Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Dry Time

Much like the toilet paper crisis of last spring, the ongoing ammo supply situation is not on the supply side (well, mostly not) but on the demand side. Basically, the vast majority of people who own firearms in America hardly ever take them to the range and rarely buy ammo. Anyone who's worked at a range or shop can tell you tales of customers who, presented with a box of 20 or 50 cartridges, asked if they had to buy the whole box.

When you add a huge influx of new gun owners to every existing owner...the kind who normally buy a box or five every year...running out and buying ammo by the case lot, even if the entire infrastructure is running flat out, the result is like trying to water the Kalahari with a garden hose. Eighteen wheelers full of ammo leave the loading dock and disappear into a black hole of endless demand.

As with all panics, people will eventually get bored with trying to get their hands on another case of 9mm or 5.56 and wander off to scratch other itches, and the supply lines will gradually refill. 

But this panic has been sufficiently intense and has stretched on long enough that it has had an effect that I haven't seen in previous ones.

Normally, oddball calibers like .38 S&W or .41 Magnum are usually pretty panic-proof. Demand for these is generally low enough that the typical two- or six-month run on .45 and 9x19mm has no real impact on them.

This panic has gone on longer than most, and that, plus the unusually apocalyptic mentality everyone's running around with, has lead to folks even deep-stocking their oddball calibers. Checking the Ammoseek online search engine, there's no .32 H&R Mag to be found. No .41 Magnum. Nor any .38 S&W.

Now, due to manufacturing realities, the big makers like Federal and Winchester don't keep lines running for these things all the time. They'll take a press and set it up to do a sprint run of one of these chamberings and that's enough to cover, say, a projected year's worth of .32 S&W Long sales with a bit of a cushion. They're not going to be allocating any "die time" to, say, .41 Magnum until they've got the .45ACP pipeline filled back up again. 

Remington's ammo production hiccups during 2020 sure haven't helped, either.

It might be a while before we see any of these on the shelves, at least from the big domestic makers, even after overall supplies start getting back to normal.