Ammunition & Reloading
One Caliber At A Time, Ammunition Supplies Steady.
The tight ammunition market continues to challenge gun dealers and range operators as they struggle to balance the uncertainty of availability and customer demand. Although supplies are improving, industry experts aren’t expecting large quantities of ammunition to sit on shelves any time soon.
Jeff Hoffman, president of Black Hills Ammunition, sees a continuing degree of stockpiling.
“When people in this country are uncomfortable with politics — as they are with the current administration — they buy guns and ammunition. People want to be sure they have the guns and ammunition they need to take care of their families, no matter what happens,” Hoffman said.
Historically, there have been other periods when consumers bought ammunition in large quantities; however, Hoffman asserts current demand is different.
“In the past when there was a surge, people would stock up and then there would be a big ‘hangover’ spell, because the system would be full when the demand stopped,” he said. “As a manufacturer, we know it isn’t simply stockpiling of ammunition, because people would have stockpiled and then sat back and said, ‘Okay, I’m good.’”
This difference is important.
“The continued demand tells me there are more people who have guns and are shooting than when this happened in the 1990s. Then, people were buying guns because they were afraid of gun control. Now, they are concerned about security; people are buying guns and shooting them, and engaging in the sport. That’s good for the continued freedom of this country.”
RCBS’ Universal Case Prep Center provides reloaders with a space-saving
unit capable of trimming and prepping a high volume of cases.
One Caliber At A Time
Mike Griffin, buyer for Colonial Shooting Academy in Richmond, Va., said the ammunition shortage is getting better a caliber at a time.
“It seems like .223 and 5.56 freed up first,” he said. “Then .45 ACP and .40 S&W freed up, followed by 9mm. And .22 LR is still an issue, but hopefully it will free up soon. Now, .380 ACP has become fairly scarce and has become a big challenge. I think it’s because several new guns have been introduced in that caliber, particularly the Glock 42.”
Another factor, he said, is the relative expense element.
“When you can get it, .22 ammunition is less expensive than anything else,” he said. “By the scale of production, 9mm is the cheapest centerfire round to produce. So if you can’t get .22, 9mm is a good option if you’re looking strictly at the cost.”
Cost isn’t the only factor, Griffin says.
“A lot of people thought if they couldn’t get .22 ammo, they could go to a .380 and have it shoot without too much recoil instead of stepping into a 9mm,” Griffin said. “In some instances that works, but the recoil impulse for most .380 pistols is actually quite stout. For a lot of people, if they couldn’t get .22, then the .380 was an option to bridge the gap between the .22 and the 9mm.”
For Hoffman at Black Hills, the rising demand for .380 ACP comes as no surprise.
“The first year Ruger came out with the LCP (2008), the manager of the Ruger Prescott plant came by our SHOT Show booth. He reached into his front shirt pocket, pulled out an LCP and said, ‘This is the next big thing,’” Hoffman said. “My first thought was, ‘Oh yeah, a pocket .380. That’ll go over real big.’ And then in three days Ruger sold 73,000 guns. So yeah, .380 is a big deal and it’s not just a fad. It’s here to stay.”
Black Hills offers a .380 Auto in two loads: a 90-grain jacketed hollowpoint and a 100-grain full metal jacket. Hoffman said the rise in popularity of the .380 is partly because of the availability of small, concealable guns.
“But that’s just part of it,” he said. “AR sales are through the roof, as well. People believe they’re responsible for their own security, and this might mean an AR-15 at home or in a vehicle and a .380 in a purse.”
In contrast, the demand for big bore handguns such as the .454 Casull and the Smith & Wesson .500 has dropped off considerably, according to Griffin.
“Those calibers are of interest to only a small segment of the market,” Griffin said. “People like to come in and see them, put their hands on them and get an idea of the type of gun that can shoot such a large round — but very few people purchase one. If someone buys one, he doesn’t maintain the volume of shooting someone with a standard-caliber handgun does.”
Caliber by caliber, ammunition supplies are beginning to meet customer demand.
Hornady Manufacturing offers a wide range of handgun, rifle and shotgun ammunition.
New Reloaders With Two Years Experience Of Less
During the first three months of 2014, the average age of reloaders revealed a
significant shift from previous years — with older shooters driving sales in
this category. Dealers should take note and target their audience accordingly.
Reloading Increases, Older Shooters Drive Sales
Robin Sharpless, executive vice president of Redding Reloading, said sales of reloading equipment have increased and the demographics of buyers have changed.
“In our major reseller category, we saw a 40 percent increase in 2013 over 2012, and 2012 was a record year,” he said.
Sharpless said older shooters are getting into reloading much more than they have in the past.
“Historically, reloading has been the purview of young guys who like to shoot a lot and who want to make less expensive ammo,” he said. “If they can reload, they can save about 50 percent.”
Over the past couple of years, however, the reloading market has seen a large influx of older shooters who are just starting to handload.
“It’s kind of a dual thing of not being able to find what they want and the big increase in price,” Sharpless said.
Using information gathered from the Redding Reloading website, Sharpless is able to track the demographics of customers who request a catalog. Here’s the breakdown of new reloaders (those who had two years or less experience) during the first three months of 2014:
• 84 percent were older than 30
• 62.5 percent older than 40
• 38.6 percent were in the 50-plus age group
Sharpless says this is a significant departure from the years prior to 2012, when new reloaders were mostly in their 20s.
Regardless of the age of the shooter, Sharpless says, the question of why someone chooses to reload has two different answers.
“The shooter we call the ‘reloader’ produces ammunition on par with factory ammunition he’s accustomed to having,” he said. “These are action-pistol shooters, cowboy-action shooters and other shooters who use high quantity ammunition.”
The second category includes the shooters who want to fine-tune a round to a specific firearm.
“This is the ‘handloader’ category,” he said. “This shooter wants his ammunition to do more than factory ammunition will give him.” Handloaders aren’t trying to reproduce factory ammunition, but they also aren’t necessarily on an accuracy, performance or consistency quest.
“One other thing we’re seeing with the older beginner is they are getting information from someone else at a range or retail store,” Sharpless said. “It’s more than word of mouth; what they’re doing is finding a perceived expert at a gun shop or at a range.”
Having this kind of insight into a customer base should help dealers target their advertising, inventory and customer service to the reloader/handloader who comes into their stores.
By Carolee Anita Boyles
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