(Jeff Bahr) Many area residents agree that store shelves are short of certain types of ammunition — and have been for more than a year.
The explanations for the shortage differ. At a gun show over the weekend at the Ramkota Hotel, a couple of hunters said they believe ammo manufacturers are producing as much as they ever did.
“The only shortage is on the shelves. People are still in panic mode, still buying stuff,” said Dave Soehren of Appleton, Minn.
Gun sales and related activity took off more than a year ago, following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.
The ammo shortage is the result of supply and demand, said SoDak Sports co-owner A.J. Hoffman, who was interviewed at his store.
After the Sandy Hook fatalities, federal officials started talking about gun control and other issues, said Hoffman, explaining whenever there is an increase in gun sales, there is an increase in ammo sales.
Some people at the Dakota Territory Gun Collectors Association attributed the shortage to hoarding by outdoorsmen. Others suggested that federal officials are working with some retailers to limit the amount of cartridges available to the public.
At SoDak Sports, the cartridge in shortest supply is the .22 long rifle.
“We manage to keep it on the shelf, but we do limit it,” Hoffman said.
Usually, the policy is a brick per customer. The most common brick totals 500 rounds.
The shortage of .22 cartridges, which are used for handguns and rifles, doesn’t involve game hunting. Those weapons are commonly used in “plinking,” the nickname for general target shooting. In addition to target practice and indoor leagues, they’re also used to shoot varmints and for trapping, Hoffman said.
Several other kinds of ammo are in short supply, if not missing from stores altogether.
Cory Appl, the sporting goods manager of Ken’s Shell Express, said customers are also looking for .17 HMR, a rimfire rifle cartridge for the Hornady Magnum Rimfire, and .22 Magnum ammo. Ken’s hasn’t had any .22 Magnum cartridges in months, and it’s also been a while since the store has stocked .17 HMR, he said.
Five to 20 customers a day come in asking about .22 ammunition, Appl said. The last big load of .22 longs that Ken’s received — 80 boxes — was in October. Those were gone in a day and a half, Appl said.
There’s also sometimes an issue holding on to .243 Winchester and .22-250 Remingtons, Appl said.
Many visit Dunham’s each week, looking for .22 long cartridges.
A lot of hunters come in on Tuesday while the delivery truck is unloading, said Sandra Murphy, one of the store’s managers.
Murphy said Dunham’s also sees strong demand for the .17 HMR, the .22-250 and the .243. The popularity of the latter was strong during hunting season because it’s a popular deer round, she said.
A year ago, .223 Remington cartridges were hard to find, Murphy said.
In looking for ammo, lots of guys use the buddy system, Hoffman said. If they find the cartridges they want, they’ll pick some up for their friend.
“Ammo in general, as a whole, is very tough to get,” Hoffman said.
Dunham’s also has limits on its ammo. Customers may buy four individual boxes, two case packs or one bulk pack. A case pack contains a certain number of boxes within one carton. A bulk pack consists of 200 or more rounds in a single box.
Recently, SoDak Sports received a shipment of rifle ammo that was not .22.
“We sold out in 14 days,” Hoffman said.
While SoDak Sports has a pretty good selection of ammo on hand, it’s still tough to keep it coming in.
“Buying in bigger volume helps,” said Hoffman, adding that he thinks the ammo shortage will probably continue for another year or two.