Walmart ammo ammunition gun shelf empty
Image courtesy Jim McGuire
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Have you seen much ammunition in your local gun stores or sporting good retailers? We haven’t. From surveying the shelves in these parts, you might think it was May, 2020, not 2021. Unless you’re looking for an esoteric caliber, the only thing you’ll find on your retailer’s ammo shelves is a thin layer of dust.

Current retail prices of about three times what they were in The Time Before haven’t seemed to temper demand much. While firearm production seems to have caught up and the dmand tapered off slightly, with the current social and political climate, the average gun owner appears to have concluded that he can’t possibly have too much gun food. Not now.

That’s the conclusion industry marketing firm Soutwick Associates has come to as well. They’ve released some information about ammunition demand from recent market research and based on what they’ve found, don’t expect to see more availability — or lower prices — any time soon.

From their press release . . .

Ammunition consumers indicate that demand will remain strong well into 2021. According to Southwick Associates’ ongoing shooting sports consumer market research, multiple reasons are driving the continued unparalleled demand.

In April 2021, Southwick Associates surveyed more than 1,800 ammunition consumers as part of its quarterly HunterSurvey/ShooterSurvey tracking study. In 2020, four out of five consumers encountered out of stock issues while trying to purchase ammunition, while three-quarters encountered out of stock situations so far in 2021. Of these respondents, 79% reported either fully or partially reducing their target shooting and hunting outings as a result of depleted ammunition shelves.

Going forward, ammunition demand is expected to remain high. Nearly two-thirds of ammunition consumers report their current ammunition inventory was lower than they would prefer. When asked how much more ammunition they would like to have on hand, 43% reported “much more” while 38% reported “a little more.” Only 17% were satisfied with the amounts they currently had on hand.

When asked why they desire more ammunition, key reasons included:

    • Uncertainty about future ammunition supplies (72%). This is especially true among consumers 45+ years of age.
    • Uncertainty about future restrictions on ammunition purchases (70%).
    • Uncertainty about future economic conditions (54%).
    • Increased shooting and hunting activity (26%). This was more common among the 25-34 year-old consumers.

“At some point, demand will certainly soften,” reports Rob Southwick, President of Southwick Associates. “However, frenzied purchasing and empty shelves often fuels further increases in demand. We do not see demand softening in the near future.”

Southwick Associates will release additional top-level insights regarding market and consumer trends in the hunting, recreational shooting, and home/away defense markets as they become available.

Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing and other outdoor recreation markets. For more than 30 years, Southwick Associates has established a proven record for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics assisting business and strategic decisions across the entire outdoor industry; from government agencies, industry associations and non-profit organizations, to affiliated businesses and manufacturers.

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  1. Everyone needing ammunition should buy at least ten years worth, and stockpile. Even that might not work.

    The feds (all of them, including lawmakers) control transportation in this country. How much trouble do you think it would be to rule that ammunition may only be shipped by government agencies? Only be shipped in convoys (raising the price)? Only be sent to government-dictated facilities (and sold there)? Only be sold through a registration process? Only be shipped over government-designated roadways (raising prices)?

    • @Sam,

      As I’ve mentioned before here, I’m now very glad I took advantage of the “Trump slump” era (2017-2019) when supply was high and prices were low, and stockpiled literally thousands and thousands of rounds, enough for uninterrupted training for about five years. Now, when I go to my training academy every couple of months, I’ll buy half a class’s round count from their ammo bunker (albeit at higher prices, but at least available) and supply the rest from my own inventory. Extends my estimated stock to at least seven years’ worth.

      If/when things settle down again at some point, slowly stock up on the gun food as much as you can afford.

      • “Extends my estimated stock to at least seven years’ worth.”

        Not enough. We gotta keep the panic buying going !! A buying slump might put the ammo industry outta business.

        BTW…I am serious about government controlling transportation.

    • Stockpile 10 year’s worth? That’s ridiculous. If everyone just bought what they actually need, we wouldn’t be dealing with this.

  2. I could use a couple thousand large rifle primers to increase my larder, otherwise I’m good

  3. Increased demand was blamed on 8 million new first time gun buyers. I’m doubting they were buying…or even knew of the existence of…..magnum, long range calibers such as 6.5PRC, 300PRC, 300WM (possibly), 300/338 Norma Magnum, 338 Lapua Magnum, 50BMG, 6.5 Grendel, 458SOCOM, 450 bushmaster, 224 Valkyrie, 6mm ARC, et el. So where are those calibers on dealer shelves???

    • I suspect ammo manufacturers are producing the most common calibers – NOT those less frequently used. Why pump out 6.5PRC rounds when you can pump out 5.56? Huge demand for the latter, not so much for the former.

    • I can get .224 Valkyrie, 6.5 Grendel, .450 Bushmaster, and subsonic .300 BO from a big box sporting store in a large city. The same boxes have literally been there for over a month. Lots of steel shot and other shotgun hunting loads are available also. What disappears immediately are 9mm, .223, etc. Even .45 ball at $.50/round disappears.

    • joeyj,

      I believe that Todd and Anymouse’s replies to your comment are accurate. I would also add that some people likely bought–quite literally–whatever firearm/chambering was left on the shelf. If that was a bolt-action rifle chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, then that is what someone purchased. Some of those purchasers already had other rifles/calibers and bought an extra one “just in case”. Other purchasers had no firearms and figured that a bolt-action rifle chambered in any caliber–even .300 Winchester Magnum–was better than no firearm and bought it (along with a couple boxes of ammunition).

      The fun question is whether or not enough people purchased “whatever firearm was left on the shelf” (in “odd” calibers) that it created enough additional demand for the nominally meager production capacity of those “odd” calibers to leave the ammunition shelves empty.

    • joeyj,

      I believe there is a third category of new demand even for “odd” calibers. A LOT of people saw a non-trivial possibility of complete societal collapse and/or civil war and stocked up on whatever caliber they happen to have, which includes “odd” calibers.

      Consider someone who has a bolt-action rifle chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum and normally shoots a few rounds every year for deer season–thus he/she only keeps one box of 20 cartridges on hand. While that single 20-count box of cartridges is fine when life is good, that same person may want five or even 10 boxes to have on hand in case society collapses or civil war erupts.

      Hence, even “odd” calibers are missing on store shelves.

      • I tend to lean toward this explanation as well. Potential civil unrest or finacial collapse is a factor in my decision to maintain an ample long term inventory, apart from what I have allocated to range training.

        • Please don’t be fooled. Natural killbox boy here is a complete coward who will fold like a cheap suit when TSHTF.

        • ‘a true patriot’ being the total coward who refuses to identify itself… 😉

          What a loser you are, little boy.

          A very *little* boy… 😉

  4. You want to continue to have ammo shortages? Cause this drivel is how you keep people panic buying. Prices have already started to come down, and product availability has already increased both online as well as local (to me in Georgia). Still not what I’d call readily available or good prices in most cases, but much better than 3 months ago.

    • Same in central PA. More “common” rounds starting to show up again at slightly higher prices than before, but not too bad. Bought a box of Winchester White box 230 gr FMJ at $60 for 100 and CCI Blazer Brass FMJ 380 at $27 for 50. Not great prices, but better than I’ve seen in a while and certainly not like when some were charging $1 a round for 9mm ball. I’m also starting to see 30-06, 7.62×39, 308, 270 Winchester and others at less than 20% higher than the prices in 2019.

    • Agreed.

      I am good for years and and have not been looking to buy at these prices, but have been watching online and just looking when in a store to see what the status is. Was waiting on the wife in Wally World last week and took a look, many boxes of Federal bulk .22lr on the shelf with a limit of 3 boxes. I picked up 3 boxes-almost 1k rounds for a little less than $0.06/rnd after tax (yeah, I know and would much prefer to buy elsewhere). I let a couple of buddies know and they each did the same. Went by the next day, really just to see how quickly it went, and did the same since they still had plenty. Went by for the third day and bought 3 of the last 6 boxes.

      • .22 LR is unobtainium around here, as is 9 mm. Weird though, I was looking the other day and the 9 I could find was .50 a round or more, and I could find .223 for the same price. Unfortunately, I am very light on 9 mm ball.

        • ammoplanet (dot) com has Aguila .22lr at 6 bucks a box of 50…

  5. “So where are those calibers on dealer shelves???”

    Thinking those calibres were not as plentiful as handgun calibres in the first place. It stands to reason that the less on the shelf at the start, the quicker those calibres would disappear.

  6. Recently bid on a 500-round lot of CCI .22lr on gunbroker. I went as high as $80 (~$0.20/round), and let it ride. Went back to see what the final bid was.

    $240. Un-freaking-believable.

    • That’s bizarre. I bought 3 boxes of Federal Auto Match (325/box) at a local place just last week for $18.65 a box…..

      I was surprised to see it yes, but it was available.

      • It’s starting to show back up.

        Grab more the next time you’re out… 😉

  7. Most Americans aren’t shooters. Plenty of gun owners, relatively few shooters. Traditionally the average gun owner has bought a gun and two or three boxes of ammunition. Twenty years later, he’s still got most of that ammunition he bought the day he bought the gun. Those are the numbers from an industry study done years ago and that includes the numbers from the guys who shot 30,000 rounds a year too. And most of those people hoarding extra won’t use any of it. The only way to sell extra ammunition to most people is to make them think it won’t be available any more. That’s what you’re doing with these articles.

  8. “The only way to sell extra ammunition to most people is to make them think it won’t be available any more. That’s what you’re doing with these articles.”

    What would be the alternative to informing the interested?

  9. Must be amazing to be Federal and be selling every cartridge you produce for 300% profit.

  10. Learned a lot during the Obama Ammo Apocalypse and had plenty, mostly. I was, however, taken by surprise with the lack of “old standby” ammo like 30-30, 12 ga bird shot, etc. It made me look twice at alternatives like 6.5 Grendel, 450 Bushmaster, and 350 Legend – pretty much the only things available at my stores.

    • The most commonly held logic is that the most popular items are what will be available in a shortage during a period of emergency. From what I’ve seen though, every time, whether a market run or a hurricane warning or whatever the case, the very first things sold out have always been the most popular items.

  11. I DO see ammo is much more plentiful. Some still at gouge levels but other’s(like Cabelas) reasonable. The trick is to show up right when it comes in. I’ve paid more than I liked just to keep my stash up(9mm). 223/556 I havent been shooting since my AR since December 2019. This is NE IL& NW Indiana. Oh & steel crap is widely available…shooting this week 9 & 223.

    • I shoot every other weekend. At that pace I’ll run out in about 5 years. Headed up to Ankeny, Iowa on the 12th of June to celebrate another B-day at the Annual Machine Gun Shoot. Sure to see LOTS of ammo flying downrange. Much fun to be had by all.

  12. Liking the alternatives is like having a car than runs on gasoline and seeing diesel fuel available. That is great, but it doesn’t feed your car. Buying obscure calibers means I have to buy another firearm.

  13. Q who still shops at wal mart anymore

    A people that are still part of the problem

    • My WalMart (in California) quit selling ammo when the instant back ground check law went into effect that also required a seller to be licensed as an FFL or “ammunition vendor.”


      • A Fascist like you would think that way, boy… 🙂

  15. ammoseek dot com:
    out of the first 100 search results at least 60 for 9mm less than 50 cents a round now and dropping
    at least 20 for .223 less than 50 cents
    at least 60 for 7.62×39 less than 40 cents
    same thing with most of the other calibers
    yeah it was expensive there for a while but i never had a problem getting any caliber ammo that i wanted at a price i wasnt able or willing to pay except for maybe 6.8 spc .30-06 and 6.5 creedmoor

      • And this most likely exacerbates the problem. In many/most cases, when buying online you have to buy larger quantities in order to overcome the shipping expenses if you want a decent price.

  16. “Must be amazing to be Federal and be selling every cartridge you produce for 300% profit.”

    Federal doesn’t sell directly to the public.

    Manufacturers of items in scarce supply are not obligated to risk their business future in order that consumers can continue to buy those items as a price they like.

    “Oh, but I must have my whatever at ‘normal’ prices because I need…”. Well, I need a bunch of things I cannot afford, so when the prices of those items climbs, I cannot afford those things even more. So what?

    We all want what we want, when we want it, at a price we want. And we all wish we could possess something rare that we could charge a fortune for.

    • Full agreement on your point about the reality of supply and demand. Federal does have a retail website, and I was lucky to be alerted by a buddy to hit that site one day last month when they had Champion .22lr available in loose 800 round bricks at around 10 cent a round.
      I keep watching but I haven’t been able to hit it right since.

      • “Federal does have a retail website…”

        I should have known that before submitting the comment. Thanx for the fact check.

  17. I’m seeing things soften a bit, both in terms of availability and prices. Mostly I’ve noticed that online inventory doesn’t automatically get gobbled up and sold out in a matter of minutes. It’s a start.

    BTW, does anyone have any experience with PPU ammo? I was thinking about picking up some JHP’s, but I’ve read mixed reviews on their performance.

  18. Hrm… I would suspect that ammo prices continue to drop back to a floor somewhere between 50% and 100% higher than your “pre-pandemic” prices. Increased demand with medium term softness in production of raw materials plus the increased cost of TEU’s and overseas politics set the floor higher for your non-remanufactured stuff.

    I further suspect that the drop to that medium-term floor will be uneven and have spikes. Gun control proposals being one cause and cops blasting someone into the hereafter being another.

    Then there’s the twin X-factors of how well the Left can browbeat suburbs on defending the cops and how the continued bifurcation of the Democratic Party shakes out. The situation with Conor Lamb suggests the latter is anything but a forgone conclusion.

    • “The situation with Conor Lamb suggests the latter is anything but a forgone conclusion.”

      What in particular outside of calling for ending the filibuster is going on with Conor Lamb?

      • That call is what you need to know.

        It’s a pretty damned hard Left turn and more and more Democrats are piling into that little clown car.

        One might suspect that there are a fair number of these people who are totally OK with sitting behind razorwire and machine guns for the rest of their terms because they don’t really plan on “representing” anyone other than themselves any longer.

        Well, that’s been the case for a long time but perhaps the better way to say it is that they no longer care to pretend that they’re representing anyone other than themselves any longer.

  19. Trumpholes looking out for Trumpholes.

    Always and forever.

    American “patriots”.

  20. Ya don’t think we are at war?
    Ya think that since Trump is out and Biden is in that everything is ok?
    Ya really think the people of this country really believe all the crap they are told?
    Ya really think its all about white men?

    Watch as the bulk of the US population arms up….to the teeth.

  21. In my state and locale, Academy Sports normal ammo shelves that used to be chocked full are 100% empty. However the last three months or so, they have been stocking small supplies of 5.56 and .308 behind the customer service desk,once in a while a tad of 9mm but have a two 20rd box purchase limit per caliber. Per visit I presume. Academy has been stocking small supplies of tannerite , but nothing like they did before the ammo shortage.They’ll have one to three types of .308, and usually one type of 5.56x45mm. The brands of the ammo seem to vary each shipment/wekk/month. Maybe 50 or so 20 rd. boxes of each type and that’s about it.
    My local Dunhams and WalMart shelves still 100% bare last I check (last week). Some LGS have small supplies, but one’s prices are jacked up rediculously compared to Academy’s prices.Another @ the same One LGS price was $49.99 for a 20 rd box of .308 made by an ammo company in Georgia. The cheaper one had Winchester white box FMJ for $19.99, but two box purchase limit So I’ve just been buying 1 or two boxes a week steadily from them and Academy. Things still look pretty dismal ammo wise IMHO.

  22. Ammo has been on a downward trend for weeks. Trying to use scare tactics to fluff demand just like the oil industry.
    Of course they can write all the fictitious crap like this they want because people who keep constant eye on inventories know that sellers are starting to sit on large amounts of certain ammo types and when inventories do move, they are not moving like they were just a month ago.
    Don’t be a sheeple. Keep waiting. Its the best kryptonite for driving down prices faster.

  23. Haunting Gunbroker I occasionally score some of my needed calibers at reasonably fair prices. Gamble but what the hell.

  24. 7.62×39 has been available online for about the same cost as pre-panic 5.56.

    Bought me a PSAK-103 and a few SKSs to go with the ammo.

    Man I miss the days when Wal-Mart had cheap 200-round “range packs” of .45.

  25. I’m shocked, I say shocked.

    Are you seriously trying to tell me that with everything that’s been happening since 2008, there are still people who aren’t stocked up to the hilt ??

    All I can say is: too bad, so sad….

    I have absolutely no pity and/or empathy for any unprepared person.
    There was no mystery about what the leftists zombies’ agenda was. It was obvious all along.

    Haven’t bought a box of ammo in the last couple of years, running out of space….

  26. The one caliber I’m rather low on is 7.62 X 35 or .300 blk. I was able to get a few boxes lately of some subsonic and I heard Cabelas had some in Post Falls, so I ran out there but there was none and they said it got sucked up in the morning so fast it was amazing. I’ll buy some if and when its available but to be sure, I’m not at the range wasting it.

  27. Fortunately there’s a distributor here that has a retail shop open only to military and first responders. I can buy 5 boxes of ammo a day at very fair prices . Pretty much any handgun,rifle or shotgun round .

    I’ve filled in a few holes in my supply and gotten a few boxes for friends . Otherwise I’ve had a few thousand rounds for my most used calibers to begin with .

  28. Picked up a flat of Remington Gun Club 20 ga. target loads this weekend. Even that was out of circulation for awhile, so that’s something.

  29. Meanwhile, in response to the latest media-hyped mass shooting, in liberal Facebook groups I see constant calls for the government to, an exact quote,
    “Tax the hell out of ammunition! Raise the taxes so high that nobody can afford to buy ammunition!”
    I replied sarcastically, trying to get across the point that the RTKBA is a right,
    “Tax the hell out of voting! Make it so nobody can afford to vote!”
    The point probably went right over their tiny little heads, because the responses were angry and immediate, people calling me “imbecile” and worse.

    Most of the anti-ammo comments on Facebook currently are due to that one mass shooter who was the exception to the rule, the guy who had 25,000 rounds of ammo at his house. Most mass shooters seem to be guys who buy their gun right before the mass shooting and only have a few hundred rounds, but this latest guy was the exception, with his 25,000 round stash.

    The anti-gun people were calling his stash “25,000 bullets,” LOL.
    Facebook groups left and right — I mean left and FURTHER left — are now calling on the gummint to put a limit on how much ammo people can own. If they had their way, nobody would be able to own more than ten “bullets” (they always say “bullets” instead of rounds or cartridges, LOL).
    I tried to point out that a competitive shooter can go through 25,000 rounds in just a few months, and that even for those of us who aren’t competitive shooters, each gun needs a different type of ammo (to which they always reply, “Nobody should be allowed to have more than one gun!”). I tried to point out that having 25,000 rounds of ammo can be necessary to get us through the lean years like 2020-2021 when there is no ammo to be found ANYWHERE.
    Then I ducked out of the group to avoid the flames.

    I forgot to point out in these Facebook groups that ammo is cheaper when you buy in bulk, cheaper when you buy 1,000 rounds at a time. That would have freaked them out even more, if they heard people are “allowed” to buy 1,000 rounds (which anti-gunners call “bullets”) at one time! Personally, I think it’s a good idea to keep at least 1,000 rounds for each caliber of gun that you own. That might be enough to tide most occasional shooters over during the drought years like 2020-2021, but if you shoot every week, you need to keep more on hand (if you shoot just 100 rounds a week, that’s obviously 5,200 rounds a year). Some ammo gets bulky, though, like 12-gauge ammo or long-action cartridges, while .22 rimfire is so compact and light that you can store thousands of rounds in one ammo can.
    During the 2020-2021 ammo drought, I’ve cut back on the number of calibers of guns I own, so I have less different types of “gun food” to buy. Next to go will be .22 Hornet, because I haven’t been able to find a single box of .22 Hornet from my usual source in about a year!

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