This is an update to the article originally published on January 24, 2021:
The great ammo shortage of 2020 has turned into an even worse ammo shortage of 2021. Now with the election cycle over we can really start to take a step back and figure out not only what happened, but answer the following question:
Will ammunition prices go back down?
At some point we expect the price of ammunition to go back down, but estimates about how low it’ll actually get rely heavily on when the ammo manufacturers get caught up on their back logs and the availability of the parts needed to make ammo. However, even if they’re fully caught up by the end of 2021 you can still expect to pay AT LEAST 20-40% more per box than you did in 2019 for at least the next few years.
There are several reasons as to why you can expect to pay more for ammo even as far into the future as 2022 or even 2023.
And in fact, a box of 50 9mm FMJ rounds cost $22.99 when this article was originally published on January 24, 2021. Today, that same ammo will cost you $26.99. Of course, those are direct from Federal Premium prices, meaning from the manufacturer.
There is no end in sight to the increased cost of ammo.
Let’s take a quick look at why —
The components are more expensive:
Why is the ammunition so expensive? Because the individual parts, what we call components, are more expensive.
This should come as no surprise. As of right now the re-loaders are telling us that there are almost zero components to be found out there. And in fact, the reloaders have been asking for primers, and the manufacturers have basically said no.
Simple supply and demand economics dictate that when something is harder to find, whatever is actually out there for sale will undoubtedly cost more.
A few months ago someone even reached out to me and offered me an AR-10 in trade for some primers. Of course I didn’t have any to trade, and I’m not sure I would if I did have them.
But that’s just an example of how few primers and other components there actually are right now. Even the reloading presses are getting hard to find, and you can’t even re-load ammo right now if you DO have a press because there are no primers. Or bullets. Or powder.
This means that what is out there is now more expensive. And even if someone like Federal gets caught up on their 1 billion dollar and 1 year long backlog, prices won’t be coming down any time soon. If you think they are you’re living in a dream world.
Why? Because they’ve been paying more for the components and they still have to pass those expenses on to you and I or they’d lose money.
That’s just the way it is. Why would they buy primers for more money and sell them for less?
So yes, even after they finally get caught up, and there’s no telling at this point if the backlog will continue to grow, prices will stay higher at least for a while as things eventually simmer down.
And then there’s the next fact that most people have already seemingly forgotten —
Ammo prices and shortages are cyclical:
Believe it or not, the ammunition industry is about as cyclical as our election cycle is. What this means is that each time there is an election the prices will fluctuate as more people buy more ammo, straining the supply, more during this time than other periods.
Sometimes they fluctuate drastically, other times it’s barely noticeable. But with the current state of our country, I don’t see light fluctuations in our future.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of anti-gun politicians in office right now heavily outweighing the pro-gun politicians. This spells disaster for those of us who wanted to regain some ground for the 2A.
But that’s not even really the point this time around.
The point is that there is another set of elections coming down the pipe in 2022. Remember above when I said that we may be feeling these higher prices into 2023?
Well the reason why is because if the ammo makers aren’t caught up by the time the next election cycle rolls around we could find ourselves back into this mess again.
Federal Ammunition stated that they were a year out back in November as stated above. Have they made up any ground?
While I don’t have a direct answer to that, with the current prices on components being what they are, that could put us directly into 2022 before things could get back to normal, only to have the mid term elections throw us back off again.
And of course, their websites are constantly sold out within minutes of getting stock and I haven’t seen a box of Federal Premium ammo on the shelf in over a year.
So ammo prices may come down at some point, but they won’t be down to 2019 prices. And in fact some of my sources inside the bigger ammo makers said we can expect to pay at least 20% more per box of ammo than you would in 2019 until at least 2022, if not 2023.
And of course, you know what’s going to happen in 2024, right? Another election. This time, a presidential election, and who knows what will happen.
In all actuality, it may be 2025 until you can see an actual price decrease, and that’s only if a pro-gun president is elected. If an anti-gunner is elected, I can’t even fathom how high ammo will go.
This is not price gouging:
I see a lot of talk about price gouging, but most of what I’m seeing is not necessarily price gouging on ammo. Sure, some of it is, but most of it is not. Let’s take a look at why I think this way — all while remembering that I owned an ammo distributorship for a small time manufacturer for about a year and have direct experience.
The prices have gone up so much that in order for the re-sellers to make any money they also have to raise their prices. If they don’t, they go out of business.
If you want to know the true cost of ammo, all you have to do is wander on over to Federal’s website, or any of the others who sell their own stuff. At the time of this writing, a box of 50 9mm FMJ rounds will cost you, or would if they were in stock, $26.99.
(It was 22.99 at the original date of publish, meaning that it went up four dollars per box in under 3 months.)
That’s the cost at the manufacturer level, or MSRP. Of course it costs them less to make the ammo, but the guys in between, like the gun stores, have to make money too, so the price goes up at least some.
At every stage in the development of ammo from primer and case makers to the assemblers of the ammo; each company involved has to make money or they’ll go out of business.
Because a company like Federal, CCI, Speer and a few others make their own ammo in large quantities they can sell it for lower. Don’t get me wrong, 27$ for a box of 9mm is still atrocious, but that’s the new baseline.
Companies who don’t make their own ammo, but are simply re-sellers of this ammo, raise the prices up when they get ammo in for sale.
Where things tend to get convoluted is when one re-seller buys from a different company who is also a re-seller. Now, we have multiple sets of middleman prices to think about.
So when re-seller company C buys from re-seller company B who bought wholesale from manufacturer A, the prices go up even higher at each stop.
This is happening a lot right now because nobody can find ammo at wholesale prices unless they’re willing to place massive multi-thousand dollar orders, which many smaller sellers cannot afford to do.
This is no longer price gouging, but economics. It’s a supply and demand thing, and demand is far outdoing the supply.
You can wish that company C would stop buying and reselling ammo, but keep in mind that they used to buy direct from manufacturer A for much lower costs. That’s their business and how they feed their family and not necessarily their fault for the high prices.
In the beginning back when the ammo shortage started, some companies like Cheaper than Dirt were price gouging their customers. There was absolutely no reason for them to raise prices that fast except that they wanted to take advantage of people.
That pissed me off big time and I was one of the people from the industry to call them out on it publicly.
But that period of time is over. We are no longer in the price gouging phase because there aren’t enough components to go around. Nobody even knows what it costs to make a box of 9mm or 5.56 ammo anymore because the prices for the components, like primers, are all over the place.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some folks gouging prices. I’m not an idiot. The folks at the gun shows are usually the most guilty of this and I tend to stay away from these at all times because of the gouging that goes on.
I’d also stay away from places like gunbroker.com and others.
And trust me when I say that the margins on ammo are slim. It’s almost not worth it to sell ammo, except that people need it for their guns and it’s a necessity for those of us who take the 2A seriously.
More Mouths to Feed:
And finally, we get to the core issue of this entire thing, which is that there are more mouths, er, guns, to feed. (I say “issue” but I think it’s actually a good thing for political reasons.)
The 2020 year saw more gun sales in one calendar year than ever before. But it wasn’t normal. It’s not like it was me, someone who owns more than one gun (ahem) and was just going to buy another gun in the same caliber I already have, meaning that I don’t necessarily have to buy more ammo in order to practice with it.
Many of these people were brand new shooters and had zero ammo to start with. In other words, they bought a gun and they also had to buy ammunition for it.
The NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people who have never bought a gun before were now buying guns.
Think about it, 8.4 million new gun owners equates to 8.4 million guns if each person bought one gun. Now I’m really bad at math and will round that down to 8 million. So correct me if I’m wrong, but if 8 million people buy one box of 50 rounds of ammo that’s 400 million rounds of ammo.
I think. Again, I’m an English dude and math really, really sucks.
Everyone keeps asking, “where’s all the ammo?” “Are ammo sales up?” “When will the ammunition shortage end?” “Why is ammo so expensive right now?”
Well, there ya go. I just answered all of your pertinent questions.
And of course, the above numbers are only correct if each person bought only one box of ammo. If they were buying 2, 3, 5 or a few boxes of FMJ and a few boxes of JHP, then … yeah, you get the point.
New gun owners bought a lot of ammo. And at some point very early on, gun shops stopped selling ammunition to people in the most popular calibers, just so they could sell it to people who were buying guns.
You can factor those new gun owners in before the rest of us even get calculated.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel:
Some good news has recently come out about Remington. Remington is now back in full swing making ammunition full time. According to the CEO of the ammunition company, they’re making munitions 24/7 in an attempt to help get us out of this mess we’re currently in.
Remington is now owned by the same people who own Federal, Speer, and CCI/Blazer. This is good news because they have a lot of experience making ammunition and will be able to help out drastically.
For those who didn’t know, Remington was one of the top producers of firearms ammunition until a lawsuit forced the company to stop. Vista Outdoors bought Remington at auction, which brings us to where we are now.
Recently, Remington’s website underwent a makeover and it looks as if they’re gearing up to begin selling ammo on their website direct to consumer, like all of Vista’s ammo companies do.
It’s too early to tell how big of a dent this will make in filling hungry guns with needed ammo, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. It should help, at least to some degree.
Tips for Buying Ammo, and Other Things to Consider:
Above I say that most of what is going on out there is not price gouging. Some of it is, however. I think most of the gun stores have placed limits on how much ammo you can buy at one given time to limit the scalpers.
This is at least true of the stores in my area. I can at any given moment go to a PSA, Academy, Bass Pro, Cabela’s, Dunhams, and a host of small shops. Most of them place limits on how much you can buy.
Still, some scalpers are still doing this and getting away with it. If I were you I’d avoid massive market places like Gun Broker and the like. The people there are able to sell ammo for whatever price they wish.
I would not pay more than a couple of dollars over MSRP for a box of ammo. To see what that MSRP is, go to a manufacturer’s website and see how much they’re charging for ammo. Federal Premium and the other major manufacturers are not in the price gouging business. The prices they list on their sites are true representatives of actual prices.
When will ammo prices come back down? Who knows, but by my estimates, it won’t be any time soon. And because there are more guns to feed, an uncertain direction the politicians plan to go in, more elections on the horizon in just a couple of years, and seemingly zero availability on components we’re just getting started.