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Does the quest for ammo have you down?
Wilson County NewsJune 12, 2013 | 7,025 views | 10 comments
In the not-so-distant past, my hunting buddies and I joked that “tires and ammunition” would be prized commodities one day, that they would be traded with regularity for sacks of wheat and bushels of corn. In a Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic world, those of us with ammo and treads would be well-prepared to barter for essential rations.
We would survive.
OK, so maybe we had a little to drink that night, and perhaps we let our imaginations get the best of us -- or did we? Tires may still be in strong supply, but have you tried to buy ammunition in the last six months? If so, did you have any success?
I don’t know that historians will see it the same way I do, but I’m not referring to the current situation as the great ammunition shortage of 2013. For fellow hunters, shooters, and firearm owners, the search for ammo is all but a true quest these days. Sure, it may not be of legendary proportion quite like Sir Galahad and his quest for the Holy Grail, or Frodo Baggins in his journey to destroy The One Ring, but finding and purchasing ammo is nowhere near as easy as it used to be. It’s a challenge, and it’s frustrating.
If and when a fellow adventurer finds ammo in stock, he or she should no longer expect to be able to clear the shelves. Most retailers have limited customers to just one box per caliber, with a three-box total limit. So what are we to do?
As it turns out, the shelves aren’t always so empty, at least not if you know where to look.
I think it’s fair to say that most people have become accustomed to buying their ammo at big-box retailers. The common calibers were always available, and the prices were among the cheapest anywhere. Unfortunately, the limited supplies arriving at these stores are being promptly snatched up by those with an “inside track,” and/or by those far more committed than myself. I was told by one shopper at a big-box store that you have to check with the guy in sporting goods a couple times each week to find out when they come in, and when they are going to put the ammo out. Then, you have to show up at the 24-hour store at about 3 or 4 in the morning.
“If you don’t get here until 5, it will probably all be gone,” he told me.
At other big-box sporting goods stores, an employee told me they have lines outside each morning before the store opens, and the wait is simply to snatch up the ammo. Due to box limitations, they bring their spouses, neighbors, or friends, and buy everything they can.
So why are they doing this? What can they possibly be doing with all that ammo? Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. They are selling it.
To call this new ammo trade a “black market” may not be technically correct, as the products are legal, but it feels pretty much the same. They have what you want, but you can’t buy it at a store. You have to find them through the Internet, at a gun show, or “through a friend who knows a guy,” and then you end up paying two or three times the sticker price to take it home.
In addition, there are legitimate online retailers who seem to me to be taking advantage of customers, as well. One such company that has been around for many years sent my friend a weekly ad. I was shocked to see, however, that a 100-round box of 9mm full-metal jacket target ammo was selling for nearly $80. A year ago that same box of ammo was about $20. Needless to say, we will never again make a purchase from that retailer.
But don’t despair -- there is another option.
Because of the pricing and perceived convenience of shopping at big-box stores, most of us lose track of another good source -- our local gun shops. While their prices are often higher than a national retail chain, it is to be expected, as they don’t move anywhere near the volume. They may order a case of something, while the big guys order an entire truck of the same thing. But there is an interesting dynamic at work here.
The supply is limited; we all know that. While the manufacturers are making it as quickly as they can, the distributors are starting to feed more supply to smaller shops, as their profitability is better there, too. That means that the smaller dealers, like your local gun shop, are actually having moderate success at getting ammunition in stock. Some shops may be looking for a quick buck in all of this, but not all are.
In Floresville, Fred Ohnesorge of Acme Guns & Gear is one shop trying to do his customers right. While he does have limits on how many boxes each customer can buy per day, he is trying to be flexible, and he is holding his prices at standard margins.
“Ammo will continue to be difficult to find for the next 12-18 months, per the manufacturers,” he told me. “This is what the guys who make the ammo tell us.”
Well, isn’t that just great?
Fred says that handgun ammunition remains the hottest commodity, as every auto and revolver cartridge is in demand. Rifle rounds in 5.56mm and 7.62mm are also in high demand, as shooters look to stock up on rounds for their ARs, AKs, and other “evil guns.” OK, yes, that was just my personal jab at the gun haters out there.
So if you need ammo, and who doesn’t these days, consider shopping locally. The prices are going to be higher than they were a year ago, and may seem unusually high if the last thing you bought was a box of shotgun shells in 1998, but odds are they will have, or can get, what you need. Fred is a hunter, too, and he is encouraging other hunters to let him know what ammo they need for the upcoming seasons by manufacturer, caliber, bullet type, and weight. He said he would do his best to get what folks need. He is also going to do the best he can for his customers on the price, a nice gesture in this day and age.
“Acme Guns & Gear believes that in the long run, when things return to normal, customers will remember who gouged them and who didn’t,” Fred told me. “We are in this for the long haul and appreciate and value our customers too greatly to take advantage of them for short term gains. We are all in this together.”
Thanks, Fred, I appreciate that. I’ll be in later.
So whether you buy from Fred in Floresville, J. Earl Bridges over in La Vernia, or any of the other local small shops in and around Wilson County, I wish you luck in your quest. Hopefully, we will all survive the great ammo shortage of 2013 and be back in the field and on the range with our firearms soon. In the meantime, if anyone has or needs tires, let me know.
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