Ammo shortage eases as ‘panic buying’ fades

Idaho manufacturers have profited from feverish demand in recent years.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comAugust 24, 2013 

President Barack Obama might be the greatest ammunition salesman of all time, said Jon Anson, a director of the Idaho Firearms and Accessories Manufacturers Association.

Ammo has been harder to find since Obama took office in 2008. Stores across the nation struggled to keep their most common calibers in stock as gun enthusiasts stockpiled firearms and bullets.

The shelves were bare at times, especially after Obama’s re-election in 2012 and the December shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Hoarding has become common, said Kayla Cuellar, director of Valiant Firearms &Ammunition in Twin Falls.

“Everybody knows people who have stuffed ammunition somewhere,” Cuellar said. “I know extreme hoarders who dig holes out in the desert.”

Gun enthusiasts are beginning to feel either adequately armed or confident that they’ll be able to buy ammo down the road, Anson said.

“I won’t say we’re over it, but supplies are slightly coming back,” Anson said. “The panic buying has subsided. It’s not increasing, anyhow. Many manufacturers have increased their build rate, such as ATK in Lewiston, to help the supply.”

ATK Sporting Group manufactures ammunition in Lewiston and elsewhere around the nation.

The shortage has been harder on consumers than producers. The increased demand has driven up prices more than 30 percent and more than $1 per round of many calibers. Cuellar said a day of tactical shooting at the range used to cost her $40 in ammunition. Today it costs her $75, so she goes half as often to save money.

Cuellar says Valliant, which makes training ammunition and offers firearms training, sells as much ammunition as it can assemble. However, the components — bullets, powder and primer — have increased an average of 32 percent and as much as 41 percent for some calibers. Brass is hard to find, especially high-quality bullets.

“I can’t just call my supplier and get components every month,” Cuellar said. “I have to shop around. It’s scrounging.”

The shortage has limited Valiant’s production but not its profits. Cuellar said the company is enjoying its best sales year ever and perhaps its most profitable one, too.

Idaho’s biggest ammunition makers, such as ATK and CCI in North Idaho, don’t face component shortages because they make their own, Anson said.

The big makers have increased production in response to the shortage, he said, but only to a point. That’s because the ammo makers have memories long enough to remember the spike in demand when President Bill Clinton’s administration threatened to limit the shelf life of primer, and they remember how demand slackened when Clinton left office.

“We know this is a boom-and-bust cycle,” Anson said. “Manufacturers have invested. It’s been significant. But they aren’t willing to invest another $100 million to fill that demand only to have it drop off.”

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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