What’s really behind the ammo shortage?

Gary Marbut President, The Montana Shooting Sports Association
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Several people have asked me what’s causing the ammunition shortage.

The ammo shortage is nationwide, and pretty much for all calibers. The shortage also includes ammunition components (brass, powder, primers and bullets) and all reloading equipment and supplies.

Part of the problem is that the federal government is purchasing large amounts of ammo, which is stressing an already-stressed marketplace.

However, the larger problem is the difference in elasticity between supply and demand.

The supply side is relatively inelastic. Manufacturers cannot increase production more than 30-40% before they begin exhausting their component suppliers. The component suppliers can’t expand more than 30-40% before they max out their material suppliers, all the way to the ends of the many supply chains. This is typical for any type of manufacturing, and applies now in spades to ammunition. Manufacturers are running hard trying to satisfy demand. After all, they’re in business and want to sell.

The demand side, though, is very elastic — and driven by Americans’ psychological responses to economic and political uncertainties. One supplier says he doesn’t have a shortage of ammunition, but a serious surplus of customers. As long as people have discretionary funds available and are stressed by political and economic uncertainty, or even by perceived political and economic uncertainty, demand for ammo will outstrip supply.

The only thing that would turn this around in the near future is if conditions change to remove or moderate the perception of economic and political uncertainty in the U.S. Frankly, my crystal ball doesn’t see that happening any time soon. That’s unfortunate.

Gary Marbut is a successful citizen advocate, the creator of political efforts such as the Firearms Freedom Act movement, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, and is accepted in state and federal courts as an expert in self-defense, use of force, and firearms safety.