March 21, 2023

Gary Marbut: Ammo Shortage a Supply and Demand Issue


Several of you have asked me what the cause of the ammunition shortage is.

The ammo shortage is nation-wide, and pretty much for all calibers. The shortage also includes ammunition components (brass, powder, primers and bullets) and all reloading equipment and supplies. That’s why everyone is encouraged to contribute by using or buying once-fired brass if there is a shortage of Casings in the market. If you are looking for .223/5.56 ONCE FIRED BRASS, contact a supplier that offers high quality with large collection of Casings.

A part of the problem is the heavy federal government purchases, stressing an already-stressed marketplace.

However, the larger problem is the difference in elasticity between supply and demand.

The supply side is relatively inelastic. Manufacturers cannot increase production more than 30-40% before they begin exhausting their component suppliers. The component suppliers can’t expand more than 30-40% before they max out their material suppliers, all the way to the ends of the many supply chains. This is a usual rule for any type of manufacturing, and applies now in spades to ammunition. Manufacturers are running hard trying to satisfy demand. Hey, they’re in business and want to sell.

However, the demand side is VERY elastic, and driven by the psychological response of Americans to economic and political uncertainties. One supplier says he doesn’t have a shortage of ammunition, but a serious surplus of customers. As long as people have discretionary funds available and are stressed by political and economic uncertainty, or even by perceived political and economic uncertainty, demand for ammo will outstrip supply.

The only thing that would turn this around in the near future is if conditions change to remove or moderate the perception of economic and political uncertainty in the U.S. Frankly, my crystal ball doesn’t see that happening any time soon, unfortunately. If authorities would imprison a slug of high mucky-mucks in D.C., things might cool down, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana


Obama Drying Up Ammo Sources?

Since the first rumblings heard around the country that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)(Big Sis) was stockpiling huge amounts of ammunition, theories have abounded. Big Sis’s explanation was they were saving the U.S. taxpayers money by purchasing in bulk. After I got up off the floor and went and washed up and put on clean, dry clothes, I rationally concluded that it is highly unlikely that Big Sis, or any other government agency was looking into saving taxpayers money. I mean, come on!

The frontrunner in conspiracy theories was that Homeland Security was preparing for civil unrest, especially when we learned Big Sis was also buying up used, light-armored tanks. Of the remaining theories, the only other one that seems to hold some water, given what information is easily available, was that President Obama was looking to dry up ammunition sources available to private citizens; kind of a back door attempt at repealing the Second Amendment.

Perhaps now the most serious effort to promote that theory comes from Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. He states:

“Let’s make sure that your audience out there is aware, Aaron, that our president, Obama, has been doing everything he could to stop the private ownership of guns in America,” Inhofe said. “You know that, everyone knows that. And yet he’s been voted down in a big way by a large majority. And so my feeling is that he’s doing this to buy up [ammunition] so that we can’t buy: Honest, law-abiding citizens here in the United States, like my son, can’t even buy ammunition because government is purchasing so much.”

Senator Inhofe evidently believes this strongly enough that he is planning to introduce a bill that he says will limit, “non-defense, armed federal agencies to pre-Obama levels of ammunition” and have the General Accounting Office audit non-military organizations like DHS, to account for what they are using the ammo for.

Regardless of whether President Obama is deliberately drying up supplies of ammunition or private gun owners are buying it all up due to planning ahead and fear, or a combination of both, it is extremely difficult to purchase any ammunition anywhere. Pity those who did not plan ahead.

If Obama is attempting to circumvent the Second Amendment by owning all the ammunition, I think the president has lost sight of, or he never had it to begin with, the fact that this is America. These are Americans and they WILL find other ways of getting their hands on ammunition. Perhaps not to the same amount of ammunition available now or the same price but it will be there.

In addition, if this theory were to hold true, then the citizens would need to question whether the President’s motives are to circumvent the Constitution or keep ammo out of the hands of criminals. Criminals will always have “black market” items. History has proven that. Therefore, a move such as this would be directed only at ensuring an unarmed populace.

But if you agree with Obama, then you will repeat his words and say I am only “gumming up” the works.