Enough circumstantial evidence is beginning to bubble to the surface to strongly hint that the Great Ammunition Shortage of 2013 is going from full boil to simmer.
Few firearms owners have failed to feel the ammo pinch, either. Or at least those who own and shoot handguns and rifles.
Particularly those who squeeze the trigger of a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol.
And especially those firearms owners who look to the .22 long rifle as their caliber of choice.
Easily the oldest and most popular metallic cartridge in the world, the ubiquitous .22-caliber round has proven itself a hard-to-come-by shooting commodity for a very long several months.
When the round has appeared almost by magic and with rare sightings, gun store owners have frequently limited the amount of ammo that buyers can purchase.
Such rationing stipulations have often kept potential buyers to a maximum of two 50-round boxes.
Gone were the times – mostly – when a shooter could saunter up to a display rack and pull off a 500-round box of .22s, commonly called a “brick.”
About the only way a shooter could secure a brick was (still, is, mostly) is to visit a gun and knife show.
Even then the prospective buyer would find the brick being offered at an outrageous price, costing anywhere from $75 to $150. That's three to as much as 10 times the going rate a rimfire owner was paying just one to two years ago.
I had a first-hand experience of this situation when my wife and I visited her parents in Florida two months ago.
My father-in-law had bought via the Internet a brick of a lesser-known brand of .22s. His cost with shipping was $110.
Of course, .22-caliber long rifle ammunition is not alone in quickly vanishing off gun store shelves. Or being pricey when they do appear on restocking day.
Such calibers are the.380 Auto, 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, .40S&W, .45 Colt and even many of the lesser known and used calibers like the .25 ACP and .32 ACP have played a good game of ammunition hide-and-seek.
So too have many rifle caliber cartridges used for target shooting and hunting. Such legecy calibers as the .270 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield and the .30-30 Winchester have disappeared along with such lesser known calibers as the .257 Roberts and such newer rounds as the 6.5 Creedmore.
Yet while conspiracy theories abound and among which includes government buy-ups to keep ammunition out of the hands of shooters, such talk is only smoke.
Hornady, for example, stresses that less than five percent of its ammunition product is sold to the government.
Still, the whispering has taken on a life of its own, leading to action by Washington politicians.
Just this week the U.S. House of Representatives voted out a resolution that would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from buying any more ammunition without first approaching Congress.
Since the vote generally went along party lines where the House is controlled by Republicans the proposal faces a much less certain future in the Senate, which is run by the Democrats.
And that's not including an all-but-certain veto by President Obama, clearly the best firearms salesman the nation has ever seen.
All of which begs a question or two.
The first of which is when the will shortage end?
An answer to that riddle may be seeing some resolution, too.
On two recent visits to Fin, Feather and Fur's Middleburg Heights, Ohio store I saw row upon row of well-stocked ammunition in a wide variety of calibers. That included the still (mostly) hard-to-find popular pistol rounds.
Also, today on a morning run to Gander Mountain's Mentor, Ohio, store was a stockpile of newly arrived ammunition, among the product were several pistol calibers including 9mm's and .45 ACPs.
Oh, and 100-round plastic boxes of CCI's Mini-Mags, selling for $8 per box. That's the price buyers were accustomed to encountering before the shortage began as well.
Asking the store's manager if he's seeing an easing – not an end – to the shortage, he said today (Friday, June 7) was the first time in several months that all of Gander Mountain's 130-plus stores have received an ammunition on the same day.
Consequently, the manager reiterated what he said three weeks ago, that being: Industry officials foretell of an ammunition easing (note, NOT ending) by mid-July.
By then all of the shooters and gun owners should have had their fill of hording ammunition or else run out of money buying up what they can, others have said recently.
As for the second question of whether the shortage will reappear just as it did this year and following similar droughts in 2009 and 2010, the firearms industry says it is working to resolve that potential issue.
In one respect a solution to what may arise down the road is costing Remington $32 million.
That is how much money Big Green is spending to expand its Lonoke, Ark. ammunition plant.
The firm announced its expansion plans May 9 with construction to begin shortly and be completed in the second quarter of 2014, a company official said.
“We continue to invest in all of our manufacturing operations because we are committed to ensuring quality, increasing product availability and improving on-time delivery, said Remington's chief operating officer Kevin Miniard.
Likewise, Speer says it is ramping up production and employing additional personnel to help ease the shortage.
Oh, and like Hornady, Speer says also only a very small percentage of its product is sold to government agencies.
“Our facilities operate 24-hours a day. We continually (make) process improvements to increase our efficiency and investing in capital and personnel where we have sustained demand. We are bringing additional capacity online again this year,” says Speer on its website.
However, the ammunition shortage threatens to linger for a while longer, a sore point that even one of the largest makers of rifle, pistol, and shotgun ammunition and components says will take take time to ease.
“Like many manufacturers in the shooting sports industry, we are experiencing an extremely high demand for our products. We are working as hard as we can to produce an increased supply of quality ammunition to meet our customers' needs,” says Winchester Ammunition on its web site.
Yet while that demand does not appear to be dead at least the Great Ammunition Shortage of 2013 appears to be wobbling on its legs.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn