Why .380 ACP Became Hard to Find

Actually, I do have a (very) few rounds left over from recent survey stories on .380 autos in both Shooting Illustrated and American Rifleman. NRA Publications Division received a great deal of feedback in the form of letters, e-mails and phone calls about these articles. The most persistent lament from readers is the lack of .380 ammunition on dealer shelves. Obviously, there is nothing that we can really do to resolve the shortage. But we can look at the situation and possibly get some kind of handle on what happened.

.380 ammo is a product like any other product. A gun store owner wants to have a variety of the stuff on his shelves all the time. But he doesn't want it to stay on the shelf very long. For that reason, he tries to keep enough to satisfy what is most commonly a steady, continuing demand. For a long time, .380 ammo was a steady, but not spectacular seller. Then, two events combined to throw this cozy formula out of whack. The first was the election of a gun-unfriendly administration; the second was the introduction of an all-new, high-tech .380 pistol by one of our big three domestic gunmakers. Ruger's LCP was a nifty little gun and it brought many people into stores to see them. Some folks found one while others didn't and settled for one of several other new models from other makers. But the cumulative effect was a sudden spike in demand for inexpensive .380s, guns they could afford in a climate of uncertainty about the ongoing availability of any defensive firearm.

Naturally, everybody wanted a box of ammo for their new gun and that cleaned out the retailer's stock in short order. He or she immediately ordered more from the wholesaler, who is like the retailer on a much larger scale. Wholesalers don’t want to sit on vast inventories either, so he keeps enough to meet the traditional, steady demand. When Mr. Wholesaler sees warehouse shelves empty of .380 ammo, but in-baskets full of orders for it, he gets on the phone to the ammo factory. Ammo manufacturers schedule production facilities months, sometimes years in advance. For a complex of reasons, they are not going to be able to respond immediately to a demand for a product. Production begins as soon as possible because they want to keep everybody in the supply chain happy, but it takes time.

We are currently in a situation where ammunition, particularly handgun ammo, is in short supply. Shooters are apprehensive and I don't blame them. I seriously doubt that we are shooting more, but we are unquestionably storing more. Like many other perceived crises, this one may blow over in time, but no one can be sure. But the laws of economics never change. In an industrial society, where there is a demand, there will be a supply.

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2 Responses to Why .380 ACP Became Hard to Find

Charles wrote:
August 19, 2010

I enjoyed the .380 survey in AR. It seemed odd that all the guns were tested within the recommended "break-in" period. Why was that? Might it have been better to break in each pistol and then test for reliability? Perhaps it was the ammo shortage. Thanks for the post. CinSC

Steve Harvey wrote:
August 17, 2010

I understand that the tooling for .380 is the same as 9mm so they can not run both production runs at the same time. This may cause problesm in inventory