The .22 Ammo Shortage Mystery -- Solved!

Why is it so hard to find .22 ammo these days? The NRA explains why you are the reason you're paying high prices for ammunition.

Aug 31, 2014 at 11:35AM


Wait? You mean this is all the ammo I get?! Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

This article was updated on Aug. 17, 2015. 

In 2014, CBS News spotlighted a growing shortage of .22-caliber ammunition -- a shortage that continues to this day. "One of the most popular and common" -- and cheapest -- calibers of ammo for hunters and target shooters alike, .22 shells are in short supply, reported CBS. Interviewing one supplier, CBS reported that while as recently as a couple of years ago it was still possible to buy .22-caliber ammunition "by the pallet-load... now they're putting restrictions on how much you can get and how you get that ammo."

They still are.

True, some members of the gun press --, for example -- report that it's lately become easier to acquire at least high-end ammunition. But other shooters insist -- they're still seeing limits on the sale of many calibers around the country.

Retailers are shooting blanks
This is a problem for ammunition retailers -- and for gun owners as well. Statistically speaking, 24%-45% of Americans own guns either for self-defense or sporting purposes. But getting the ammo to load into those guns isn't always easy.

Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) -- long the go-to spot for impulse ammo purchases -- instituted a policy in early 2013 limiting customers to buying no more than three boxes of ammo per person, per day. Wal-Mart lifted the restriction on most calibers of ammo last year... but kept it in place for .22 ammo. Other retailers have similar restrictions. And even when .22 ammo is obtainable, it costs more than it used to.  

Historically, .22 ammo retailed for about $0.05 a round. From 2008 to 2013, though, .22 ammo more than tripled in price. Today, it's not quite that bad. But even online at bargain-basement website, the cheapest .22 ammo sells for $0.08 a round, and $0.10 is a lot more common -- twice the historical price. Even worse, popular online guns 'n' ammo website AIM Surplus advertises several varieties of .22LR rifle ammunition for sale -- but every single round selling for less than the $0.12 price point is all sold out. So don't count on finding $0.10 ammo easily.


Last year, Dick's Sporting Goods advertised a block of 525 .22 LR rounds for just $24.99. It was a bargain!

Who's to blame?
Similar stories can be heard from owners of guns of all shapes and sizes -- not just .22s. For example, after skyrocketing in price through the end of 2013, Brown Bear 7.62x39mm rifle rounds (standard for an AK-47) are now entirely unavailable on AIM Surplus. All you can get today is cheap Russian Wolf-brand ammo... that costs a staggering $230 for a box of 1,000 rounds. Plus shipping.

Why is this?

National Shooting Sports Foundation, or NSSF, public affairs director Mike Bazinet noted last year that "there are a lot of wild stories" about the ammunition shortage, with some people even blaming the U.S. government for "buying up all the ammo." But according to Bazinet, that's simply not the case. In fact, "government purchases have gone down over [the] last three years."

He may be right. In 2014, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, helped to debunk the "government conspiracy" thesis for America's .22 ammo shortage. Laying out the facts and figures in a multi-page spread in American Rifleman, the "official journal of the NRA," the NRA described how:

  • The dollar value of ammunition sales in America doubled between 2007 and 2012. Highlighting the obvious, the NRA noted that sales really "started to climb fast as gun sales began surging" in the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election.
  • Federal Premium Ammunition -- now a subsidiary of Vista Outdoor (NYSE:VSTO), according to S&P Capital IQ -- attributed ammo shortages to "high demand for our products," and said flat out that the biggest increases in ammunition purchases are coming from "the civilian market." (This means you.)
  • Olin Corp's (NYSE:OLN) Winchester Ammunition agreed that it is "experiencing an extremely high demand."
  • And privately held Freedom Group, which manufactures Remington cartridges, said, "it's clear to us that any lack of supply in the marketplace has been from consumer demand."

And then there was the interview with privately held Hornady Manufacturing. There, President Steve Hornady explained to the NRA, "People walk into the store, they don't see as much as they want so they take everything they can get. The next guy who comes in can't get anything, so he panics." 

Panic and prudent price-comparison habits rarely go hand-in-hand, of course. This naturally results in higher prices for ammunition.

What the future holds
In February, Cabela's (NYSE:CAB) CEO Thomas Millner confirmed that "retail and stock levels of ammunition have improved" at his stores. Website goes so far as to say the ammunition shortage "may be ending," as manufacturers crank up production, wholesalers restock, and supplies begin filtering down to the retail level. This tallies with what Ammoland recently reported (as mentioned above) about high-end .22 ammo starting to come back on the market. 

With any luck, this will eventually result in fully stocked shelves at gun stores, assuaging consumers' panic-fueled urge to hoard ammunition -- and putting the .22 ammo shortage to bed once and for all. The one factor that could derail this trend, though, is a resumption in gun-buying by the public (because that public will need ammo, too).

Last quarter, sales at Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC) surged 6%, while even at Sturm, Ruger (NYSE:RGR), the steep slide in sales is moderating, with sales down only 8% last quarter (versus 33% the quarter before). With another presidential election just around the bend, and all that portends (for gun sales), this could turn into a new trend -- and not one that will be beneficial to ammunition shoppers.

The next billion-dollar iSecret
The world's biggest tech company forgot to show you something at its recent event, but a few Wall Street analysts and the Fool didn't miss a beat: There's a small company that's powering their brand-new gadgets and the coming revolution in technology. And we think its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early-in-the-know investors! To be one of them, just click here.

Any day now, America could be awash in cheap ammo again. Hooray? Image source: Wikimedia Commons.


Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information