Struggling to reload 

Dwindling supply and historic demand have left ammunition shelves bare at local sports retailers. With ammo profit margins through the roof, the story reads the same nationwide: Gun nuts are stockpiling.

“I think a lot of this started six or seven months ago when people saw the supply dwindling,” says Rich Marcella, hunting manager at Sportsman’s Warehouse. “Everybody kind of hit the panic button. Everybody just bought whatever they could.”

Marcella, a five-year gun counter veteran, says 9mm cartridges and other handgun ammunition are selling fastest. Customers who might normally buy one box now eye four. Marcella has seen a simultaneous increase in Glock, Kimber and Springfield-brand handgun sales.

“I’ve never even seen it this close to being this bad,” Marcella says.

Nor has Sportsman’s Surplus owner Terry Brady. In 40 years selling ammunition in Missoula, he’s never seen a run this dramatic.

“Right now, we’re getting it from wherever we can get it,” Brady says. “In fact, we’ve even had to buy some from customers. That’s very much a first.”

Brady received an order of ammunition just last week, one he’d placed in December. When he called to place another, he was told it couldn’t be filled until September.

With such increased demand, gun and ammunition profits have skyrocketed. Smith and Wesson recently reported a third-quarter profit increase of 29.9 percent over third-quarter profits last year.

The running theory on the increase credits President Barack Obama’s election and concern among gun enthusiasts that the administration would increase gun control. Marcella doesn’t know the exact cause, but says ammunition manufacturers are backordered for four to six months. He’s confident shelves will fill up again. It’s simply a question of when.

“It could be three months down the road,” he says, “it could be a year down the road.”
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