Anyway, after a couple of years, when all of the slack was taken out of the existing production capabilities, the effect began to be noticed in the overall availability of all commercial ammo. At the same time, some other stresses were added to the mix. Foreign military demands increased along with US military needs and the ammo companies pushed to get their share of that market. There have been some hefty military contracts announced within the ammunition industry in the past several years, most of which go unnoticed by the commercial consumer because they are normally only announced in trade publications.
A concurrent and related problem is the shortage of raw materials that are needed to produce ammunition. Copper and lead are the most obvious, but there are many others. The absence of any one component means that no completed product makes it off the production line. We all know about the copper situation. We've been chasing people who have been stealing copper pipe and wiring for several years now. As much as we need copper for ammunition production, ammo requirements are just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall copper needs in the commercial world. Multiply that effect by all of the different ingredients in the ammo pie, and you have a huge stress on the system, even without the military demands. Components have been just as bad to get for the ammo makers as they have been for the roll-your-own reloading folks. It's just a difference in scale. The fact that these shortages came along at the same time that ammo demand was increasing was the beginning of the perfect storm of the ammo world.
Still another element is the fact that modern manufacturing is based on tight supply and delivery schedules. This means that raw materials and components show up at the plants just in time to hit the production line, and finished products are shipped out as soon as they leave the line. Very little is stockpiled. Any interruption in that flow is felt very quickly. What product was sitting around in storage was sucked out of the system in 2007 and early 2008. With that vacuum, any additional stress would create obvious shortages at the consumer level.
That next stress was the tanking economy. Ammo manufacturers may be economically healthy at the moment, but most others are not. People began to fear the effects of the economy on the crime rate, so they started buying guns and ammunition at record rates. Stockpiling began, even though most people have no real idea how they might actually use any of it. Like hoarding food and water, having ammo seemed to be a good idea, so the squeeze continued. Then, by mid 2008, many people saw the political handwriting on the wall. Politicians with strong anti-gun records were gaining strength and we were about to get a President who has an established record of being a consistent supporter of the overall gun control agenda. It was the last straw.
Again, people who felt strongly about individual gun rights, fearing that the political situation would bring new attempts at restrictions, began to stock up on whatever they thought might be controlled by the government. The politicians have actually been too busy with other issues to want to poke the gun control grizzly bear in the butt with a sharp stick right now. However, the focus might change when the other issues are settled. I don't see that happening very soon, but we are living with the reaction to the perception.
Some have recently tried to declare that the ammunition shortage is over. They point to the fact that some big box stores once again have full shelves and greater product selection. I don't think we are there yet. Some ammunition is more available, but not all and not when and where it is needed. I'm also concerned that there are still frustrated people waiting in the wings. They didn't get what they thought they needed when this all started, so they will step forward and start buying up what does become available for a while, especially if the economy improves. No, I don't think it is over yet. Law enforcement consumers will still have the same issues. We still need ammo for training and duty use. We still have requirements we have to meet. We still don't have enough of what we need. What can we do about it? That will be Part 2.