2014: The Year of the Rimfire [shortage?]

    Mark Keefe wrote on the American Rifle magazine about the rimfire ammunition shortage. He has said many of the same things we have been saying over the past year: increased consumer demand coupled with high-capital costs that prevent an increase in supply. He made two excellent points I had not considered before: significant increase in rimfire firearm sales and the rimfire guns that are being sold are not your grandaddy’s low magazine capacity rimfire. Mark writes (emphasis added) …

    There are, literally, millions more .22 Long Rifle firearms owned and shot that have entered civilian hands in recent years. Based on BATF data, Sturm, Ruger alone in 2012 (the most recent year for which date is available) produced 254,991 “up to .22” pistols, in addition to 68,001 “up to .22” revolvers. Heritage in Florida made 88,778, while North American Arms trailed with a still impressive 54,511. And remember, those “up to 22” pistols made by Ruger were pretty much all semi-automatics with 10-round capacity magazines. If each new Ruger buyer purchased just 100 rounds, that is an increase in demand of 25,499,100 just for those buyers. If they bought 200 rounds, you are looking at an increase of demand of roughly 51 million rounds.

    I suspect marks estimate of 200 rounds per new gun is a low estimate. .22 LR is most often purchased in 300-500+ round bulk packs. This is the most economical way to buy it and retailers promote these packs.  Mark goes on to say …

    Let’s face it, if you have a 10- or 25-round capacity magazine, how often do you say to yourself, “I’ve only fired five so far, maybe I should unload the rest, put them back in the box and save them for later.” No. If you have a semi-automatic carbine with a 25-round capacity magazine, odds are you will shoot more rounds at the range than if you had brought a single-shot Winchester Low Wall Winder Musket. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is merely a behavior change based upon the kinds of guns consumers have been purchasing for recreational shooting. So if the million or so owners of the million or so .22s sold over the past few years each bought just one 325-round can of Federal Champion (try not to confuse it with your cashews), you are looking at a minimum increase in demand of 325 million rounds.

    It took gun companies years to realize that consumers wanted high magazine capacity .22 LR, or they always knew but were reluctant to offer them for political reasons. I had never considered that the move from limited 10-rounds to the “new normal” 20, 25 and 30 round capacity magazines might have on ammunition supply. It makes perfect sense. Hopefully the changing market will give manufactures incentives to expand production capacity, or new manufacturers will enter the market to make up for the shortfall.

    Thanks to Jay for the tip.

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!