U.S. ammunition makers are competing with Chinese companies for copper, a metal that is essential for building construction and the manufacture of electronics.
Gun sales are continuing to accelerate to record heights during the coronavirus pandemic, as Americans arm themselves for self-protection against an increasingly scary world with civil unrest and rising crime. Guns need ammunition, and making it requires raw materials like gunpowder, brass for the shells and copper for the bullets.
“Copper is very big for us,” said Vista Outdoor Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz in a recent interview. Copper is part of a soft zinc alloy that jackets the lead bullet to protect the inside of the gun barrel when firing. But copper is also an important ingredient in keeping the lights on around the world, and in running our computers and phones.
The commodity markets have been on fire for this shiny red metal, and it’s causing a copper crunch. The demand has been high for other metals used in technology, including cobalt and lithium.
Copper prices have spiked dramatically since the coronavirus pandemic swept through America in March 2020, more than doubling to $10,211.85 per metric ton on May 10 after having slumped as low as $4,684.85 on March 16, 2020, amid the economic disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.