is necessary. However, that advice won’t help you right now. So, how do you obtain ammo during the shortage? Well, you really only have a few options:

  1. Find a friend with a surplus of ammo
  2. Press your own ammo
  3. Frequent your local range
  4. Join mailing lists of online retailers

Phone A Friend For Ammo During the Shortage

Everybody should have that one friend who stockpiles ammo. If you don’t have one, I suggest you find one and make friends. If you do, they might be willing to part with a small portion of their vast brass fortune for what they paid for it.

After my friend found out the price I paid for my 1000 round of 9mm, he said next time I should reach out to him. It didn’t do me much good this time, but it’s good to know he’s as paranoid as me.

Save Your Brass And Press Your Own Ammo

Pressing your own ammo has fallen out of favor. Until recently it was more cost effective to simply buy ammunition in bulk. However, with 9mm ammo hovering around $0.50 per round during the shortage, this options is becoming increasingly viable.

Although the process is time-consuming, you can save your spent brass from your range visits to press your own ammo at home. Acquiring raw materials will become increasingly more difficult if the pattern continues as-is. Invest early and get your supplies yesterday if you plan to go this route.

Hit Up The Range To Increase Your Ammo Stock

getting ammo during the shortage - local range

A final option for the desperate man (or woman) is to regularly go to your range. Generally, ranges will have some ammunition. However, sales have been restricted. Usually, you are only allowed to buy one box.

But, some ranges will allow you to buy one box of FMJ ammo and a separate box of hollow points. Thereby bypassing the “one box” rule.

If you make 10 trips to the range, and get an additional 50 rounds per trip you now have a 500 round surplus. Naturally, you need to be conservative with the ammo you shoot at the range.  Be advised that you will pay a premium for these rounds, as shooting ranges are well aware of the ammo shortage.

Join Mailing Lists For Online Retailers

Yet another option is to simply subscribe to online retailer mailing lists. Sites like will have a signup to receive a notification when a certain item is back in stock. This is great if you have the capital available to buy in bulk. However, you’ll need to monitor your email regularly for when that message comes through!

Parting Shots

Hopefully you’ve found some useful tidbits in this article to help keep your ammo stock from dwindling too far. Remember, the time to buy is when both prices and demand are low. Help me out by sharing this article to your network. If you have any helpful advice for others reading this, share your thoughts and ideas with our other readers.

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