The past couple of years have been a wild ride for most of us, including any of you in the shooting and hunting world.
Two years ago, social unrest as well as everything that came with the COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented rise in people buying guns. With an estimated 10 million new gun owners in the United States, it was a given that ammunition sales would surge.
Problem is, in about the same time frame as all the new gun owners were scurrying into stores for ammo, all of the multitude of troubles associated with the COVID-19 mess was slowing down production of said ammo to a snail's pace. New gun owners (and a lot of old gun owners) had trouble with this.
New gun owner: Hey, I need some ammunition for my 9-millimeter Glock I just bought.
Gun store guy: Ummm, sorry but we are sold out of 9-millimeter, haven't had any for months.
New gun owner: What? But I need some! Where is all the ammo? I bet the government is buying it all!
Gun store guy: Well, I don't think so, but we can let you know when we get some in.
New gun owner: OK. Can I use any other caliber in that pistol?
Gun store guy: Ummm, no, it is a 9-millimeter, so ...
This scene or something like it has been played out hundreds of times in the past year or so. The shooting world has seen rumors running wild about who is making ammo, where it is going and just why the heck can I not find any .30/06 ammo?
I can't pretend to speak to all that is going on in the ammunition manufacturing world, but I can talk a little about the status at an old and trusted company, Remington.
Most of you out there know that Remington has certainly had its share of problems in the past few years. A bankruptcy and subsequent sale of the company's many parts led to a separation of the firearms side and the ammo side. I recently got to visit an iconic place I have been wanting to see for some time: the Remington Ammunition factory in Lonoke, Arkansas.
In October 2020, shooting industry giant Vista Outdoor (which also owns Federal Premium Ammunition) took over the factory, and by all observations things are going great guns. The Remington Ammunition plant has been in Lonoke since 1969 and had other forms of ammo production, like rimfire and shotshell, added over the years. The complex is huge and is situated on 1,200 beautiful acres that include the Remington Gun Club and various rifle and pistol ranges for ammo testing.
I may not be able to aptly describe the scene at the plant, but I will try.
Imagine walking into a huge manufacturing facility with buildings in the neighborhood of a football field in size and all the noise and hustle and bustle that you might expect. There are machines running on every side. Long strips and cables of lead and copper are being fed into machines that are chopping them off in bullet-sized pieces or stamping them into the proper size for casings. Then, after what seemed a short distance to me, the primed casings are being loaded with powder and bullets. All of this loading is going at a dizzying rate, enough to make the home reloader swoon.
Much the same is going on in the shotshell and rimfire sections of the factory, tubes of polymer being warmed and stretched to start the process of making shotgun shell casings, and shiny new .22 rimfire ammo tumbling off conveyor belts into bins to go to the packaging phase.
(A conversation with Joel Hodgdon, marketing director for Remington, during the factory tour )
Joel: Larry, what are doing? Stuffing .22 ammo in your pockets?
Me: Sorry, Joel, it's just hard to resist.
Joel: I know, buddy. But you can't do that — back in the bin, please.
During all of this process, the noise and speed of the various machines that are whirling around you is going on, and I don't think they ever stop. In fact, we learned on the tour that the plant is now running 24/7 and has more than 600 new employees. I think my old friend Nick Sachse, Remington's director of product management, summed it all up when he said: "We are at maximum capacity in every product category here at Lonoke."
Just walking around the factory, I saw everything from 9mm to .35 Remington to .410 shotgun rounds rolling down the conveyor belts, packed into boxes and then stacked onto neat pallets to be shipped out.
Just in case you have been wondering, Big Green is back, folks. The shotgun shells you and Dad went after rabbits with, the Remington Core-Lokt rifle ammo you hunted deer with for 50 years (now in a new Core-Lokt Tipped version) and the .22 rimfire ammo that has accounted for truckloads of small game are all available once again.
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.