Sport shooter Gary Blackard knew a man who went to Walmart every morning at 6 to buy all the .22 Long Rifle ammunition he could find. He would then go to GunBroker.com and sell it for $40 – nearly double the price he paid in-store.
Practices like these are the result of recent ammunition shortages as gun stores nationwide see empty shelves and a skyrocket in demand.
Ammunition shortages are not uncommon. They occur roughly every four years with presidential elections, as gun owners grow weary of new firearm legislation and talks of gun control.
This year’s shortages, however, have reached new levels. The coronavirus forced manufacturers to operate at limited capacity, leaving a small supply to satisfy demand that resulted from concerns related to political changes, civil unrest and an unprecedented global pandemic.
These factors led to 21 million background checks being performed for firearm purchases in 2020. Of these buyers, 8.4 million were new gun owners.
“People that didn’t really feel like they needed a gun came in, bought one,” Lugo, 34, said. “Those that were totally against guns now are coming in and getting a little more educated in buying guns. It’s spiked an interest all across the board.”
To meet the demand, gun stores and major sellers, such as Walmart look to manufacturers for their next shipments. At the end of the year, the president of Federal, CCI, Speer and Remington ammunition companies released a video assuring consumers that bullets were being made as fast as possible. In the meantime, stores like Big Daddy Guns are left wondering when they will receive shipments, even for items they have on backorder.
Lugo said restocks are unpredictable.
“It’s kind of like Christmas,” he said. “We get a bunch of boxes, open them up and see what we got.”
Northern Florida is especially impacted by the shortage because many hunters head to the region for deer season and hunting other game. Hunters don’t use as much ammunition as sport shooters, but they are still unable to find the bullets they need – unless they pay an elevated price.
Rudy Dominguez hunts in Lake City. He said the lack of ammunition and the inability to go to shooting ranges leaves hunters unsettled, even if they’re only preparing for the next season.
“Practicing, making sure that your gun’s sighted-in and on target is probably the most important ethical thing you can do as a hunter,” Dominguez, 52, said. “Without the ability to do that, it makes it extremely difficult to carry on with your season.”
The ammunition shortage has also continued during a period of recent mass shootings and gun violence. Eight people were killed at a FedEx warehouse April 15. On April 7, a former NFL player killed six people, including two children, at a South Carolina home. Last month, 10 people were killed at a Colorado supermarket following the deaths of eight people at an Atlanta massage business the week prior. Each shooting sparks a revival of conversations about U.S. gun control.
These discussions leave members of the gun community rattled, 58-year-old Blackard, who has been shooting since he was 13, said. Concerns rise of more fees, government-limited ammunition and eventual loss of firearms.
Blackard said he believes these conversations are a relevant concern – but he feels the proper use of firearms gets a bad name because of it.
“There’s evil people in the world,” he said. “If they can get a hold of a firearm, they can do a lot of damage. That weight has been hung around the neck of the shooting sport.”
Blackard said training and awareness are important ways to avoid shooting tragedies, especially for young people. He calls this education something that “shooters need to do.”
Guns are tools, Blackard said. Mostly portrayed as weapons, he said they only take on this name when they are used to do harm.
“I don’t have a lot of firearms because I’m going to be dangerous or scary or nothing like that,” he said. “Just every gun has a different purpose.”
The turn to self-protection following tragedies or big changes in government is not new for Americans. Dominguez said the recent lockdowns and national events leave some feeling vulnerable.
“People were frightened. They felt they were not going to be protected by the government,” he said. “I don’t blame new gun owners. I blame the political rhetoric – where this is heading.”
To new gun owners trying to get their hands on ammunition, Blackard gives the same advice he gives to friends and family.
“Don’t go panic-buy 1,000 rounds of ammo that cost you $1,000,” he said. “Only buy enough to shoot, and the price of ammo will eventually come back down.”