During a recent interview with Jason Vanderbrink, the president of Federal Premium Ammunition, he offered up an explanation for the nation’s ammo shortage.
Outdoor Life‘s Alex Robinson recently spoke with Vanderbrink to try to get to the root of the ammunition shortage. Rough estimates show that there are seven million new gun owners as of the last year. In addition, retailers are back-ordered for months, and the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated supply chains and workers’ safety.
However, the main reason for the shortage is that ammo companies simply can’t meet the current unprecedented demand. Vanderbrink says that the industry has been over capacity throughout much of the last four years.
“It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback,” Vanderbrink said. “During the Trump Administration, for all ammunition companies, it was a tough business. The industry was over capacity and that leads companies to not invest in expansion or refrain from capital expenditures that may be needed.”
Ammo Shortage Also Known as the ‘Trump Slump’
In contrast, during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, many consumers worried about stricter firearm regulations. They bought up as many guns and ammunition as they possibly could, leading to more ammo shortages. Yet, those same consumer fears decreased exponentially after Trump took over as president. In fact, industry insiders call this shift in consumer thinking the “Trump Slump.”
“So when the market turned in March, we were coming off of a tough three-year business cycle.” Vanderbrink explained. “[At the time,] the furthest thing from our mind was expanding capacity. So when the market turned so fast you had two problems: There was certainly not the labor available and, two, it takes time to train people…You just can’t turn on a dime.”
Vanderbrink went on to explain that the ammo shortage is a complex situation. There would be no overnight solution, and as he says, the industry is not set up to react quickly to these higher demands.
“You can’t go hire hundreds of people overnight, train them and boom, on Friday you have more ammo. It just doesn’t work that way, it’s impossible,” he continued. “The key takeaway is that the business had been tough for three years and we had to right the ship, if you will. And then when demand exploded, it’s impossible to react that fast.”
More Factors That Have Led To a Lack of Ammunition
Ammo companies have also had trouble accessing materials for their firearm products. Both primers and brass have been challenging to keep in stock because of the huge increases in factory ammo.
“The brass market for the most part is seeing unprecedented demand not only in the ammo market but the national coin shortage. And that is certainly driving brass prices up and availability down,” he says. “Brass is a hard commodity to acquire right now and every round that any ammo company makes, for the most part, has brass in it.”
Vanderbrink assured consumers that ammo companies are still producing tons of ammunition. He’s gone one step further and tried to calm concerns by debunking baseless conspiracy theories that have come about. Some people think that the ammo companies are holding on to their products to drive the demand upward. Other think that the ammunition plants have closed entirely. Furthermore, some claim that companies have entered partnerships with the military and are therefore not selling to civilians anymore. Vanderbrink filmed his thoughts in a YouTube video that has garnered almost two million views.
“I’m tired of all the hate mail, I’m tired of people showing up at our factories, I’m tired of reading the misinformation out on the internet right now about us not trying to service the demand that we’re experiencing,” Vanderbrink says in the video.
Ammunition Shortages Won’t Be Going Away Anytime Soon
The bad news is there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the ammo shortage. Back in November, Vista Outdoor – a subsidiary of Federal Premium Ammunition – reported an excess of $1 billion of backlogged ammo orders. They are taking steps to increase production though.
In October, Vista bought Remington ammunition and their assets when the company filed for bankruptcy. Vista is now focused on getting Remington’s ammo plant in Lonoke, AR running at full production. The company is also recalling furloughed employees and hiring hundreds of new workers to get the plant running at full capacity.
“It’s going to be awhile,” Vanderbrink said. “All the shelves are empty, so we’ll have to fill the shelves. Understanding the political climate in our country and the social unrest…all of those factors create demand. So I won’t speculate, but getting the Remington factory up at max production will help the end consumer for sure.”
[H/T Outdoor Life]