Ammunition shortage continues to plague industry, impacting law enforcement, new gun owners

A handgun with ammunition on white background

Firearms sales climbed during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating an ammunition shortage in the United States as manufacturers still struggle to keep up with demand. 

The ammunition shortage has impacted law enforcement agencies as well, and the lack of ammunition could also prevent new gun owners from properly learning how to handle their weapons. 

"We have had a number of firearms instructors cancel their registration to our courses because their agency was short on ammo or they were unable to find ammo to purchase," said Jason Wuestenberg, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association.

Officer Larry Hadfield, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told ABC News that his department needs to "conserve ammunition when possible."

The shortage isn’t just a recent phenomenon: Gun owners were noticing a shortage as early as March of this year. Firearms sales jumped in 2020 by over 21 million – 8.4 million of which were first-time gun buyers, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). 

Experts believe that early panic from the COVID-19 pandemic mixed with anxieties during both the riots and unrest after the murder of George Floyd and the 2020 presidential election result fueled the surge in gun sales, according to The Spokesman-Review

That surge also meant a surge in ammunition sales, which manufacturers were not able to meet due to reduced production and import of raw materials due to lockdowns over 2020. The Remington Arms Company filed for bankruptcy in July 2020 due to years of lawsuits and loss of investors, which has further strained the manufacturing capabilities of the industry. 

"When you talk about all these people buying guns, it really has an impact on people buying ammunition," NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva said. "If you look at 8.4 million gun buyers and they all want to buy one box with 50 rounds, that’s going to be 420 million rounds."

Hunting participation in 2021 climbed again despite the lack of ammunition, using up available supplies for sport, Outdoor Life reported on July 12 of this year. 

"Shooting ranges are busier than they’ve ever been," Chris Dolnack, senior vice president and chief customer officer of the NSSF, told Outdoor Life. "I think that goes to some extent to the eight to nine million new gun owners that we have, and that they’re familiarizing themselves with their firearms and seeking training."

However, Jeremy Ball, co-owner of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Spokane, said in June that his range was still closed 21 hours a week, for which he blamed the shortage of ammunition. 

The shortage pushed manufacturers to import from overseas, with imports up 225% as the U.S. brought in supplies from Russia, South Korea, the European Union and others over the past two years. 

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