2020 was rough, and 2021 hasn’t been much of an improvement.
If you are a gun owner, you know that finding guns and finding ammo has been close to impossible.
With over 8 million new gun owners and a year of bad luck, the shelves in some areas are empty, and ammo is tough to find.
Ammo droughts suck and always will. Like the tide, the sunset, and me eating way too many tacos tonight, they are inevitable.
So what can we do?
That’s not rhetorical. That’s the question I posed to a series of professionals in the shooting industry.
We talked to activists, firearms instructors, police officers, and more to gather their opinions on the best way to handle and prepare for ammo droughts!
Table of Contents
Introducing the Experts
Caleb Giddings is a professional firearms competitor, writer, and host of the Gunday Brunch podcast. He is a Master Class Shooter in IDPA and a veteran of the Coast Guard and Airforce.
Matt Landfair is a veteran police officer and firearms instructor. He’s trained under a number of armed professionals and is the head honcho at Primary & Secondary.
Landfair runs the blog and website, as well as the P&S Training Summit.
Julie Golob is a professional firearms competitor with a stunning amount of awards and success. She is 9-Time IPSC Medalist — five individual and four team.
The only Division USPSA Ladies National Champion Action Pistol High Master, Distinguished & National Record Holder, as well as the holder of 50+ World & National Titles and 150+ Major Championship Titles.
Riley Bowman is a professional firearms competitor with a Master Class rating in the Carry Optics division. Bowman serves as a firearms instructor as well as the Vice President of ConcealedCarry.com and host of the Concealed Carry Podcast.
Jenn Jacques has long served as a writer and editor at websites like Bearing Arms, The Truth About Guns, and Crossbreed Holsters.
She’s currently a 2nd Amendment activist at the Firearms Policy Center, where she serves as Director of Digital Outreach.
Chris Cheng was the Season 4 winner of Top Shot as a professional firearm competitor.
He’s also a firearm rights activist and has recently testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee against gun control bills.
Aaron Cowan has served in numerous armed professions, including that of an Army Infantryman, an overseas security contractor, and in both state and federal law enforcement roles.
He’s the boss at Sage Dynamics and currently a professional firearms instructor with an outstanding Youtube channel.
Jon Patton runs The Gun Collective, one of the most informative websites on firearms news, politics, and technology.
Patton used his platform to entertain and inform tens of thousands of gun owners and acted as an alarm when anti-2A silliness occurs.
John Correia is the owner and founder of Active Self Protection.
He is a nationally recognized subject matter expert in private citizen defensive encounters and law enforcement use of force, a master firearms instructor, martial artist, expert witness, and teacher of teachers.
How To Keep Skills Sharp
We started by asking our experts how exactly they worked to keep their skills sharp when getting ammo can be tough to accomplish.
Their advice can easily apply to any shooter looking to stay sharp while the shelves are dry.
Dry Fire Is Universal
Dry fire is the safe practice of training with a firearm but doing so without ammunition.
This might mean using laser training devices or just working on the basics like trigger pull — but again without any ammunition in the gun.
Among our experts, the idea of turning to dry fire to keep skills sharp seemed universal.
Riley Bowman said it simply, “More dry fire. Of course.”
Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics stated, “(I’m) upping my dryfire time per week by an hour.”
Matt Landfair advised, “Dry practice is hugely effective. Through dry practice, you can focus on specific aspects of shooting without firing a single round. Want to work on your draw time or overall presentation? Adjust the focus of your practice as needed.”
“I incorporate much more dry fire into my live fire sessions so that when I am pulling the trigger on live rounds, I have the skill I want to test down. It’s all about being productive with what you have,” said Julie Golob.
The head honcho at Active Self Protection, John Correia, had this to say…
“First off, dry practice is life. In the before times, when ammo was cheap and plentiful, the path to improvement with firearms skills was 80% dry practice, 20% live fire. Now it’s more like 90/10. I try to dry fire at least three days a week, and more if possible. So get your dry practice on!”
So dry fire is obviously a game-changer when it comes to training, but what tools should you have to get the job done?
Chris Cheng shot me some advice on how dry fire with a SIRT pistol helped him win season 4 of Top Shot.
“When I was training to win Top Shot Season 4, I actually only spent about 5% of my time at the range doing live fire. Most of my time was spent watching training videos on YouTube, reading blogs about marksmanship, and doing tens of thousands of repetitions of dry firing using real guns, as well as my laser training pistol from a company called SIRT,” Cheng explained.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
“My SIRT pistol is my go-to training tool since I can quickly put in a hundred reps while watching TV or listening to music.”
The SIRT is only one of the many tools you can use to enhance your dry fire practice. Several of our experts pointed to the Mantis X as another invaluable training tool.
“I’ve been using a Mantis X much more often than before,” Aaron Cowan said.
Meanwhile, Jenn Jacques made the MantisX a team-based activity around the Firearm Policy Coalition office.
“Aside from the obvious benefits of the MantisX Training System, the added bonus of being able to create a virtual Team FPC to compete against my fellow directors in the app has been a huge win-win for all of us.”
“Not only does it keep our firearms training skills sharp, but it has also served as a fantastic team-building tool as well!”
John Correia joined the MantisX club saying that “dry practice tools like a Mantis X10 help the dry practice routine become a game, too.”
He also advised the ASP crew is including a dry fire tip in their Monday videos every week.
We did a full write-up on laser training devices, so be sure to read that article or check out our video below.
Make Range Time Count
Our experts all advised that efficiency at the range is king.
“Make sure you always go to the range with a specific plan. Have a plan for every round that is fired. In that way, you can ensure you learn something from each round that is fired.” Riley Bowman emphasized.
Bowman also suggested setting a goal or standard for your range training sessions.
“Establish a certain standard you’re trying to meet. For instance, take a certain target zone and any shots outside of that target area, you subtract 50 or 100 rounds from your available ammo ‘allowance’ for that day.”
“This sort of approach brings immediate accountability to your practice session. This furthers the goal of making sure you learn something from every round fired.”
Pro shooter and Air Force Small Arms Instructor Caleb Giddings said that pre-pandemic, 300+ round training sessions at the range were his norm.
But after ammo prices skyrocketed and supply dwindled, he changed up how he approached range day.
“In the current ammo panic, my range sessions are tightly focused on a particular skill,” he explained.
“I’ll look at a deficiency or an area I can improve, and then go to the range and just work that one thing in live fire. I’ve also cut my live fire sessions back to about 150 rounds, which I feel like gives me a good balance on cost/training value.”
Julie Golob also said she too likes to make range days focused and purposeful.
“Gone are the days of mag dumps or countless bill drills. I want every trigger press to count, and so I am much more thoughtful when I plan practice sessions.”
To make things more efficient John Correia said that he tracks his performance at the range so he has a better idea of where he is and what needs to be worked on.
“I track my performance fastidiously. That which gets measured gets worked on, so I track every live round I shoot and what my performance metrics are. That makes me maximize value from each live round fired.”
“In terms of keeping skills sharp, we have shot a couple matches here and there and gone to the range sporadically. But we keep round counts limited and focused. I think that the last part is really what people need to think about. Make the rounds count,” Jon Patton of TGC explained.
Invest in Ammo
Though some of us look at ammo prices and cringe, our experts said that sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet and shell out the cash.
“Honestly, I’m just paying the higher prices. Cost of doing business, I need to shoot for teaching, practice, and filming, so I just hunt for the best deals,” Aaron Cowen told me.
John Patton took a more holistic view. “I am still shooting a lot. I enjoy shooting, it’s still a fun hobby for me, and I get enjoyment out of it.”
He continued, “So I haven’t stopped, and though I will shoot less in 2021 than I did in 2020, I still will go through far more than most people. I consider it my ‘me’ time and therefore a worthwhile investment.”
Can Shooters Prepare for the Next Ammo Drought?
Ammo shortages seem somewhat cyclical…there’s always another right around the corner.
So, while working through this ammo drought can feel challenging, I wanted to get some perspective from the pros on how to prepare for the next ammo drought.
“The best solution to our ammo crisis is to already have an abundant stockpile which allows you to train freely without concern,” Matt Landfair told me.
“Sadly the ‘I told you so’ method will not solve anyone’s ammo supply issues. Time machines aren’t publicly available so warning yourself is out.”
John Correia said the best way to combat a shortage is buy plenty during the not-so-short times.
“I would encourage people to spend a bit on having enough defensive ammunition for a year or so on hand once it becomes available.”
“For most people, that means 50 rounds or so for their defensive gun (changing rounds in the gun twice a year), plus 100 rounds for every gun they’re going to buy to verify reliability in that gun and point of aim vs. point of impact in that gun.”
“Don’t hoard unnecessarily, but keep six months of practice ammo in stock. For most people who go to the range 3 to 4 times a year, that means having around 400 practice rounds on hand.”
Chris Cheng said he keeps at least 20,000 rounds on hand to make sure he has enough to make it through.
“Naturally, I have other caliber guns, but buying in bulk requires some tradeoffs since the more you buy, the more you save (and of course, the more you spend!). It gets too pricey for me to buy all the calibers I own in bulk, so I have to make some choices.”
Riley Bowman provided a simple step-by-step plan to prepare for the next ammo drought.
- Make a plan right now for the future when ammo is plentiful again to buy an extra box of ammo or primers or whatever every time you go to the gun store.
- Set goals and estimate what your future ammunition needs will be so that you can calculate how much ammo you need to have on hand to avoid running out.
- Look into and learn about reloading as a potential option. The timing might not be right at the current time to get into reloading (components and equipment are both hard to come by), but that doesn’t mean you can’t start learning now.
- Take training courses from reputable and respected instructors. Your ammo is limited, so to further make your learning more efficient, a good instructor is key. This will also teach you what and how you should be practicing.
- Look for training courses that have ammo available. I’ve personally taken two major training courses this year at range facilities that had ammo available to purchase for the class.
- Learn how to dry fire practice effectively. Purchase and study dry fire books from authors like Ben Stoeger and Steve Anderson. There’s also Annette Evans’ Dry Fire Primer. I also produce a monthly dry fire challenge called Shooter Ready Challenge that provides tips and ideas for dry fire.
Whether it’s dry fire or splurging on a little ammo here and there, take it from our experts and don’t stop training.
I’d like to take a moment to thank all the folks who helped provide their experience and expertise in completing this article. Their time and experience are valuable, and they provided without hesitation.
How have you dealt with the ammo drought? How will you prepare for the next one? Chime in below. Looking for other ways to train. Check out our guide to Dryfire and our suggestions for Low Round Count Drills.