Gun shops are running low on ammunition from a run by customers fearful of potential gun-control legislation, according to gun retailers and customers.
Prices have more than doubled over past year in some shops, retailers are putting limits on the amount a customer can buy, and some common types of ammunition, such as .22-caliber long rifle shells, are hard to get.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents ammunition makers, retailers, hunters and sport shooters, attributes what it calls "spot shortages" around the country to rising popularity of sport-shooting and hunting, and to people who are "keeping firearms for personal and home defense."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December reported recently that hunting license sales were up 9% from 2006 to 2011, reversing a 25-year decline. Michael Hampton, Jr., executive director of the National Skeet Shooting Association and the National Sporting Clays Association, says participation in those sports, which includes up to 4 million participants in each sport, is growing 3-5% annually.
But retailers say much of the demand is from gun owners who are stockpiling in case certain weapons are banned, who believe that economic chaos may be coming, or who are driven by rumors of inevitable background checks or rising taxes on ammunition. Gun sellers and owners say a run on ammunition began shortly after President Obama was re-elected, and has intensified in the gun-violence debate since the December mass killing of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn.
"We absolutely are in uncharted territory," said Larry Hyatt, of the family-owned Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C.. "Our store is 53 years old, and we have never seen anything like this. We have had some spot shortages and busy gun times in the past. This is a level (of demand) never before seen."
He adds: "The political turmoil is intensifying it. People feel like this administration is very anti-gun, and they are going for the legal gun owner." Among the rumors he hears, he says, are that taxes on ammunition are going up and that background checks for ammunition purchases are coming.
"Whether true or not, this information is out there, and people are getting it while they can," Hyatt says.
He is limiting sales of .22-caliber to one box, and is running low on everything from holsters to cleaning brushes.
Mike Wastler, manager of Bart's Sports World in Glen Burnie, Md. says he is also having trouble getting guns and ammunition from manufacturers who are "producing 24/7."
He says that even before Obama's re-election there was rising demand from people worried about economic chaos. Sales "went crazy" after Obama proposed banning assault weapons, he says
Wastler says certain types of .22 shells are "non-existent" in his store, and that others, like 9 mm, and .40 and .45 caliber are "very, very short." So are replacements parts for guns, he says.