Firearm sales in May, at least those reflected in the number of FBI NICS checks performed for a transfer, came in at roughly 1.4 million, according to an estimated from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF). The figure represents a 0.3 million drop in purchases when compared to the same month in 2020.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to most analysts. Last year’s COVID-19 outbreak, urban unrest and newfound interest in home defense drove a record-setting number of people to become first-time gun owners during the same period.
The news doesn’t necessarily ease the concerns of longtime enthusiasts who are still struggling to find ammunition on the shelves or particular guns in FFL inventories. Demand for guns, ammo and gear is still at a scalding pace. “The May 2021 number of about 1.4 million firearms is the second monthly decline recorded in the first five months of 2021,” noted SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer. “Nonetheless, the overall firearms sales pace thus far this year clocks in at nearly 9.2 million units compared to 8.7 million units for January to May 2020.”
That’s half a million more guns no longer in inventory and new owners needing cartridges to feed them. Retailers continue to feel that crunch. On May 27, Anthony Colonna, manager of Article II Gun Shop & Range in Lombard, Ill., told CBS Chicago, “I can’t keep stuff on the shelf long enough…It’s almost like the vultures on the wire. They’re sitting there looking at us. They’ve got something and they swoop down and take it. Doesn’t last very long.”
Some of the most popular cartridges are remaining in stock for short periods at other outlets, however. The purchasing manager at ammo retailer Wideners.com told AmericanRifleman.org last week that, “From what we’ve seen, manufacturers are able to deliver products within reasonable timelines. However, once we list the products online for sale, they are gone from our inventory very quickly. In recent weeks, we’ve been able to keep popular calibers like 9 mm, .223 Rem., and .45 ACP in stock for longer periods of time."
"That being said, it is still very difficult to source, or order bullet types other than FMJ in those calibers. Customers looking for specific bullet types, or less-common calibers will need to remain patient until manufacturers catch up with demand in the market.” He added, “We’ve never been a company that’s comfortable with taking orders for products that we don’t physically have in stock. We do however routinely place backorders with manufacturers on their products. It’s safe to say we currently have more products on backorder from manufacturers than we have with products that are in stock”