‘Pure supply and demand’: Peninsula retailers feel pinch of nation’s ammunition shortage
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Bob Aunspach, sporting goods buyer for Swain’s General Store in Port Angeles, stands next to shelves of ammunition. Several varieties are out of stock. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store in Port Angeles gets the same question every day: “Do you have .22 ammunition?”

For Aunspach and other sporting goods retailers around the nation, the answer is typically no.

And when a shipment of rimfire ammunition hits the shelves, the stock “won’t make it through the day,” he said.

Ammunition distributors on the North Olympic Peninsula say the insatiable demand for ammunition, particularly .22-caliber pistol and long-rifle rounds, continues well into its second year.

“It started right after the Sandy Hook shooting,” Aunspach said, referring to the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which heightened the national gun control debate.

“Anytime gun legislation is being talked about by the president, it sets off a panic.”

Although .22 ammunition remains hard to come by, demand for rimfire ammo is beginning to subside.

Michael Asbury, owner of Down Range Guns & Gear in Port Hadlock, said a brick of 500 rounds that once cost $20 shot up to nearly $100 after Sandy Hook.

“It’s $60 now, if you can get it,” he said.

Once the supply meets demand, Asbury predicted that 500 rounds of .22 will cost between $30 and $40, probably closer to $40.

“I believe they are trying to find a new price point,” he said.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are lining up at box stores before shipments arrive, he added, saying they buy as much .22 ammunition as they can and sell it online at a markup.

Rimfire refers to ammunition that is fired when the pin strikes the outer rim of the cartridge rather than the center of the cartridge in centerfire ammunition.

Asbury, who has no rimfire in stock, described the shortage as “Capitalism 101.”

“This is pure supply and demand,” he said.

“[Manufacturers] know they can drive the price up.”

Aunspach said the shortage is being driven by a combination of gun control concerns and manufacturers’ contracts with the federal government.

“They all have contracts, and they have to fill them first,” said Aunspach, who has been in the sporting goods business for 30 years and said he has never had such a high demand for .22 ammunition.

“They have government contracts that they have to take care of before the consumer.”

Don Carey, who owned Blue Mountain Gun Works before he left the business four months ago to mine gold, said the No. 1 reason for the rimfire shortage is contracts to “arm up” federal agencies.

“The second reason why we can’t get product is these [manufacturing] corporations are trying to get underneath the ‘Obamacare’ mandate,” Carey said.

“They’ve laid off full-time workers.”

Among federal agencies that have procured ammunition within the past two years are the Social Security Administration, the National Forest Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In national debate, the Department of Homeland Security has been cited as buying up ammunition.

In January, the Government Accountability Office released a report saying Homeland Security’s annual ammunition purchases have declined since fiscal year 2009.

“From fiscal years 2008 through 2013, DHS purchased an average of 109 million rounds of ammunition for training, qualification, and operational needs, according to DHS data,” the report says.

“DHS ammunition purchases are driven primarily by firearm training and qualification requirements,” it added.

Carey predicted that the price of ammunition will come down when President Barack Obama leaves office.

“Everybody is collectively holding their breath,” he said.

Carey said a 500-round brick of .22 ammunition, which should cost about $19, is being sold for about $50 at gun shows.

“It was cheap to shoot, but not anymore,” he said.

Mike Mudd, Swain’s General Store merchandise manager, said that in the face of high demand, manufacturers are producing as much ammunition as they can.

“The vendors we work with are doing their best,” Mudd said.

“But the demand is so great they’re not able to get their deliveries, especially .22, but other calibers as well.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 03. 2014 5:42PM
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