As many readers of this column know, I own a gun store in the Asheville area. I’ve already written about the current debate going on about gun control and the phantom “assault weapon” that is indefinable. That issue is sure to be debated in the chambers of Congress for many months to come. I digress. Let me use the column this week to talk about what is going on in the gun industry and at gun stores throughout the country.
The short answer is nothing. If you have been looking for any gun lately you are probably drawing a blank and may be getting curt responses to your question, “Do you have any (fill in the blank)”? The most popular models of guns just are not out there: Glock pistols, Ruger 10/22 rifles, and most concealed carry handguns. Let’s not even talk about AR frame rifles and the magazines to put in them. And ammo for those guns? Just as hard to find: 9mm, .380, .308 for rifles and dare we mention .223? Even the ever present .22 LR target load.
So what happened? Here is my best explanation. Many gun stores started building up supply prior to the November presidential election. That put a lot of demand on the system. Sales were brisk for about one week after the election but not what many had anticipated. That was followed shortly by another increase in sales for Christmas gifts. Think how many boxes of .22 LR ammo are opened on Christmas morning. But there is one more factor that no one is talking about and deserves some credit for the current shortage.
Every year in December the manufacturers and wholesalers are reducing gun and ammo inventory, so they do not have to carry it on the books at the end of year for tax purposes. Guns and ammo are reported as assets. Makes sense. We always have problems finding guns and ammo from about mid-December into early January. Because what happens in early January? SHOT Show. That is where most of the manufacturers meet with business to take orders for the coming year and start ramping up production in mid-January. Then in December, boom, the shooting at Newtown, CT, and all the calls for banning ARs and high capacity magazines.
All of these factors converged at the worst possible time, when inventory was low. Most gun stores blew through their ARs, ammo for them, and magazines by the end of December. Then with the political drama calling for banning high capacity handgun magazines there was a run on all handguns that held over ten rounds along with the additional magazines that go in them. When that ammo became scarce people starting turning to reloading components and all of a sudden you can’t find bullets, powder, and primers for the most popular calibers. And the .22 LR? I tell folks the .22LR is like comfort food for shooters. When they are under stress and things look really bad they buy .22 ammo. Heck, just about everyone with guns has at least one .22LR pistol or rifle.
So that’s how we arrived at our current state. Folks, there is just not much out there and most importantly not much in the supply system. Every day for the past two weeks we have called all our suppliers and nobody has .22 LR ammo in stock. The same can be said for 9mm, .380, .308 and .223 rifle. Reloading components are as scarce as hen’s teeth. I sent one supplier a list of 40 reloading and ammo items last week. They only had two in stock and not in the quantities I requested.
Guns are in the same boat. Manufacturers are making guns but not enough to meet demand. We ordered guns at a supplier show three weeks ago and none of the manufacturer reps would even intimate at delivery dates. One prominent AR maker which also operates a storefront doesn’t even have ARs available in their store!
There will be a return to some state of normalcy. There was after the big surge in 2008-09 after the election. The question is how soon? My best guess is that you will see small amounts of ammo and a few guns start to trickle out over the next month but a full return to a normal state won’t be until this summer. The best way for a fast return is for people to stop hoarding ammo. Buy a few boxes at a time. Share with your other gunners. We all appreciate it.