Firearms sales still strong as some ammunition shortages persist

Americans continue to purchase firearms by the millions, though not at the record-breaking pace of the last two years. NRA Shooting Illustrated has posted this update on where sales stand approaching the end of 2022.

Ignore 2020’s and 2021’s record-shattering firearm sales pace—driven by the historic collision of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest—and this year is shaping up to be another banner one for the industry, likely eclipsing the mark set in 2019 and vying to place among the top-three in all-time purchases. “[T]he contrast to prior years is remarkable, with total (estimated) unit sales from January to July of 7.4 million in 2019, 13.1 million in 2020, 11.9 million in 2021, and 10.0 million thus far in 2022,” Jurgen Brauer, Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) chief economist, noted in a press release last week.

This year will probably not set the highwater mark, considering that title is held by 2020’s estimated sales at somewhere between 21 and 23 million guns (depending on the source and methodology). Roughly 18 million guns were purchased during 2021, which eclipsed 2016’s election-year total of around 16.6 million. The latter year currently holds third place, although that status may be in jeopardy.

The dramatic increase in sales of firearms in recent years was accompanied by a critical shortage of ammunition as manufacturers tried to keep up. Problems with the supply chain during the pandemic also exacerbated the shortfall. While stocks of ammo have begun to improve in many stores, customers still often face uncertainty as well as higher prices, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Pat Kukull, owner of Superior Shooters Supply, said the shortage has eased some since 2021. But a few calibers are still unavailable and choices of brands and loads may be limited.

“We are in better shape this year, but still not wonderful. For instance, we have .30-06, but not in lead-free. We have a nice selection of .270 in stock. We have a lot of .308,’’ Kukull noted.

The store has ordered all sizes and brands, but because orders take months to show up, it’s unclear what may arrive on any given day.

“We have shipments in every day, but because everything is backordered, it just shows up,’’ Kukull noted.

So while ammunition supplies generally continue to improve, it’s often still hit and miss as to whether the caliber gun owners need will be on the shelf.

Fleet Farm in Duluth this week had some popular calibers, like .308 and 7 mm magnum, but had no .30-06 and no .30-30.

Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops had several calibers available online while most calibers and brands showed up as out of stock in the company’s Minnesota stores. Be prepared to dig deep, however. A box of 20 Winchester .30-30, 170-grain cartridges now sells for $29.99 on the Cabela’s website (limited supply available), while a box of 20 Federal Supreme, 140-grain .270 Winchester cartridges is selling for $47.99.