Powder Shortages and the Supply Chain on Ongoing Ammo Prices

Powder Shortages and the Supply Chain on Ongoing Ammo Prices

6th Jun 2024

According to the NSSF, purchases among new gun owners since 2020 have constituted around 30%. Adding to the influx of new buyers was a surge in demand from existing gun owners for guns and ammo.

Prices surged and have not come back down, though stockouts are not as severe as they were 3 and 4 years ago.

But now we’re looking at a slightly different picture. Now there are ripples and rumors of another unwelcome angle that’s going to exacerbate shortages and inflame prices: a powder shortage.

If you’re thinking about splurging on a bulk deal of 7.62 full metal jacket but have been putting it off, maybe you’d better not. Let’s peel back the layers.

The Powder Shortage and a New Price Hike

Considering the complexity of the big picture, it’s hard to hammer down just what’s causing the rise in powder prices - but the consensus is that the main culprit is a shortage of nitrocellulose, a key component in many smokeless powders.

The United States, the domestic market of which has very healthy civilian demand for small arms cartridges, is a net importer of nitrocellulose. Few countries produce it, among them China and India.

Part of the problem here, as might be expected, is political. Apparently, defense industry contractors are gobbling up much of the supply of nitrocellulose that reaches the country, and, as the United States is outfitting Ukraine with arms in its ongoing struggle with Russia, that’s sapping much of what’s available.

A deeper issue here is that China, one of the world’s leading producers of nitrocellulose, is unwilling to sell to the United States in light of its support for Ukraine.

It’s not just powder, although that is a key issue. Primers are in short supply and they have been ever since 2020, when the perfect storm of panic buying, boarding, and again, a shortage of constituents, kept them off the shelves.

In that case, however, it wasn’t necessarily the raw materials that were making it impossible for companies to produce primers. It was partially a result of a shortage of labor paired with the fact that massive producers, like Remington were financially insolvent.

All of which boils down to the ripple effect that it is still producing - namely, that both powder and primers are in short supply and more expensive than ever.

But getting back to powder, there’s this, apparently taken from an official report published by the owner of SGAmmo.com.

Basically, China and Russia, which are two of the world’s biggest producers of nitrocellulose, are unwilling to supply the United States, and moreover, what supply does come in from elsewhere is immediately diverted to companies that have official defense contracts with the government.

Which makes nitrocellulose more expensive where it is available, but more realistically, just creates a shortage.

So, for your average shooter, it means there is less ammo available and the prices are still high.

Yet, unfortunately, the powder and primer shortage combo is only one aspect of the supply chain that is creating woe and heartache for ammunition manufacturers and their customers.

Delving Deeper into the Supply Chain

                    Ongoing Ammo

The fact that powder and primers are short is bad enough, but there’s another culprit here. Actually, there are several.

First, let’s look at copper, which, as you may well know, is critical in ammunition manufacturing because the vast majority of jacketed bullets are jacketed with a copper alloy.

But it gets worse. Copper is also the main chemical constituent in brass, from which all but the odd aluminum and steel-cased ammo are loaded into, the other being zinc.

Mining companies are struggling to meet demand, and apparently will only be able to meet 80% of global demand by 2030, according to the International Energy Association.

But where is all this demand coming from? Copper’s heavily used in defense industries, but that by no means paints the full picture.

It is also used widely in construction, in both plumbing and electrical applications - the latter being the ticket here.

As demand for electrical infrastructure surges around the world, copper supplies get stretched ever thinner - turbines, electric cars, and of course the power grid all rely on this red metal.

And then there’s lead, which is used to produce bullets, shot, and even some primers, such as those that use lead styphnate.

This time, the culprit is again electrical. Lead is used not only by the defense industry, but also in the production of electrical infrastructure and components like batteries.

Add all this together, and you have the makings of a shortage the effects of which are still being felt, more than four years after it all began.

And, if the powder shortage continues, you can expect the price of ammo to continue to rise, and you might even see another run on ammo.

7.62 Full Metal Jacket and More: We Still Have It

While some of the news regarding this shortage is speculative at best, at the current time, we are still well stocked on 7.62 full metal jacket and other popular calibers like 9mm and 5.56 (check out our bulk deals at the previous link). Getting a good deal now can serve as a hedge against another run on ammo, if it materializes as a result of this anticipated worsening powder shortage.