The Unintended Consequences of Ammo and Gun Hoarding

By Dave Dolbee published on in Ammunition

We have all suffered from the great ammunition crunch. Prices soared and shelves stood empty. What used to start off with a couple of buddies on the phone agreeing to meet at the range after picking up a couple of boxes of ammo became a scavenger hunt just to find one box. Then, if you could find it, most often, prices were not friendly.

Ammunition Alley

Ammunition Alley

Soon after, shooters began gaming the system. Networks to track ammunition sales started. People shared supply on social media. As is true of most items when demand skyrockets past supply, and manufacturers are unable to increase production or even increase their purchase of raw materials to increase supply, the hoarding begins. There was pandemonium in the ammo aisle everywhere.

While supply and demand affected prices across the board for both guns and ammunition, few of us realized a huge benefit derived. In the late 1930s, Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Act, now modified and updated several times since to meet current needs. To be fair, the Act is an excise tax that benefits wildlife and conservation. Given the boom in firearm and ammo sales, the funds collected via Pittman-Robertson shot up to whopping $824 million. That set a new record topping 2013’s tally by about $2 million. To put that into context, 2014’s record setting total tripled the amount of excise tax collected only a decade earlier.

How does the Pittman-Robertson Act work?

The excise tax is set at 11% of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10% of the wholesale price on handguns. Paid by manufacturers, producers and importers, the excise tax applies basically to all commercial sales and imports whether the purpose is for shooting, hunting or personal defense. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), currently administer the tax.

A Look Back

Though politics is not our focus, President Obama has been accused of many things, including being the greatest gun salesman in history, and that is within our wheelhouse. A quick look at the number of firearm sales shows why. Beginning in 2008, under the fear of what the President might do, firearm sales soared. Early gun control attempts were soundly defeated for the most part thanks to gun rights organizations and strong grass roots efforts by the pro Second Amendment forces. Other high profile shooting and legislative attempts have kept sales high. Of course, the more guns sold, so will shooters need more ammunition.

Sportsmen have contributed billions of dollars towards conservation

Sportsmen have contributed billions of dollars toward conservation.

The U.S. fish and Wildlife Service recently divided and released the Pittman-Robertson Act 2014 funds to state wildlife agencies. Name a game species, fur or fowl, huntable or endangered, and you have one of the unintended consequences that has benefitted. If you enjoy hunting deer, Pittman-Robertson just upped your game.

Does wingshooting or waterfowling make your blood boil? You benefitted as well. Perhaps you do not hunt and simply target shoot, but spotted owls are your passion; you benefitted as well from the massive increase in funds provided from each purchase of ammunition or firearms. Even if you do not give a passing thought to any animal, the funds support habitat, manage certain populations, research wildlife health issues (Chronic Wasting Disease and Brainworm) and improve land for wildlife as well as purchasing new public land. Everyone wins in one form or fashion from each purchase.

Just as a side note, I do not recommend coming home with an armful of new guns and a pickup truck with the bed sagging to the axels due to the weight of all of the ammunition. Well, I do recommend it, but I do not recommend getting caught by your spouse and trying to convince that it was for the greater good of the critters. Especially if they happen to greet you at the door with a frying pan in hand and no bacon in sight—just sayin’…

State Responsibility

I once had a political science professor who used the acronym TANSTAFL—There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch—and Pittman-Robertson does come with requirements. For instance, to get the money the state must match funds at a level of $3 Federal to $1 from the state. It is good for the states to have some skin in the game, but the boon has strained some state budgets to keep pace.

AMM-255

Feel free to pat yourself on the back the next time you fill your cart with ammo.

How long will it last?

No one knows for sure, but the pace of growth is slowing. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently reported the number of background checks (NICS) where still at record levels; however, that is only accounts for sales or transfers at the retail level. Pittman-Robertson collects at the wholesale level from the manufacturer, so used guns and private party transfers do not affect the revenues collected. Likewise, the shelves are full of ammunition these days and production is meeting demand. Does that signal a slowdown in ammo purchases?

That does not mean funds are going to dry up for conservation or the benefits from the hoarding will diminish anytime soon. 2015 is on pace to generate revenues somewhere around 2012 levels, perhaps it will finish at the 2013 level. Either way hunters, shooters, supporters of wildlife, public lands, and most importantly wildlife will continue to benefit from your firearm and ammunition purchases. So, feel free to give yourself a pat on the back the next time you fill your shopping cart with the new concealed carry gun you have had your eye on or to resupply your personal cache. Hunting season is around the corner. Now is the time to pick up a new goose gun or deer rifle. You are not hoarding; you are practicing sound, responsible conservation! But remember the frying pan thing. No bacon? Just circle the block until they tire…

Are you a conservationist? Share your latest purchase in the comment section.

SLRule

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (42)

  • Tom

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    NOW IS THE TIME TO START HOARDING AMMO AT WHATEVER PRICE YOU CAN AFFORD!!!

    Reply

  • GT4000

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    Over the past 18 months, I have watched the supply of 22LR swing to new highs and lows. Shopping various sources, when I come across a brick of 22LR SRN or HP, I snag it. I always try to purchase 22LR in bricks of 500 each. If you are a Plinker or Competition/Target fan, then you most likely blow through ammo like there is no tomorrow. So yes, when I find the 22LR brick for near $50.00 I grab one or two.

    Reply

  • Tom

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    Here’s something most people, be they pro or anti gun, DO NOT KNOW concerning the 2nd amendment:

    These four words “… a well regulated militia…” DOES NOT MEAN what it appears to mean! Back in the 1776 era “regulated” was a synonym (i.e. synonym: 2 or more words having same or similar meaning) for TRAINED!

    In other words if the 2nd amendment was written using today’s lexicon it would read “…a well TRAINED militia…”

    The word “regulated” does NOT mean nor EVER has meant rules and regulations!

    The government knows this but they don’t want you/us to know it.

    Reply

  • DarthVaderMentor

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    I don’t hoard, although I confess I’ve fallen to the temptation on more than one occasion.

    On the other hand, I like to keep a minimum of one year’s “plinking” and training supply for each one of my weapons on hand. In the case of my Sig 556R’s, I keep around 8K 7.62×39 rounds on hand because that’s about what I will expend in “plinking” and staying familiarized and accurate with those guns year around. With my pistols, it’s 2 full mags per pistol per my weekly visit to the range times 52 weeks in the year, so it varies from 600+ rounds of .380 to about 2K rounds of 9mm.

    Reply

  • Tom

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    I think now is the time we should all start hoarding again.

    Reply

  • M1917A1

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    Will the price of .22 LR ever come back to normal? $50 (or more) for a brick is “outrageous”! I wasn’t “Hoarding”, I just wasn’t shooting as much due to the high artificially induced cost.

    Reply

  • mogwan

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    Pete,

    Assuming your production numbers are correct for .22LR, 38 boxes per 1000 stores per week is peanuts. That’s less than four 500 round bricks per store.

    Next, let’s assume the average .22LR shooter plinks or hunts 10-20 times per year, and plinks 100-200 rounds per outing…that’s 2000-4000 rounds per year per plinker- or a week’s worth of .22LR per outlet.

    Working on that math, each outlet would only be able to supply sufficient ammo for 25-50 plinker per year.

    Pretty sad….

    Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      The production numbers are from what info I was able to gleen from web sources mostly and should only be presumed to be something close to accurate but nothing is confirmed
      That said, it’s more an exercises in how those possible numbers break down. I would think that the majority of states have more than 1000 retail outlets. When one considers the number of different types of outlet where one finds munitions, Big Box stores,(like Walmart), Chain Stores (like ACE, True Value, Gas Stations, Sporting Goods (Big 5, Scheels, BassPro,) Sole Proprieter gun shops, across a given state that number could be a great deal larger than “1000” retailers.
      Your right the numbers are sad indeed. But they shouldn’t be and that’s what’s so confusing to me.
      I don’t have access to any solid data to really work my way thru what the reality of this is. I have several SP gun shops that I frequent where I have always been able to acquire what I needed.
      There is so much info that I don’t have. Actual number of outlets per state, numbers of .22LR amount supplied per month over a two year period, sales figures per state over two years, blah blah blah. Point being, there isn’t any way for this layman to come up with real numbers in this concern. It’s just a speculation on my part for discussions sake.
      What we can agree on is there is some kind of Shortage/Distribution Bottleneck/Hoarding/Production falsification of numbers that have in part or in total have caused the current shortage conditions regardless if real or perceived.
      I would note that it seems as if the sales of .22LR Rifles and Pistoles has not seemed to have suffered during this period of shortage. I say this for a couple of reasons.
      Each year it seems new platforms are introduced to the market place from multiple manufactures.
      I haven’t seen one manufacture drop an existing production .22LR platform from existing lines.
      There hasn’t been one comment from any manufacture of .22LR platforms that I have seen, can find, or have heard of that complains of a loss of any/their market share in the .22LR platforms they produce that is connected to an ammo shortage.
      This seems odd to me. One would think that based on “cause and effect” one would see changes in the platform production numbers that would reflect the depressed munition numbers. That does not seem to be the case. There are apparently more platforms on the market now than five years ago and less .22LR ammunition in the market place to support then. Hmmmm?
      What ever the real story is, however it will play out in the coming months/years is hard to say.
      There is better availability now than even just a year ago, if that trend continues.

      Reply

  • Pete in Alaska

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    Let’s try this again as it seems that the sight didn’t like my edit the first time!!
    ATTEMPT NUMBER 2!
    In my travelers over the past several years and to date it seems that there are some retail outlets who have rimfire munitions more often and in more quantity than others. It also seems that geographical location has something to do with this too .
    For instance, Walmart – in places like western Colorado, southern Wyoming, AZ, and Idaho seem to get fairly regular supplies on either a weekly or biweekly basis. Yes, you nearly have to be there the moment the store openings on the day that their supply truck arrives and, yes, it sells out nearly in an instant.
    Some of the larger Sporting good retailers also seem to get more than their share but not always as a “chain” but as individual stores. Example, it seems that Scheels in ND get better supplied than its flagship store in Sparks NV
    Rime or reason??? Not that I can see ….
    I have also found several sole proprietor gun shops here and there that never seem to run out of .22 LR and sell at very decent prices.
    I might also say that these conditions seem to only apply to primarily .22 Long Rifle Rimfire munitions of nearly any manufacture. I have also noticed that I run across this commodity in the various “200+” and “300+” package offerings and only on rare occasions in the 50 round boxes.
    Now, this seems to only apply to .22 LR Rimfire ammunition. I do not have any issues with finding and buying .17 HMR or .22 Magnum. In the same vain it’s been several years since I’ve seen any .17 Mach 2 based on .22 LR case.
    I know that it’s being produced, I continue to hear that every manufacture is at its peak production levels. If the production levels are to be believed it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 to as much as 4 MILLION rounds PER DAY!
    Let’s go with an average of sayyyyy 3.25 Mil per day (for discussions sake) X 30 days that = 97,500,000 rounds per month or 24,375,000 rounds per week.
    Round down to sayyyy 95 Mil per month or 23,750,000 per week and that’s 1,900,000, 50 round boxes per month or 475,000 boss per week. Let’s devide that weekly number by 50 states and we get 9,500, 50 round boxes of ammo PER WEEK/PER STATE . Now just for fun let’s say that each state has 1000 retailers and everyone has a standing WEEKLY order for say 50 , 50 round boxes every week. If all things were fair a equitable and the world was a great place to live in, that there weren’t any issues with laws, or government or pro an con points of view and . . . . So forth. Then, every retailer, in every state, every week of the year, would receive 9.5 , 50 round boxes of .22LR that’s 475 round per week. 2000 retailers? 4.75 boxes per week. This of course doesn’t account for online sales at all!
    Nowwwww, there are those who will get more, many that get none and seemly no account ion for how those marketing decisions are make. “Fairness”, “equitity”, or ” equality” have nothing at all to do with this. If you want to know what goes where, and why and how much…. FOLLOW THE MONEY.
    The above is simply for reference and perspective because from this persons point of view I don’t understand if, indeed, that the .22LR productions levels are maxed out or nearly so by all the manufactures and there is, as they say, MORE .22LR being produced than in years past.

    Where is it? Even hoarding can’t account for the numbers, even a general guess like above, over the period of years that this has now been going on. We would likely be hearing about police raids of “……a wear house with 10’s of Thousands of .22 Long Rifle Ammunition … ” in the nightly news. Anybody?? No? I haven’t heard anything like that either.
    So, where is it all going?? It seems to be becoming more plentiful but that could also be a smoke screen. I wish I knew what the real story was here because it doesn’t make much sense any longer.
    I have a bit of .22LR for my needs and as I shoot primarily .17HMR and that rimfire hasn’t seemed to be a problem I’m in fair shape. Still, it would be nice to, just for once

    Reply

  • Pete in Alaska

    |

    In my travelers over the past several years and to date it seems that there are some retail outlets who have rimfire munitions more often and in more quantity than others. It also seems that geographical location has something to do with this too .
    For instance, Walmart – in places like western Colorado, southern Wyoming, AZ, and Idaho seem to get fairly regular supplies on either a weekly or biweekly basis. Yes, you nearly have to be there the moment the store openings on the day that their supply truck arrives and, yes, it sells out nearly in an instant.
    Some of the larger Sportinggood retailers also seem to get more than their share but not always as a “chain” but as individual stores. Example, it seems that Scheels in ND get better supplied than its flagship store in Sparks NV
    Rime or reason??? Not that I can see ….
    I have also found several sole proprietor gun shops here and there that never seem to run out and sell at very decent prices.
    I might also say that these conditions seem to only apply to primarily .22 Long Rifle Rimfire munitions of nearly any manufacture. I have also noticed that I run across this commodity in the various “200+” and “300+” package offerings and only on rare occasions in the 50 round boxes.
    Now, this seems to only apply to .22 LR Rimfie ammunition. I do not have any issues with finding and buying .17 HMR or .22 Magnum. In the same vain it’s been several years since iveseen any .17 Mach 2 based on .22 LR case.
    I know that it’s being produced, I continue to hear that every manufacture is at its peak production levels. If the production levels are to be believed it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 to as much as 4 MILLION rounds per day! At an average of sayyyyy 3.25 Mil per day X 30 days that = 97,500,000 rounds per month. Round down to sayyyy 95 Mil and that’s 1,900,000, 50 round boxes. Let’s devide that by 50 states and we get 38,000 50 round boxes of ammo per week . Now just for fun let’s say that each state has 1000 retailers and everyone has a standing order for say 50 , 50 round boxes every week. If all things were fair a equitable and the world was a great place to live in, that there weren’t any issues with laws, or government or pro an con points of view and . . . . So forth. Then, every retailer, in every state, every week of the year, would receive 38, 50 round boxes of .22LR that’s 1,900 round per week. 2000 retailers? 19 boxes per week. 3000 retailers about 12 boxes per and so forth. This of course doesn’t account for online sales at all.
    The above is simply for reference and perspective because from this persons point of view I don’t understand if indeed

    Reply

    • Kurt

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      Pete in Alaska. It sounds like you are the typical Mr. been there, done that and know it all Guru. Give us all a break, keep your posts short and simple.

      Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      @kurt
      Sorry you feel that way. It must be terrible to be you. This blog at one time had a higher class of commenters that communicated with each other. I see that’s no longer the case. Maybe you should stay with Twitter comments, anything else might provide you with to many words, ideas, POV’s, for your limited intellect to comprehend and deal with.
      Best to say nothing at all if you don’t have anything worth saying, kurt.
      You have a day . .

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ Pete in Alaska.

      Yeah Pete, you stating to sound just like ME. You don’t want to end up like Martin, DO YOU. Sitting All-Night, Posting Comment to Himself. Sec…

      Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      @Secundius
      Hey Mr. S
      Been awhile we touched base. I don’t comment on TSL much any more as the site seems to have lowered its bar from days gone by. No matter.
      Don’t have a lot of time to write much these days anyway. Every once in awhile though an artical is worth some time. Still look forward to Woody and Dave Dolbee’s articals, but lately the rest of the content here hasn’t been very good. Good to hear from you! Pete sends…

      Reply

    • Secundius

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      Pete in Alaska.

      Just “Sec”. Curing Will of the habit is going to be “An Uphill Battle on a Slippery Slope Covered In Lard” Couple thing’s for you collection:
      1. Dermabound Advanced, Medical Grade Super Glue w/o a Prescription. Box of 12, 0.7ml Pen Applicators at Medex Supply for just $24.99 USD.
      2. 8x60S for your 98k, made by Hornady and is available from Graf and Sons.

      That other website, “Flabbergasted”. Caught me by surprised, I…I…I don’t where to start. I deeply regret the Incident, and Humbly Apologize to you Sir. Sec…

      Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      @Secundius
      Very nice! Thanks for the info on the 8x60S. I’m already looking into this and seeing if my guy can get me a few hundred of these bullets.
      I have several tubes of the Dermabond Advanced in my bigger med kits. However it’s nice to know it can be acquired w/o a script and where. Thanks again! No need for an apology. It’s all good.

      Reply

    • Mikial

      |

      Well said, Brother!

      Reply

    • va_vet

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      Pete thanks for the detailed and thoughtful feedback; it’s nice to read someone’s honest thoughts!

      Keep on keeping on!

      Reply

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