For the past four years .22LR ammunition has been in huge demand and became very hard to find at retail. Conspiracies ranged from the government buying it all to a corrupt supply chain. "Where is it, what happened to it all, what gives"? customers asked.
Two years ago customers looking for the little .22 cartridge reminded me of drug users. How embarrassing it seemed to me for an individual to drop by the store every other day whining and pining for their .22 as well as listening to them relating to me their own Obama government conspiracy theories.
Quite honestly I was damned sick listening and opining with my own facts. Soon I gave up discussing it and instead suffered through the customer whining and complaining.
Well the humble .22LR cartridge is back. Surprisingly it now sits on most retail shelves and I will tell you why. First some background.
Here's what I saw.
Not long after the Sandy Hook shooting firearm and ammunition sales skyrocketed with new threats if government control. At The World's Foremost Outfitter where I was employed we watched as ammunition flew off the shelves especially the bulk containers. Similar to the retail chaos before an oncoming hurricane or blizzard citizens were stockpiling. In four days we were wiped out of our entire stock of 30 round Pmag AR15 magazines, 2-4,000 was my guess.
After about a month we were out of AR15 rifles as well as most popular handgun and rifle ammunition. The ammunition warehouse space was empty after three months. Whatever ammo came to us in shipments went right to the floor and was purchased immediately. We could not build a back stock. Soon, limits were placed on quantities.
Every day the same 30 or so customers lined up at the door. When the door opened a portion of them would run upstairs to the ammo section. These were the resellers. I know because they told me and some of them I knew on a first name basis. They would tell me how much they were getting either selling it online or at gun shows. 50-100% markup is what some fools were paying for their ammo on the black market. .223/5.56, 7.62x51, 9mm and .22LR were the most in demand.
Due to the shortage and limits on quantities customers would take more than their limit and hide it in other areas of the store for a return purchase later in the day. Employees were finding it tucked behind other products on the shelf and even in the pockets of winter parkas. One day the manager and I watched from the balcony as the resellers or hoarders walked the main floor hiding ammo.
What was a very well stocked ammo section looked like a Soviet grocery store in the 1970's. With so much empty shelf space other unrelated products soon filed the holes such as apparel.
In about six months it began to dribble back in, mainly centerfire ammo. When bringing out a large steel cart of new ammo some customers would open outer cartons and take ammo when we weren't looking, a huge no-no. Their rudeness and selfish behavior appalled me. Customer altercations broke out. I was suddenly ashamed of my gender.
Manufacturers were taken by surprise at a sudden demand never seen before. .22LR and other rimfire ammo did not come back as soon as centerfire ammo did. It was explained to me that centerfire assembly lines are quickly retooled. Each is capable of manufacturing many calibers of ammunition. All they do is change the dies and recalibrate the components, push a few buttons and the 9mm line was soon spitting out .40S&W, for example.
A rimfire assembly line is capable of making rimfire only and the manufacturers had only so many rimfire lines and they were churning out .22 24/7. But that was still not enough to satisfy the insatiable demand.
Fast forward to now and most stores now carry a respectable stock of .22LR ammo. We do. And it's not moving too fast. Why? First, so many ammo hoarders possess up to and possibly more than 20,000 rounds in their sheds and garages. I know because my customers tell me what they have stored and it isn't just .22LR. Maybe they're tapped out.
Add to that the price is high due to not only demand but the high cost of commodities such as brass, copper and lead. Suddenly some will scoff at the prices. These same fools were paying double and triple for the same product on the black market only one to two short years ago.
You see, the humble .22 rifle is what most firearm enthusiasts use in teaching and learning the safe handling and operation of a firearm. Ask any firearm user what the first gun they shot was and the answer will be the .22. Some .22 rifles were very affordable same as the ammunition. There are probably more .22 firearms in the general public than any other caliber so it is very popular. And everyone recalls how cheap it was to spend some range time with their .22, which I hear from customers every day. Before the Sandy Hook a plastic bucket filled with 2600 lose lead nose Remington plinkers went for 2.5¢ per round. Those days are over for good.
Now when a customer enters the store and asks for .22 ammo I point it out, they look at the price which averages from 7-10¢ per round depending on the package quantity, and say no thanks-that's too high. They tell me stores (ten miles or more away) have it cheaper. Last week I made a trip to the local Bass Pro Shop where a respectable supply was available for a few bucks per less than we charge. It never fails to amaze me how far a fool will travel to save a few bucks and I do mean a few. I may be frugal but not to that extent.
The sudden glut will be short lived. As soon as the political gun grabbers take advantage of an unfortunate event by pushing for more regulations it will cause another run. Their type will never, ever give up.