Interview with Jason Hornady about the Ammo Shortage
Demand tripled from the pandemic, Pres. Biden, new gun owners
Jason Hornady got his first death threat a couple of days ago. Hornady, 51, has been in the ammunition business his whole life. He is not rattled by threats and anger from customers. Hornady says simply that they can’t make ammo fast enough to meet the historic demand, but they are trying.
“Everyone thinks it's a conspiracy not to ship more. They think we’re lying about not selling a box of ammo,” Hornady told me on the phone while driving across Nebraska from a meeting to his home. “We have two years on order today. I promise we are making more. Everybody is.”
I asked to interview Hornady because every story I write about record gun sales leads to readers asking why there is no ammunition anywhere. I didn’t know the answer, so I went directly to the source.
The ammo shortage has been so dramatic — with empty shelves and online stores — that some people believe the manufacturers are holding back supply to increase prices and take advantage of people. Jason, who is vice president of Hornady Manufacturing, said that is not true. It’s just impossible for the industry to keep up with skyrocketing demand.
“It’s the same for all of us in manufacturing. No one has an extra factory sitting around waiting for that big of an increase,” he explained. “We were able to sell and ship 30 percent more last year from our plant by throwing more people and hours at it.”
Hornady said demand has tripled in just a year and a half. He said their business had been flat for four years until December 2019 when Walmart stopped selling guns and ammo due to the civil unrest around the country. Demand continued to increase when the pandemic began in early 2020 and has continued to increase since then.
“Everybody has a subliminal low-level paranoia that they will have to fight for food and guns and gas,” he said about the COVID lockdowns and restrictions.
I said it seemed like people were panic buying ammo, like they did toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
“Exactly, throw that on top,” he replied. “The customers aren’t going in and buying one box or two. They buy cases. And now they buy whatever is there. They call it shortage, but it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.”
The civil unrest in 2020 contributed to demand. “They watched all this scary stuff happen and heard politicians say, ‘Defund the police,’” said Hornady. “What do you think people are going to do? We all think the police will be there, and now you want to defund them? Have you lost your mind?”
Jason’s grandfather started the bullet company in 1949. Hornady Manufacturing has remained family owned and managed in Nebraska. Hornady says this current buying spree is the fifth or sixth that he’s been through since the mid 90s, but it’s the biggest and longest.
However, the one thing all the buying sprees have in common is new gun-control laws. Pres. Biden has been a better gun and ammo salesman than even Pres. Obama.
“People got scared there was going to be a law change, which made them go get more guns and ammo. They think, ‘I'm going to stockpile.’”
Hornady explained there are several other factors that have gone into driving demand to two or three times normal. There are an estimated 6-8 million new gun owners in America since the pandemic lock down and all of them need ammo to train and for home defense. He said another compounding problem is the freight shortage — truck drivers and capacity on routes are all short. Also, the supply chain is messed up from the bottom, so even getting things like cardboard boxes and tape is a challenge.
I asked him about the conspiracy theory that the federal government was buying all the ammo to keep it from people. He said that Uncle Sam is just 2 percent of all their business.
What about the primer supply issue that people keep asking me for reloading? “We too are having a hard time getting primers. And we’re trying to get more than ever before , while those guys are trying to keep up with their own ammo companies.” He explained to me that a manufacturer that also makes primer will try to fill the ammunition orders first, which is why primer is harder to get now. “You can’t blame them,” he added.
Looking to the future, Hornady predicts the ammo shortage will continue for a while. “I think we are in this for another 18 months to two years because the problem perpetuates itself. They can't find it, so they keep buying it. Then one day they will walk out and look in their garages and see they have plenty and move on to the next thing.”
I asked Hornady what the customer can do about price gouging by some sellers. “If you think it’s an exorbitant price, don't buy it at that price, wait,” he responded.
What about the panic buying from empty shelves? “Buy what you need and what is right,” he suggested. “We’re going to keep making more and more, regardless”
I could hear him park his car and start walking into the house. Did he have a final message for customers to soothe nerves and deescalate the frustration?
“Keep shooting,” Hornady said. “We will keep making more.”
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