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Pandemic, presidential election leads to run on ammunition

Pandemic, presidential election leads to run on ammunition

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The shelves are nearly bare at Gary’s Gun Shop in Sioux Falls.

And as you scour the store for a case of bullets to buy, you’ll likely hear someone comment how hard it is to find ammunition right now.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find ammo in Sioux Falls at all.

Several stores in the city have reported increased sales in ammunition and firearms in 2020, depleting an already short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ammunition sales blew up in March because of COVID-19, said Gary’s Gun Shop assistant manager Nick Meyer. But increased sales stayed steady after riots started in May in response to the death of George Floyd and ahead of the presidential election, the Argus Leader reported.

“Firearms and ammunition and the Second Amendment are all hot topics for election times,” Meyer said, “and it always spurs a little bit of a spree.”

But this year is different.

The gun shop only has 20% of its normal ammunition supply on its shelves, Meyer said.

“Usually, an election year has more of an effect on our inventory, but not this much,” he said.

Nyberg’s Ace on Minnesota Avenue is sold out of 9 mm handgun and .223 and 5.56 rifles due to short supply.

Blue Collar Tactical down the street also has bare shelves of ammunition. Nyberg’s Ace at 41st and Minnesota is out of 9 mm, .223 and 5.56 ammunition.

Matt Bautch, an avid hunter, said he’s seen ammunition prices double or triple this year because of the compounding effects of the pandemic, civil unrest and the election.

“Yes, you can find ammo,” the 43-year-old said. “It’s harder, and it’s more expensive, that’s for sure. Ammo is double in price that you would have found two years ago ... And it’s beyond the ammo. For reloaders, it’s the primers, powder — all components.”

The 41st and Minnesota Ace location only stocks handgun ammunition as needed and mainly focuses on hunting ammunition. But its supply ran out earlier this year.

“Everything is out of stock,” said Glenn Stanley, who works at the store.

That backlog extends all the way to manufacturers, said Jeff Hoffman, who owns Black Hills Ammunition.

While Hoffman’s business focuses on specialty ammo for military or law enforcement instead of economy sales, even he started to see demand overwhelm his manufacturing company once ammunition was sold out everywhere else by June.

Some shelves stand bare at Gary’s Gun Shop in Sioux Falls. Demand for ammunition has risen because of the pandemic, riots and election this year, employees say.

“Where people really got serious is when they started seeing the rioting, violence and looting and they could see law enforcement was not being supported,” Hoffman said. “We’re always told we don’t need guns and police will protect us, but in that case that’s not happening. You have new people buying guns and ammunition, but people who already had guns thought they needed more ammo, too.”

That reaction and defensiveness among consumers spells trouble for everyone involved in production — suppliers, manufacturers, dealers and consumers themselves.

“It’s in short supply everywhere because everyone faces the same problem, and then there’s resentment from the customer who wants to buy that ammunition,” Hoffman said.

Bautch started making his own ammunition a few years ago as a hobby instead of buying on the market.

“It’s a good hobby right now because ammo is just so hard to find,” he said.

Some stores, like Scheels, are still relatively well stocked as of Friday. But customers crowd the aisles, with common ammunition largely bought out or in high demand.

Scheels manager Josh Bathke said that ammunition sales have increased in the past few weeks.

Scheels has limited sales on all of its ammunition due to high demand this year.

Walmart has removed firearms and ammunition from the sales floor ahead of the election, said Walmart representative Charles Crowson. The company did the same in June due to “civil unrest” as a precaution for employees.

Usually, in election years there will be a spike in demand for guns and ammunition. Then it’ll settle back down and the “hangover period” stalls sales since there’s a surplus on the market and less demand, Hoffman said.

But Hoffman doesn’t know when they’ll see that hangover period.

“It’s not going to stop with the election because what people are concerned about is lawlessness, looting and burning riots in streets,” Hoffman said. “That’s what people are concerned about and that won’t stop with the election.”

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