As we hurtle towards the end of 2020, there’s one question on the minds of every shooter: when is ammo coming back? With Vista Outdoor announcing a $1 Billion backlog, the answer is “not any time soon.”
In April, we first covered this topic, looking at the historic conditions that had created a shortage the likes of which we had never seen before. Now, it appears that we’ll have a Joe Biden Presidency, and control of the Senate is up for grabs, we can look at the question of when is ammo coming back with a little clearer vision. The first thing we have to look at are our normalization conditions.
The first normalization consideration is availability. “Normal” availability is being able to walk into Academy or Fleet Farm, or go to Lucky Gunner and just buy however much of whatever you want, regardless of caliber. This is the first piece of when ammo is coming back; and I have bad news. For this to happen, prices have to go up a little bit more. Because all the major manufacturers are back ordered until 2022, every round that comes out of the factories is already spoken for. It’s going to a distributor, that distributor has a retailer who wants it, and that retailer has a customer who wants it. Prices need to climb to a point where people aren’t willing to impulse buy 1,000 rounds of 9mm. It’s already starting, as manufacturers are raising prices across to the board. The next thing that needs to happen is for some of the small retailers to either close up shop, or cancel their pending back orders. That will free up inventory to go out into the market, which will have a higher price point, and hopefully last a little longer on shelves.
Of course, to answer when is ammo coming back, there’s a second piece, and that’s price. When we will see prices return to pre-pandemic levels? After the 2013 ammo crisis, it took 18 months for pricing to recover to normal levels, and as a reminder, this is worse than 2013. The most optimistic estimates for a return to normal pricing is after the 2022 mid-term election, assuming that nothing wild happens in that election.
The bottom line? If you’re asking “when is ammo coming back” the answer is: buckle up. We’re in for a long ride at these levels. The good news is that there is still ammo out there, but you’re going to pay a much higher price for it, and you’re going to have to work a little harder to get it than you did before.