As the ammo shortages continue two rounds have been increasingly hard to find above all others, 9mm and .22 long rifle. The fact that .22lr is hard to find has many long time gun owners scratching their heads. Prior to 2013 bulk packs were plentiful and cost you $0.02 per round. Now after a 10x price increase rounds pushing close to $0.20 per round at the time of this article only two years later. Price increases are something you can live with however they are near impossible to find as many venders haven’t adjusted their prices for demand. What makes this even more ludicrous is the fact that .22lr ammo is currently costing the same as surplus ak-47 ammo, 7.62×39. Now if you are a prepper right now you are probably buying AK ammo to get more rounds for your money and better stopping power and only buying .22 when it’s under 0.10 per round.
So why is .22lr so hard to find and expensive now?
The answer is truly increased demand that surpasses the supply. Here is my top ten list, in no particular order, of factors that are playing a part in the ammo shortage.
- .22LR Hype and Economic uncertainty—Prepper’s have long thought this was the round to stock up on for long term survival. It’s cheap, can be used for hunting or self-defense, can carry a lot of it with little weight, and can be used for barter items in the future. More people are being turned on to prepping these days and as a result this ammo has become more attractive. More and more preppers are joining our ranks thanks to shows like doomsday preppers. This means more people to buy the ammo caliber that is most revered by preppers.
- Impulse buying – I’m guilty of it. When I see .22lr and it’s cheap I buy it even if I wasn’t planning on it. When you have 50 rounds for $5 or less it’s like being at the checkout counter and grabbing a candy bar because it looks good and who really cares about spending an extra dollar. However if you were looking at a big bag of candy for $15 you may stop and question your decision more. So you can satisfy your ammo and gun buying impulse and get instant gratification for less money.
- New Shooters – More and more people are getting into the shooting sports daily. One of the best starter calibers is .22lr. It’s great for all ages and is still some of the cheapest pistol ammo available. With the low recoil and weight it makes for a great plinker to introduce new shooters to the sport. Evidence in the increase in new shooters can be seen in the following records broken last year; gun sales, CCW permits, NICs Background checks, memberships in firearms organizations, and booth rentals at gun ranges.
- Conversion barrels and kits – Getting experience with your target weapon system is important in building muscle memory. You want to get as many repetitions as possible. The same trigger pull, and weapon weight are important for effectiveness. Many people are buying the conversion kits or the .22lr version of their primary weapon system to allow them to practice for cheap. As this happens the .22lr prices rise to meet the prices of other more expensive rounds they would otherwise be training with. I would best associate this effect with to .223 Remington and 9mm ammo availability and prices. With this mindset the ammo is unlikely to cross over the cost of the higher caliber rounds as they will then just opt to buy the “real ammo” instead.
- Profiteers – People are taking advantage of the market conditions. Walmart and other first market venders are still selling ammo at 5-8 cents per rounds. But the market is willing to pay 10-14 cents per round. As a result people are buying what they can in the first market vendors and selling it on places like armslist for a profit. This is expected and typical in all markets. You see it with the hot items at Christmas time. So while some might consider this price gouging if someone is willing to pay it is simple supply and demand. Once the price being paid is unacceptable by the masses or the profit margins of the profiteers shrink the demand at a specific price drops. However the supply stays unbought so the price goes down to move the product and cut loses.
- Hunting, pest control and Suppressors — .22lr is a great suppressed round. It is perfect for dealing with small pest and even coyotes or other larger pests. It is also a wonderful round for small game hunting as you won’t damage as much meet. The round can even be used on big game as well with good shot placements making it a popular round among poachers. More and more hunters are joining the ranks. In states where a hunter education class is requires such classes state wide are full close to a year in advance. This means more demand for this round.
- Supply – there is a limit to how many bullets a manufacturer can produce. They are working 24 hour shifts but need to produce more than just .22lr. We are seeing center-fire rifle rounds become more commonly available so they have begun to catch up there. However Handgun ammo shortages continue to happen. New manufacturers are popping up to try and handle the demand. I will guess that .22lr profitability isn’t high enough for manufacturers to a lot more machinery or man hours. However supply is improving.
- Government bullet buying and Political issues – the purchase of a billion bullets by the DHS and talks of new gun laws in 2012 and 2013 caused a mindset that this stuff is going to be hard to find. As well it put fear of a police state into some people’s hearts and as a result they bought higher caliber rounds. Over time they shifted that mindset to include .22lr for training and hunting. Another big political issue is the import of ammo. There are laws preventing much of the world’s surplus ammo from entering the USA this is why AK47 spam cans of surplus ammo have dried up. So with importing being hard it’s difficult to rely on the global ecomony to make up for the manufacturing slow-down of ammo in the USA. Though there is some new developments as you see new brand like NormaUSA TAC-22 show up. From what I gather these are imported from the swiss.
- Lead Smelter – The last us lead smelter closed down at the end of December. It hasn’t yet hit the market in terms of pricing but I’m sure it’s already hit the manufacturers. Having no domestic sources for lead from ore means having to rely on foreign bodies to send it. This means slower shipping, more international laws/regulations and more cost. This is expected to impact manufacturers such as Lake City more than others given that they strategically located their ammo manufacturing plant virtually next door to the smelter to reduce costs and shipping time.
- Critical Mass – The terms in physics relates to when something has enough mass to create gravity that draws more mass in. It’s meaning in this discussion is, there is so much demand that it’s generating more demand. It’s causing a super charged economy in the ammo industry that could be a bubble as economic people like to talk about. Could it burst and everything goes back to the way it was. Sure, if people run out of money or lose interest somehow. But even with stocks you can have major stock jumps that may look like a temporary increase in cost but become the new norm. So I don’t personally expect the prices to become pre 2012 prices ever again. I don’t think 0.20 a round is sustainable unless other ammo prices go up, but $0.10 seems like a good mark as to the low end once the first channel venders catch up on pricing. But there are enough people driving ammo shortage that I see demand growing and prices rising before the availability levels out.
Those are my thoughts on why .22LR ammo is so difficult to find. I invite your comments and own ideas on the matter. Same time next week I will be releasing an article on how you can find .22lr during the 2014 ammo shortage. There are a number of tricks the profiteers are using to get their supply that you can use to keep your prepper caches stocked with ammo. These will include how to buy .22lr ammo online and where to find .22lr ammo locally.