No, the lack of ammunition on your dealer’s shelf is not a government conspiracy.

Consider .22 Long Rifle ammunition. The industry as a whole (all manufacturers combined) is currently set up to produce about 4,200,000,000 (4.2 billion) .22 LR annually. That is running all the machines, full capacity all the time, all manufacturers together.

This adds up to 11.5 million rounds of .22LR per day, which is 23,000 bricks (500 rounds) .22LR per day.

There are an estimated 80 million gun owners in the United States. If 0.03% of them decide to each buy one brick of .22 on any given day, that is a demand for 24,000 bricks, outstripping the entire maximum U.S. production of .22LR by 1,000 bricks on that day.

If 0.5% of the American gun-owning public simultaneously decides they each want to buy an extra two bricks of .22LR, the entire maximum U.S. production of .22LR is immediately backlogged for five weeks.

Without taking the time and large financial risk of purchasing additional, expensive equipment, there is nothing ammunition manufacturers can do to produce more. A naive person might wonder why these companies just don’t buy more equipment. Because the equipment is large, specialized, very expensive, not readily available (probably custom ordered, built, and installed), and requires specialized training to operate and maintain.

The cost to expand manufacturing capability at this scale is millions of dollars, all to add capacity to handle a temporary buying bubble that will certainly subside and then to have that new, expensive machinery sit idle most of the time thereafter.