Hunters looking to prepare for the upcoming season with a little target practice may need to reconsider what they're loading into their guns. Small caliber ammunition, especially .22s, are nearly impossible to find and there seems to be no end to the shortage.
Some local retailers say 500-round bricks of .22 shells that once sold for roughly $20 now can go for upwards of $75—but that assumes the shells even arrive from distributors. It has been months since most local small businesses have received any .22 shells. The big box stores usually get a shipment once a week but it's a very small amount.
Kris Bonner, owner of Accu-Arms on Third Street, says his trouble stocking .22s started last summer. He had placed his annual order of 1,000 boxes in January thinking he'd be fine.
"But once people knew I was selling them for $17 a box, people rushed in and bought me out completely," he says. "Then my order didn't get here until November and it was only a third of what I asked for."
Demand is high across the munitions spectrum, but it's especially bad in small calibers. Handy for target practice and varmint hunting, .22s are one of the most popular calibers on the market. But unlike its larger counterparts, its used shells can't be reloaded.
While there are rumors of the federal government manipulating ammunition supplies, local shop owners attribute the demand to general fears over more gun regulations. The result is a demand that manufacturers can't keep up with.
"We saw demand surge when Obama was elected, then it calmed down for a little while, but it jumped even higher after the shooting in Sandy Hook," says Tobey McGuirl, owner of Outdoor Supply & Rental on Brooks Street. "The manufacturers are working 24/7 to try and meet demands but people are buying in bulk and hoarding."
Sportsman's Warehouse receives ammo shipments every Friday, but their .22 shells usually sell within 30 minutes of hitting the shelves. Customers are only allowed three 100-round boxes or one 500-round box.
Bonner at Accu-Arms says his shipments arrive periodically, but the rounds are sold before they're unpacked.
"I have a waiting list of customers specifically for .22s," Bonner says. "After being in business for 25 years, I've never had trouble with my supplies. It's unreal."