Ammo Shortage: Scalpers Are Buying Up Ammunition to Profit on Resale, Making the Issue Worse

by Clayton Edwards

The only thing worse than an ammo shortage is the scalpers who are making a mint off of it. In fact, scalpers seem to be at the center of many shortages over the past year. These greedy, self-serving, scum bags buy commodities in bulk and sell them at marked-up prices. It fouls up the market and makes things harder for everyone else. Let’s look at how they are causing higher ammo prices and making it harder to find rounds. Before we do that, though, we need to look at the shortage as a whole.

The Ammo Shortage

Even if you haven’t tried to buy ammo in the last few months, you probably know about the shortage. Just about every social media account or forum focused on firearms has mentioned it. If the admins of the pages or forums haven’t brought it up, users will. The simple fact is that ammo is hard to come by, When you can find it, prices are usually ridiculous.

However, this isn’t because manufacturers are slacking. They’re making all the ammunition they can. Distributors are getting their shipments when they should. Things get a little dicey from there, though.

For one, millions of Americans purchased their first firearm in 2020. When you buy a new gun, you have to buy ammo. So, millions of new gun owners were are buying millions of boxes of ammunition. The unprecedented purchasing of guns and ammo wasn’t enough to cause a shortage alone.

At the same time, people are panic-buying ammo. This is both a cause and a symptom of the overall ammo shortage. Back in the spring of 2020, people across the country were stockpiling rounds. With the current shortage, people are understandably grabbing every round they can get their hands on. These two things aren’t enough to upset the market, though.

Scalpers: Making the Issue Worse

The thing that is really driving the ammo shortage is scalpers. Like in several other markets, these vultures learned that they could buy things at the retail price then resell them at a markup to make a profit.

Outdoor Life shared a couple of anecdotes that highlight how scalpers are fanning the flames of the ammo shortage. They start by noting that several local brick and mortar stores have taken to buying back ammo from customers. In one of these transactions, it is normal for a customer to buy bullets from fifty cents a round. Then, stores buy it back at seventy-five cents a round. They have to mark it up again to make money on it. This causes prices to rise for customers.

When less-ethical customers caught wind of this trend, they took it to the extreme. They’ll go in, stock up, and resell the ammo. These folks buying ammo in bulk and selling it at a premium price is largely to blame for the ammo shortage.

They also shared the story of a forum user. The user talked about buying ammo online. He had a notification set up so that he would know when the rounds he wanted were in stock at his chosen online retailer. Finally, the text came in letting him know that the rounds he wanted were available. Before he could complete his purchase, they were gone., According to the report, it was less than three minutes between the initial text and failed transaction.

This is because scalpers are buying the ammo quickly then reselling it on the secondary market. In short, these folks are causing the ammo shortage as well as the price increase in ammunition. At the same time, they’re the reason that your local gun shop might be limiting how many rounds you can buy in a day.

How Scalpers Buy Ammo, Other Products, and Cause Shortages

Scalpers have affected more than just the ammo market. If you tried to find toilet paper last spring and only found it at astronomical prices, scalpers are to blame. At the same time, if you found it impossible to buy a new PS5 during the holiday season for under a thousand bucks, scalpers caused that too. They work to cause artificial scarcity in a market to make huge profits. But how do they do it?

There are two distinct ways in which scalpers manipulate markets. There are online and in-person methods. The in-person method is pretty simple. They walk into a retailer, buy ridiculous amounts of an item, and sell it at high prices online. This is why many retailers have put a limit on things like ammo, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and anything else scalpers have caused a shortage in.

The online method is a little more complicated. To put it simply, scalpers are using bots to buy up products to resell on the secondary market. Basically, they have programs that watch retailers for their target product. Once it becomes available, the bots purchase the product in high volume on behalf of the scalper.

For instance, a scalper wants to make his or her money on 9mm ammo. They set bots to watch popular online ammo retailers for the ammo. As soon as it comes available, the bots snatch up a set number of boxes. The scalper pays the regular retail price and resells it to the average gun-owner on the secondary market. Thus, increasing prices and contributing to the ammo shortage.

While this is unethical, it is not illegal. There is no law saying that scalpers can’t do what they’re doing. The only way to stop the scalpers is to stop buying from them or for retailers to put limits on purchases. Online retailers would have to keep up with technology to combat the bots used by scalpers.

In short, scalpers are largely to blame for the ammo shortage and the increased price per round that gun owners are paying. unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about it right now.