Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 7.59.02 PMOn March 28, 2013, I posted an article titled:  Gun and Ammo Shortages: Here To Stay?  Seven months later, the state of ammo and firearms has changed somewhat, but it appears that the “new normal” will be in effect for–read on.

Under President Obama, there have been a number of “new normals.”  Before his reign, it was hard to imagine gasoline that cost more than $2.00 a gallon.  Now it’s almost impossible to imagine gas ever costing less than $3.00 a gallon.  Pre-Obama, ammunition was plentiful and inexpensive.  Post-Obama, it’s difficult to imagine it will ever be either again.

In March I wrote:

Here are some factors contributing to demand:

(1) Barack Obama remains the greatest gun salesman in American history.  When he and VP Biden tell people they respect the Second Amendment and don’t intend to take away guns, Americans are weighing in on their credibility and truthfulness by buying guns, ammo and accessories in unprecedented numbers.

(2) Americans also distrust Congress–both parties–in unprecedented numbers.

(3) Americans distrust the Supreme Court in unprecedented numbers.

(4) Whenever any organ of government doesn’t want Americans to have anything, they tend to react by getting as much of it as possible.

(5) Obamanomics is also driving firearm purchases.  Many Americans believe–with good reason–that varying degrees of economic crisis are not only possible, but probable.

(6) A substantial portion of the population understands that financial collapse and the civil unrest that would result is actually possible.  Mr. Obama claiming there is no debt problem (in real terms, we own–and owe–more than $87 trillion) is not helping.

(7) Americans understand that in conditions of financial collapse, firearms would not only be necessary for mere survival, ammunition would probably be as good as gold, even better.

(8) There has been a sea change in American attitudes toward firearms and gun ownership.  The number of first time gun owners, particularly women, is also unprecedented.

It’s interesting to revisit older articles.  I could have easily written those observations today.  A great deal has changed since March, but in many ways, all of the problems about which I wrote have become worse, and the public’s anxiety, more acute.

The SFgate.com blog, on July 16, quoted the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade organization.

S&W .22LR AR-15 Clone

S&W .22LR AR-15 Clone

There’s a get-it-while-you-can mentality’ that is driving the shortage, said Michael Bazinet of the NSSF.

‘All the ammunition makers are working their facilities 24/7 to meet an unprecedented consumer demand,’ Bazinet said. ‘One is opening a new plant. Another converted warehouse space to production. Imports are also higher than ever. It is consumer demand, not government purchases behind the shortages we are now seeing.’

Bazinet of the NSSF provide these insider details:

‘We have seen a pretty steady rise in firearms ownership over the last decade that has accelerated over the last three years, such that we have seen 37 straight months of  year-over-year growth as measured  by NSSF-adjusted NICS numbers.’

‘New owners of firearms these days are taking their guns to the range and shooting – often.’

‘It is no longer unusual for people to buy ammo in bulk.  They can save money and it’s a consumer habit they already employ for other consumer goods.’

‘The introduction in recent years of new platforms in 22LR, such as Modern Sporting Rifles chambered in that caliber that  are cheaper to shoot have increased demand for 22LR.’

‘Fears that new federal and/or state laws may restrict future purchase of ammunition have driven consumers to buy more (get it while we can mentality).’

‘This has become self-perpetuating. Consumers buy ammo when they see it. They buy two boxes when they may have bought one before, four instead of two. Some stores limit the number of boxes any one person can buy, but they still sell out.’

‘As soon as an ammo shipment does arrive at a store, word spreads through social media, that .223 has arrived, for example, and people rush in and buy it.

In an August 24 article, The Idaho Statesman quoted Jon Anson, a director of the Idaho Firearms and Accessories Manufacturers Association.

I won’t say we’re over it [gun and ammo shortages], but supplies are slightly coming back,’ Anson said. ‘The panic buying has subsided. It’s not increasing, anyhow. Many manufacturers have increased their build rate, such as ATK in Lewiston, to help the supply.’

‘The big makers have increased production in response to the shortage, he said, but only to a point. That’s because the ammo makers have memories long enough to remember the spike in demand when President Bill Clinton’s administration threatened to limit the shelf life of primer, and they remember how demand slackened when Clinton left office.

‘We know this is a boom-and-bust cycle,’ Anson said. ‘Manufacturers have invested. It’s been significant. But they aren’t willing to invest another $100 million to fill that demand only to have it drop off.

Firearms:

AR-15 Carbine Variant

AR-15 Carbine Variant

As of October, 2013, firearm shortages are, for the most part, and for the most coveted firearms, over.  I’ve recently seen basic AR-15 carbines (collapsing stock, standard sights and fore end, 16” barrel) at just a bit over $600.00, which is comparable with prices before the latest run on guns.  Glocks in all calibers and configurations are widely available in the $500-$550 range, which is also comparable to past prices.

Stocks of these guns are common in chain stores and in local mom and pop stores.  Sales remain brisk, particularly with women and other first time shooters.  Susannah Breslin, writing for Forbes, wrote about her first shooting experience. 

Breslin picks up just after she was taught the basics of safety and gun handling:

I realized I was far more nervous than I’d expected. I’d figure I’d show up, they’d tell me not to shoot anybody, I’d eyeball the target, and I’d blow a hole in it the size of a quarter, like I’d seen on TV. Instead, I’d spent the last hour and a half going over every detail of firearm safety, and I was choking. Trying not to over-think it, I raised the gun, located the target, and pulled the trigger of the .22. The gun barked, kicking in my hands. I hadn’t hit the black square in the center, but I wasn’t far from it. [TD] Roe kept coaching me, I kept firing, and 45 minutes later, when we switched to the 9-mm, which recoiled so markedly that I swore in surprise, I wasn’t half bad at it. In fact, I discovered, I liked it.

Magazines:

For a time, spare magazines for popular firearms have been difficult to find and expensive.  It took me nearly three months to find factory Glock 17 magazines, but when I did, they were only a few dollars more expensive than normal.  The same was true with Smith and Wesson 22-15 magazines (magazines for S &W’s .22LR AR-15 clones).  With some exceptions here and there, magazines are now more plentiful and, for the most part, at essentially normal price levels.

Ammunition:

The ammunition shortage has abated somewhat, but is far from over.  Not long ago, it was impossible to find ammunition like the .22LR, 9mm, .380 ACP or .223 anywhere at any price.  That is, thankfully, no longer true, but supplies are nowhere near pre-run levels, and prices, while lower, are still not at pre-run levels.

Lucky Gunner.com, has some of the best prices anywhere, and obviously has good connections with wholesalers and manufacturers.  Their stock of 9mm ammunition is substantial–relatively speaking–and prices reasonably good.  Keep in mind that before the recent run, I could find a box of 50 rounds of FMJ 9mm, with brass cases, for as little as $12.00 just about anywhere.

As of today, 25 rounds of Hornady 115 grain JHP Critical Defense 9mm–the round I carry in my handguns–is selling for $22.75, which is quite good.  Fifty rounds of Blazer 115 grain FMJ (aluminum, non-reloadable cases) sells for $19.75, which is just a bit more expensive than in the past.  One thousand rounds of Military Ballistics Industries, 124 grain FMJ ammunition is selling for $325, which is as much as $100.00 more than I’ve paid in the past year, but it’s much cheaper than I could find only six months ago.

Unfortunately, .380 ACP ammunition remains harder to find and more expensive.  Lucky Gunner has a reasonable stock of it.  One thousand rounds of PMC 90 grain FMJ sells for $610.00.  This is something of a problem, as pocket pistols in .380 remain very popular.

Lucky Gunner has a good supply of .223, and prices have come down considerably.  Only a few months ago I could scarcely find any .223 ammunition anywhere for less than $1.00 per round.  Now, Federal American Eagle 55 grain FMJBT rounds sell for $455.00 and Tula 55 grain FMJ (non-reloadable steel cases) is selling at $385.00 per thousand.

The news for .22LR is not nearly so good.  Six months ago I could easily pick up 500 rounds of Remington, Winchester or other major manufacturer’s .22LR in the $23.00 range.  Lucky Gunner had only one type of .22LR ammunition listed: Federal Auto Match Target, 40 grain LRN, in a 325 round pack for $59.50.  By comparison, Cheaper Than Dirt, which also had a paltry selection of .22LR was selling plastic boxes of 100 CCI Stingers–32 grain–for $29.19.  Most of their selection was unusual brands and types of ammunition.

The upshot is ammunition in the most popular calibers is definitely available, via the Internet and locally, but it can still be occasionally rare, and is virtually always more expensive than it was before the last run, just not terrifyingly so.  In mom and pop stores, and even in chain stores like Academy or WalMart, buying ammunition remains for many a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  I’ve been able to find desirable ammunition in various calibers at good prices, but not in the quantities I’d prefer.  Unlike some shooters, I limit my calibers to help keep my ammunition costs low.  I’m not one of those shooters that has at least one firearm in any new and interesting caliber that comes along.

Keep in mind that firearms and accessories remain readily and widely available at more or less normal prices.  That said, I don’t expect the market to return to “normal” for years.  Until Barack Obama is out of the White House, there is little chance of normalization, and a change in the balance of power in the Congress or on the Supreme Court could dramatically and immediately change the realities of the market as well.  An increase in terrorist activity due to America’s increasing international weakness and lack of reliability could also greatly affect public perceptions of safety and security.  This will almost certainly translate into people buying as much ammunition as they can when they can for the foreseeable future.  This, I fear, is our new normal

Watching armed park rangers threaten, arrest and mistreat elderly veterans, everyday Americans and foreign tourists at the command of the Obama Administration is not the sort of thing that contributes to social calm and trust in government.  Public agitation has a very direct affect on the markets, particularly the gun and ammunition market.

Until Americans again have reasonable financial certainty and political stability, they’ll behave rationally and stock up on firearms, ammunition and related items.  But one should not lose sight of the fact that demand is high because more and more people, even while voting for Democrats, are buying guns and ammunition like Republicans.

Let’s let the charming Ms. Breslin close:

“A few days later, I emailed TD [Roe, female firearms instructor], asking why women buy guns. ‘The main reason women want a gun is for a sense of security,’ she wrote. ‘Women want to be able to defend themselves and their family. A firearm can stop an attack of force. It’s also an equalizer for those with reduced mobility.’ Equalizer. The word stuck in my mind. A handgun makes the short woman tall, the anxious woman less afraid. Right now, guns are a lightning rod topic, reviled and defended with equal passion. You can’t fire a gun without stepping into a war, without getting into the politics of it. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that firing a gun made me feel powerful, if only for an afternoon.”