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Training is important, there is no doubt about that. Our skills with a firearm are perishable, and if we don’t train and practice, they will begin to decline. So what do you do to maintain your skills when we have a year like 2020? When ammunition has become difficult or even impossible to find? This will be a series of posts that break down what options you have to find ammunition and use other techniques that don’t require ammunition because I believe that the ammo shortage will continue through most of 2021, but our training needs to continue.
In this first post, I will explain why we have an ammunition shortage and then provide helpful tips to finding ammunition online, in stores, and some other alternatives. Some of the information is specific to Colorado, particularly when we talk about finding ammunition locally, but the concepts can really be applied nationally if desired. So let’s begin!
Where Has All the Ammunition Gone?
2020 has been crazy, right? Pandemics, riots, presidential elections…
Presidential election years already tend to see a run on firearms and ammunition as people worry that the winner of the election will restrict their ability to exercise their rights. I remember in 2009 and again in 2013 when it seemed likely that Obama would win election, and then win reelection, all of the most common ammunition calibers were sold out for months. With President-elect Biden now preparing to take office, his anti-constitutional rhetoric will ensure that people will continue to purchase additional firearms and ammunition for the beginning of his term, if not the entire 4 years.
Add to that a global COVID-19 pandemic that has shown the American people that the police as an entity have no responsibility to protect American citizens. I have an innate respect for anyone who puts on the blue uniform, but as the police became overworked and understaffed, their departments and elected officials made the hard decision to no longer respond to anything but the most severe of crimes. The American people were mostly left to defend themselves.
Speaking of self defense, tens of millions of people took to the streets all across the country to protest perceived injustices, including here in Denver. Rioting, looting, and burning were enough to concern every law abiding citizens. Additional threats to “come into the suburbs” along with an already overwhelmed police department forced the conclusion that the person who is ultimately responsible for your individual safety and the safety of your family… is yourself.
In this environment, millions of Americans have exercised their constitutional right to keep and bear arms for the very first time. We have had the honor of providing the first instruction for dozens of first time firearm owners in our NRA Basic Pistol course. This new group of gun owners (hopefully) means millions of additional people purchasing ammunition to practice at the range and for self defense. A record breaking number of Americans have purchased additional firearms and ammunition to prepare for “just in case” scenarios.
Clearly, ammunition manufacturers have not been able to keep up with the demand coupled with reduced raw materials from the global shipping interruptions thanks to the pandemic. Most report an order backlog in the millions of dollars that they won’t be able to produce their way out of until well into 2021.
So what can you do to make sure you have the ammunition that you absolutely need, and can continue to train and practice your skills with a firearm? Well, that’s what this series of articles is here for!
What Ammunition Do I Actually Need?
This is a very important question. Not all training requires ammunition and in fact, some of the best training can be conducted without ammunition (an article on dry fire training will be posted later and linked here once it’s available). But without question you do need some ammunition.
So what ammunition do you actually need? If you have purchased a new firearm, you need to have practice firing live ammunition out of that gun. You do not want the first time you use the gun to be in a life-or-death self defense type scenario. 50 rounds of Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) training ammunition and an hour at the range will get you started so that you actually have an idea of what your gun will feel like when fired.
Second, you need to have some proper self defense ammunition. I can (and probably should) write a comprehensive post just on what makes a good self defense round, but for now, the point is that you need enough of it with your gun. What is enough depends on you and your situation, but most self defense ammunition comes in boxes of 20 or 25, and that should be the absolute minimum you have on hand.
Finding Ammunition Online
AmmoSeek.com and similar sites are a great resource to find ammunition online at the cheapest price available at the time. They are essentially search engines for online ammunition retailers. They also allow you to set price triggers so that if ammunition falls below your set threshold you can get notified. You can filter your queries to include how many rounds you are looking for (typically 1,000 round “bulk” purchases are cheapest) and what kind of casing you want (brass vs. steel). It even collects reports of how reputable a seller is, whether they have canceled orders recently, or added orders to a backlog after it has been placed. As an example, here is a link to a common query for factory new bulk 9mm ammunition with brass casings: https://ammoseek.com/ammo/9mm-luger?co=new&nr=1000&ca=brass
Finding Ammunition Locally
This is where the information that I will provide is specific to Colorado, but you can apply the same concept to find similar resources if you are outside of Colorado.
Since ammunition is so scarce right now, the only deal you will really be able to find in local ammunition stores are that the ammunition is in stock in the first place, saving you shipping fees that you would have to pay for an online seller. And since you can’t check (or call) every store that sells ammunition, the best place stay updated is through local online communities.
The first local online community worth mentioning is on MeWe. MeWe is a new social media platform that is designed as a free speech alternative to Facebook. There is a small but fast growing group of Colorado gun enthusiasts on the MeWe Colorado Gun Owners group. It is common to report in stock ammunition at local stores throughout Colorado. If you do happen to sign up on MeWe please reach out and say hi to us at mewe.com/i/shewilldefend
Facebook, obviously, is an incredibly popular and well known social media site. Despite it’s crackdown on free speech and belligerent attitude towards firearms, the Colorado gun community on there is pretty active and for that reason alone it is worth mentioning. The exact group is the Colorado Gun Owners (COGO) and while there is a lot of gun chatter, people also post on in stock ammunition in local stores.
The last avenue worth mentioning is reloading. This definitely isn’t for everyone, but it can be economically beneficial if you shoot enough. Reloading, and in particular the value of reloading, comes with economy of scale. The more reloading you can do, the cheaper per round it becomes, and the better deal it is. I am by no means an expert in reloading and reloading equipment isn’t cheap, often costing over $1,000 for the reloading equipment. Along with additional reloading supplies like bullets, powder, primers, it can easily be 3,000 rounds or more before you start seeing savings this way. If you want a better breakdown on the cost of reloading, there is a great explanation here: https://www.chuckhawks.com/reloading_economies.html
Saving money isn’t the complete picture on reloading. When ammunition starts disappearing off the shelves, being able to reload your own ammunition allows you to continue live fire training even if the shelves are empty.
If you think reloading might be right for you, here is a great intro video featuring Dillon Precision Reloading Equipment, one of the best known reloading companies.
So that’s part one! Hopefully this has helped people find some of their ammunition online or locally. I have noticed that ammunition has come down from it’s peak prices a couple months ago and stores are starting to occasionally have boxes on the shelves.
I still believe that the ammunition shortage will continue for through most of 2021 so if you find ammunition that you like for a reasonable price, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a couple of boxes every time. Or, invest a bit more initially and get some in bulk!
Next up I will talk about dry fire training techniques that you can do in your home without ammunition. Finally, I will write about alternatives to using your self defense firearm to still get live fire training in on a budget!