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Reader Ty S. writes:

Now that we are in a post election world and the dust has begun to settle somewhat, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the roller coaster that has been the firearms related market for the past eight years and how we might be able to avoid the same clap-trap the next time it comes around. Please keep in mind that I’m not down-playing the dangers of a reckless government nor those of a lawless despot. This analysis is merely, well, analytical.

As most folks have noticed, the firearms industry went absolutely insane in 2008. The fear was real. ZOMG TEHR GUNNA TAKE MAH GUNNZZZ!!! The huge market spike was not, despite what some will tell you, due to the gubmint buying mass quantities of arms and ammunition. Some of the market shifts can be attributed to new reloaders or shooters, but most of it was directly influenced by people who already have guns and already reload. The majority of the scarcity was a fantastic real-world scenario of the tragedy of the commons an en masse form of the “prisoners dilemma“.

Though I am loathe to quote wikipedia, it has the most succinct definition. The tragedy of the commons works thus:

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.” ​

From a game theory perspective, the game is divided into more or less two strategies. You can take only what you need and rely on others do the same (Nash equilibrium/optimal strategy) or you can exploit the system and take as much as you can for yourself (dominant strategy) ensuring that no matter what others do at least you got yours. If the supply line is infinite the dominant strategy would work every time and would necessarily be Nash.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec​

The shortage problem arises from too many people using the dominant strategy of buying as much as they can (e.g. buying as many .22 LR bricks as the credit card allows) regardless of what the supply chain can support. This leads into a recursion loop that only exacerbates the problem.

Following the .22LR theme, many people who aren’t even “gun people” tend to at least own a firearm chambered in .22 LR. So imagine their surprise when they go to buy a box of ammo only to find them unobtainable.The guy at the gun counter tells them that they better buy them wherever they find them because the gubmint’s takin’ it all.

“Crap! Better buy a couple of bricks when I see them!”, they think. The recursion loop is a fancy term for the herd mentality, like a stampede. Every cow is running, but few really know what they’re running from, only that all the others are running so they better keep up. This was the stampede that trampled our AR, ammo and reloading supplies. If you are sitting on 5,000+ rounds of .22LR and haven’t shot more than 500 rounds in the last year, I’m looking at you.

The optimal strategy would have been to:

a.) Already have the necessary arms/components on hand and supplement them accordingly without hoarding
b.) Make a measured, but stead growth of accumulation of goods also without hoarding

I got into the reloading game in 2015 (I would have started sooner, but the market was nuts). I’d bought four firearms since 2008 (that I would have bought regardless of who the president was) and managed to do just fine without paying through the nose for any of it. I didn’t panic buy, I waited for market forces to normalize before making bulk purchases and I still managed to shoot as much as I cared to from 2008 to present.

This is a plea for reason, a call to refuse to participate in any future stampede. Consider the pros and cons of the dominant strategy vs. the optimal strategy when it comes to how, when and why we buy our firearms and related goods.

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  1. I’m afraid I may be contributing to a future stampede when prices finally come down and begin to restore my stockpile.

    But in terms of ending the rollercoaster, the best solution is federal courts which will be as fanatic about the Second as they have been about the First — even better, as fanatic about ALL individual rights as they have been about freedom of the press.

    • The rollercoaster will only end when there is political stability concerning the 2A.

      As it is now, Americans are roughly equally divided concerning guns, but the nature of the division is as stark as it gets.

      Each side is powerfully motivated to use whatever political juice they may have at the particular time to accomplish their goal.

      To secure the 2A, public opinion *must* be on our side.

      The Left is doing its damnedest to program the public that guns are ‘icky’, evil things that cause violence just by being in existence.

      Just as many of know by personal experience, once an anti is actually exposed to guns, actually firing them, much to their surprise, many antis discover they actually like them, or at least don’t have a reflexive hatred towards them.

      We *must* normalize guns by beginning exposing them to the youth early. The Eddie Eagle program first, and then safe gun handling in high school.

      If we do that, prove to them guns aren’t inherently evil things that ‘just go off’, public opinion will be on our side.

      The Left will fight that tooth-and-nail since it goes 180 to the programming the Left controlled schools are trying to brainwash them with.

      This will be the only opportunity that we will have in our lives on this.

      The very fate of the 2A is in our hands. We *must not* blow this…

      • Not true; there are plenty of left-wingers who support gun rights, and most of the right wing does too. It’s not a roughly equal divide at all, it’s the People vs the Government, with statist bootlickers also on the Government side.

        • I really doubt that “leftists” are gun owners. Pretty difficult to support personal liberty (2A), and personal responsibility (self-protection) with the leftist agenda of state management of every aspect of life.

          • Good point, I should have said Democrat voters or liberals. Plenty of people vote D or consider themselves liberals while not actually being leftists at all.

            • The Demoncrat party has moved beyond liberal. People who do not understand completely what that means are delusional.

              • Oh, absolutely! I keep referring to my Democrat-voting friends and family (not many, and family only on my wife’s side) as “Democrats who didn’t realize the party left them behind in the early 90s.” And when it comes to the Dems in the family, they haven’t actually VOTED Democrat since Slick Willy’s second go-round, but they refuse to change registration for some strange reason.

        • Have to disagree here. There may be Lefties who own guns, although my experience with working with them is that they don’t and don’t think anyone else should either. But in the end, they will strip us of our rights in order to ensure government control.f you base any of your actions on anything like faith in the Left, you are well and truly screwed.

  2. Demand encourages production. Production adds jobs. 93,000,000 Americans not in labor force. Why would we want to shrink the last US industry. A Merry Christmas to everyone in the industry from manufacturing to distribution to sales and repair. Buy what you want because when the party ends it ends forever. This is not the 1950’s.

    • Demand does indeed encourage production, but only to the point of constraint. I believe all of the ammunition producers increased production, but not capacity since they most likely felt they wouldn’t get the rate or return needed on the investment.

  3. I do not shoot and have no plans for 22 caliber. But just a short 6 weeks ago I was planning on spending every dime I had on guns & ammo. Because Hildebeast. I’m NOT telling anyone what to hoard,stash or profiteer. Plenty of places didn’t get a Trump breather either( California). I’m way behind too…

  4. Those of us who got into guns around 2012 had an interesting time. “Get a .22, ammo is cheap and available.” Eight months later it cost as much as 9mm and was even less available.

    • The question is: what was your “lesson learned” from this situation?

      If it was the same as the above author’s, best summarized as “Hey, you guys stop buying ammo so I can buy some!”, then you didn’t learn a dang thing. No one with a vehicle buys gas 1-2 gallons at a time, adding just enough to their tank to get to their next destination and back, and no more. Assuming they can afford it, they fill their tank, knowing they will be using it in the near future. Some folks even keep a gas can or two on hand back at the homestead, so if they need gas during a short-term interruption, they have it. Same thing with food; no one (almost no one in America, anyway) buys just enough food for their next meal, and no more; responsible folks keep at least a couple of weeks of food on-hand in the cupboard.

      The current ammo shortage isn’t even the first one in the last 10-12 years or so, and some folks just aren’t learning the basic lesson. Even new-to-shooting folks should be taught that your gun is only a gun if you have ammo for it (otherwise it’s just a crappy club), so keep plenty of ammo on-hand AT ALL TIMES, starting from DAY ONE. Whenever ammo is plentiful, if a person wants/needs one box, they should be buying 2-3 boxes, and socking the “extra” away in a waterproof can for future use. Once you get up to a year or two of supply in storage, they you can drop back to buying only what you are using, but until then, you are on the edge of being one of the whiners involved in the next shortage, telling the smart folks they shouldn’t be buying so much. Don’t be that guy.

      • S.CROCK got into guns during the shortage. I did too. There is no lesson to be learned. Next time we should…what? Not buy a gun? Not buy ammo for that gun? The need of someone who does not own a gun is greater than the want of someone who is already equipped.
        I heard this a lot from “smart” guys on the internet. “Your the dumb ass that waited to buy a gun or ammo so I have no sympathy for you”.
        We were not waiting. Some of us came of age. Some of us became financially capable. Some of us became eager to join POTG. Some of us saw the political resistance to gun ownership and acted immediately. We don’t want sympathy. We made it through. We want the smugness of the preppers to subside.

        • This isn’t about “prepping”; it’s about common sense.

          My son and some of his friends also got into (or got deeper into) guns during the ammo shortage period(s). Usually, they were smart enough to: A) Not buy a gun that was currently experiencing an ammo shortage, and/or: B) buy a bunch of ammo for it right away. In the few cases where .22 ammo became scarce before they could lay-in a decent stock of ammo, I drew ammo from my storage locker to keep them shooting regularly, with the admonition that they remedy the situation as soon as supplies allowed it — and they did. This ammo was usually GIVEN away; I was in a position that allowed me to do so, and for them, it underlined the flexibility that having your own “gun store ammo shelf” in the basement gives you during shortages.

          Many gun sellers kept a small stash of ammo in certain calibers off the shelves during the shortages, to allow them to sell guns in that caliber when no ammo was being shipped. I distinctly remember this happening in .22LR and .380ACP, in my local area. If you wanted to buy a gun in those calibers, but then made noises about the ammo shortage making you change your mind, the store would offer to sell you a certain amount of ammo at the time of the gun purchase. Sometimes this was a set amount; other times, it was negotiable, depending on how much the store had set aside vs. how much they thought they would need in the future. It was literally the only way the retailers could sell guns in certain calibers during these shortages, but I’ll remind everyone that in doing so, they withheld ammo from OTHER customers who also needed it. People like you. This wasn’t just about people “hoarding” or “flipping” ammo, or even retailers pulling it off shelves to sell it on the side; it was a combination of things, and those things are not going away anytime soon.

          Just like most folks would think it would be silly to buy a car if there wasn’t any gas available, the same holds true for buying guns. People don’t think twice about dropping another couple of hundred bucks on holsters, lasers, lights, and other accessories, or another $1000 for a nice rifle optic, but will only put two boxes (40-100 rounds) of ammo on the counter when it’s time to check-out.

          That needs to change.

          Ammo is what makes your gun, a gun. Prioritize ammo purchases when you buy a new-to-you gun; those other do-dads probably will not sell-out while you’re stocking up on ammo, and even if they do, your gun is still WAY more useful without the doo-dads than it is without ammo.

          • Your son had your private storage to fall back on. How does that apply to the majority of first time gun owners between 2010 and 2014?
            If we followed your advice we would all own .40S&W. So I was stupid and bought a 9mm. Glad I was so stupid in buying what I wanted instead of what was available because 5,000+ rounds of 9mm later, I have no regrets.

        • User S.CROCK seems to indicate s/he owned the gun for months before the ammo shortage became severe.

          You indicated you were an initial buyer when ammo was short, and said you aren’t sad you deliberately bought a gun in a caliber that was in short supply.

          THESE are the behaviors that need to change.

          If at the time of your purchase .40 ammo was widely available and 9mm was not, then yes, you would have been better off in the long run to have bought a .40 pistol and stocked-up on ammo while you could. The only reason you can now say that you are not sorry, is because you got through the shortage (without totally running out of ammo, I assume). Hindsight is always 20/20; it’s easy to look back and say “I made the right decision because this time it all worked out okay”, but that is ignoring what would have happened if the shortage had continued for a few more years. Combine that with the fact that many .40 pistols can use 9mm or other ammo (.357 SIG) with a simple barrel or barrel+mag change, and the .40 pistol makes a LOT more sense for a first-time buyer during a shortage.

          The lesson that needs to be impressed on everyone is this:
          – Ammo is an integral part of your firearm; it WILL NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT IT.
          – You do not control the ammo supply to stores or online websites, and if they don’t have it (or they TELL you they don’t have it), you can’t buy it at any price.
          – Reloading is a nice hobby, but it takes effort to learn to do safely, time to produce the ammo in decent quantities, and shortages occur in reloading components, too. If you have everything you need except primers, then in fact you have nothing, and I could make an argument that the money spent on everything else was wasted without the primers. If you are storing ammo against future need, buy ammo, not components.
          – Buy ammo in reasonable quantities when you can, so you don’t have to pay unreasonable prices (or short your practice sessions) later.
          – The “ammo store” for your guns should be in your house/garage/basement. If you ever finish a month/calendar quarter/year with significantly less ammo on-hand that you started with, you’re doing it wrong.

          • Then how can you say one move was smarter than the other? I didn’t believe for a second that 9mm would continue to be scarce. Yes hindsight is easy. Doesn’t mean past decision’s were smart or stupid. It worked out for everybody now didn’t it?

      • People often repeat the phrase that without ammo, “your gun is just a crappy club”.

        That isn’t always the case. If your gun is a Mosin, it is actually a pretty good club, and can even double as a respectable spear.

        Of course plastic/aluminum toys like the AR15 aren’t as good of clubs as Mosins (hence I have a fair amount of 5.56 ammo).

        • I think $30 was the lowest I ever saw but that was during the last cycle, probably $35 was the lowest more recently. $40 is fair, and I probably wouldn’t put my nose up at $45 or $50 if I was in the market, I’d just be looking for it to be an Aero or other reputable stamping, considering Aero actually makes a lot of them. The highest they got before most people said no was $90-100, and if you really, even after sensibly weighing the possibility, thought that they were going to be banned, I wouldn’t blame a guy for spending that much, but I know the highest I saw at the peak of panic was $450 and I’d sooner buy my own milling machine at that point.

  5. I’ve noticed retail prices on common ammo dropping in my area since the election. I wonder if the hoarding is over for a while?

    Methinks that any attempt to get people to stop hoarding is a lost cause. People will be people.

    If we can praise Obama for being the great gun salesman, perhaps we can also praise Trump for bringing ammo prices back down to earth. Ironically, that might encourage people to buy more guns, since they aren’t spending so much on ammo.

  6. Sounds like another appeal for “collectivism”.

    “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few….or the one”.

    • Much as John Locke evolved from his State of Nature commentary: “As much as you need of the commons, so you leave as much, and as good, for others.” And then in Civil Societies (the essence of the Social Contract theory), “So much as you can use so long as none is wasted nor let to spoil.”

  7. I really would like everyone to stop buying Colt SAR’s with the 7.5 inch barrel and the case hardened finish dammit – I want one, I have wanted one for 30 years and I will shoot the heck out of it. Come on guys.

    • And Kel-Tec Sub2000’s. I mean, come on guys! Everybody know they’re not really all that good so just quit buying them so the rest of us can buy one and find out if its really not very good. //sarc//

  8. I keep telling people: you never, never, never want to be the last person to panic. Or, if you like, the last person to panic went down with the Titanic.

  9. I’d prefer everyone keep buying. It’s the only reason we have factory threaded barrels, optics ready slides, $8 AR mags, competition for glock factory mags, AR’s from a hundred different companies in all sizes and calibers, quality holster makers, all sorts of 3 Gun accessories, semi affordable thermal and night vision, very affordable tactical gear, women’s concealment gear, and ammo from everybody for anything.

    Market demands drive innovation. More vets in the Gun and Gun related industries means better gear, made in America, for less.

    We have Pendleton safes and fingerprint lock boxes. Bluetooth enabled wind meters that talk to your phone and scope to dial in distances and wind conditions. Custom 1911 makers abound, producing guns that are as reliable as Glocks. Remington and ruger now produce options for polymer pistols.

    People are starting to take personal safety seriously, in the home and out. Parents are teaching their kids how to shoot. Women are carrying concealed.

    The next generation of hunters is out there, right now, learning not just trigger control and sight alignment, but also respect for nature and conservation. There are so many companies making camp and hunting gear you can’t keep track.

    There are quality shows dedicated to personal defense, hunting and the outdoors, gear and accessories, and the general gun culture lifestyle.

    I’m loving the options out there.

    TL;DR: it’s a great time to be a firearms enthusiast

    • “Market demands drive innovation. More vets in the Gun and Gun related industries means better gear, made in America, for less.”

      Exactly. The ammo supply isn’t nearly so finite that we should impose self-rationing. The ammo supply is limited in some popular calibers because manufacturers were reluctant to expand their production capacity in a marketplace made unstable by a hostile political environment. Similarly, in the early years of the last century, distillers would have been nuts to expand their whisky making capacity in the face of the Temperance and Prohibition Movement’s efforts (ultimately successful) to ban strong drink. But after the repeal of Prohibition . . .? This is probably a good time to purchase ammo manufacturing stocks.

    • Agreed. We no longer have dirt cheap military surplus hardware store guns and ammo like our parents did. Instead we have a firearms renaissance with so many varieties of new and state of the art guns and ammo at every price level it will make your head spin. These are the good old days.

      • Heck, you could buy $100 Mosins just a couple years ago. I remember buying 7.62X54R for about 8-9 cents a round about 10 years ago (and $79 for an M44).

        Mosins have really shot up over the last couple years. Also, corrosive milsurp 7.62x54R ammo seems to have dried up. I wonder if there is still a bunch more of both stashed somewhere in Russia, but being held up by the EO embargo against Russia.

        Still, there are a lot of bargains out there. We can get decent AR’s for $5-600. I recently picked up a Gen 3 Glock 22 LE trade in with 3 mags and a case for $329. Used Marlin 60’s can be picked up for around $100. New Stevens and NEF Pardner Pump shotguns can be had for $150-175. Etc

    • I make my own. It makes no since as reloader not to buy in large quantities. If I buy 100 45 it cost me $30. If I buy 1000 i can get them for around $100. Same with primers $4-5 for 100 or I can get s&b primers for less than $25 Call me a hoarder if you want but I will have plenty of ammo no matter what happens

    • My thoughts too. I have a pretty decent stash of…stuff. My intention is to compile a ridiculous, obscene- possibly even offensive amount that can be seen unaided from space.

  10. If you find yourself staring at bare ammo shelves with a dropped jaw after the websites are out of stock, you utterly failed to prepare before you even started. There are no “commons” in the real world, only those who are strong, smart, and fast enough to be three-steps ahead while everyone else is still in disbelief of reality.

    I once met a guy who spends part of every paycheck on 5.56 ammo. Just two or three boxes and a mag here and there. He did this for years. People called him paranoid and laughed. After Sandy Hook and extending well into 2013, those same people were begging him for loaded mags with cash in hand. He declined every time, said “You could have prepared like me,” and proceeded to be unaffected by the times. Moral of the story, be like that guy.

    • Right on. “Suck it, grasshopper”, said the ant.

      If the last 8 years taught me anything (and that’s when I started in guns), its, keep buying, in small increments, and never stop.

      That said a 4 year break on actual firearms will be nice. Only a few more needed anyway to complete the set.

  11. As I read this, I was reminded to go online and buy an extra 10 mags for a pistol I just picked up. Oh, and a case of ammo.

  12. We rest, but the enemy never does. It’s always waiting for an opportunity to strike. They’re like Gollum or Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. Their “precious” is a gun free world and/or you dead in a ditch. I say buy what you want.

  13. The roller coaster will never end. That’s the nature of a free market economy. The last 8 years brought in hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans into gun ownership. It will be years before the market catches up no matter what the government does.

    Poll time.

    Regular TTAG readers. How many of us didn’t own more than one or two firearms before 2008? How many didn’t own any?

    I had owned them in the past, but went over ten years without a single firearm in my home.

    And it was the lunatics going around shooting people at random that helped me make a decision to carry everyday. Not the threat of government intrusion.

    • I’ll play. Before 2008 all I had was an old .22 pistol that I bought in 1978 and a 12 ga. shotgun that was even older. Since 2008, I have bought 8 handguns, an AR, and a .22 rifle. And a pellet gun.

      Barry O is definitely the salesman of the century.

      As an aside, here in Texas I can walk by shelves of .22 ammo and keep walking. That happened about one WEEK after Trump was elected…

    • *Pulls list*

      In 2008 I had 10 long guns and seven handguns. Now, it’s none of your business exactly how many I own, but you can more than double both the previous numbers.

      I also had an enormous (by most people’s standards) stock of ammo in 2008. Today it’s larger but only due to calibers added to my collection. The number of rounds per caliber hasn’t really changed. I never “horded” the stuff but back in the day buying in bulk online got you some great deals so I never bought anything less than 1000 rounds at a time. It was normal for me to order 5000+ rounds in various calibers at a single time and do that a few times a year whenever there was a sale + free shipping. 1000 of each caliber into the stash. A bunch would get shot before the next buy. But hey, who can say no to free shipping, low prices and no taxes? By the time all was said and done I was often saving 75% compared to buying a few boxes here or there at my LGS. [My UPS guy HATED me.] It was affordable because I saved up to do it by literally NEVER buying locally.

      In sum:
      Number of firearms bought as a “panic” item: 0.
      Total rounds of ammo purchased as a “panic” item: 0.
      Total reloading items bought as a “panic” item: Five boxes of primers. When the Colorado laws were passed people here went ape and when I found BPS had primers in stock I bought as many as they would let me buy in one sitting, which was five 100 primer boxes. Really, I wasn’t panicking. I was merely annoyed at having gone a couple months with 0 small rifle primers in my reloading stash and an ever growing pile of ready-to-reload casings so instead of buying 1-2 boxes I picked up the max allowed amount so I didn’t have to go back/not have any for awhile.

    • Prior to 2008, all I had was a semi-automatic rifle in .22 LR that I purchased many moons ago when I was in high school … and about 400 rounds of .22 LR ammunition that I purchased in high school as well.

      When it was deer season, I borrowed my father’s pump-action 12 gauge shotgun with its smooth barrel and no sights.

      Since that time, I have acquired multiple handguns and long guns and a fully adequate supply of ammunition for each.

    • I have had a gun since I was 9, a .22 and a .410. What else did a boy need? Then when I was 12, pheasant hunting, so my first 20 gage. I never had more than a couple of boxes of shotgun shells or more than 300-400 .22s. Over the years added another half dozen shotguns depending on the prey. Then the AWB hit and for ten years I couldn’t progress to what I wanted, an AR or AK.

      That is when I started buying twice the ammo I needed. If I was going to shoot skeet, I bought a case, etc. Damn, 20 years latter I end up with 30-40 modern weapons each banned in at least one state and 20-30 thousand rounds of ammo.

      Remember when President Obama said he supported marriage as being between a male and female? Every single politician will change their mind on major legislation to keep their jobs. 4 or 5 Sandy Hooks in a short time and you can kiss our rights to keep more than a small revolver and a single shot shotgun good bye.

      It isn’t if, it’s when they outlaw the sale and transfer of most of the guns we own, then after another 4 or 5 Sandy Hooks they will do a massive buy back, then another string of Sandy Hooks and they come with force to collect them from you.

      10 years ago did you think you would be forced to buy a health insurance policy that covers everything? Did you see gay marriage? Did you see $4.00 a gallon gas? Our society changes rapidly, become a frequent buyer.

    • Prior to ’08 all I had was an old Savage single shot 20 ga. shotgun. Now, counting all the ones that fell out of the boat, I have a lot more. A bed wetting liberal might even call it an arsenal. Always bought on sale for arms, and in bulk for ammo. Of course I didn’t get the bargains of 10 or 20 years ago, but I didn’t break the bank panic buying either.

    • I bought my first gun in 2007 or 8. I went from living with my family, surrounded by neighbors I had known most of my life, in a small city outside of a large city to living by myself, not knowing just about anybody, in the middle of a large metropolis.

      I was also invited to shoot for the first time in my life by someone willing to take the time to teach me the basics. It was more this than anything else that drove my decision to buy my first gun.

  14. I have a lot of wants still. I’ll stop buying when I get all of my wants. There are also a lot of parts kits available. Not as cheap as they were a few years ago, but they are available. The best kit deals out there right now are probably the CETME C’s, and CEMTE L’s. AK kits are about 50-100% the price they were a few years ago. I bought a bulgy AK 74 kit for $160 back in 2014. That same kit now goes for double if you can even find one.

  15. As a Gun Store owner, I’m still surprised to hear that there are .22LR shortages. We have never ran out this year and no, our prices aren’t out of line.
    Now .22M, someone please explain that shortage to me.

    • I almost bought a NAA black widow last year and decided on a 637 instead solely because I couldn’t find any .22 WMR to shoot the gun I borrowed to see if I would like it….

      • Buy the convertible model in LR and Mag. It’s one of the most pocketable and fun guns to shoot I’ve handled in a while.

        • That will be the one I get when the time comes. 2016 was a pretty tight year for my family financially, so no new guns this year. Looking forward to 2017!

  16. I have what I need for some time, but I’ll still buy a case of ammo as one is depleted and replace other items as needed. I’ll be ready for any supply crisis when it comes again, and if it never comes, that’s even better.

  17. Without meaning to be disrespectful, I must say screw the reasons. The shelves were empty. They will be again, perhaps for unforeseeable reasons. Those of us who stood before those empty shelves and cursed our procrastination have learned our lesson.

  18. There is gonna be such a glut of 22 and ar parts in the next six months. Every body ws making ar’s as fast as they could, even pre election prices didnt go up. U can build a psa ar complete for 400 ish now…same with 22 all the profiteering should end, no ones gonna pay 80 bucks for a brick at a gun show when u can find them online for 30 now…

    • Dan,

      I can purchase 525 round boxes of Federal copper-plated .22 LR locally for $28. Why would I pay $30 plus shipping online?

      By the way this has only been the case for the last two months or so.

  19. Perhaps the most profound gun related phenomena of the last 8 years is how rapidly and thoroughly America armed itself. I don’t think any politician expected something like that to happen, nor do I think anyone in the gun-control movement expected that to happen. And they especially didn’t expect that to happen after the Sandy Hook school tragedy. When Sandy Hook happened the gun-controllers were absolutely salivating at what they believed was their best chance for establishing more restrictive gun-control laws. Instead, what they found to their complete dismay was that American citizens began arming themselves in record numbers. The symbolism of America arming itself is something we’ve not seen in our recent history. But, when it started happening you could sense the balance of political power beginning to shift. The private possession of firearms directly equates with political power. That’s something the last 8 years thoroughly demonstrated.

    • Agree. There’s an article over on Breitbart about how the US civilian market bought 17,850 tons of imported ammo this year.

      Using 7.62×39 as a benchmark for an estimation I calculate that suggesting that to be North of 1 billion rounds is 100% reasonable and we’re only talking imported stuff here (17,850 tons of 7.62×39 being about 983,471,074 rounds).

  20. This is why I have guns in multiple calibers, some of them less popular and some downright unusual compared to the run of the mill.

    Got a .40 S&W? Get a .357 Sig conversion barrel and double the chances of finding ammo you can use in stock somewhere.

    Buying a gun in a new caliber? Buy the reloading dies for it, even if you don’t reload yet.

    And so forth.

  21. A few things here.

    First, not all of this was driven by the demand side of things. Some of it was bullshit being shoveled on the supply side in terms of small retailers. More than once I caught an LGS around me claiming to be “sold out” of a particular caliber of popular ammo while selling that very same ammo on the internet for a huge markup. I guess I can’t fault them for making a bigger profit but at the same time lying to local customers was something that I wasn’t real fond of. When the shelf says “sold out” but you have a pallet of the stuff in the back you’re not throwing straight dice.

    Secondly, on the demand and supply side of this were the people straight out taking advantage. Some of the people I worked with a few years back bought a ton of rounds for calibers they didn’t own and convinced yet other co-workers who didn’t even own a gun that ammo was a way to make money. I had a co-worker brag to me about the fact that he didn’t even own a single gun but had 20K rounds in various calibers that he was selling off in tranches and making a killing on. Again, I can’t fault the guy for making a buck but he’s a contributing factor when he’s maxing out two credit cards to buy ammo so that he can resell it to panic buyers at a markup. That’s creating the demand for what you’re selling. Well, at least contributing to the creation of the market.

    On top of that, if you were paying close attention you discovered that ammo companies had supply issues too. The Obama administration put the screws to lead smelters and that caused some problems for ammo makers.

    Then you can add what the government did do to encourage this sort of behavior. Consider the proposed M855 ban. Due to a combination of factors 193 ball or similar was hard to find in reasonable amounts but green tips were not. It was blatantly obvious what the proposed M855 ban was designed to do: push the prices of M855 sky high in the short term and over the longer term, if enacted of course, force all 5.56 shooters into using the already less available ammo and thereby drive up the price of that ammo, which was already high (at least around me). In other words the government was actively putting their finger on the scale by encouraging people to buy large amounts of ammo in preparation for massive price spikes in the future. The plan was to price as many people out of the 5.56 market as possible.

    Now that might seem a bit silly but if you think about it, pricing a large percentage of people out of the 5.56 market would have killed the AR market to boot and we all know how grabbers feel about the AR pattern of rifles.

    At the same time gun controllers and certain administration folks restarted the conversation about ammo bans in general by reviving the argument that “the 2A doesn’t cover bullets” argument. Now, I’m not normally conspiratorial but let’s be honest here: the Left very, very rarely puts out talking points that are not very well coordinated and this shit was.

    So, while I applaud the rationality of this article it doesn’t cover everything (nor do I) and urging people to be rational when government, media and other powers that be are actively engaged in activities designed to encourage and exacerbate what panic there might already be, that rationality is going to be hard to sell.

  22. Seems to me that we have market mechanisms to deal with scarcity, and they are well understood. Supply-and-demand, if left to dictate pricing, would keep the “empty shelf” phenomenon to a minimum. Unfortunately, the gun community is all too quick to scream “price gouger!” when a retailer raises the price of an item whose demand has increased while the supply has tightened up. So the retailers are afraid to let the market work for fear of ignoramuses organizing boycotts, the normal free market mechanisms are short-circuited, and the shelves are cleared bare. What these economically-illiterate folks don’t seem to understand is that, during demand spikes, you can either have higher prices, or no inventory. Those are the only two options in the short term.

    Likewise, it seems that most people who accuse others of the indefinable crime of “hoarding” are those who lacked the foresight or resources to accumulate their own stock when demand was low. Who decides what’s “hoarding” and what’s “being prepared”?

    • Very well put. I may not “like” someone profiting from circumstances, but that is the way it should be. I have every right NOT to buy.

  23. There is no reason to loathe quoting Wikipedia. On most scientific and mathematical topics they are as accurate as Britannica, often offering the detail that a textbook provides, though without the organization of a textbook.

    The powder/bullets/brass/cartridges market cannot be played as if it were a staged or finitely repeated game. You lack sufficient information to calculate whether there even is a Nash equilibria available, let alone one calculable in polynomial time. On the contrary, with so little information, and given the certainty of calculation costs, every “player” in the reloading game was, and would be, wise to follow the general Nash equilibrium for an actual case of the Prisoners’ Dilemma: Defect at every stage. In practical terms, buy what you can afford if your need makes the prices worth it. (There was always 22LR available, powder available, and so forth. These are goods which, like diamonds for jewelry, primarily exist on the shelf, to be traded or hoarded, but rarely used up, consumed, out of need.

    Hunters need bullets. A box or two every season. Soldiers need bullets. They get them. Cops need bullets, and get to jump ahead in line to buy them. Trainers in the private sector need ammunition, but they therefore should have been buying two years in advance, and paying the unavoidable carrying cost.

    You do not know how long a shortage will last. (In 2008 few knew that by 2010 the panic would be receding as the mid-term election returns were tallied.) Since stages are variable, calculations are for naught. You may think cooperation (self-imposed restraint) could be a good strategy, but this isn’t true. First, the players do not get information about each other after some artificially measured “stage” is over, so there is no way to know if a Trigger Strategy should be employed to beat the defectors back into rational self-restraint. In other words the conditions to make self-restraint rational do not exist.

    The most significant problem in your analysis is this, that you view the behavior of buyers as a major determinant of component availability. We know this is not the case. CCI, for example, shut down lines to install a major increase of its production capacity. Your hoarding would not figure much in the market for Minimags. The powder and centerfire cartridge manufacturers had a different problem, which again had nothing to do with what you bought (although you weren’t actually in the tough 2008-20013 market): these manufacturers are corporations, owned almost to a one by larger corporations. During the period you reference their challenge, threat, fear, had nothing to do with elections, but with the cost and availability of capital, and with the likelihood that their responses to the component markets would be ruined by a transfer of ownership of their company to a different parent corporation with goals that could not have been known in advance. Capital became very expensive for corporations in 2008-9, cheap for the government (who doesn’t make gunpowder), and survival was the goal of executives, not perfect optimizations.

    It is fantasy to think that shocks to the reloading component (or cartridges) market can be stablized, or that we can find a best strategy other than “buy as much as you can at prices justified by the importance of your need.” If you are reloading just to shoot as sport, a hobby, who cares if prices are too high for you? Not me! If you are trying to lay in a supply of defensive ammuntion, or supplies to make it, and you live in a very dangerous place, then buy it at any price…but stop shooting for fun. (This is a strategy many people actually followed.) In other words, live your budget line.

    Game theory application requires information about the players’ behavior, not simply the gross results at each stage. We could look for Epsilon-Equilibria for some epsilon, but by the time we determined an appropriate optimum for some epsilon, everybody would have bought everything, and we’d have cash but no powder. Fine. The cash sees it’s value in powder units rise dramatically as powder and case supplies improve. You are rewarded for dithering, I mean patiently waiting. This is the economics equivalent of the Nash equilibria of the low-information Prisoners Dilemma. You are rewarded for defecting at every stage. You will also be rewarded for withdrawing from the market every time there is a panic. All strategies in between are inferior in practice.

  24. Alot of the problem was/is people hoarding. On one hand, I don’t have a problem with it, but sometimes, you’re just screwing over everyone else.

    I worked at a Rural King gun counter while getting through college back during the 2nd Obama term. Tuesday was usually the day that new shipments came in, and we would get a couple pallets of ammo by 8am. Like clock work, I’d have about 7 or 8 older, retired gentlemen waiting on me.

    And no shit, they would be standing there, pads of paper in hand, ticking off what I was about to put on the shelf. And once it went on the shelf, they would buy everything. 22 LR, 5.56, 7.62×39, 30-30, 257Roberts, if it was a common cartridge, they bought it.

    Noone, and I do mean noone, got an opportunity to buy anything before they got first pick. I had several customers ask to return guns because they had no way to shoot them. Adults asking to bring in a kid or grand kids first 22 rifle to return because the kid couldn’t use it.

    Could it be that these guys were just stocking up for themselves? Sure, its possible, but I’d wager to guess that alot that got bought from me, got turned around and sold to someone in the parking lot at twice the price.

    Prepping is fine, but this is overkill. I have more ammo than I’ll probably ever use, and I’m always looking for more. But at the same time, I’m not trying to screw over the noobs that are trying to get into the hobby and exercise a right.

    • “…but I’d wager to guess that alot that got bought from me, got turned around and sold to someone in the parking lot at twice the price.”

      It might not have been the parking lot but it’s a safe bet that generally speaking you’re right about what they were doing. The markup may have been A LOT higher than 100% too. I had a guy I worked with who didn’t even own a single gun who was selling pistol ammo at outrageous prices and people were paying it.

      He did what you’re talking about. He knew a few stores and their hours/shipment days and he’d be there first putting thousands of dollars worth of ammo on a credit card minutes after the place opened. When something was rare in the area, say 9mm, the markup he’d charge was 300% or more. His standard markups were in the area of 150-200% and like I said, people paid it.

      Sounds crazy, but he did a (pardon the pun) banging business with the shooters that worked there. I’d guess he at least doubled his money.

      A friend of mine was looking for some .243 Win and called me in… 2013 I think (?… must have been since it was around the time of our new and fantastic gun laws) . He was about ready to murder someone when he was offered a box of regular plain Jane .243 for $75. I just fronted him a few boxes so he would cool down.

  25. Nice try butt i aint giving up any of my 22lr stash, that i got before prices went up btw, based on the logic of this article nobody should stock up on food and water preps either. Right.

  26. Let me see, the Gubmint EPA didn’t close the refining of or restrict Lead manufacture mining in any way shape or form!
    Gubmint didn’t put excessive orders in for .223 Ammo! { which in turn reduces the availability of lead in 224)! oh wait Brass output was not available for use except 5..56×45 or 7.62x 51 NATO! Primer capacity was maxed out and used by the Gubmint! certain .propellant powders were very hard to get, certain flavors of .30 lead were hard to get, even wheel weights became inflated!
    Now with more occasional availability we get a Holier than thou sermon on how we should have acted {whining because they didn’t get none of the earlier cheap stuff} suck it up buttercup, don’t ya know market strategy dictates charge what it the market will bear!
    Soros didn’t buy out more gun companies, raw materials for the Gun manufacturing and ammo loading companies became hard to get except for Gov mint orders! {Priority}

    • The “lead smelters being closed” is a faux argument concerning ammo, since bullets are not made from virgin smelted lead, but recycled lead, of which there are ample supplies.

      However, you are correct in pointing out the insidious nature of the EPA and their ever expanding regulations, especially in regards to outdoor ranges. The EPA has been trying for years to get shooting ranges under their purview for “ground contamination” and would have gone absolutely nuts under a Hillary regime in those regards.

  27. “appeal to reason” –

    If only the Democrats in CA, MD, NY, NJ, MA, CT and elsewhere would comply.

    Next up: bans on toys, because kids threaten officers with them, and unsurprisingly get shot.

  28. Nice article Captain Obvious. However, did the industry not see the same trends as the consumer? I don’t blame the “hoarders” for it all. There were millions of people like me that were first time entrants into the market.
    Here is something else I thought about while reading this. If the market had kept up with the demand, then the anti-2A/Democrats would have a legitimate argument that the surge was due to fear mongering by the industrial complex and the gun lobby. For a conspiracy to be true, wouldn’t all conspirators be on the same page?

  29. Here in New York State, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the State Police get the ammunition background check system up and running, so buying/hoarding ammo here is still full steam ahead.

  30. There was price gouging by resalers, constrained shipments/allotments by manufacturers, and wild eyed hoarding by consumers who were justifiably frightened by a lawless extra Constitutional Obama. Of course some of us were still dipping into their 1990s reserves during these “shortages” and were bemused by it all. But of course, newbies were understandably perplexed that their zoomy new 10/22 had no ammo readily available after Obama the Teflon Gangster pointed his fingers at the 2nd Amendment to divert attention from his planned BLM scourge and resulting skyrocketing crime wave.

    In other words, GOVT driven inflation and scarcity of a legal product. Now, if Obama and his commie minions had taken their logical next step under a Hillary regime with ammo taxes/.bans/registration, then the black market of ammo would have become the new heroin flowing across the open Mexican border.

    Its always always always GOVT that creates these price gouging/scarcity scenarios. Same thing with the odd/even fuel rationing of the 1970s. A stable political environment and adherence to the Constitution and these scarcity scares would never happen.

    So, the author might reconsider blaming the American people for a predictable human response to a shortage of previously available goods, because what many were doing with ammo the Venezuelans are doing right now with FOOD.

  31. I didn’t panick buy anything, instead I built up my ammo collection a few boxes at a time when it was on sale. Yeah, I was short on .22 for a long time, but when it became available again, I bought it a brick at a time. Now I’m sitting on a nice stockpile of several thousand rounds of .22, and at least a thousand rounds of everything else that I have. Now, when I go to the range, I keep track mentally what I used, and replace it when it goes on sale, which these days is almost weekly by me. If times get tough again, I’ll adjust my shooting habits.

  32. The empty shelves were entirely a matter of companies not paying attention to basic economics. When supply is fixed (which until they could build more plants, it essentially is) and demand suddenly increases, prices must increase as well to ensure that everyone who truly wants it can buy it and prevent shortages. I’ve seen many ignorant people post on here claiming that prices increasing due to increased demand is “price gouging” when its nothing close. Those same people then complain about empty shelves and “scalpers” reselling ammo at high prices, when if the manufacturer / store would have raised prices accordingly, everyone who wanted ammo could have easily walked into a store and bought some and there would have been no opportunity for people to buy at low prices and sell it for a profit.

    • Well, except for the fact that if they complain about “scalpers” when other folks are selling the ammo at higher prices, they’d also be complaining about “scalpers” if the gun stores were the ones selling the ammo at higher prices.

  33. I shoot a lot, about 250 rounds each time I shoot
    I go shooting two or three times a month
    I try to keep 500 to 1,000 rounds of each caliber on hand ( no .22)
    I buy only what I currently use
    In times of drought, I shoot less than 250 each time, yet eventually run out
    Just like my retirement investing, I buy a little every month
    Dollar cost averaging means I get a good average price even though there is market volatility
    I keep 4 magazines worth for each gun in reserve for Teotwawki
    That stash is sacred and is never touched
    I also keep one months worth of food and water for the entire family

  34. The “tehr” in the “ZOMG TEHR GUNNA TAKE MAH GUNNZZZ!!!” ain’t dead and buried, and even if they were more would still be sh_t from the bowels of the weaker/wet-sh_t members of society. REMEMBER nearly half the U.S. population (FU2death no, Hillocrap didn’t win the popular vote if all you count were valid citizens) attempted to vote more of this human feces in.

    This OP sounds like the opening scene of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” when everyone’s about to drive quickly away from the car wreck.

    To paraphrase a CA problem child “Can’t we all just bend over and take-it”
    NO, now we the F can’t.

    Buy more guns and ammo, and AOW’s and DD’s, and books on how to DIY. Seems like the anti’s are having difficulty with the number and volume of things to try to overcome. Keep their difficulties their own.

  35. If y’all (I’m guessing “y’all” because all of you must have said “ZOMG TEHR GUNNA TAKE MAH GUNNZZZ!!!” at some point [?]) can just quit buyin guns and ammo, then the guns and ammo companies will fail and the ahole’s will win by default without banning anything.

    • Not really.

      Most of us actually SHOOT our guns. Regularly. Ammo that is consumed, needs to be replaced. I can’t speak for everyone, but most of us aren’t just sitting on an ever-increasing stack of our ammo, we’re using some of it.

      • That wasn’t sarcasm, but it was the truth-said-in-jest. If no one buys guns/ammo that will eventually cause the supply to go away and the anti’s will win without needing to ban anything.

        Last year America bought 18K + TONS of ammo: That’s a good start. I don’t think any statisticians urging to slow it up is worth anything. Plus, I reassert that ALL REASONS TO PURCHASE GUNS AND/OR AMMO ARE STILL VALID AND CURRENT.

        • Help me out here. My buddy (who is trying to help me decide on buying a gun) has 8 handguns, 5 rifles of all kinds, and ~12,000 rounds of various ammo.

          Does he have an arsenal, or a cache? Should he be allowed to keep all that stuff at home? Should he have to keep that stuff in some sort of secure storage that includes fire suppression equipment? Is he more likely to go off his rocker because he has all those guns and ammo?

        • Read the 7 page industry expert document on the fire subject.

          Your “friend” is more dangerous with you being their “friend”. Further still with you knowing how many guns [he?] has, and even more dangerous because you care how many guns he has and you’ve asked me (sarcastically or not) if your friend is more dangerous having them.

          and . . . Mr. “Sam I Am not from here” you’re not from here. Dig a spider-hole wherever you are and wait to be crushed by the dictatorship you so crave.

          • Thanks for the link; it was informative.

            The slam para was completely unwarranted, but perhaps you needed the release. In that sense, glad to be of service.

  36. If y’all can just leave whatever you’re supposed to buy (and everything else) up to the statisticians then everyone will have everything they need.

  37. I had two other posts on here that didn’t make it. Offended someone huh? Can’t even remember what I typed but definitely don’t think it’s as offensive as some of the known untruthful bs that people post.

    • Not necessarily.

      Sometimes when it’s busy, it can take a few minutes for posts to appear. I see like 4 posts of yours right now, so I’m guessing they all appeared.

      • Then I beg your pardon.

        I am an impatient man. My father tried to teach me patience, and I tried to teach him how to test patience to Underwriter’s Laboratories standards.

  38. Please, explain to me, once more, why I should give a crap, whether or not there’s any [of anything] left over for you. Or, is that just one of those, “Can’t we all just get along moments?”

    • Responses like the above, while containing much less detail than many of mine, have a certain simple elegance to them.

      Bravo for your brevity.

  39. right or wrong, I only own around 500 rounds for each of my 3 main fighting rifles, the idea behind it being that by the time im in need of ammo there will be plenty of it lying on corpses for me to take. there is simply no reason to have thousands of rounds because in the event you need ammo in that quantity for defensive purposes you will not be alive long enough to use it all. At least thats how my pessimistic mind works

    • In purely offensive operations, I’d tend to agree with you, but in defending a fixed and prepared position, then maybe not.

      And just because something valuable (like ammo) is lying out in the open on a dead body, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to walk out onto the “X” to try and take it. That’s why the original owner doesn’t need it anymore; he went somewhere he shouldn’t have, at least without air support.

  40. Maybe now that Trump is in for at least 4 year, ammo companies are more willing to make new capital investments to expand capacity.

    • Trump will have only about 20mos to actually get anything done. After that, he will be fully engaged in running for re-election (24mo cycle now). Between campaigning and running his businesses (which I do not see as a conflict), and with a relatively hostile House and Senate, the time to make a difference is very short.

      All those Obama edicts Trump will remove? The next president can re-instate.

    • “…a free country again”

      Maybe for a season.

      House and Senate are not captives to Trump; lotsa resistance there.

      • The house and senate haven’t got a clue. As the cabinet is fleshed out and the administration begins its seduction of the “I hope I get reelected” crowd, unusual deals will be made. The power assembled in the cabinet is mildly astounding, and, recall, Trump is not a social conservative. He’s a fiscal conservative with a penchant for economic growth. He has to keep working at the art of helping his opponents safe face. He’s already fairly good at it. No rush.

  41. Not sure what the author’s issue is here. We are a Capitalist society. If you want something and can afford to buy it, then buy it. The entire concept of not buying things you want and can afford so that other people can buy it is an artificial application of a flawed concept. When I want to buy something I shop for it, if it’s out of stock then I look for alternatives.

    Let’s get real here, we are Americans, not Communists. We take care of our own and try to help others when we can. But to say we’re doing something wrong by spending our hard earned money on what we want, is a travesty.

    • Agree. Goethe once wrote “there are people who, if you give them a roast pheasant, insist that you carve it for them as well.” Everyone had a chance to be one of the “eight old men” at some location. You can boycott stores that indulged “the eight old men” cabals, no? For most shooters the activity is a sport, a hobby. The grandmas with the revolver that seem to always succeed in blowing the guts out of a burglar….never practice. They’re too busy cooking and knitting.

      I (we, actually) always buy our hunting ammunition, mostly 6.5×55 and 30-06, a year or two in advance. I have at least three years’ worth at the moment. Who wants to schedule hunts according to cartridge availability. The money involved to stock good loads is small, really.

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