Ammo shortage stressing shooters

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D.S. Pledger
Sunday, March 9, 2014

Have you tried to buy .22 rimfire ammunition lately? Good luck! It's not easy to find, and the situation doesn't seem like it's going to get a lot better for the foreseeable future.

For those readers who are not shooters, the .22 rimfire is America's “fun gun.” It has no recoil, doesn't make much noise and is great for formal target shooting, plinking cans and hunting squirrel and rabbit. The ubiquitous .22 has been around forever and is not some new high-demand gun where ammo availability sometimes lags behind new buyers.

I stopped at Milton's Thunder Shooting Supply last week to see if the store might have some .22 rounds in. They had, but every box had been sold within 24 hours. I also checked out a number of other stores in the Janesville area that carry ammunition. The answer was always the same:

“We got some in a little while ago, but it disappeared as fast as we could get it on the shelf.”

Many stores are limiting the amount a customer can purchase.

“It's one box to a customer here,” Thunder owner Reno Garthwait told me, “because we want as many of our customers as possible to be able to get some.” Even with that limit, the small shipment flew off the shelf, and customers kept coming in days later to see if there was any left.

Why rationing? Like any scarce commodity, when people find it, they want to buy up the whole lot. And it's those guys who want to buy it all who are actually causing the shortage. They're hoarders, and most of them are sitting on more boxes than they could possibly use. Some individuals are said to have many thousands of rounds squirreled away, and they still are on the lookout for more.

Even worse are the opportunists. These guys will buy up whatever they can get their hands on and then sell it at inflated prices at gun shows. While the price of a box of 100 .22s has gone up from perhaps $5 a few years ago to three times that much now, the ammo opportunist will jack up the price astronomically.

One gun-show patron claimed to have seen someone offering a box of 100 CCI mini-mags for an outrageous $75. Other gougers are now selling it by the bullet, rather than the box, hawking bullets by the dozen in plastic sandwich bags.

Unfortunately, things aren't going to get a lot better any time soon. One dealer I talked to reported a factory rep from Winchester told him not to expect anything near a normal supply of .22 ammo for the next two years. Likewise, Reno told me that his ammo suppliers won't be filling his 2014 orders until 2015, and even then he can expect only partials.

“And I have to make those orders for at least $10,000 to get anything” he added. “Otherwise they'll be ignored.”

If there was a shortage of 5.56 centerfire ammo (fodder for the so-called but erroneously labeled “assault rifles”), one might have suspicions about why the supply is drying up, but why the .22?

As nearly as anyone can tell, including the manufacturers, it simply goes back to a seemingly insatiable level of “customer demand.”

Are you one of those who is buying everything you can lay your hands on and then selling it for jacked-up prices? If so, you might think of yourself as a savvy businessman taking advantage of the law of supply and demand, but 99 percent of your fellow shooters have a different take on you.

They think you're a jerk—a greedy bozo who is making a problem infinitely worse than it really has to be.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net

Last updated: 11:13 am Sunday, March 9, 2014

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