Local retailers say ammunition shortage easing, but quantities still limited

Competitive shooter Michelle Jochum loads a clip with fresh ammunition into her pistol while moving from target to target during the 2013 United States Practical Shooting Association Single Stack Nationals this month at PASA Park in Barry. (H-W Photo)
Posted: May. 20, 2013 10:14 am Updated: Jun. 3, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Ammunition sales at local sporting goods stores have slowed in recent weeks, but retailers are not ready to relax limits on how much a customer can purchase.

"It's starting to lighten up. Demand seems to be softening a bit," Don Taylor, a co-owner of GameMasters in Quincy, said.

Taylor said ammunition sales spiked in January as Congress was debating gun control measures. There was a national run on .22-caliber long rifle cartridges, munitions for 9 mm and other handguns, and other types of ammo.

Yvonne Thomas, manager of the Wal-Mart store in Hannibal, Mo., agrees that the pace of buying eased from what she saw a few weeks ago.

"For a while, we had people waiting in lines if they knew we had a shipment in. We had to limit quantities so more people could get what they needed," Thomas said.

Demand for ammunition has been on the rise nationally.

Winchester Ammunition's Web page cites "extremely high demand for our products" and assures visitors that the company is trying to produce an increased supply of quality ammunition.

Taylor agrees that congressional debate about gun and ammunition magazines bans fueled part of the rush to buy ammo. He also sees positive developments boosting demand.

"I do feel the shooting sports are in a growth process," Taylor said.

The National Shooting Sports Federation has found anecdotal evidence to support Taylor's opinion. According to a national survey of firearms retailers, 84 percent of the outlets reported that sales in 2012 were up from the previous year. Retailers reported that 25.8 percent of customers were first-time buyers, and 78.6 percent of the retailers said more women are coming into their stores.

Taylor said Illinois residents are watching to see what form of concealed-carry law will be adopted by the Legislature or imposed by courts. That could boost firearm and ammunition sales even more.

John Boeing, president of the Quincy Pistol and Rifle Club, is glad the club bought two cases of .22-caliber long rifle ammo a few months ago. Some of those 10,000 rounds will be around when the club resumes Tuesday night shooting leagues. Boeing also wonders whether inflated prices for ammo will hit the club.

"I think it will take several months" for the demand and supply to balance out, Boeing said.

"Once people get enough, it will slow down and the stock will build back up and the run will be over."

Boeing said the prices of reloading supplies -- bullets, brass, lead, smokeless powder and primers -- also have risen in recent months. Shooters with centerfire arms often reload brass cartridges and shotgun shells. Reloading usually usually offers a cost saving over purchased ammo. It also lets shooters tailor special loads.

Taylor has been through frenzy buying sessions before. He said it can happen in any retail market when people perceive that supplies are short.

"This can happen for milk or bread or ammo," Taylor said.