Think back to the first gun you ever shot. What was it? Dad’s first rifle? Or perhaps your great-uncle’s squirrel gun? Well more than likely it was a .22 of some kind. There are several variations of .22 which includes Short, Long, Long Rifle and Magnum. It is the most commonly owned caliber in the world. This is usually the first firearm one shoots as it is a step above from a BB gun but not nearly as powerful as a center fire rifle cartridge. They use this caliber in the Boy Scouts and for Hunter’s Education purposes.
That is not to say that .22’s are kids play. Far from it. I have heard from several retired officers that it is the most common cartridge used in crimes. There are also countless stories/rumors of it being the “assassin’s choice” for handgun. Which may or may not be true but let’s not put any faith into that. You can put faith though into the fact that .22’s are lethal out to far ranges and should be treated with all the seriousness as any other firearm. It may not kick as much but it can still cause serious damage.
A few years ago you could walk into almost any sporting goods store and pick up a box of .22. It was no harder to find .22 ammo at a sporting goods store than it was to find bread at a grocery store. Nowadays though, good luck. Finding .22 ammo on the shelf is like successfully hunting a unicorn. OK, maybe not that bad but it is a rare sight. At our store, the most common phone call from a customer is about the status of .22 ammo. I am sure this is the same for other Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods stores nationwide.
It all started with the usual fear of gun-bans. There had been some prolific mass-shootings that took place and even some legislation proposed though our government. This caused a rush on the market and people began buying up everything. Handguns, long guns (especially AR-15 style platforms), high-capacity magazines, accessories and ammo were being bought up by the truckload. Certain calibers like 9mm, 45ACP, 223Rem, 308Win and of course .22’s of all kinds were the most sought after.
For months after the initial scare you could come to our store and see a line of people waiting to get in as soon as we opened to see what we had on our shelves. Talking to people at other stores, this was the same state-wide and more than likely nationwide.
But so what’s the deal? As people will say “it’s only .22” and you begin to wonder why you can’t find it. It’s not like they aren’t producing it anymore. On the contrary! Ammunition manufacturers saw what calibers consumers most wanted and started just focusing on those. More obscure rounds have stopped being produced commercially as those machines are now needed for your common calibers. So where are they all going?
I have heard some people say it’s the government, that they are buying it all up so the youth can’t get into shooting. Like we said earlier, it is the most common caliber for kids to learn to shoot. Really the next step up is .223Rem which honestly has enough kick to be reserved for kids ten years of age or older. Remember if kids don’t enjoy shooting when they are young and get bruised up by too large of calibers, they probably won’t be lifetime shooters or gun owners.
Others point towards the “preppers” as they are stockpiling food, water, supplies and ammo. These certain types of people are misunderstood by many who do not know what they do. It is understandable though. Most people who are preparing for some kind of catastrophe are considered “weird” or “crazy” by others. That is until a disaster strikes and your family doesn’t have any can-goods because you didn’t even think about what may happen in this crazy thing called life. TV shows that document preppers and their lifestyles point out how they store products like alcohol, ammo or medical supplies to be used as a bartering system after money has no value.
Then you also have the people who purposely buy it all up just to sell on the internet for a profit. Don’t think people would actually do that? Think again. People were paying for magazines and firearms at way above decent mark-up on products. An AR-15 magazine for $60? Yea and people paid it. So if you haven’t been able to buy any .22 in-stores for a year or two but find some online at a higher price, you know you probably would pay it.
And outside of government conspiracies, people profiting like pirates and those crazy preppers you had your normal gun enthusiasts who want to get their hands on .22 ammo. People who own several firearms in their home and more than likely a .22 or two. You yourself may be such a person, and until recently you never thought about stockpiling up thousands of rounds of ammo. But now with how scarce it is, you buy up as much as you can when you get the chance. You’re not trying to gouge people online or are concerned with zombie-tornadoes, but you don’t want to not have any .22 either.
Because of all of this, you have .22’s very own Catch 22. People who weren’t stockpiling it before are now. Preppers hear about these government buy-outs and are now more determined to acquire as much .22 as possible. And shoppers/shooters like me and you who now pick up an extra box or two of the ammo when we don’t need it are making it scarcer. No one wins. And to boot, unlike 9mm or 308Win that you can reload .22 is almost impossible to. There are ways to do it, but none of them are very practical or safe so it is best to avoid that altogether.
Will this Catch 22 ever end? I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that if you ever have the chance to teach a kid how to shoot that it is not the time to be stingy with your stockpile.
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