Note: anyone immersed in firearm hunting or any other branch of recreational shooting might roll their eyes into the back of their heads as they read the same things they've heard from 1000 other new firearm seekers and owners since early 2020. And after considering this, I briefly considered canning the post. But, if part of the point of this blog is to document my journey and learning experiences as a student of these hobbies (and it is), then witholding posts to protect the sensibilities of angry/ belligerent readers who are (possibly far) more experienced than I on these topics doesn't seem to make much sense to me. So let the warning be sounded: this post depicts not-so-graphic content of an amateur complaining about finding guns and ammo during the present supply shortage.
Podcast Episode Referenced: https://news.orvis.com/hunting/podcast-supply-and-demand-with-greg-carpiniello
Back in the Autumn of 2017, after several months of going back and forth on the idea, I decided I was going to build my own desktop PC. I did not realize until after I had begun to purchase several hardware components that this time period was economically one of the worst in recent history to try to build a computer, given a major demand spike in graphics processing units and a major supply shortage in memory module technology. I ended up completing the project, but it took almost a year and I certainly paid much higher prices than would have been the case if I had started working at it even 6 months earlier. What does this have to do with bow hunting?
Since I first published this blog back around September, I have made numerous references to my ongoing search for my first hunting firearms (which would also be my first firearms in general). My fortunes in this pursuit have not been great given present market conditions. I knew this market was impacted by supply chain interruptions and social/ political turmoil, but having done very little investigation I did not realize how severe things still were this far into events, even when it comes to hunting-application specific shooting goods.
My initial plan was to purchase a shotgun, a center-fire rifle and a rim-fire rifle and pursue some quality range time with each by the end of this Summer. I would have a lot of ground left to cover in becoming proficient, but maybe this would at least be a fair start. Most of the time I invested into learning about firearms from late 2020 up until a few months ago was spent more on general mechanics and concepts: the different type of firearms and actions, the common calibers and models and the various conflicting opinions on all of these things from experts and "experts". It was only recently I really began to start actively researching the actual firearm models and ammunition I might want to purchase, and in this pursuit I came across some very informative resources.
One of thse was Ammo Prices Now, a website erected in response to the chaos of 2020 which presents price data for various ammunition calibers across time. Another was Ammo Seek, a website which tracks ammo price and availability across numerous online retailers. Utilizing these tools, I was able to get a much better sense of how things stood compared to historical conditions. These along with a string of other discoveries, notably the impossible-to-miss lack of inventory at all local gun and sporting goods stores quickly steered me towards a (very) sobering realization of the extent to which I was going to have to compromise on what I would be willing to purchase and for how much I would be willing to purchase it for if I actually wanted guns in my hands and something to project out of them by the coming season. I really started to worry about my prospects for getting to hunt this year at all.
Even with the above knowledge I was in a tepid state, uncertain of how I wanted to proceed. What pushed me over the line was some commentary from Greg Carpiniello in a recent episode of the Orvis Hunting and Shooting podcast (episode linked at the beginning of this post), in which he offers the opinion the firearm and ammunition market in the States will not recover until the latter half of 2022 at the earliest.
I would certainly not argue I know this perspective is the consensus among industry experts, but I do know all the online sources and hunting/ shooting community forums I have been pouring through over the past few months have spanned voices from all around the States, and none of these have seemed to express much more optimism.
In seeking advice in online communities regarding how best to proceed given the difficulty of finding the guns I have been eyeing and the cost and availability of the ammo, numerous variations on my original plan were suggested. Rather than pursue a rifle in 7mm-08 Rem I was recommended to target a caliber more widely available in ordinary circumstances, such as 270 Win or 308 Win. For the remfire rifle, while originally set on a bolt-action gun, I was recommended to consider semi-automatic instead, and particularly to look into the Ruger 10/22 owing to its popularity and availability. And after noticing it's availability at local gun shops and sporting goods retailers, I also considered the Henry Level 22 Lr. For the shotgun I began to consider targeting a more esoteric gauge with the hope this would help deal with scarcity, however some cursory research suggested this approach might not yeild much benefit.
For the sake of completeness and potentially to help any readers in a position similar to mine, I was recommended a number of online retailers with a reputation for at least having some inventory, however temporal and expesnive:
Not withstanding, I was really bothered by the perception of being forced into making one of the following choices in order to have an opportunity to hunt for the first time this year:
- target the more popular calibers, then stay perched over all of the local gun and sporting goods stores and online retailers in order to be first in line, figuratively and literally, to sweep in when something I wanted came back in stock
- target more exotic calibers and accept in the long-term, after the market recovers, I will have to deal with (relative to more popular alternatives): lower availability, higher prices and other inconveniences of investing in relatively unpopular consmption goods.
Both of these would involve sacrificing my original plans and accepting some form of loss, and both would involve taking a relatively greater financial hit, now, later or both.
But then another possibility emerged: rather than allowing all my initial firearm purchasing decisions to be forcibly directed by unusal conditions of extreme scarcity, and taking a major budget hit to be able to carry out the practice and achieve the degree of competency that would make me feel comfortable with these guns in the field, I could go a different direction and maybe come out ahead: I could start with bow hunting.
Given my understanding of the primary drivers of the firearm shortage, that hunting is not among these, and knowing the "alternative" hunting seasons in Idaho include archery and muzzleloader, I reasoned both of these would likely be much more economically accessible at this time, even factoring in some degree supply-chain disruption. I figure it might be better to learn marksmanship on a modern rifle and so have set aside the idea of a muzzleloader. I also speculate the relative durability of arrrows over bullets and shot will be of increasing utility given the almost certain effects of inflation on ammunition in the coming years, even after prices recover in terms of present fundamentals. Suddenly motivated to get a head start on gaining competency in an approach to hunting which might pay off enormously in any future conditions of substantial ammunition scarcity, I have determined to go forward with taking up archery.
I think I maybe held and shot a compound bow on one occaision when I was 9 or 10 years old, but otherwise I am venturing into this with absolutely no experience. I have begun to accumulate and study numerous online resources on bow hunting for beginners, and I also took a day recently to visit all the local archery pro shops I could locate. For now, my plan is to pick up a compound bow and try both small and big game archery hunting this season. I recognize there will be a steep learning curve to this and my already unfavorable odds of harvesting game in the first season(s) will decline even further, but I would rather contend with the difficulties of becoming competent in the art of bow hunting than deal with the frustration of continuing to pursue firearms. Ultimately I think this approach will put me ahead both financially (when the firearm and ammo markets do recover, in 2022 or otherwise) and in skill acquisition. There should be plenty more content to come on this, hopefully readers will find some of it useful. Thanks all
Ammo Prices Now Started in 2020, this website tracks ammunition market data useful for making decisions particularly for those new to firearms who actually think through their purchases https://ammopricesnow.com/ammo-price-increases-in-2020/
Ammo Seek https://ammoseek.com/
The Orvis Hunting and Shooting Podcast | Supply and Demand with Greg Carpiniell