When the SHTF will there be an Ammunition Shortage?

Many prepping and survival blog readers realize that there was an ammunition shortage beginning in early 2009, and continuing to some extent into 2010. The Washington Post reported that, in 2009, “Gun owners have bought about 12 billion rounds of ammunition…. up from 7 billion to 10 billion in a normal year.” (U.S. sees shortage of ammunition). In other words, an extra 2 to 5 billion MORE rounds of ammo were purchased in 2009 as compared to a more typical year. Does that seem like a lot? Let’s see if it is:

Divide 12 billion rounds by 305.5 million persons in the U.S. in 2009, and the result is about 39 rounds per person. The percentage of adults (over 18) in the U.S. is about 76%, which gives us about 232 million adults. Now the 12 billion rounds is 52 rounds per adult in the U.S. But what percent of adult Americans are gun owners? About 43% in the year 2009, according to Gallup.com. Now the number is about 120 rounds per gun-owning adult purchased in 2009. In other words, each one billion rounds purchased works out to 10 rounds per gun-owning adult. And extra 2 to 5 billion rounds is an extra 20 to 50 rounds of ammunition, per year, on average, purchased by gun-owners. That’s not very much.

Of course, some gun owners increased their purchasing of ammo much more than that number, and some did not. But my point is that the ammunition shortage that began in 2009 did not require much of an increase in the buying of ammo. How do these facts relate to a possible future ammo shortage? Simply put, an ammunition shortage does not require much of a change in buying habits. Any event that would motivate a good percentage of gun owners to buy several extra boxes of ammo per year would cause the same, or an even greater, shortage.

Consider this: as of late 2011, self-reported gun ownership in the U.S. rose to 47%, up 4% from 2009, AND the adult US population grew by 4.6 million. That’s 111.3 million gun owners in 2011, compared to 99.8 million gun owners in 2009, for 11.5 million more gun owners over that 2-year period of time. It is becoming easier and easier for a surge in demand to result in an ammo shortage.

What caused the 2009 to 2010 ammunition shortage? The consensus seems to be that gun owners were concerned that the new Obama administration would move to restrict gun ownership. This (as it turned out unwarranted) fear also increased gun sales for a while. I don’t want this blog post to become too political, but from my point of view this type of motivation to buy more guns and ammo is a relatively-limited consideration. IF there were ever, or I should say WHEN eventually there will be, a real SHTF event, the motivation to buy guns and ammunition — simply for defense of self, family and home — will be much greater. Survival is a much more powerful motivator than a change of political power from one party to the other.

And I’m not talking about a TEOTWAWKI type event. Even a relatively moderate disaster scenario might affect the nation, in one way or another, so as to increase civil unrest and crime, while decreasing the security of home and person. Then we might reasonably expect a sharper increase in gun buying and ammunition buying. It took manufacturers, I would roughly estimate, about a year to recover from the ammo shortage of 2009. And that recovery was probably helped along by a concomitant lull in gun and ammo sales. If the SHTF for real, the shortage will be much more severe and longer lasting. I’m not exaggerating.

— Thoreau

8 Responses to When the SHTF will there be an Ammunition Shortage?

  1. Good post. I wonder if anyone has done the math for the non-military purchases of 40 cal hollow points by the DOD and divided that by the number of agents. That ought to be interesting!

    • I’ve been reading about that story: the Feds have been buying a lot of ammo. They say it is just because they have so many agents, and they need to expend so many rounds in practice.

  2. PrOblem with that explanation is that agencies do not use hollow points for target practice. That would be way too expensive. Most agencies use standard FMJ rounds for range time.

  3. If the government buys 1.5 billion rounds then we know where to stock up. The government is notoriously bad at retain its stores and supplies.

  4. No offense to GA, but we do use hollow point ammunition to qualify. The reason we do so is that you do not want to train with 1 kind of ammo and carry another. When you qualify and train with the same ammo you carry, then you will be more likely to hit your target if you ever have to use your weapon in the real world. Yes, its expensive, but, its worth to ensure that we do not shoot the wrong person because our gun has a different point of impact with hollow point versus ball ammunition. Most federal agencies do use the same hollow point ammunition to qualify.

    • I am in law enforcement, we train with FMJ loads because of cost. They are no less accurate, feel or different than hollow point. We do qualify with what we carry on duty, due to all the law suits agency’s are subject to. Attorney’s are always looking for some loop hole to make our lives miserable.

  5. I work in federal law enforcement. We qualify every quarter with a course requiring 72 rounds. Not including the thousands of rounds for training each new agent or the quarterly training not involving the qual, do the math 72 rounds × 4 quarters × 21000 agents =6,048,000 rounds EVERY year for one little agency.

  6. Oh, all using hollow point regular duty ammo.