Figures released by the FBI indicate somewhere between 21 and 23 million firearm sales were processed through the agency’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System last year. The volume—driven by a significant number of law-abiding citizens purchasing their first gun—shattered the previous record of 15.7 million set in 2016 and put unprecedented strain on industry supply lines.
Purchases didn’t slow in January, although there’s a glimmer of hope for gear-starved enthusiasts. Most manufacturers hired staff, increased hours of operation, expanded and added machinery.
Ammunition firms face additional layers of environmental, zoning and safety regulations, however, and each add governmental layers of delay. The sizeable capital outlay can also be viewed as a risky investment in a market that historically fluctuates with political winds. As a result, cartridge supplies continue to be strained nationwide, with long lines outside gun stores before they open on the day shipments arrive. The trend has even caught the attention of mainstream media in Florida, Ohio, Utah, Texas, North Carolina and many other regions of the country.
Some relief may soon come from the Lonoke, AR, ammunition plant formerly owned by Remington Outdoor. Vista Outdoor purchased the plant late last year, and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported last week, “The Lonoke operation now has nearly 800 workers, a company spokesman said Thursday, nearly doubling its worker count from November. He said the company is continuing to hire and train new workers to meet demand while being mindful of social distancing and other coronavirus precautions at the plant.”
The effort to transition back to full operation is well ahead of schedule.
The latest Vista Outdoor quarterly report, issued early this month, indicated the company set a new all-time quarterly sales record at $575 million. Its Shooting sports-related brands, which includes Federal, CCI and many other brands familiar to firearm enthusiasts, led the way at $402 million. The company also purchased Hevi-Shot Ammunition—a manufacturer of shotshells, bullets and lead-free technology—for $16 million last quarter.