A national ammunition shortage, caused in part by fears of new gun control measures after the Newtown massacre has gun shops limiting sales and distributors telling police departments their orders might take up to a year to fill.
“We’re trying to spread as much as we can to as many customers as we can,” said Evan English, president of Olde English Outfitters in Tipp City. The store now limits sales of some types of ammunition to 100 rounds per household address.
It’s unclear how much ammunition is sold in the United States. No one tracks that data, and many manufacturers and distributors decline to say how much they sell. But the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, estimates that 10 billion rounds are sold annually.
“Sales are very brisk,” NSSF spokesman Mike Bazinet said. “2012 was a record year and it’s trending high during the first quarter. The only thing I can say for sure it that it’s the result of consumer demand.”
Asked about why sales have spiked so high, Bazinet said “we simply don’t get into speculation as to why this is the case.”
But English said the spike represented a panic, as people who fear new regulations stock up on supplies. That causes shortages that effect other shooters. So even casual hobbyists are purchasing more than they need, simply because the buy what they can when they can, he said.
“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” English said.
He also described the shortages as “a simple economics problem,” as manufacturers order their raw materials, such as lead, copper, brass and powder, five to seven months in advance, affecting their ability to quickly change production.
“Their ability to adapt to sharp upturns in demand are limited,” English said.
The shortage of ammunition, including bullets for .22 and .223 guns, is causing prices to increase, according to gun owners.
“I used to pay $3 for a box of .22s. I have recently paid up to $12 for the same box,” Todd Heights said.
The Buck Creek Carry Out in northeastern Clark County is seeing the same problem, said owner Sharon Eldridge.
“We have a critical situation nationwide,” she said. “Manufacturers are pumping out everything they can. We’re getting small amounts at a time. It’s just a ripple effect.”
At 22three in Lebanon, store owner Wendy Monroe said it was difficult to get ammunition, with some calibers being extremely hard to find.
“It is frustrating for consumers,” she said. “They’re asking questions and I don’t have the answers to it.”
It’s also a concern for law enforcment, said Greene County Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Spicer, who said he spoke to the office’s distributor last week and was told to expect at least a six-month waiting period to fill orders. That distributor had no practice ammunition in stock Friday and only a few cases left of the duty ammunition Greene County uses.
The sheriff’s office usually orders 10,000 rounds of duty ammuntion and 10,000 of practice ammunition each year, Spicer said. The office also stores extra rounds at its internal armories, giving a reserve the office can dip into, but could lead to a larger order next year, as those reserves will also have to be rebuilt, Spicer said.
The reserves have been used before, particularly when the economy tanked, forcing budget cuts, Spicer said.
“We’ve been through this kind of cycle before, but for other reasons,” he said.
Pete Willis, training coordinator at the Sinclair Community College Police Academy, said his distributor has said some orders will take up to 13 months.
“If the time frame given is accurate, we’ll squeak through,” said Willis, a retired Dayton Police sergeant who worked at Dayton’s academy for years.
Sinclair’s Academy, whose recruits are hired by police departments across the region, keeps a year’s worth of rounds on supply. Dayton’s academy also keeps larger reserves, Willis said. But academies that are accustomed to ordering ammunition and receiving it within 90 days could see problems, he said.
There have been ammunition shortages before, but usually for certain types of rounds, and those were caused by the military needs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Willis said.
“But right now, it tends to be anything that you might use,” Willis said.
But the increased demand, whatever is causing it, crosses over into other products, English said. Due to overwhelming demand, his store is also limiting the sale of all semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines to in-store purchases only and on a first-come-first-served basis. No individual orders are being taken and there will be no wait lists for these products, at least until “the supply chain catches up,” according to the store’s website.
Part of the cause is the growth in popularity of sport shooting, English said. His business has grown significantly in the past 10 years, he said. There was a spike in sales in 2004 after Ohio’s Concealed Carry law went into effect, but sales cooled off again in 2005 and 2006. But since 2007, sales have grown steadily, he said.
The rumor of government stockpiling also is causing some of the shortage, gun owners said.
Pat Gray of Dayton was purchasing 20 gauge shotgun hollow point slugs Monday at Roberson’s Sporting Goods in Madison Twp.
“People who shoot at target ranges aren’t affected by the price of ammunition as much as they can’t find bullets to replace ammunition they’ve shot,” he said.
Bazinet said that the increased demand is shown by the number of National Instant Criminal Background Checks, which are up 46 percent nationwide the first quarter of 2013 over the same period in 2012, rising from 3.8 million to 4.9 million, if you subtract CCW permit application checks. The remaining checks would represent sales from licensed dealers, required to do checks by federal law, or private sellers in states that require checks. CHECK
Nick Daggy contributed to this story.
The Dayton Daily News took a deeper look into the nationwide ammunition shortage and the local impact it has had. In our investigation, we found gun store policies have changed, some police departments may have to wait 13 months for supplies and prices have tripled in some cases.