What most people don’t grasp about “the law of supply and demand” is that there’s usually a hard limit on supply.
For gasoline, ammo, food, etc, the fluctuations in demand usually remain well within production capacity, so prices adjust smoothly to ease that demand up/down to optimize use of production. Long-term trends are usually predicted, and production capacity (usually very expensive to install) is increased over time to match.
The problem is when demand skyrockets, like with gasoline during approach of a hurricane, or ammo during a bout of “they’re gonna ban it” fears: demand spikes, most people can afford to buy abnormally large quantities, supply runs out, shortage itself sparks increased demand for anything that does become available, cycle continues, ... and production cannot be suitably increased, both because there simply isn’t time/resources (taking years and $millions), and the increased production would only be needed during the brief spike in demand (not worth spending on new production which won’t be needed when supply-v-demand stabilizes again).
For ammo in particular:
- Supply optimizes to meet demand, manufacturing running a little faster than consumption.
- “GUN BAN COMING SOON!!!!#!@!” freaks people out.
- People look at their ammo supply, wallets, and store shelves, and decide “you never know, so might as well buy >10x my usual amount while I can; it will keep and I’ll use it later anyway.”
- Shelves of ammo usually stocked to match supply suddenly run out in 1/10th the usual time. Maybe faster, as a few guys walk in and buy everything for what really isn’t that much for those with sufficient cash/savings to spare.
- Shelves are empty.
- The next customers freak out. There’s no ammo. Can’t buy any even though it’s legal and they have money.
- Shipment comes in, the usual small amount needed to keep the shelves full during normal demand.
- This isn’t normal demand.
- Freaked-out customers buy everything they can, which isn’t much. Guys who usually buy $20 of .308 (leaving plenty for others to buy) are perfectly willing to drop $400 on the entire delivery of .308 that just came in (leaving nothing for others to buy). Actual Walmart conversation @ 5AM: “Got any 9mm?” “Shipment of 3000 rounds just came in.” “I’ll take it.” “How many rounds?” “All of it.”
- Manufacturers can’t make enough to match demand.
- At some point, everyone will have either bought enough (I wanted to buy more, but actually I’ve got more than I can shoot without outright wasting it), or the cause for demand ends (Hillary lost).
- Manufacturers aren’t going to double production capacity, a process costing $millions and taking months/years to build, just because of a temporary run on ammo.
- .22LR suffers in particular because it’s so cheap that every “just in case” person finds it easy to buy everything that hits the store shelves.
- Eventually, everyone bought enough, and Trump took office. The fear of gun banning ended, demand waned, and supply finally started to match demand.
My word I’m verbose when starting the day in a quiet house.
Upshot: when supply runs short, and you don’t want to run out of a shelf-stable consumable, and prices are affordable even when several times normal, you buy what you can when you can. Result is a self-sustaining shortage.
You explained it well.