Wyomingites love their guns. And apparently, the rest of the country is jumping on that bandwagon.
In an era known for panic buying and stockpiling, guns and ammunition are popular items. In fact, ammunition is in such short supply that outdoor supply stores can’t keep enough on the shelves.
“They sit on the shelf for maybe a day and then they’re about gone for the most part,” said Madison Pendley, store manager at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Cody. “Unless we get like a full pallet, then that will last a couple of days, but that’s about the extent of it.”
Pendley said the store has multiple suppliers that it orders from, and it will get multiple small shipments a day, but only about 10 boxes at a time.
Shawn Wagner, the owner of Wagner’s Outdoor Outfitters in Casper, said he has never seen a shortage like this one.
“Not in 24 years,” which is the amount of time Wagner has been in the sporting goods business, he said.
“Well, it was similar, right after the Sandy Hook shooting thing during Obama time,” he added
Wagner pointed to efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws since President Biden was elected as one reason gun owners are stockpiling weapons and ammunition. Biden has proposed multiple forms of restrictions on firearms and accessories, such as ammunition capacity limits, a federal assault weapon ban and universal background checks.
“People are still paranoid, at least in our area,” Wagner said. “You know, we’re all conservative, not all of us, but the majority. And they’re just worried about what the administration is gonna do.”
And particularly in Wyoming, where shooting is a way of life, Pendley said people want to make sure they have enough ammunition on hand.
“People like their guns and ammo here,” she said. “So they’re seeing it all across the US, but we’re still buying everything that anybody can get their hands on because, of course, people like to shoot here.”
But political insecurity is only part of the equation.
“Somewhere about the first of March last year somebody flipped the switch with this COVID thing, plus the election coming,” Wagner said. “People just bought up stuff to where now I don’t have regular supplies of hunting ammo, I’m just starting to see it come back in right now, but it’s still very, very limited. It gets here and it’s gone, usually within a few days.”
The bottleneck also stems from factories limiting production during the pandemic, according to Pendley.
“The components that they need to load the ammo, primers in particular, are tough for them to get,” she said.
“Some states are shut down and couldn’t get components; they couldn’t get brass,” Wagner adds. “Some of the factories have limited production, and they just kind of snowballed.”
There has been an increase in new gun owners as well, adding to the demand. According to an official with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an estimated 8.4 million people bought firearms for the first time in 2020.
“So if you’re just going to buy the one or two boxes of ammo for (each new gun sold), that’s another 10 or 20 million boxes of ammo they have to make,” Wagner said.
And with a shortage of supply and an increase in demand, prices are bound to rise.
“Ammo for sure has definitely gone up,” Wagner said. “I think a lot of it’s gone up at least 30% to 50%. That’s just on everything.”
“We’ve seen price increases across the board,” Pendley said. “Anywhere from 3% for some companies, up to like 20% or 30% for other companies.”
And how much the price jumps depends a lot on who retailers order from, according to Pendley.
“The big guys aren’t increasing their prices nearly as much, as they have the buying power to still get the same prices that they have been getting,” she said. “The little companies, though — like, there’s a company in Montana that we’ve seen huge price increases from, because they don’t have the buying power to get what they need. They’re making sure that they get their money’s worth for the little bit that they do get out the door.”
But Wagner said production has started to ramp up again, which may alleviate the shortage.
“Now things are cranking out,” he said. “I know most of these ammo factories are running 24/7. And right now I’ve had .223 and .556 on the shelf – and we’re selling a lot – but I’ve gotten in enough to where it’s always been available for maybe two weeks now.”