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OK, Really, What’s Going on with .22 Rimfire?

 
 

The issues behind lack of .22 Long Rifle ammunition on the shelves of your local retailer are complex and not easily explainable. Demand currently exceeds supply. Beyond the laws of simple economics, there are side effects due to lack of said supply and high demand. The two most obvious are speculation and hoarding. If you can hit the local big box store because you have the time to wait for the ammo truck to arrive and resell $20 worth of .22 for $60 through the Valley Trader or at the next gun show, you are an opportunistic speculator. There are some other words I might use, but I will restrain myself. And if you are a guy that typically buys .22 Long Rifle 250 rounds at a time who just bought 10,000 because you could not find 250 when you wanted them, then you are a hoarder. It does not make you evil, it simply means your buying habits changed due to market or external conditions. And your changed behavior likely led others to change theirs as well.

When demand exceeds supply, feeding more product into distribution is the obvious answer. It’s just good business. But what if you can’t? That’s where we are with .22 Long Rifle.

We have been resoundingly criticized for reporting manufacturers all say they are running full out in .22 Long Rifle production (some of the kinder messages had more explatives than a Quentin Tarantino movie). The ammo makers are not making that up. It is not a conspiracy. I have been in two of the major rimfire plants in the United States since this “crisis” hit, and they are, indeed, running three shifts, full out. But there are not that many rimfire plants in the United States. There are foreign makers, too, with Mexico’s Aquila, Italy’s Fiocchi and Sweden’s Norma in particular stepping up to meet demand. Also making .22 LR are England’s Eley, Germany’s RWS and SK and Armscorp in the Philippines.

For domestic rimfire plants, ATK/Federal has one in Minnesota, there is the ATK/CCI plant is in Idaho, Remington has one in Arkansas, and Winchester has one in Oxford, Miss. The latter used to be in East Alton, Ill., but in order to remain profitable and competitive, Olin Corp. moved the plant about a decade ago. Notice those two words, “profitable” and “competitive.” One of the reasons we shoot so much .22 is that it is cheap. At least compared to center-fire ammunition. Granted, material costs (i.e., lead and copper) have increased but at around 5 to 10 cents a round in normal conditions, .22 Long Rifle is remarkably reliable and inexpensive. But it is not terribly profitable. Much like the promotional dove loads that hit every big box store in the country this time of year (remind me to pick up a case), they are designed for mass production and have low profit margins. Pricing, at least from the manufacturer, is extremely sensitive and competitive. They sell huge amounts of rimfire and dove loads, but no company’s bottom line financial success is made by these products. Loss leaders or thin margins, they may not be pork bellies, but sure seem like commodities.

If you have even seen .22 being made (and my friend Mike Bussard wrote an excellent piece on how they actually make it), you know it is a huge capital expense to set up a rimfire plant. It’s not like you can order a high-speed rimfire loading machine out of the Staples catalog and set it up in your garage. It takes time, land and, literally, a lot of dollars to establish a rimfire factory. Then you have to train the workers and ensure the safety of your workers and the area in which the plant resides. Priming rimfire cases is not something best left to amateurs. The question is, though, would it be worth it to go to the expense of, say, building a $250 million rimfire plant to make your company’s money back at a penny a round over the next 10 to 20 years? The answer, so far, has been a resounding no.

This demonstrates prudence on the part of ammo manufacturers. No one can predict how long the current bubble will last. It has more than burst on the firearms side as demand for new firearms has predictably dropped from last year’s hyper-inflated levels. A company cannot plan soundly based upon a bubble. But a company can plan based on known variables. Variables such as a substantial increase in the number of .22s sold and a change in the type of .22s being shot by their new owners. This may make a new rimfire plant worth it. Time will tell.

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.

Imports are an area in which we can see how the universe of .22 rimfires has increased, and those numbers are from the Foreign Trade Division, U.S. Bureau of Census, and published every year by Shooting IndustryTake Canada for example. In 2013 alone 292,394 rimfire rifles were imported from the Great White North, which was about 30,000 more than the year before. If you are wondering why you weren’t aware of this Canadian invasion it’s because the guns come from Savage’s plant in Ontario. But it’s not just Canadians. In 2013, 29,618 rimfire rifles were imported from Italy.

The number for Germany is even more telling. In 2012, 46,942 rimfire rifles were imported, while 2013 saw that number increase to 60,795. I have news for you: There were not more than 60,000 Olympic Free rifles imported into the United States last year. Of those more than 100,000 rifles, I suspect many of them were semi-automatics that came from Walther/Umarex. We identified this trend in the December 2010 issue of American Rifleman with a story “A New Class of Rifles: The ‘Tactical’ .22s” In it “The term 'tactical .22 rifle' is essentially an oxymoron. It’s unlikely that a single military or police force on Earth uses .22 Long Rifle arms for small-scale combat operations, at least as primary guns. Nevertheless, this burgeoning class of firearms has taken hold in recent years in the civilian market.” The author then proceeded to evaluate eight different .22s in this new category from ATI, Colt, Heckler & Koch, Mossberg, Ruger, Remington, SIG Sauer and Smith & Wesson. And two of those guns came from guess where? Umarex. In Germany. The minimum magazine capacity for any of the eight was 10 rounds, but most were—and are—20- to 25-round magazines. What that means is that when shooters take such guns to the range, they shoot more ammunition.

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.

External factors also effect demand for ammunition. Whenever major anti-gun legislation makes headlines, people react to it. We saw it with semi-automatic rifles over the past few years (which demand has now slowed). If there is a perception—real or imagined—that one cannot purchase something, then there is increased demand. If word leaked out that the government was about to ban toilet paper, you can be rest assured, my cart would be stocked with 96 count bulk packs of my favorite rolls. The same logic applies if you tell people that toilet paper is rare and not on the shelves. At some point, ammunition demand will reach its real level, not the snow-maggedon-like “bread, milk and toilet paper” frenzy we are experiencing now. At that point, the major ammo makers will look and see if there is sufficient demand for a new rimfire plant or line. I think there will be, but we will have to wait until conditions stabilize at the new normal.

Source: AmericanRifleman.org: http://www.americanrifleman.org/blogs/keefe-report-ok-really-whats-going-on-with-22-rimfire

 

LIVE Interview with Mark Keefe on this topic may be found here: http://gunssavelives.net/gun-industry/video-gun-industry-insider-gives-us-the-real-story-on-22lr-availability-during-interview/?utm_source=Guns+Save+Lives+Daily+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=aa6cbcb6ee-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_eaeaa815c4-aa6cbcb6ee-65835773

 

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Reviews

 

Naples Gun School - 5 starsTook the 3/31 class and loved it! Dave was very informative and his laid back teaching style made the 4 hour class fly by. Would recommend this class to anyone interested in a CWP. Thanks Dave and Ginny! - Kelly Gardner

Naples Gun School - 5 stars I’d like to thank The Naples Gun School for the time and effort they took in order to help me become a more responsible hand gun owner. By taking your CCWP class on 3.31.2018, I’m honestly a better person today than I was yesterday. Your course is not only interesting, but informative as well. The time we had together flew by. Throughout the whole process, they were calm and patient with every student. Especially after everyone seemed to drop their cartridges on the floor during the revolver training portion of the program. I highly recommend Naples Gun School to anyone that’s interested in becoming a CCWP holder. And I definitely will use their services by purchasing all my gun needs through their establishment. David & Ginny, thank you so much. I had a wonderful time!Chris Shaffer

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars This class kept me very interested, informed and didn’t even realize 4 hours went by! Would recommend everyone to take this class! - Douglas Shaffer

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars - Lurybella Lora Trejo

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Used Naples Gun School for a FFL transfer and after talking with David decided to take his CCW class and am glad I did. David is very knowledgeable and his class is small so you receive one on one training in the classroom and the range. I Highly recommend Naples Gun School. You won’t find a better class in Naples. Thank you David for a great experience. - Michael Ferrarelli

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Thorough, energetic, knowledgeable, PATIENT, and even entertaining at times! As an Educator, I know it can be daunting sometimes to teach the same material over and over, but David certainly didn't show it. You can tell how passionate he is about what he does.
I researched multiple options around town in choosing the provider for my CCW class. David & Ginny as a husband & wife team, provided the BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE in answering all of my questions thoroughly and promptly before even signing up. And somehow, Naples Gun School was also able to provide the LOWEST COST in town!
As a female and brand new to guns, David & Ginny made me feel safe, secure, and comfortable. THANK YOU! A+++ -
Jessica Payne

 

I took the class on 3/10/18 and I was blown away. David and his wife are excellent people and David is an excellent instructor. The class is excellent and exceeded my expectations with information on the laws of Florida, and as well to carry properly, load the weapons as well as placement of holding weapons. If your looking to buy a weapon he is the man to go to. I personally bought my firearm from and he equipped me with great knowledge during my time there. I give this class 100 out of 100 and highly recommended. David is a great guy and instructor with many years of experience!! - Cory Duffy

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars - Larry Papola

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Awesome class. Great preparation for firearm handling and concealed carry details. - Jeffrey Alty

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Very informative. Was made to feel very comfortable. Had some prior gun knowledge, left with a lot more. I highly recommend anyone thinking about getting their permit go there. - Sara Bunker

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars I attended the conceal carry and gun safety training class on Feb 17th, 2018. David was very knowlegable and provided a lot of information that I think should be part of any gun safety or conceal carry training. He was very professional and took the time after the class and before we met at the gun range to answer several questions I had as well as show me a few different gun options they sell. I highly recommend David and Naples gun shop & school for anyone wanting to seriously learn what they need to before purchasing or using a firearm. Thank you, David! - Amanda Daves

 

Thanks again! Not only was is very informative, but fun as well. So glad we came to y'all for the class. - Sara Bunker

 

I had a great experience and your class was very informative. Thank you - Robby Bunker

 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Great experience, willing to give one on one instruction and very patient for beginners! - Tiffany Baker

 

Had a great experience at the CCW class. Dave explained the information throughly and made it very easy to understand. I would definitely recommend the class to anyone interested.. -Scott Sioma

 

Naples Gun School - 5 starsGreat class!!! David really takes his time to show you how to feel Comfortable with the fire arm. - Alonzo Gonzalez

 

Enjoyed the class very much! It was well taught and all the information was presented professionally and was easy to understand. I was nervous at first but our instructor put our minds at ease. Would definitely recommend! - Tony Aceto

 

Naples Gun School - 5 starsEnjoyed the class, everything well explained. The David(instructor )explain in a way everybody understand and in a dynamic way. I will recommend it without a doubt. Thanks guys! - Joel Davila

 

I had an amazing experience in the CCW class that David teaches! This class was so informative and interesting. The way David presented everything made it extremely fun and easy to retain. The size of the class was 12 people, so we all got one on one training and I feel it was the perfect size of class. I learned so many important things that I never would have even thought about without this class. Ginny was also so wonderful, and so supportive when I was nervous. I had so many questions that were answered, and the amount of knowledge Ginny and Davis shared with the class was astounding. I feel very confident now about gun safety and self defense and I would highly recommend this class!! David and Ginny know their stuff!! -Senae Hughes

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