The Ammo and Gun Crisis of 2013
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably realize that the entire US has been experience a shortage of firearms, firearms ammunition, and magazines for firearms. Basically, if it has something to do with firearms, it’s probably been in short supply since the tragic December 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the resulting push for increased gun control by the left. However, in recent weeks I’ve been seeing signs that the worst of the shortage is behind us. This week, I was able to purchase 500 rounds of CCI Mini Mag .22LR ammunition for a very reasonable price (the same price I would have paid before the shortage began). I’ve also got two back ordered Magpul 3rd generation (M3) Window Pmags enroute (back ordered since 12/19/2012 mind you…). These are very good signs. Right now the website Gunbot is reporting the following “good deal” benchmark prices on the following ammunition: .223/5.56 at .52 per round, 9mm at .35 per round, and .22LR at .10 per round. At the height of the crisis, .223/5.56 was selling (not just asking…selling) for as much as a buck a round. 9mm wasn’t too far behind it. .22LR was all over the place price wise…if you could find it. Back before the crisis, my personal “good deal” threshold was .28/round for ball .223, and .20 per round for target 9mm. .22LR was usually easily found for around .4 per round give or take. Gunbot also tracks prices and inventory on firearm magazines and is reporting lots of availability for most manufacturers AR-15 magazines, as well as for most varieties of semi-automatic pistol magazines at reasonable prices. The most encouraging thing about my survey of Gunbot is that there’s actually ammo and other supplies available to buy…at any price. Just a couple of months ago, this simply wasn’t the case. So looking at where we were before the crisis and comparing those with conditions during the crisis as well as where we are today, I think it’s safe to say the worst is behind us. I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned moving forward, which is the purpose for my writing this article…for myself as much as anyone else.
I NEVER WANT TO GET CAUGHT FLAT FOOTED AGAIN
Simply put, I got very lucky – things have been bad the last few months, but they could have been much worse. Throughout this supply crisis I never completely ran out of anything gun related that I needed for any reason. During the last few years, I had been buying firearms – handguns, rifles, and shotguns. If the worst had happened, and I could never again have bought another firearm, I had enough for myself and my family. The day after Sandy Hook happened, I feared the worst and ordered another M&P 22 handgun, and another M&P 15-22 rifle – both chambered in .22LR. My logic was that in the worst case scenario, had laws changed and gun bans with possible confiscation taken place, a firearm chambered in .22LR might be exempted. If the firearms themselves weren’t banned, restrictions/taxes could have been placed on ammunition. Here again, .22LR might well escape such restrictions or taxes, and even if it didn’t then .22LR would likely remain the cheapest caliber by far to shoot, relative to the cost of other calibers. It’s great for practice, hunting, and even has defensive applications (plenty of people have been killed by .22LR rounds). Looking back, I think this was a good as move as I could have made under the circumstances.
Little did I realize that within 2 weeks of the Sandy Hook shooting, .22LR ammunition would literally disappear – just like most popular handguns, rifles, and the ammunition they used. that really surprised a lot of people – myself included. I simply didn’t envision things getting so bad so quick.
Magazines were a bigger problem for me than the guns themselves were, though not a critical problem. And of course, ammunition – both personal protection grade ammo, and target ammo. The bottom line here is that while I had a reasonable number of magazines for the firearms that I owned as well as a fair amount of ammo, it wasn’t at a level I felt comfortable with when asking the question “if I could never buy more?” When Obama was re-elected in 2012, I assumed that he would push for stricter gun control laws – he said as much during the Presidential Debates. So in late November of 2012, I’d already began increasing my supply of AR-15 magazines by about 20 (bringing my total to about 30), and my supply of M&P 17 round 9mm magazines to about 10 (I had maybe 5 prior). So I had a good start, but while I felt that unfavorable gun control laws were a possibility, I thought I had several months if not a year or two before the specter of gun control would have serious impact. How much things changed within about a month of the general election.
I bought another 2000 rounds of 5.56 (both M193, and XM855) bringing that total to about 3000 rounds. And I had a decent supply of defensive Gold Dot +P 9mm, as well as some defensive/hunting grade .22LR. All told, I had a bit over 5000 rounds of defensive ammo prior to December 14th. However in terms of target ammo, I wasn’t as well stocked. I had maybe 2000 rounds of target 9mm (including about 500 rounds of Clean Fire 9mm my local range makes us use for the competition shoots I participate in). That may sound like a lot, but I like to shoot 2-3 boxes of 9mm (about 100-150 rounds) whenever I go out – which is usually every weekend. So even at a modest 100 rounds a weekend, I’m still running through 400 rounds a month, plus another 200 rounds a month used in Tuesday night competition. That means I had about a 90 day supply on hand. Add to that the classes I had signed up for – one in May and the other in August. That represented another 2000 rounds of 9mm I’d need – and that wouldn’t even get me through the end of the year. Now, as I mentioned before, I got VERY lucky during the hardest weeks and months of the crisis…blessed in fact. I never dropped below 1000 rounds of target ammo for any caliber I regularly shoot (9mm, .22LR, and .380). As I look back however, I’m disappointed in my level of preparedness – there were some uncomfortable weeks where I didn’t know what was going to happen or if I had enough ammo to get me through. Fortunately, I was able to purchase ammo and magazines during the crisis, and at prices which were either at or only slightly more than they were before the crisis. Three VERY good suppliers which kept me going are Midway USA, Brownells, and Cabelas. Cabelas and Midway in particular really came through – I’m a Cabelas Club member (I have their credit card) so between the $5.00 shipping for club members and the rebate points I got and used from their credit card, even when I had to pay a little more than I wanted for ammo, it wasn’t too horrible. These are vendors I will definitely remember and continue to support long after this crisis is well behind us.
There were many valuable lessons learned for me during this crisis, which I want to document.
Keep one year of target ammo on hand for every caliber – When prices return to pre-crisis levels I want to stock 4000 rounds of target 9mm, with 3000 rounds of that being reserve. If the hammer suddenly dropped and I had to make it a year without buying any ammo, then having 4000 rounds on hand would likely keep me shooting for 12 months . I’ll probably keep about half that amount in .380. And I want to keep about 5000 rounds of target .22LR. All told, that will probably cost me about $1500.00.
Glock guys have it better than M&P guys – When the crisis first hit, magazines for every major defensive handgun disappeared almost over night. As I type this, I still have back orders for Smith & Wesson M&P magazines – I haven’t seen a new M&P 9mm magazine available for purchase since December of last year (though right now it looks as though M&P Shield magazines are out there and available). Heck, even Sig guys have it better than M&P folks – I’ve been able to buy 18 and 20 round Mec-Gar 9mm magazines for my Sig 226 Enhanced Elite during the crisis. I just zipped over to Gunbot’s magazine listings for Glock, and there’s a sea of Glock magazine availability – both factory OEM magazines and third party manufactured. Glock guys have it much better than we M&P guys do. Perhaps in 5-10 years, things will be different with the M&P magazines supply. but I do plan on buying more M&P magazines.
Buy some spare parts – I may have had some guns, magazines, and a decent ammunition supply, but I had no spare parts for any of my firearms. I plan to rectify that by picking up some extra bolt carrier groups for my rifles, maybe some extra spring kits for pistols, and a few spare magazines to replace that wear out.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
The amount of guns, magazines, and ammunition you keep on hand is very much a personal choice – I don’t think there’s a right number here. Over the past six months, I’ve actually been able to increase my supply of defensive ammunition from about 5000 total rounds to over 7000 rounds. I think roughly 10,000 rounds total of defensive ammo will be my goal. For some, that amount of ammunition is either absurd, or unobtainable. For others, it’s a drop in the bucket. One thing is for certain – no one who ever needed to use ammunition thought they had too much.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE FIREARMS INDUSTRY?
I hope I’m wrong, but I think problems for the firearms industry and the community they support will not be over even after prices stabilize to pre-crisis levels. Here’s some of the problems I think the industry will run up against:
AR-15’s aren’t going to be worth a plugged nickel in the US – Ultimately, I think the artificial demand created by every Billy Bob running out and buying an AR-15 (or two…or three) because they feared AR-15’s (and similar “black rifles”) would be banned will hurt the firearms industry and the community. Many people bought (and in some cases over bought) speculatively – thinking that AR-15’s could escalate in price if they were restricted or banned. Manufactures are working feverishly to restock the shelves emptied by those panic and speculative buyers. But many of those AR-15’s that were purchased since December 14th are, for a variety of reasons, going to end up being sold on the secondary market. A lot of folks will loose interest in owning one if they aren’t going to be banned any time soon, and will sell. Others will eventually need to free up some cash and again, because there’s no eminent danger of these guns being banned, many will be traded or sold because “I can always get another one later.” The short story is, I think we’ll end up with more supply then demand for most tactical rifles, but particularly the AR-15. This will really hurt many small to mid-size manufacturers, and many retailers. How badly and for how long is difficult to say.
Demand is going to all but disappear for AR-15 magazines – For similar reasons as stated above, I think the AR-15 magazine market will soon be flooded. In fact, I think the supply and demand problem as it relates to magazines will be worse than for firearms themselves. Many panic driven and speculative consumers bought far and away more magazines than they could possibly need in their lifetimes. I think Magpul will have the biggest problem here, because so many people bought as many of Magpul’s Pmags as they’re credit limit would allow. I’ll go so far as to say that by this time next year, we could be talking about new in bag Pmags that can be bought for $5.00 each. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, because such conditions won’t be good for my favorite manufacturers and retailers. And what’s not good for them will eventually hurt me too.
I’m not as worried about the ammo industry as I am firearm manufacturers and accessory manufacturers. People will eventually shoot the ammo they over-bought. We could see some downward pressure on ammo prices in 2014, but I don’t think it will be a big deal if we do. But the take away here from this article is that while we’re currently seeing supply and demand heading toward more consumer friendly levels, it does not mean that the crisis for the firearms industry and community is over. Indeed, it may have just begun with repercussions that the industry and community will continue to feel for years to come.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.