The high cost and scarcity of ammunition has become a frequent topic of conversation among area dealers, members of sporting clubs and gun enthusiasts, with some saying the market is unlike anything they’ve seen in many years.
Gene Weishuhn, business manager of the Sandusky County Sportsmen’s Club, said club members are seeing shortages and skyrocketing prices for several types of ammunition.
“One of the most common and plentiful of the cartridges used to be the .22 long rifle which would sell for around $18 to $22 a brick (500 rounds). It now sells for $35 for the same quantity if you can find it,” he said. “And some members report prices in excess of $55 per brick. Any of the more popular calibers are simply not to be had. Almost all the handgun calibers - .357, 9 millimeter, .40 caliber, .45 automatic, .380 and .22 are hard to find. Rifle calibers such as the 7.62 by 39, the .556, .223, and .308 are scarce and expensive.”
Reloading materials and equipment are also in short supply, Weishuhn said.
|Richard Meek of R&D collectibles.
(Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
Steve Poiry, an officer with the Lake Township Police Department who recently closed his business as a gun dealer, said a “perfect storm” of sorts hit the gun and ammunition sectors late last year.
Stories of the federal government committing to major ammunition purchases circulated through a market that was already trending upward, he said.
In addition, the bulk prices of the metals and powder used to manufacture ammunition had also been rising.
“You had all three happening at the same time,” Poiry said, adding he expects it will take almost a year for the market to get back to normal. “I’ve never seen 100 percent empty shelves in the major retailers like you see now.”
Less than two years ago, the police department could purchase 900 rounds of .223 ammunition for under than $300, including delivery. Today, the price is nearing $900.
Richard Meek, owner of R&D Collectibles, Gun Sales, and Accessories, in Northwood, said the shortage is the worst he’s seen in his 18 years in the business.
“Handgun ammo, 9 millimeter, .40s, .45s, are all pretty much gone, with 9s the biggest shortage,” he said. “There are no .22s. Everybody is looking for .22 and 9 millimeter ammo and there is just none available. My suppliers tell me they get one case here and there.”
Even large retailers are feeling the pinch.
The Bass Pro Shops website includes the following disclaimer on its ammunition page:
“Due to the significant increase in demand for ammunition, Bass Pro Shops has implemented a limit on certain types of ammunition and cartridge components to fairly serve the needs of our customers. Regrettably, this temporary limit will affect the quantities of some items and the ability to purchase from certain locations.”
Sections of shelves at the Bass Pro store in Rossford were bare Wednesday morning. The department manager referred questions to the store’s general manager, who did not respond to email requests for comment.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said his department hasn’t experienced problems procuring ammunition.
“My understanding is that the ammunition companies have significantly increased production and shortages should be ending soon,” he said.
Northwood Police Chief Tom Cairl said his department several years ago began purchasing ammunition about a year in advance and hasn’t had supply problems.
Responding to a request from Senator Tom Coburn (R- Oklahoma), the Department of Homeland Security in November provided information on the number of rounds it’s purchased the past three fiscal years and its planned purchases for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
According to those figures, the department estimates it will purchase about $37.26 million worth of ammunition in fiscal 2013 for its member agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, National Protection and Programs Directorate/Federal Protective Service and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
That’s more than last year but less than was spent in 2011 and 2010.
In fiscal 2012, the DHS spent about $36.5 million to buy 103.2 million rounds. It purchased about 108.6 million rounds for $38.2 million in fiscal 2011 and in fiscal 2010 it spent just under $48 million to buy 148.3 million rounds.
Customs and Border Protection accounted for the largest share in each of the years, averaging just under $14 million worth of ammunition.
The DHS informed Sen. Coburn it had a total of about 263.7 million rounds in its agencies’ collective inventory as of Nov. 20 of last year. That included 94.4 million held by the CBP, 42.3 million by ICE, 70.2 million the Coast Guard, 29.9 million by TSA, 18.8 million by the training center, and 2.5 million by the NPPD/FPS.
Many of the agencies use the majority of their designated ammunition for training and certification purposes.
A white paper issued by the DHS Office of Legislative Affairs last month, describes the contracts the department uses to purchase ammunition from suppliers as “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity” with various caps of up to five years.
“These contracts are not purchases, but rather lock in the price, specifications, delivery costs and other requirements for the period of performance,” the paper says.
The largest of the contracts are for .40 caliber and .223 Remington, and have a duration of five years for 450 million and 164 million rounds respectively.
“In 2008 and 2009, DHS completed and awarded three contracts for .40 caliber ammunition… with ceilings totaling 466 million rounds over five years,” the paper says, noting the DHS’ purchases of ammunition have remained relatively constant since 2006.
Slightly more than a year ago, Alliant Techsystems, a major supplier of munitions to the federal government, announced it had been awarded a contract with the Department of Homeland Security for .40 caliber ammunition.
The agreement has a base of 12 months and includes four option years and a maximum volume of 450 million rounds, according to the company.
Deliveries were to start last June.
And this past December, the company announced a contract with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation for .40 caliber rounds. That contract, which is for duty and training ammunition, has a maximum value of $75 million and also a 12-month base and four option years.
Deliveries were to begin later that month.