Has Election Year Demand
Kicked In Yet?


Image: olly / Adobe Stock

Over the past four-plus years, the industry has been grappling with one consistent variable: uncertainty.

First came the pandemic and social unrest. Then, a brief market correction. Next? Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ratcheted up global demand of firearms and ammunition. More recently, the Israel-Hamas war has further fueled uncertainty — simmering tensions across the Middle East have the world on watch. And this isn’t even including FBI Director Christopher Wrey’s recent assertion China represents the “defining threat of our generation.”

The impact of all the above? Stability likely isn’t coming anytime in the near future — especially in an election year — making market predictions increasingly difficult. Customers are still motivated to visit their local gun stores, but not at levels observed during previous election cycles (so far).

“If the election cycle is impacting our sales, it’s been slight,” observed Jacquelyn Clark, co-owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo. “We saw a small uptick in March, but that’s not abnormal. I do think things will eventually ramp up, like they always do in an election year, we’re just not seeing big effects yet.”

Of more pressing concern, anti-gun elected officials in Colorado have been busy this year — with several bills currently under consideration.

“We’re planning for bigger sales changes because of local Colorado legislation versus the presidential election this year,” Clark added.

It’s been a similar story at Ann Arbor Arms in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“We have not yet seen the typical election year demand,” shared Sarah Parkhurst, director of business operations.

Current NICS trends mirror the above statements. While the streak of more than 1 million NSSF-adjusted background checks per month hit 56 consecutive months in March, adjusted Q1 2024 NICS dropped 4.4% year over year (from 4,168,321 to 3,982,883). Adjusted Q1 2024 NICS background checks rank as the seventh-highest opening quarter in the system’s history.

What About The Ammunition Segment?

It wouldn’t be outlandish to submit the ammunition segment has, perhaps, faced the most significant scrutiny of any other during the past several years. Yes, having products sold before they are even shipped out of a facility is a welcome “problem” to have — but the scarcity on display at the height of the demand surge still weighs heavily on dealers, even as inventory levels have climbed back up.

A sign of the times, I reached out to several ammunition manufacturers in preparation for this column — the biggest and most historic names in the industry, as well as some up-and-coming companies. Hornady and Sovereign Ammo spoke with us at length, with Fiocchi USA sharing concise input. 

Seth Swerczek, Hornady marketing communications manager, informed the demand for his company’s products — especially self-defense 9mm — is indeed high.

“At Hornady, because we’re not in the commodity FMJ/bulk market, we don’t see as much volatility; rather, a sustained demand that trends upward every year,” he said. “In the self-defense segment, 9mm is in high demand — and likely always will be.”

Laura DiBenedetto, CEO of Sovereign Ammo, co-founded her company with her husband in 2021. She also predicts elevated interest in self-defense calibers this year.

“Right now, demand for our ammo is strong and on target with what we expected for early 2024,” she said. “With the election coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see even more interest. Elections tend to make people think more about personal safety, which can lead to a bump in sales. We’re keeping an eye on that and planning accordingly.”

Looking ahead to the fall hunting season, Swerczek reports 6.5 Creedmoor is in “extremely high demand” with 6.5 PRC and 7mm PRC close behind. Demand for traditional cartridges like .243 Win., .308 Win. and .30-06 is on the upswing, as well.

“Based on what’s happened in previous years — I’d advise hunters to ensure they have ammo for the fall while it’s still summer!” exclaimed Swerczek.

Innovation Key

Evidenced by interest in hunting calibers, consumer demand is not based solely on fear. Innovation in new calibers or updates to existing ones will draw customers in — whether it promises to enhance accuracy, produce less recoil or create another unique experience for sportsmen to push their limits. Consequently, the companies interviewed here are committed to advancing the segment forward. 

“Innovation is one of the cornerstones here at Hornady. We stay at the cutting edge of innovation by simply being passionate users of the products,” Swerczek said. “By having a large group of employees that are actively hunting, shooting and competing, we’re completely immersed in this lifestyle and that often spurs new product development.”

“There’s absolutely room for innovation in self-defense ammo,” DiBenedetto added. “We’re always on the lookout for new tech and materials that could provide our customers with even better options. Whether it’s enhancing performance or making ammo safer for the environment, there’s plenty of exciting possibilities ahead.”

David Blenker, CEO of Fiocchi USA, shared his company continues to make gains in the hunting and competitive shooting markets.

“We remain focused on producing new products throughout 2024, while delivering our current ammunition to our customers as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible,” he stated.

Benefits Of Buying Early

As noted earlier, dealers haven’t seen a significant spike — yet — in this election cycle. Swerczek put current conditions in context.

“It’s always hard to look inside the crystal ball, but history has shown us demand will very likely see a spike,” he forecasted. “We earnestly hope consumers prepare for this increased demand before panic-buying begins and availability becomes an issue.

When asked what insights he has to share with dealers to ensure they’re meeting the needs of their ammunition customers today, Swerczek noted it’s important for dealers to have a handle on the unique needs of their individual markets.

“It’s tough to make blanket statements sometimes, but in the last several election years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in demand for ‘staple’ cartridges like 9mm, .223 Rem/5.56, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. I would encourage both the dealers and the consumers to be prepared, as best they can, for this increase in demand. Slowly buying what you may need for the future while it’s available can save some inconvenience if demand and availability become an issue.”

DiBenedetto highlighted the importance local dealers play in the success of the industry.

“We provide all our dealers with plenty of support, like displays and detailed info on what sets Sovereign Ammo apart — we call it the ‘Sovereign Difference.’ It’s all about helping them succeed and sell more because when they do well, we all do,” she concluded.

Dealers, I want to punt this topic over to you: What trends are you observing in your locales? Have you noticed an uptick as we approach six months to Election Day? What preparations have you made in case there’s a sudden demand rush? I’d love to hear from you.

Contact me directly: editor@shootingindustry.com.

Read More Shooting Industry May 2024 Issue Now