Is there an ammunition shortage in Canada?

Is there an ammunition shortage in Canada right now? Recently, I went to my local Canadian Tire, looking for .30-30 ammo. The shelves were empty—none of the classic low-priced (or formerly low-priced, at least) Federal, Winchester or Remington stuff.

“Weird,” I thought. “Moose and bear season are here in New Brunswick, deer season starts pretty soon. They need to re-stock, ASAP.” But if you’ve seen Calibre’s latest print issue, you know this shouldn’t be surprising. Firearms industry insiders started warning us of impending ammo shortages in Canada this spring. As far back as March, one localish gun seller advised me all ammo was going up 15 percent in price this year, and he didn’t know what he’d be able to get out of the US, period. The situation is bad enough that CBC is actually reporting on it, with small-town retailers saying they can’t get needed ammunition to keep their customers going through hunting season. In some rural communities, that can be a big problem, as wild game is an important part of many Canadians’ winter diet.

That wasn’t the only ammo I needed. Nobody local had a sale on 12 gauge waterfowl loads, and Cabela’s did. So, I ordered a 100-round case there, expecting some story about backlogged orders. Surprise! The shells showed up pretty quickly, with no problems at all. Again, weird!

And then I saw this video:

It turns out that, at least from an American perspective, we’ve got lots and lots of ammo. Indeed, some of those store shelves do seem pretty full. So what gives?

Why the discrepancy?

I think there’s two things going on here. Your perspective on ammo availability greatly depends on where you’re shopping, and who you are. The reality of the Canadian firearms industry is that larger companies have the edge over smaller shops. Cabela’s has lots of ammo in its central warehouse, so if you’re ordering from its website, it’s easy to ship that ammunition out directly. Canadian Tire might have lots of ammo in its warehouses as well, and that’s easy for individual franchises to acquire if they’re close by. If they’re further away from distribution centres, the realities of supply chain challenges during COVID-19 might make it harder for smaller stores to get ammo. This is just a guess, mind you.

But, in either case—at least there’s ammo on the shelves. If I’d wanted to spend $40 on a box of .30-30 ammo at Canadian Tire, I could have. That’s just not an option in much of the US right now. The pandemic panic, followed by social unrest, cleaned the shelves out. If you’re worried about your local ammunition shortage, it could be much, much worse.