PHOENIX, Ariz.—Competitive target shooter Dan Sutton, of Glendale, Arizona, has seen the price of everything go up over the past year. But it’s the rising price of ammunition that really hits close to home.
“It started a year ago,” said Sutton, one of a dozen contestants in a long-range shooting competition at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix on March 26.
“I don’t know about [hurting firearms] ownership—it’s like the price of gas. Some people have quit shooting because of the price of bullets. You can’t find some of the components a lot of times. Especially primers. Bullets. Gun barrels. They went up in price, and it’s hard to get a new barrel.”
Sutton told The Epoch Times that two weeks ago nearly 100 target shooters attended a similar match. He said turnout would have been higher were it not for the skyrocketing price of gasoline.
“We would have had well over 100 but some of them said they couldn’t afford six dollars for [a gallon of] gas to drive all the way from New York out here,” said Sutton, who’s been target shooting since he was 13. He’s now retired, living on a fixed income.
“We buy reloads so we need to find the components—the primers, the powder. It’s been going up [in price] for over a year. It’s pathetic what’s happening in this country,” he said.
“Demand keeps going up and they can’t get enough [supply]. They can’t get the raw materials. Or nobody wants to work any more to fill the jobs.”
On Dec. 21, 2021, U.S. ammunition supplier Vista Outdoor announced price increases on many of its products due to rising material costs.
“As we continue to see supply chain constraints and increases in our raw materials, we are increasing our pricing to help offset those rising costs,” Jason Vanderbrink, president of ammunition, said in a statement.
Beginning April 1, the cost of Vista Outdoor’s primers and powder will go up 5 percent. Likewise, it will cost 2-8 percent more for handgun ammo and 3-8 percent more for rifle cartridges. Customers will see a 3-12 percent price hike on shotgun shells.
No new primer orders will be accepted until further notice, the company said.
In February 2021, black powder manufacturer Hodgdon said that product shipping challenges were due to a “record demand for all reloading components and not a reduction in the supply of powder.”
“With long-time hand-loaders looking to stock up and new gun owners looking for ammunition, there is an unprecedented demand for powder and other reloading components,” the company said in a statement.
Hodgdon said it shipped a record amount of powder in 2020 and expected to ship even more in 2021.
The company ramped up its overtime production and hired more employees to “get the most powder into consumer hands.”
Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said a number of factors have caused prices of firearms and supplies to go up, including the rising price of fuel and commodities used in ammunition: copper, lead, brass, and ingredients to make gunpowder.
“The cost of labor is continually going up” to meet high demand, Oliva told The Epoch Times. “That’s just Economics 101. It remains to be seen where it settles up.”
Oliva said there’s plenty of economic pain to go around in 2022. “It’s the same thing other industries are dealing with right now—food to the auto industry.”
In 2021, Oliva said the demand reflected in the 18.5 million background checks on firearms purchases conducted compared to 13.7 million in 2019 prior to the pandemic.
Odd Calibers Out
“It kind of went off the charts for a couple of years,” he said.
Oliva likened the situation to the “toilet paper effect” with people now grabbing boxes of ammunition off the shelves once the supplies began to dwindle.
Even now, it’s difficult to obtain odd calibers of ammunition while more popular caliber rounds such as 9mm, 45, 380, and .22 have become more available over time, he said.
For reasons of quality control and savings, some hunters and target shooters prefer to reload their ammunition. Here, too, the problem is supply versus demand on reloading components—primers, bullets, and gun powder.
“Is there money to be saved in [reloading]? Over time, yes,” Oliva said. “All the things that you want for your setup you can dial in yourself” on a reloading machine.
Like everything else, Oliva said, the rising cost of producing ammunition will be passed on to the consumer.
“The manufacturer has to pay more to make the final product. It’s unfortunate because it’s not something unique to our industry,” he said.
“It’s kind of touch and go right now with everything happening in Europe and China,” said Matthew Nicholson, vice president of sales at Ammo Inc. in Arizona.
“Everyone in the industry seems to be holding their breath.”
Due to economic sanctions on ammunition made in Russia, many U.S. retailers will have to look more to domestic manufacturers—and that’s a good thing for the industry, Nicholson said.
Despite the lack of materials the outlook for firearms and ammunition supplies is positive, he said.
“As far as we’re concerned we’re prepping for some massive growth. The good news for us is ‘Made In America’ is going to be more valuable,” he said.
At the Ben Avery Shooting Range, competitive target shooter Gerald Hernandez, of Amarillo, Texas, lamented the rising price of ammunition and everything else.
“There’s no product out on the market today—bullets, powder, all the components for reloading—there’s a shortage across the board,” Hernandez told The Epoch Times.
“As a result, you see fewer competitors coming to these events. Not only that [but] the rising cost of fuel. It’s a decision somebody has to make” whether or not to attend them, he said.