Weirdness in the Ammo Market

Weirdness in the ammo market


As the holidays arrive and we all think about buying presents for our loved ones, I wonder if we’ll have any money left over for ammunition. That’s usually the gift I give myself, and this year it looks like cartridges will again be so expensive that I’ll have to adjust my quantities and selections way, way downward.

There’s weirdness in the ammo market, and it’s going to cause shortages, or shortages are already here and that’s being reflected in higher prices. Either way, you should put this magazine down right now and order some ammo for your favorite guns, because I believe we’re in the early days of another ammunition supply squeeze. Here are some factors that may be contributing.

First, in October, Hornady had a fatal incident that took the life of an employee in the company’s primer manufacturing facility. A statement from Steve and Jason Hornady said, “This production incident was isolated to our primer facility and did not impact any of the manufacturing facilities.” Still, that kind of accident has to affect Hornady’s output while they figure out the cause and implement a fix.

Next, it seems 5.56 is selling out all across the country. The notice on one ammo site said, “We have less than 150 cases of 5.56 in stock and distribution is completely out, which means it will be weeks, if not months, before production can start to trickle back on the shelves.”

Why would 5.56 be in short supply? Well, part of the reason is that the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, owned by the U.S. government, but operated by Olin Winchester, has apparently canceled its commercial contracts. Lake City currently supplies 30% of the civilian market for 5.56 ammunition. 

V. Campbell, owner KIR Ammo, told his customers in a release that “Winchester holds the contract to run the plant and is thereby granted permission to sell some of the ammo that is produced there — this includes 5.56x45mm M193 and M855, the most popular rifle cartridges in America. On Thursday last week, we were informed that demand from the military has overridden all existing commercial orders, and that Lake City has temporarily suspended all production for the civilian market.”

Campbell also said demand has soared for many popular calibers including, but not limited to: 5.56x45mm NATO, 223 Rem, 9mm, 7.62x39mm, and 308 Win.

Campbell added that the recent conflict in the Middle East has further tightened supply on ammunition and firearms from IWI (Israel Military Industries), including their Razor Core line of 5.56 and various firearms. Also, Campbell said that in October, Norma was completely sold out of all major FMJ calibers mentioned above. He added that Black Hills Ammunition, manufacturer of the famed 5.56x45mm MK262 MOD 1-C cartridge, will likely halt commercial sales of that particular variation as well.

The next weird piece of news was that Vista Outdoor Inc. sold its Sporting Products business to Czechoslovak Group, aka CSG, an industrial technology holding company. This means the consumer brands CCI, Federal, HEVI-Shot, Remington, and Speer are now part of CSG. The Sporting Products business and the U.S. headquarters will remain in Anoka, Minnesota. This sale isn’t necessarily bad news, but it does contribute to the weirdness in the ammo market. Some of the best-known iconic ammo brands are now owned by a foreign conglomerate.

 So, if you’ll pardon me, I’m logging off to go buy some ammo. I suggest you do the same pretty dang pronto. 

— Todd Woodard


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