POCATELLO — Four out of five local weapons and ammunition sellers say shortages caused by government stockpiling, panic buying and hoarding are making it difficult to get stock, and one store now limits purchases to meet local demand.
Arkie Clapier, sporting goods manager at CAL Ranch Store in Pocatello said the store limits the purchase of .22-caliber shells to one brick — 525 rounds — per customer.
“We are in the hoarding mentality,” Clapier said. “Ammo is hard to get and guns are hard to get right now.”
A brick of .22 shells ranges in cost from $19.95 to $24.95 depending on the manufacturer — a cost increase of about $2 and $4 per brick.
“We’ve tried really hard to keep our cost down here at the store,” Clapier said.
Clapier said reloading supplies and equipment is equally scarce and it’s difficult to get some types of revolvers.”
“Gun powder and primer is being allocated for the manufacturers so they can try to catch up,” Clapier said.
Ammoland Shooting and Sports News reports that manufacturers can’t increase production more than 30 to 40 percent without exhausting their suppliers and those suppliers have equal limitations before they max out material suppliers.
While no new gun laws have actually been enacted, Clapier said a small arms treaty has stoked concerns among gun enthusiasts.
Virginia Crockett, co-owner of the Davy Crockett Gun Shop, also in the Gate City, said her last shipment of .22-caliber shells amounted to nine boxes.
“That’s all we could get, .22 shells and #10 black powder caps are non-existent,” Crockett said. “The ammo companies report that they are working 24/7 to catch up.”
Crockett said along with panic buying and hoarding, government stockpiling of ammunition also contributed to the problem.
Last year, Fox News reported that the Department of Homeland Security was buying more than 1 billion rounds of ammunition, that news, combined with expanded gun control legislation proposals set the panic buying in motion.
Federal solicitations to buy ammo, or, strategic sourcing contracts, according to Fox News reports last February, help the government get a lower price for a large purchases.
Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., said the training center and other facilities operated by the Homeland Security Department use about 15 million rounds per year on shooting ranges and in training exercises.
Dixon said one contract allowed Homeland Security to buy up to 750 million rounds of ammunition over the next five years for its training facility, more than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the training center in 2013.
The rest of the 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition would be purchased by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal government's second largest criminal investigative agency.
Last April, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas, of Oklahoma, introduced a bill to limit the amount of ammunition the government can purchase.
The aim of the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act was to provide transparency and accountability by federal agencies and guarantee citizens access to those resources.
Tucker Bloxham, owner of High Desert Tactical in Pocatello, said most of the ammunition purchased by the federal government was .40-caliber hollow points and those cartridges are still in short supply.
Bloxham said .22-caliber shells are the hardest to purchase in the current market.
“People buy them like they shoot 4,000 rounds a week, when they actually probably shoot 200 rounds a year,” Bloxham said.
Still Bloxham said he doesn’t limit purchases.
“I buy it to sell it and I want it out of the store as soon as possible,” Bloxham said. “If somebody wants to buy everything I have that’s okay with me.”
Bloxham said he got a shipment of four boxes of .22-caliber shells Thursday and they sold immediately. His last shipment was in September, and he said .380 rounds are also hard to find.
Manufacturers have focused production on pistols and Bloxham said that’s contributed to the shortage of revolvers.
“Revolvers are few and far between,” Bloxham said.
When the panic buying and ammunition hoarding started last year, Bloxham said, many shooters turned to reloading their own ammo. That in turn has caused shortages in reloading components.
“I suspect that maybe the manufacturers are doing it to drive prices up,” Bloxham said.
Bloxham said the cost of a box of .22-caliber shells has increased about 400 percent in recent months.
While most Pocatello gun and ammo dealers report shortages, Joe Morrell, owner of Big Ds Gun and Pawn on Main Street, said he has no problem getting supplies.
“You can pretty much get whatever you want,” Morrell said.
Morrell admits that .22 shells and reloading supplies — powder, caps and primer — are in short supply, but he said he has more revolvers in stock than he is able to display.
“Last December there was a problem, it’s a lot better this year,” Morrell said.
Doc Blanchard, owner of Doc’s Gun Barn on Jefferson, said the huge government contracts will be filled at the end of this year’s first quarter, or the middle of the second quarter. So he anticipates the situation will improve.
“I think it will be better then,” Blanchard said. “It won’t be 100 percent, but it will get better.”
Raw materials are currently being used to fill those government contracts.
“Manufacturers are running 24/7 and they can sell everything that they make,” Blanchard said.
“But you have so much machine time and they’re not going to invest in new machines and then be stuck with them when this is over.”
Blanchard said the ammunition shortages caused him to reduce the hours his store is opened, the store is now opened on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm.
“Ammunition is the big concern,” Blanchard said. “You can’t shoot if you don’t have ammo.”
Blanchard said online ammo sales are actually contributing to the local shortage.
“Guys find out when ammunition is delivered at the big box stores, then wait in line and buy everything on the shelves and then sell it online,” Blanchard said.
The demand for assault-style weapons is waning and shooters want self-defense weapons, which are in short supply. Blanchard said he’s turned to alternate vendors and sources to supply his store.
“People asks us how long it takes to order and we say, ‘About 10 seconds, but we can’t say how long it will take to get it,’” Blanchard said.
Blanchard has been in business in Pocatello for 36 years.