Unless you’re the owner of an ammo store with the first go at new inventory, or somebody who has stockpiled ammunition over the years (I applaud you), you likely feel the pain of ammo shortages and price inflation just like the rest of us common shooters. This has a direct impact on not only the cost of being able to live fire your guns, but also the just the ability to, due empty shelves all over the country.
So for those who want to remain sharp in their skills and want to continue to train as often as possible, while market conditions restricting ammo persist, how do you go about accomplishing that? In this article, we’re going to dive into what you need to do during an ammo shortage to stretch your training further and keep your skills sharp.
First of All, Why Do Ammo Shortages Happen?
Ammo shortages tend to happen for a few different reasons, sometimes it’s for one reason alone and sometimes it’s a combination of factors. When the market conditions are a “perfect storm,” ammo tends to be seemingly non-existent, and that’s when training becomes very difficult if you’re not properly equipped beforehand.
Historically speaking, firearm and ammo sales tend to see a slight uptick within a year of presidential administration changes. When material and resource shortages across the board happen, this restricts the market further. Ammunition is made with multiple elements, all of which need to be sourced, mined or produced, and then delivered for final assembly into different calibers.
When problems with sourcing materials end up bottlenecking ammo production, inventory across the board drops. There are dozens of different calibers that manufacturers produce, and when material availability drops, all calibers suffer a hit.
When ammunition supply shortages are paired with market-driven panic buying or stockpile purchasing from consumers, this amplifies the conditions tenfold. Oftentimes, you’ll hear consumers complain about ammunition manufacturers running low on inventory due to fulfilling more government contracts, but that argument tends to not have any merit according to the manufacturers.
The fact is that it makes no financial sense for manufacturers to invest in a larger infrastructure to handle the uptick in demand, only to see the market deflate within a couple of years and production slow down to where their additional investment is no longer required to fulfill orders.
We could probably write until day’s end with all the little nuances and minute factors that add up and also attribute to ammunition shortages, but the factors listed above are the main culprits. Now, let’s talk about how to extend your resources through times like these and make the most of your training when market conditions make it difficult to do so.
Being Well Stocked Saves Money
Self control is key to being well stocked on ammunition during shortages. When stored in proper conditions, the shelf-life of ammo is over a decade, and some would argue that when the storage environment is ideal, the shelf-life can extend to multiple decades.
If you don’t have any ammo at home, but you want to increase your inventory and still want to make it to the range, then there’s one best practice to follow. Only shoot half of the ammunition that you purchased for the range. Practice self control and take 50% of the rounds you purchase back home with you. If you purchase two boxes, shoot through one. If you purchase one box, shoot half of that box and save the rest. Future you will thank the present you for doing this, trust me.
Another way to remain well stocked is to use the power of the internet and call ammo stores ahead to see what their inventory is. If you’re lucky, they may even hold a box or two for you to come pick up. I’m willing to bet that, for most common calibers, if you look hard enough, you can muster up a couple of boxes. And of course, you could go the route of befriending or finding employment with stores so you can get first selection when ammo becomes available, but that’s a tactic most won’t use.
Train More Conservatively
Obviously, the more live rounds you can send through your barrel, the better. However, ammo shortages make it difficult to maintain a habit of being liberal at the range, unless of course you’re prepared and stocked up ahead of time.
The best way to train more conservatively is to utilize laser training aids, such as the Pink Rhino Laser Cartridge and the MantisX line of products. You can also opt to purchase a dedicated laser pistol, but that will lack a certain level of realism, as we’ve covered in an article comparing laser cartridges and laser pistols.
If you’re looking to be more conservative on the range, then the easiest solution is to take fewer shots, and there are ways you can go about doing this that keep training days more productive. An example of this would be to load up your magazines with fewer rounds and add snap caps into the mix. This will help you practice through problems that may arise in real world situations while simultaneously restricting the amount of ammo you go through in each magazine, slowing down your day a bit more and thereby reducing your ammo usage overall.
Practice Holster Draws and Jams More Often
Echoing the topic above, practicing your holster draw more will help you train more conservatively throughout an ammo shortage. Use these conditions to slow yourself down and evaluate how you draw your gun from wherever you keep it holstered. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast, so take your speed down a notch and just practice going through the motions, almost as if you were doing a breathing exercise with firearms involved.
I’ve mentioned these often, but snap caps loaded randomly into a magazine will help you become familiar with clearing your gun (in the chance that you pull the trigger and nothing happens). Add the Mantis X2, X3 or X10 to the mix, and you’ll receive feedback with every round fired, from holster draw through recoil management. Work on one round fired per holster draw, extending your training time and reinforcing a valuable skill.
Keep practicing both at home and on the range. In a home environment, be sure to either have an empty chamber and magazine or use a laser training cartridge like the Pink Rhino to ensure a safe practice environment. Becoming familiar with your firearm, to the point of it being second nature, is key to being both safe on the range and ready if you ever need to protect yourself or family. This is why you should dry fire train as often as possible.
Dry Fire Train as Often as Possible
When it comes to growing more familiar with your handgun, dry fire practicing requires a total additional investment of $0. Of course, there are worthy tools that you can purchase which will render your dry fire training much more effective, but at its core, dry fire training can start with your new gun straight out of the box, and that’s when it should begin.
Before you dry fire train, always ensure your firearm is unloaded and doesn’t have any live ammunition in the chamber or magazine. Once you ensure you’re working with a completely safe gun, you can practice your holster draws and trigger pull with or without snap caps or laser training aids. Snap caps and laser training cartridges are both budget-friendly options, but again are not required in order for you to begin practicing the safe handling of your firearm.
Dry fire training will help familiarize yourself with trigger discipline and trigger break. Using your holster will also help you become familiar with drawing your gun from different body positions, and practicing moving any fabric away prior to drawing your gun in order to prevent snagging. From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that shirts can very easily get snagged when attempting to quickly draw your firearm from your waistband, which is exactly why slowing down and practicing a smooth draw stroke is important.
Circling back to a previous point, becoming familiar with your trigger break and learning how your trigger responds to your input is key to accurate and proficient shooting with a particular make and model of a gun. All makes and models have different triggers, from the amount of force needed to pull, to the amount of slack available, which is the distance your trigger must travel before reaching the wall or breaking point. Becoming familiar with a Glock 19 trigger won’t directly translate into familiarity with a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield trigger. Becoming familiar with your personal firearm’s trigger is key, and I can’t stress that enough.
When it comes to accuracy, dry fire laser training aids such as our suite of Mantis X-series products are going to help you gain the feedback you need in order to see how your trigger pull directly affects accuracy. Practicing reaching your trigger’s wall and breakpoint will help you reduce the amount of trigger pull you need in order to fire initial and follow-up rounds.
Reducing the slack and length of your pull will reduce the likelihood of your gun deviating from your intended target. If you intend to fire more than one round, especially rapidly, reducing slack also prepares you for quick, and more importantly accurate, follow-up shots.
One quick note regarding dry firing aids like snap caps: the reason why they have either a spring loaded ‘primer,’ or are made of soft foam, is to prevent your firing pin from “mushrooming” and becoming damaged. This, in turn, shortens the length of your firing pin, greatly increasing the chances of malfunctions. So as a word of caution, be sure not to purchase snap caps that don’t offer some sort of absorption in regards to the firing pin. You may see full plastic snap caps on the market, which are entirely rigid. Do yourself (and your gun) a favor and avoid those.
Own Multiple Calibers
As is true with many things in life, diversifying your portfolio is usually deemed to be a smart move. Look at your ammunition and firearm cache with that same mindset, because it’s true. The simple fact is that if you own one caliber of one type of gun, be it rifle, shotgun or handgun, then you’re bound and restricted to that one caliber. Granted, you’re not restricted in caliber for purchasing, we’re talking about training with your own firearm. If you’re married to one caliber, you’re married to the market conditions of that one caliber.
This is exactly why it’s a smart idea to diversify both your firearm and ammunition inventory. I say those both separately because they can both be useful during an ammo shortage. For instance, if your local store has a bunch of one caliber ammunition in stock, but not a gun that suits that caliber at the moment, then go ahead and buy that ammunition with the intention of purchasing a matching gun later on. Same is true with a firearm purchase, if you see a gun available that you want, but no ammunition in stock at the moment, then still go ahead with the gun purchase with the intention of finding ammo at a later date.
So, diversify… diversify… diversify.
Diversifying your ammunition portfolio will definitely pay dividends when it comes to ammo shortages. Stocking up and purchasing lower power calibers like the 22lr are good ways to extend your dollar when the market heats up by letting you practice with less expensive ammo.
In some instances, you can double up on your overall practice if you happen to have two different calibers of the same type of handgun. For example, Glocks function, feel and fire quite similarly between different models. If you had something like a Glock 44, which is chambered in a 22lr, and a Glock 17 chambered in a 9mm, you can utilize the Glock 44 to live fire train, which would be less expensive for each trigger pull, but it will keep you familiar with the overall frame and function of the Glock family.
Honorable Mention #1: BB and Pellet Guns
I had to add a couple of honorable mentions because they’re not necessarily the everyday option, yet are completely practical methods of extending your budget and keeping your skills sharp during an ammo shortage.
The first of these two honorable mentions is the BB/pellet gun. You can subsidize your live ammunition with guns that are loaded with projectiles only rather than casings full of gunpowder, because they use compressed air or a spring to shoot copper or lead bb’s and pellets.
The available options of BB and pellet guns on the market today is extensive, but for the sake of this article we’ll focus on the type of BB/pellet guns that can contribute to realistic training.
If you’re looking to get the most realistic training out of an air or spring powered gun, then there are five features you’ll want to look for:
Without writing a full dissertation explaining pellet pistols, the features above make a pellet gun perform remarkably similar to a handgun. One could argue that the only discernible difference between firearms and realistic pellet pistols is the amount of recoil felt after pulling the trigger.
Realistic blowback on a pellet gun gives you a bit of recoil to become accustomed to, but having a rifled barrel that shoots pellets increases your accuracy versus common BB pistols. BB’s fire much like shotguns do, out of a smooth bore barrel that has no rifling, so nothing spins the projectile before exiting the barrel. Therefore, BB’s are not as accurate as pellets.
Second to the blowback feature, having a pellet magazine that drops out of the grip of the handgun with the same realism as a normal firearm will help you practice magazine swaps while spending substantially less money than you would with live ammunition. Many multi-feature pellet guns come in common firearm makes and models, from Glock and Sig Sauer to S&W and Ruger.
When practicing with pellets at close range, you can be confident that the pellet will deliver enough accuracy to help keep your real world target groupings tight. Not to mention that you’ll get the satisfaction of having a projectile hit a physical target, which is often more satisfying than laser training in my opinion. Go shoot a few pellets at some dry bowtie pasta poked into the top of a cardboard box... you’ll thank me later.
Honorable Mention #2: Making Your Own Ammo
Now, this is for the diehards out there, but it’s worth mentioning in case this is a concept you’ve never considered or are unfamiliar with.
Reloading your own ammunition can save you money per trigger pull, but it’s a labor of love and if you plan on incorporating your time into the overall cost, it may not be for you. Not to mention, the startup cost can be steep. However, it’s quite rewarding being able to take raw components and assemble them into a finished product ready to be lobbed down range.
For anybody wanting to load ammunition at home, all you’ll need is a reloader machine. You can find a few different options for sale online, some of which come as a single stage mechanical device, while others are multi-stage machines. Once you have the proper hardware, the components needed will be brass in the caliber you want to create, bullets for that caliber, gunpowder and primers.
Reloading ammunition does not make you immune to market conditions and product availability. However, if you’re lucky enough to live next to an outdoor public shooting range, or a private range that doesn’t reload themselves, you may be lucky enough to collect usable brass and recycle it. For this, you can get a brass tumbler that uses a solution and a rotating cylinder to clean and polish the casings. Then you can use a device to resize the casing to fit the bullets you’re trying to fit.
Again, I know this isn’t the most suitable option for the majority of firearm owners, but for the hobbyist and everyday tinkerer, this may be a suitable option for extending your training during an ammo shortage. Loading and reloading your own ammunition let’s you expand your options when purchasing ammunition if you have the ability to assemble it yourself. After a day on the range, you can take your brass home (if it’s in good condition) and keep your cost down, in exchange for a few hours of your spare time. People who load their own ammunition definitely have more purchasing freedom during shortages.
No matter how often you decide to train with your firearm, make sure you’re training smart. Never in our history has it been easier to improve your accuracy and precision than it is today.
With the power of technology available right at our fingertips, we can bring our own personal firearm coach with us every time we train. At the pinnacle of this new movement within the firearms industry, is the Mantis line of products that offer premium feedback in a variety of firing conditions.
Whether you’re dry firing your handgun or live firing your sporting rifle, Mantis has the tools you need to view multiple data points from each shot, learn where you can improve, and then adjust accordingly. This will let you make improvements with each round of shooting, which in itself will decrease your ammunition costs when you’re wanting to continue to tighten your grouping.
We hope you found this article to be informative and if you want to view and compare our entire suite of products then you can do so by visiting our product comparison page here.