Police concerned about ammo shortages

Some call it The Great Ammo Shortage of 2021.

The shelves at local gun shops are nearly empty, Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said.

A 50 round box of 9mm handgun ammunition purchased from Sportsman’s Outfitters was about $14 a year ago. But now, the Utah-based outdoor sporting goods chain is selling that same box for about $50 – about $1 a round.

While Harris recalls an ammunition shortage for police during peak times of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, “it was nothing like we’re seeing now, as far as the cost increase and the shortage goes.”

Harris says he has no invoice to show how much more CPD is currently pay for ammunition because the order placed last December has not yet arrived. But prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, it only took about a month from order until delivery, he said.

In an effort to respond to the shortage, CPD has changed their brand of ammunition due to availability concerns, Harris said. While city officers traditionally use Magtech ammunition manufactured in Brazil, they are now switching over to Sig Sauer ammo produced in Kentucky, Harris said. Nevertheless, CPD is preparing to place an order for 2022 ammunition within a few weeks.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department purchased its last big order of ammunition during the third quarter of last year, Capt. Brandon Slate said. At that time, the cost was about $10 to $15 more a case, which typically consists of 1,000 rounds. At the time, Slate said it didn’t seem to be a significant increase in prices.

But what the sheriff department noticed recently was the dramatic increase in the amount of time between making the order and receiving the shipment.

“Sometimes, we were able to receive our ammunition within three weeks of making the order,” Slate said. “Now, we are seeing lead times of six to nine months. We’re being told by some vendors to expect at least a 12-month lead time, and for that to continue for at least another year.”

The company that usually supplies Bartholomew County deputies with ammunition is Acme Sports of Seymour, but the department has also been in contact with Kiesler Police Supply in Jeffersonville. Unfortunately, both companies say they have a 12-month lead time between ordering and deliveries, he said.

“I’ve started reaching out to some other distributors, but I really have been getting the same answer,” Slate said.

The Columbus Police Department received its 2020 order of ammunition late last year, so local officers had an adequate supply to get through their recently-completed spring firearms training, Harris said.

City police should have enough ammunition to last through the summer, he said.

“But we’re going to need our 2021 shipment to arrive, or we will start to experience shortages by the fall,” Harris said. “This is not something we’d like to have. It’s something we have to have.”

The sheriff’s office believes there is enough ammunition to last through the end of this year, Slate said. However, deputies are being very conservative with their ammo because nobody knows when the next shipment is going to arrive.

While supply chain disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic may be partly to blame, another problem has been people hoarding ammunition and guns for the past six months, Harris said.

“There has been an increase in firearms purchases,” Harris said. “People are stockpiling them, as well as ammunition, with concerns of possible changes in firearms laws. This impacts the police in getting the products we need to do our jobs.”

Two days before his victory at the polls on Nov. 3, President Joe Biden stated he would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as introduce universal background checks in an effort to confront what he called America’s “gun violence epidemic.”

Immediately after the election, November sales of guns and ammo jumped by 49 percent from the prior year, according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In December, there was a 24 percent increase in year-over-year sales, while January also saw a year-over-year increase of 75.2 percent, the foundation stated.