Now, with ammo shelves becoming as empty as toilet paper shelves, such joking has turned to concern. With uncertainly over how long the COVID-19 shelter-in-place directives will last and what might happen to government-provided services, American gun owners have once again decided it’s time to shore up their ammo supplies, resulting in another ammo run throughout the country. But just how severe is this coronavirus-based ammo shortage?
Coronavirus Ammo Shortage?
Dustin Pluth is an instructor and match director at The Range in St. Louis, Mo. He’s seeing the great increase in ammunition sales firsthand. It appears buyers have self- and home-defense in mind during the pandemic.
“We’re staying very busy,” Pluth said when he could finally step away from the commotion for a few moments. “We’ve definitely had an influx of sales in the last two weeks. On ammo, all the popular calibers are getting hit hard. Mainly 9mm and .223/5.56, especially in the defensive ammo. We’ve still got ball ammo.”
Pluth said he and another instructor looked at the store’s ammo stock just before we talked. He found some things to be quite different than what occurred during the last ammunition shortage.
“We were looking at the shelves and seeing what’s what,” he said. “.22 ammo is still available. That was the hot caliber last time, and everybody bought it in bulk. This time it’s actually legitimate defensive ammo that people are buying.
“The biggest one would be 9mm. That was the one that people hit first and dried up in both the defensive loads and also the target-shooting ammo. But we still have several cases out on the floor at this point.”
What to Expect
Being aware of the current run on ammo is important to all American gun owners. They also need to not overly downplay the scope of a coronavirus ammo shortage, as some believe it could get as bad as the last one—maybe even worse.
Brent Vorhees is the Manager at Whistling Pines Gun Club West in Colorado Springs, Colo. He’s willing to make the comparison, and it’s not encouraging.
“It’s probably about the same, if not worse,” Vorhees said. “Because once it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s nothing out there. You can’t ship it fast enough, and there’s nothing left in stock. So, I think it’s actually a little worse than what it was a few years ago.”
While Vorhees and his staff have also seen a big increase in firearms sales, the run on ammo has been more overwhelming.
“Ammo was the first to go,” he said. “They’re buying cases of ammo—like two to three cases at a time. We don’t have any cases left, but we’ve got boxes. We have to keep some boxes just in case some of our members come in and want to shoot, we’ll have something to sell. But we cut off selling cases to people and are limiting people to four boxes per person.”
In fact, ammo rationing is also underway at The Range, according to Pluth. Without setting a limit, the shop’s ammo supply would likely soon be gone.
“We are limiting people to five boxes a day per customer to try to keep everyone satisfied and meet their ammo needs,” Pluth said. “If you do purchase a firearm, you are able to buy another five boxes with that firearm.”
Pluth added that while most people are buying ammo as a result of the COVID-19 uncertainty, few seem to be wild-eyed or frantic about it. There isn’t too much panic buying.
“There are definitely the people that are kind of tongue-in-cheek and that are kind of joking around about it,” he said. “Those are the kind of people that are buying maybe two boxes just to top off their reserves. There has only been a handful of people who have come in every day or every other day to buy their five boxes.
“I would say there’s only been about 5 percent that were actually agitated—an ‘I can only get this? What do you mean I can only get this?’ kind of thing. Most of the new gun buyers don’t even know that all the ammo shelves were empty just a few years back.”