Where Has All The Powder Gone?


Bruce,

Do you know the “real” scoop on the current powder shortage we’re going through? I have been looking for shotgun powder for about 6 months and haven’t found a thing out there.

I’m a sporting clays shooter and usually go through 12 to 15 pounds of powder a year. I live between Colorado Springs and Denver. There are two Cabela’s, two Bass Pro Shops, two Sportsman’s Warehouses, one Gander Mountain, and a couple of independent gun stores within 30 miles of my home. None of them have shotgun powders.

I check the websites of Ballistic Products, Brownell’s, Gamaliel Shooting Supplies, Graf & Sons, Natchez, Midway USA, Precision Reloading, Connie’s Components, Lohman Arms, Powder Valley, Selway Armory, 3rd Generation, Widener’s, and Butch’s Reloading several times a week. I also check the GunBot website a couple of times a day—same story, no shotgun powders.

I emailed both Hodgdon and Alliant a couple of months ago. Hodgdon didn’t reply but Alliant assured me they are making and shipping powder 24/7. I just find that hard to believe based on the fact I can’t find any powder, anywhere.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t believe the Feds are behind this shortage, but I’m starting to wonder. Unless every reloader out there is buying everything they can find and hoarding hundreds of pounds of powder each, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to find powder on dealers’ shelves.

What do you think?

Thanks Technoid!

Dave

Dave,

Re the powder shortage, when I went to the SHOT show this past winter I made a point of visiting the Hodgdon and Alliant booths to ask about it. Representatives from both companies told me emphatically that they were producing as much powder as ever, that the gummint was not buying up huge chunks of it to limit ammunition availability and that they felt that it was simply a case of hoarding and the panic buying it produces.

I tend to believe them. Hoarding and panic buying was certainly the case for black rifles and pistols over the past few years. Now the supply is more than ample. Ditto metallic cartridges. For a while you couldn’t find a 9mm or 45 cartridge to save your self. You heard all sorts of rumors, but now supply is pretty good. Except for .22 rimfire at the moment.

Many ask why the powder companies don’t build more facilities to meet the demand. It wouldn’t make sense. If it is hoarding and panic buying, as they believe, the bubble will have to burst when even the hoarders get satisfied. Then the market will crash, as it always does after panic buying, and the new facilities will stand idle. Remember, powder usage hasn’t really gone up. We aren’t shooting noticeably more shells than we have in the previous years. If usage remains the same and stockpiling is high, sooner or later demand has to come down. Then it will come way down while those stockpiles are being used up. Has to be. Got to be. At least, that’s what my somewhat foggy crystal ball tells me.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

 

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28 Responses to Where Has All The Powder Gone?

  1. Art Goldberg says:

    A variety of factors are at work.
    Hoarding, I hear people bragging that they have pallets of .22 long rifle ammo in their garage’s and storage space’s (illegal in many places) that they plan to sell when society falls (forgetting that biker gangs will probably kill them or burn them out).
    The GOV is actually buying less small arms ammo if you look at procurement figures and that includes .22 long rifle.
    One plant for .22 long rifle was moved, that took over a year and another went Kaboom and is being rebuilt.
    Several powder plants world wide have gone Kaboom.
    Israel has been rebuilding it’s war stocks along with several NATO nations.
    The base material for gunpowder is used for other major industrial uses and the demand has gone up, some fertilizers and such.
    BAE Defense has taken over production at several plants and unlike ATK is less interested in the civilian market and more interested in profits (ADI may have been one of the plants they now run world wide)
    Strictly business, less profit in civilian powder sales, that is why new plants are not being built.
    You can not demand a business run at a loss for your convenience.
    What powder is available is going into ammo production, more profit which stockholders expect these days.
    Just an aside, Wallmart and several other large vendors have discovered employees were being bribed to sell large quantities of ammo to individuals, only a small number but this contributes to the hoarding syndrome.
    As for prices, they are now free market, the US government not longer supports powder sales to individuals, cleaning up a lot of that “government waste” most gun owners want taken care of.
    We are no longer getting powder at less than cost from the government plants, sorry folks, the free ride is over.
    Art
    Anchorage, Alaska

    • Sharpshooter says:

      But THERE IS plenty available….just not in the normal channels. ANd there is no shortage of base material; that’s a factor of supply and demand.

      There is plenty of profit in the civilian market supply, and the military market has been diminishing for years.

  2. Sharpshooter says:

    You want powder? Lots of it? Go to http://www.gunbroker.com and you’ll find TONS of it. Every brand and style imaginable. AT 50% more to DOUBLE the normal price.

    It’s not shooters that are doing the hoarding, but smaller (?) dealers. My guess: they moved it out of their shops and onto the back channels. Check what you’re looking for and see how many sellers are FFLs and dealers.

    I can’t imagine the manufacturers are unaware of this charade.

  3. Steve says:

    The government has been known to give on demand contracts were manufacturer has to sign up for on demand delivery but doesnt place an order. That way a company must keep stocks available for an order with no lead time for the government. So if they are trying to keep up with commercial demand the governent can wipe out stocks. I also heard Home Land Security ordered 22lr what would they need that for? With the price of lead shot reaching $50 for 25lbs it pays to buy it on sale. Shelves seem to have target shotgun ammo.

  4. Keith says:

    Gentlemen,

    Typically, what causes supply shortages is too high of a demand. I know of guys who load their own cartridges. 1000’s of rounds for one household is what has changed. Once we cease our personal stock piling, supply will then have a chance to catch up to demand.

    If I were rich, I would start my own gunpowder manufacturing facility. The time is ripe.

    I do feel the pain of you shotgun hunters.

    Keith
    Denver, CO

    • Mike says:

      That’s not what I’m seeing. At this point I can get pretty much any powder I want, EXCEPT Varget and Trail Boss. Common denominator, both made in Australia by the same company. Personally I think this is part of the West Coast port slowdown, but I don’t know where that stuff was shipped into. If you start seeing Varget and Trail Boss in sufficient numbers, you know i was right, because the slowdown only stopped a couple of weeks ago.

      Pure speculation, but I don’t see how if hoarding was the issue, only the Australian powders are impossible to find. The Vihta Vuori or whatever it is can even be found.

  5. Ok, blaiming hoarders and panic buyers works for maybe a year or two. The ammo and powder shortages have been going on for longer than that. There is a serious fundamental problem in the ammo/powder manufacturing section of the American economy.

    • Fred says:

      I think you are dead on correct, Ronnie. Something is rotten in Denmark (to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare). Well over two years…working on two and a half. Panic buyers and hoarders are NOT the cause of this. Major powder suppliers like Midway and Cabela’s have not had any double base (pistol & shotgun) powders available at all during any of that time.
      I think it is interesting that the american powder manufacturers are also defense contractors and have contracts with the Federal government, the Obama Admin., Homeland Security, etc. How easy would it be for the Obama Admin to place a codicil in the contracts through Homeland Security that NO canister powders are going to be offered for sale to the general public? I know, I’m wearing a “tinfoil hat”….maybe NOT.
      I think that someone is lying about all of this. And I think it is totally creepy that there isn’t more being said about the whole thing in reloading forums, the NRA magazines….I mean this is a Freakin’ ELEPHANT in the middle of the room that there ARE NO double base CANISTER POWDERS!!!!
      I think that maybe there might be a connection with the Boston bombing. Think about it….the bombers used a pressure cooker filled with commercially available firearms propellants. This whole damn thing has the fingerprints of Obama all over it.

  6. I’ve been trying to get either H4895 or IMR4895 powder for about 18 months. Availability was short before. It is non-existent now. Can’t get more than 1lb anywhere. ANYWHERE! I’ve requested notifications of when they are available and had exactly one notification…which sold out in 5 minutes!

    I see a lot more reloaders now than in the past. I would suggest that if ‘Panic buying’ is lasting years at a time it is not panic buying, but a change in the customer base.

  7. Chuck Lambert says:

    There is something so wrong in this country when you can’t get simple 22lr rounds to use with your grand kids to teach good shooting skills. The 22s that are on the shelf is so high priced you don’t want to go plinking anymore. Someone is not being honest with us.
    I was recently at a gun show and one gentleman was telling me to stock up on lead pellets because real soon you won’t be able to get them. Really? Pellets. I don’t care what they are making it difficult to get I will always have my guns and enough ammo to defend myself and family.

  8. Joseph Rietdorf says:

    Shot gun powder is also used as pistol powder.Lots of us pistol reloaders out there. This shortage has been going on for over a year. With all the wealthy investors and capitalistic opportunists in America, I just can’t understand why there are so few manufacturers of powder, especially now? It’s got to be a goldmine for those who can afford to be players in this market!

  9. AmMoe says:

    I neither believe the ammo companies are producing as much as ever nor do I believe that “panic buying’ is taking hold.

    Panic all you want: There has been slim pickings for years. When you can’t go into Cabelas, Bass Pro, Scheels. etc, and THEY say that shipments are spotty, it makes you wonder which small potato dealer is getting all this powder before the Big Boys get a chance at it. Does anyone really believe that 22LR ammo is being produced at the same levels as 5 years ago? CCI claims they have been cranking it out. Hornady ‘temporarily suspends” production of 120 different models of bullets but there has been no change in production levels? They can’t have it both ways.

    All of these companies have a blood pact with Uncle Sam: Government orders come first. This is how they have survived through the years. If they are not supplying an additional 6 billion rounds for DHS, then they (the makers) are setting a platform for inflated prices in the future.

    Either way, we get screwed.

    But to the point, Bruce has been drinking the Koolaid. WHO is selling the powder that nobody can find.

    • Mike says:

      We are reaping the rewards of outsourcing and environmental/hazmat rules I am certain.

      There aren’t that many powder manufacturers anymore, and how many inside the US? One? Two? And even companies like Hodgdon import things like Varget (which is impossible to find now) so you’ve got all sorts of other factors impacting delivery to the stores.

      Local place says due to Hazmat rules they can only get 100lbs of powder per shipment. Low demand powders are in good supply, high demand is still hard to get, and goes fast.

      Perhaps part of the problem is poor market understanding by the powder manufacturers, the low demand stuff should be the hard stuff to get, not the other way around, which leads me to believe they aren’t focusing on the right powders. Or, as in the case of Varget, they don’t have a choice due to where it comes from.

  10. Jeff A says:

    The reality is that demand is up. In addition to the current political environment there has been a large growth shooting sports like 3-gun, cowboy action, steel challenge, IDPA and so forth. Many of the calibers used also use shotgun powder! The number of powder suppliers has shrunken. I also believe that powder suppliers are playing games with the supply to keep the prices up! Sometime back I got wind that Cabela’s had received a large shipment of powder. I could get a 8 lbs container for $208! That included sales tax, shipping and haz mat! I passed…

    • mel says:

      Still makes no sense! I own my own business. If I have a demand in the market place, I will increse production to fill that demand and reap the benefits of the increased business. I would also try to do this ramp up before my competition was able to capitalize on the ability to increase sales and secure more of the market for themselves. The laws of supply and demand are not in place here. I dont understand why not a single manufaturer has steped up to fill the demand??? Its not like the shelves are full and its just that the prices are esculated. The fact is, that the shelves are bare!! Many places you can’t buy or even find powder! There is not one other single comodity or consumer demand, that I am aware of, that would not have been meet by the manufacturing community. Here in the USA, if there is a consumer demand, someone will fill it!! Why has this demand not been meet by the powder producers?

      • A Wagner says:

        One of the misconceptions, and as was addressed above, is that higher demand and prices should create more supply. I keep getting asked why 22LR makers don’t make more or expand capacity. Think of it this way (esp bc you say you own a business, Mel), if I’m going to build a $5mm facility to increase capacity, I probably have a 5-10 year breakeven. I have a bank note and interest to consider. If I think this increase in buying might subside in even 4 YEARS, then I’d lose money by increasing capacity. At best, they could run 3 shifts a day, 6 days a week or more, but you still have to have time for maintenance and retooling. Second, the hoarding issue IS probably real. I JUST started reloading (actually, stuff is still in the mail!) so I started looking for the popular powders. Because I can’t find Varget, BLC2, H332 or other popular ones, I’m stocking up on several others. 9mm target reloading doesn’t seem cost effective after all so I guess my 9mm dies will go to waste, but I bought about $1000 worth of powder and primers because I see how hard it is to get. I’d have probably bought it 1# at a time if it was readily available (and no $28 HazMat). Found some 4064 so I got the 8lb keg just in case. Total powder will reload about 3,000 .308/.223. Sounds like a lot until you realize how long it’s been since you’ve seen Varget, for example. Finally, I’ll say that I think supply IS being constrained somehow. I also have a retail store and started carrying ammo and accessories and will have guns eventually (applying for FFL), so I have access to the wholesale market. I asked my Sports South rep (big supplier for Texas/Louisiana) what the story is with powder. They have about 100 skus and only maybe 6 in stock. I asked about Varget and he said he’s had 10 pounds ALL YEAR to allocate to dealers. (same thing with 22LR…106 skus, only 3 ever in stock at $15/50rds). He has single dealers that were moving 8lb every two weeks. So the wholesalers aren’t even getting it. That leaves only a few conclusions: Some big retailers are cornering it. They’re leaning on the manufacturers as “Big Accounts” and keeping out of the independents, or the government IS buying it up like they’ve done with other stuff. No powder = no need for gun control. Criminals (and conservatives) can have all the guns they want but without ammo, they might as well have baseball bats.

        We’re not seeing Varget available for $350/8lb, so I’m guessing there isn’t someone out there hoarding the supply to drive up the price. It’s simply not available at all. That narrows it down to just one of two things: Either they’re NOT producing it as fast as they say or the feds are using their pen and papers to work around the 2A.

        I also bought a shotgun shell press and can’t find ANY shotgun powder. Not sure why the feds would be after that too. That might be due to 3-gun and sporting clay interest. Not only do those guys blast through ammo, but they probably also have an interest in handloads.

        So that’s my 2c.

        • mike says:

          It’s not the feds. You’d see it in the budget, and that would be called out quickly. Remember the huge .gov (homeland security?) ammo purchase? That was found quickly.

          Local gunstore told me they can only get 100lbs of powder shipped at a time (HAZMAT shipping rules), but last week they had Varget, CFE223, and Trail Boss among others in their 100# order, so they are getting it, and they are tiny, in a tiny town. Fairly local Cabela’s had a daily sheet in-store showing what powder they had, so it’s not like they were getting priority from what I saw…they had lots of stuff out of stock as well.

          Primers, bullets, cases all seem to be in pretty easy supply. Bad time to buy powder in bulk now IMO, the price, if inflated due to short supply, may go down in the near future. Note to selves: buy powder in numerous 1# cans when available. Yes, more costly than 8#, but 8# stuff is harder to trade (no one wants opened stuff), and when bullets and powder were IMPOSSIBLE to find, the 1# cans were gold. Could very easily trade for bullets or cash at that point.

    • gene says:

      Where i live in Montana we havent been able to get powder or bullets for a long while, not to mention 22 lr. And to those saying its due to hoarding, my question is ” how do you hoard what isnt available”. Here people own 2 or 3 rifles and handguns so we buy different powders and bullets for various applications. I hear its companies making factory and reducing canister powder. well here i am not paying 48.00 for a box of 45 colt, or 34.00 for a box of 22-250. Why i reload.

  11. Bill says:

    I don’t believe it’s hoarding either, stores used to get multiple containers of different manufacturers now they’re lucky to get one or two containers from their suppliers.

    • mike says:

      Why wouldn’t it be hoarding? If you still can’t get .22LR, priority for powder production I would expect would shift to that. With the production capacity what it is in the developed world, catching up is probably impossible at this time, simply due to capabilities. Companies know that they can only increase production capacity so much, as they will eventually have to “turn it off” once everything is caught up. In the grand scheme of things I’ve only witnessed a couple decades of powder supply, but unless I’m mistaken, the number of companies making powder (that aren’t conglomerates) is smaller than it was in the past.

    • mel says:

      It is definetly not hoarding!! I reload shotgun shells. It is a total joke that no powder is available from any manufaturer!! You cant tell me that eveyone is hoarding shot shell powders! When you do find some shot shell powder the retailers are inflating the price by up to 50%!! Are people that stupid?!! Why buy the stuff? You can buy new rounds cheaper that you can reload. This is what everyone I know is doing. I buy new and keep the onece shot hulls to reload at a latter date if and when powder is available at reasonable prices. Do the math!! There is no shortage of new shot gun ammo at any guage! Buy new rounds and let the retailer that is trying to limit your purchase and increase your cost rot with the powder!!

    • gene says:

      I have a friend that owns a gun shop here in Southwestern Montana. He tells everyone that last January at the shot show in Vegas he ordered 1.5 million dollars of reloading powder and bullets, along with 22LR. as of this post he still hasnt recieved his order. Now we have 5 gun stores in my town and atleast that many in the town down the road 60 miles away. Everyone here complains of reloading powder shortages, and to the other posts, they are correct only powders they do get they sit and are not bought. I have heard all the stories, ” its hoarding, or its the war, etc.” I think its just to keep the price up. Or is it the manufacture ripping of the costumers? What good does it do to buy a 22 rifle for your spouse or kid for Christmas if you can not get the ammo, unless you want to pay pay 85.00 a brick off e-bay.

      • Ester says:

        It is like the great depression in our area. During that time, people would get in lines for food and didn’t know what was being sold until they got to the end. They would just get what they could, because they didn’t know if it would be there tomorrow. People here, will buy powder the second it gets on the shelf, because they don’t know if it will be availlable later – even if they don’t need it. I think that much is hoarding that won’t let the shelves fill up. In the past perhaps the powder and ammo trickled in, but slower demand let it bulid up, so stores always looked stocked. Now you buy what you can instantly, because it won’t be on the shelf tomorrow. We need to change our mentality!

  12. Mike says:

    Old topic, still pertinent. Saw a very sage comment…people are hoarding ammo. Ammo uses powder. Manufacturers are going to get top priority over retailers. When the stockpiling of ammo ends (can anyone get .22LR yet?) then I’m sure we’ll see good selections of powder. Was at Cabela’s yesterday, just happened to ask, and they had a list of what was in stock. They said it varies day to day based on what the truck brings, but it’s there. Just not what I wanted.

  13. Dale says:

    I just do not believe the hoarding theory. It is impossible to hoard what you can not buy. Unless someone is at the back door of the factory buying it as it leaves the plant.

  14. bob says:

    I too haven’t been able to buy powder for rifle or shotgun. As to hoarding, you can’t hoard what isn’t on the shelves. Yesterday,I was at Prince Georges trap and skeet, and asked when they last had powder. he replied not for about 9 mos.

  15. Johnny W says:

    Bruce
    I do not agree with you on the gun powder shortage, first Hodgdon does not manufacture any powder themselves, about 80-90% is purchased from ADI in Australia. This same manufacture is the producer of the Hodgdon clays line of powder, that is the powder that is in greatest demand and shortest supply. Some web sites are saying clays will not be in stock until the end of 2014 or the first of 2015. So my question is, why such a delay? If this powder is not on the store shelf and has not been on the store shelf in 6 months, web site do not have and they are telling you not until 2015 where is the powder? You can not hoard what you can not get, this is a very hush hush item and can not find the truth any where, with the internet you can find anything, but not this story. People just need to here the truth for a change: 1) is it ADI? 2) is it shipping problems? 3) is it being held at US ports? 4) Is it obama? Just trying to understand.

    Thanks,

    Johnny
    Dallas, Texas

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