HELENA — We all remember when the pandemic started, a lot of things left store shelves fast. Basic cooking items, hand sanitizer. And…yes, toilet paper.
“Right after people figured out they couldn’t get enough toilet paper they started thinking about ammunition,” said Ed Beall, owner of Capital Sports in Helena. But unlike TP, ammo shelves are still emptier than normal.
Gun and ammunition sales often surge based on hunting season and national events, so a run on ammo in the past chaotic year was expected.
But for Beall, this time around is different than anything he’s seen. “I’ve been here 36 years, our company’s been here 50 years, we’ve seen all these cycles, this is definitely the biggest one of those cycles in terms of the impact and will have the biggest impact on supply,” said Beall.
The reason, of course, is COVID-19.
Ammunition manufacturers were impacted by the virus in many ways, resulting in a loss in production. Combine that with an increase in the already high demand for ammunition here in Montana and you find yourself in the situation we are in now.
“The worst thing we have is to say no we don’t have it," added Beall. "I mean, everybody here hates saying no. But we have been treated well by our vendors and we’ve had a good supply overall. Right now, it’s the skinniest that I’ve ever seen.”
Skinniest, but not completely gone. “We receive shipments of products every single weekday," said Beall. "So, Monday through Friday we get merchandise in every time. We don’t know when it’s coming or how much. We’ve gotten partial shipments all throughout this time and we’ve gotten full shipments, we don’t know what’s coming.
Not an ideal situation for Capital Sports and other small businesses that sell ammunition, but things are trending in the right direction - even if it will take some time. “Well, I think it’s still a long haul, it really is," said Beall. "Their (ammo manufacturers) production capacity are generally higher than they were through parts of the last fall. But I think it’s going to be a while. It will come back gradually then I think people will have as much as they need.”
Some gun manufacturers say part of the reason for the shortage is the pandemic, which has disrupted the supply chain. Manufacturing has slowed down or stopped in some parts of the U.S., and exports are harder to come by right now. There is also a shortage of primers, the part of the bullet that initiates combustion.
The Guns & Ammo website states: "Primer manufacturers are working hard to feed the market. 'We continue to operate at full capacity and are committed to meeting the current strong demand for ammunition and primers,” Federal representatives told G&A. Remington is also working overtime: “We are producing at record levels to attempt to satisfy the unprecedented demand for primers in support of the hand loading consumer, our own loaded rounds, and our industry partners loaded rounds.”