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Ammunition shelves bare as U.S. gun sales continue to soar

A surge in gun sales since the start of the pandemic has cleared U.S. shelves of ammunition, causing some law enforcement agencies to cut back on firearms training. The shortage also is impacting sport shooters and hunters.

7/31/2021 7:31:00 PM

A surge in gun sales since the start of the pandemic has cleared U.S. shelves of ammunition, causing some law enforcement agencies to cut back on firearms training. The shortage also is impacting sport shooters and hunters.

SEATTLE (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with record sales of firearms, has fueled a shortage of ammunition in the United States that’s impacting law enforcement agencies , people seeking personal protection, recreational shooters and hunters -- and could deny new gun owners the practice they need to handle their weapons safely.

“We have had a number of firearms instructors cancel their registration to our courses because their agency was short on ammo or they were unable to find ammo to purchase,” said Jason Wuestenberg, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association.

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ADVERTISEMENTDoug Tangen, firearms instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the police academy for the state, said the academy also has had trouble obtaining ammo.“A few months ago, we were at a point where our shelves were nearly empty of 9mm ammunition,” he said. In response, instructors took conservation steps like reducing the number of shots fired per drill, which got them through several months until fresh supplies arrived, Tangen said.

Officer Larry Hadfield, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said his department also has been affected by the shortage. “We have made efforts to conserve ammunition when possible,” he said.The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, says more than 50 million people participate in shooting sports in the U.S. and estimates that 20 million guns were sold last year, with 8 million of those sales made by first-time buyers.

“When you talk about all these people buying guns, it really has an impact on people buying ammunition,” spokesman Mark Oliva said. ”If you look at 8.4 million gun buyers and they all want to buy one box with 50 rounds, that’s going to be 420 million rounds.”

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System database also documented an increase in sales: In 2010, there were 14.4 million background checks for gun purchases. That jumped to almost 39.7 million in 2020 and to 22.2 million just through June 2021 alone.

The actual number of guns sold could be much higher since multiple firearms can be linked to a single background check. No data is available for ammunition because sales are not regulated and no license is required to sell it.ADVERTISEMENTAs the pandemic raced across the country in early 2020, the resulting lockdown orders and cutbacks on police response sowed safety fears, creating an “overwhelming demand” for both guns and ammo, Oliva said. Factories continued to produce ammunition, but sales far exceeded the amount that could be shipped, he said.

“Where there is an increased sense of instability, fear and insecurity, more people will purchase guns,” said Ari Freilich of the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.As supplies dwindled, Feilich said, some gun owners began stockpiling ammo.“Early on in the pandemic, we saw people hoarding toilet paper, disinfectant, and now it’s ammo,” he said.

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Wustenberg emphasized the danger in first-time gun buyers not being able to practice using their new weapons.Going to the gun range entails more than trying to hit a target, he said. It’s where shooters learn fundamental skills like always pointing their guns in a safe direction and keeping their fingers off the trigger until they’re ready to fire.

“It’s that old adage: Just because you buy a guitar doesn’t mean you’re a guitar player,” Wustenberg said. “Some have the misconception of ‘I shot this target 5 yards away and did just fine so I’m OK if someone breaks into my house.’ You’ve got to go out and practice with it.”

The U.S. military is not affected by the shortage because the Army produces ammunition for all branches of the military at six sites across the country, according to Justine Barati, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command.The U.S. shooting team, which won four medals at the Tokyo Olympics, also had the ammo needed to train thanks to a commitment from sponsors, but membership and junior programs have struggled, said Matt Suggs, chief executive officer for USA Shooting.

The U.S. Biathlon team, training for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, also has been supplied with ammo from its sponsor, Lapua, made in Finland. But local clubs face shortages, said Max Cobb, president of U.S. Biathlon Association.Jason Vanderbrink, a vice president at Vista Outdoor, which owns the Federal, CCI, Speer and Remington ammunition brands, said the companies are shipping ammo as fast as they can make it.

“I’m tired of reading the misinformation on the internet right now about us not trying to service the demand that we’re experiencing,” he said in a YouTube video produced for customers aimed at quashing speculation suggesting otherwise.Imports of ammunition from Russia, South Korea, the European Union and others were up 225% over the past two years, according to an analysis by Panjiva Inc., which independently tracks global trade. But at least some U.S.-made ammo is heading out of the country.

Winchester has logged 107 shipments since January 2020, according to Panjiva. Most went to Australia to fulfill a contract Winchester secured with NIOA, the country’s largest small-arms supplier. Nigel Everingham, NIOA’s chief operating officer, said he could not disclose how much ammo Winchester is supplying.

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A few shipments also went to Belgium and Israel.Meanwhile, most of the ammunition pictured on the website for Champion’s Choice, a gun store in LaVergne, Tennessee, is listed as “out of stock.”“We keep ammo on order but we’re not sure when it’s going to come available, “sales manager Kyle Hudgens said. “It does put us in a bad position with our customers. They’re asking what the deal is.”

And Bryan Lookabaugh at Renton Fish & Game’s skeet and trap range in Renton, Washington -- where shooters try to hit discs flying at 35 to 70 mph -- said the limited availability means fewer people show up for shooting practice and some couldn’t participate in a recent competition.

“We have not had a full shipment in a year,” he said.Duane Hendrix, the range master at the Seattle Police Athletic Association, a police and civilian gun range in Tukwila, Washington, said he now limits ammo sales to two boxes per customer.“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Hendrix said. “There’s stuff we can’t get, especially rifle ammo. If you don’t have ammo for your customers, there’s no point in having your doors open.”

Read more: The Associated Press »

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What agencies are cutting back? Did Andy take Barneys bullet away again in Mayberry? Doubtful large agencies have issues in obtaining ammo. Citizens don't have the buying power. Maybe time to form Ammo Club Co-Ops? 😩 that’s the most american thing: there’s a deadly virus? better buy more guns! Killing living creatures shouldn’t be considered a sport and most hunters aren’t hunting because they need the food or fur for warmth. A true hunter can use a bow and arrow or sling shot or fishing rod and hooks.

A nation of paranoid numbskulls. America and its love fest for guns, just one more way to self-destruct. So, should I infer that rather than stocking up on masks to combat COVID, a significant number of people were stocking up on weapons against a disease that cannot be killed by bullets? I've been able to buy 1200 rounds of 9mm for a good price the past month or two. It's slowly starting to come back.

We should tax the hell out of ammunition and make it traceable. Since we can’t seem to do anything else to curb gun violence in this country, we should at least make it really gd expensive and at least as much hassle as mowing down a dozen innocent people. Yes but wild Willie down the road has 10,000 9mm shells and no 9mm pistol. Go figure that out

This happened right before the MAGA terror attack on 1/6. They said they were going to STORM again, just as they warned the first time with the 'STAND BY' order. Don't listen when Insurgents mock America for being awoken. Wake up & defend the USA.

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Sounds like exactly what law enforcement needs, less firearms training. Been able to find 9mm easy the last 4 weeks. Think it's over. Price was reasonable as well. Is Obama still coming for their guns? Sounds like it would open up a few positions in law enforcement for full time reloaders. 60% are expecting a civil war against the Markist/left in this nation and those politicians look out

AKA: Hording Gun happy Americans 🤔 I mean ammo prices are high. But where I’m from I’ve not seen a super shortage. I’ve still been able to buy loads just at a higher cost, thus making it so you don’t want to practice je decone juste pour vous dire stop aux armes 🙏🕊️ Solid strategy. Shoot down the virus. 👍🤦‍♂️

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