The Ongoing Ammunition Shortage

399768_5485-01In the past year, I have run ammunition price updates every few months.  I can’t do that anymore.  None of the cartridges I had followed are in stock, or expected to be in stock, in the near future.  In fact, a lot of ammo of all types is sold out at most locations.

The WalMart stores near me seemingly have people lined up at the ammo counter every morning, waiting to buy ammunition that is on the daily truck delivery.  Online vendors can’t keep ammo in stock, either.

Unable to find any .223/5.56 ammunition locally for a head-to-head test of AR-15 magazines later this month, I contacted some of the ammunition manufacturers to ask for their assistance in procuring some.  The responses I received were almost exclusively apologetic, as very few manufacturers have any .223, and those that do are shipping them to fulfill backlogged contracts.

I traded e-mails with Ed Grasso, the majority owner of Sellier & Bellot, USA.  Sellier & Bellot, USA is the exclusive importer of Sellier & Bellot (S&B) ammunition.

Grasso said that S&B decreased the allocation of .223 to the US market by 60% from the 2008 allocation.  The reason?  Politics.  According to Grasso, the devalued US dollar and the Obama administration’s anti-gun goals caused S&B to shift the sales of .223 to other, more stable markets.  With worldwide demand up, manufacturers like S&B can choose where to sell their products with little, if any, consequences on their bottom line.

“From past experience, [Sellier & Bellot] is also very aware that the administration can impact importers through Custom’s, BATF, and the State Department, without Congress ever getting involved,” said Grasso.  And with the uncertainty in the U.S., “they cannot be dependent upon the business in the U.S.  Obviously, the factory needs to make a profit to survive.”

The bottom line on the import reduction of .223 ammunition from S&B?  “We are meeting less than 20% of the current demand from our wholesale customers.  We do not have one box of .223 in inventory, and will not have any in inventory during 2009,” said Grasso.

Sellier & Bellot is not alone.  A company representative at Aguila said “We do not have this round (.223) in stock, and we will not have it until… maybe next year.”

Erik Leslie at Magtech said “…we do not have any inventory in our commercial warehouse.”  Leslie said Magtech has focused all of their production on fulfilling military contracts.

Winchester Ammunition is running their ammunition production facilities 24-hours a day.  Even at this pace, they are having trouble meeting demand.  “We are so far behind on .223/5.56 ammunition orders,” said Paul Nowak.  Other manufacturers expressed similar situations to me as well.

So, you want to know why ammunition prices are up?  Supply and demand.  Demand is through the roof, while supply is, at best, constant.  For every Winchester increasing production, there is a S&B reducing imports.  Companies like Magtech are just trying to keep up with military contracts.

There is no easy solution.  Few, if any, of the manufacturers are willing to invest in new ammunition making facilities, because (1) this current demand is unlikely to continue indefinitely, and (2) no one trusts the government to treat their business fairly.  Meanwhile, it is unlikely that people will stop buying ammunition in the commercial market.

Reloading is a great alternative.  Too bad you can’t find primers…

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

3 replies on “The Ongoing Ammunition Shortage”

I just took up the sport (range shooting)…at the worst time ever. I feel bad going to practice because I don’t know when the next time I will find ammunition is. What a bad time to do this.


Try dry fire training to improve your skills, and save your wallet. Dry firing will not damage your gun, but it will allow you to practice sight alignment and trigger control without costing you a dime.


Good advice Richard. Let’s remind Erik to use snap-caps for dry-fire practice if they’re available for his gun.

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