The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Drew Lawson
The Journal 

Ammo shortfall result of rising gun sales, virus shutdowns


Last updated 9/24/2020 at 11:28am

DAVENPORT – Gun owners anticipating the fall hunting season or hoping to get in some target practice are having more difficulty than normal acquiring the ammunition necessary to operate their firearms.

National media reported in early August that gun sales in 2020 had already surpassed sales in 2019, but the available ammo stock wasn’t keeping pace.

Area firearms dealers say there are several possible reasons for an ammo shortage.

Mainly, the COVID-19 fallout caused a spike in gun sales, with ammo sales struggling to keep up.

“COVID is getting everybody worried, so they want to buy more ammo,” Jonn Chapman of Davenport Sporting Goods said. “You’ve got all these new buyers coming on who’ve never owned before, and they’re getting worried so they’re buying new guns and ammo.”

Chapman added that the combination of new buyers needing ammo and longtime gun owners deciding they need to stock up “breaks the system.”

“People panic every time there’s uncertainty in people’s safety,” Chapman said. “You see all these blasts where people want to buy (ammo).”

Because Davenport Sporting Goods is a small store compared to larger chains like Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse, they experience the shortfall more negatively, Chapman added.

“We carry just enough inventory to stock the shelves, (so) we might’ve been pinched a little sooner than some of the bigger stores that have pallets of ammunition in the back,” Chapman said. “We run out pretty quickly when we can’t restock, because we only buy enough that we can fit on the shelves.”

He added that the week prior to the state’s 40-day shutdown in March is when the store started to feel the effects of a spiking ammunition demand.

“Once we opened back up, we were empty pretty darn quick,” Chapman said.

Davenport Sporting Goods re-opened in June when Lincoln County advanced to Phase 2 of the state’s re-opening plan.

Bi-Mart in Cheney is experiencing a shortage in ammunition for rifles and handguns alike, but employees related that they are not informed on why there is an ammo shortage.

However, assistant manager Jason Taylor suspects one reason for an ammo shorftall is that COVID-19 caused the shutdown of mines and manufacturing plants that produce materials needed for bullets.

“I have a friend who works at a copper mine in Utah,” Taylor said. “COVID shut them down for months.”

Chapman said his store is seeing a lull in manufacturing across the board, not just with ammunition material.

“Even in getting the parts for guns (we’re seeing the trend),” Chapman said. “When you have all these shutdowns happening, it does put a burden on reproducing products to fill the need, so that’s definitely part of the problem.”

He added that the second trend staff at Davenport Sporting Goods that relates to the ammo demand and resulting shortfall is tied to politics, as civil unrest rises in a presidential election year.

“Leading up to a year where one of your candidates is saying, ‘hey, if Congress doesn’t take your guns in the first 100 days, then I will,’ you’re going to continue to see people panic buying, even though there’s nothing left to buy,” Chapman said. “You’ll see people start buying anything. Doesn’t matter if (they) shoot that caliber; if it’s on the shelf, they’re going to buy it.”

Demand for 9 mm handgun ammunition is the highest around Eastern Washington and North Idaho, where retailers lucky enough to have some in stock are often limiting purchases to just two boxes.

That ammo is in high demand at Davenport Sporting Goods, too, according to Chapman, followed by 5.56 and .223 caliber ammo.

Chapman said he hopes that people will stop “panic buying” ammunition. He thinks that will help get the inventory back to a normal mark sooner.

“As long as people keep buying everything as soon as it shows up, it’s going to be a struggle to get back to normal,” Chapman said. “We’re trying to talk to our customers and say, ‘Do you have 9 mm (ammunition) at home? If so, leave some on the shelves for people that are first-time buyers’…if people would be considerate of each other, we might get out of this downward spiral a little sooner.”


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