A persistent woe of shooters nationwide for the past few years has been the scarcity of .22LR ammunition, the foundation caliber for target practice, plinking, and every shooting task that requires inexpensive, plentiful ammo. It’s been difficult to find with regularity, and when you do find it, it flies off the shelves as quickly as it appeared. Gun shops often ration the number of boxes out for sale throughout the day to prevent early customers from buying it all up, and they usually get only one brand in at a time.
This story from American Rifleman asks why, exactly, the demand for rimfire ammo is still far outpacing the supply, and shows you that it’s more difficult to manufacture it than you might think.
“Demand has increased dramatically, yet no large American ammunition maker has added a new rimfire ammunition plant. Remington has one in Arkansas, Winchester has one in Mississippi, Federal has one in Minnesota and CCI has one in Idaho. They have been running full-out since 2008 and have been expanding plants (when) possible—and they are as efficient as they possibly can be,” the story says.
So what’s the hangup? The story says it’s the simple fact that centerfire ammunition is easier to produce, and the machinery to do so is fairly inexpensive when compared with priming and loading rimfire brass. Priming takes the most time, and no priming areas have been newly fabricated in this country in the past 40 years, the story says.
“Frankly, it’s not easy and there are numerous safeguards in place because this is a fairly dangerous manufacturing operation, truing to squeegee the wet priming compound in to the case rims of rimfire cartridges. And the manufacture of priming compound, which is highly explosive, is not for the careless or squeamish,” the story says.
This past summer, there were reports that .22s were coming back to store shelves, like this story from bearingarms.com and it seemed like they had for a little while. Supplies weren’t selling out immediately anymore. But it ultimately didn’t signal a turnaround.
It doesn’t look like anything is going to change any time soon, unless demand for rimfire ammo wanes for some reason.
From the story: “So long as demand remains at levels previously not encountered, and production cannot be increased beyond the capacity of the existing plants, we will likely continue to see shortages of .22 rimfire for some time to come. The shortages we see today are fewer than they were a couple years ago. But that helps you not at all if there is none on the shelf of your local big box retailer.”