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Supply Chained
In the U.S., you can buy a gun just about anywhere. So why is ammunition so hard to find?
 


By Andy Vrakas

Last week, I did something I never envisioned doing. I drove all over town looking for ammunition. But it was pointless. These days, you can’t buy a box of bullets to save your life.

Three years ago, I got into the Olympic sport of biathlon, which combines Nordic skiing and target shooting. The rifles used are specially designed for the task, but the ammunition is unremarkable. Initially, I bought a case of 500 rounds for $30, but I wish I’d bought more. Not long after the Newtown shooting, in 2012, with the possibility of new gun control laws looming, supplies began to disappear from shelves, and they’ve scarcely returned.

Many stores now impose limits on sales, and clerks don’t really know what ammunition will be shipped, or when. “Good luck,” the clerk at Gander Mountain told me and shrugged. Any delivery the store gets sells out almost immediately.

The conspiracy theorists among us allege that there’s something fishy going on. Perhaps there is a government plot to keep ammunition out of our hands, or an impending urban revolt. I don’t think our fascination with zombies has helped.

Hornady, the nation’s largest producer of ammo, has released statements and videos placing blame for the shortage on consumer demand. Whatever the cause, the biathlon club I belong to had serious concerns about hosting youth practices and adult clinics for lack of .22 rounds. (Ironically, you can still find more expensive bullets for high-powered “sport tactical” arms, such as assault rifles, on many store shelves.)

So what’s behind this ammunition shortage? In my estimation, a feedback loop of overbuying .22 rounds. They’re among the cheapest ammo, and like bread before a snowstorm, demand for them is high precisely because they are scarce. I eventually found a box online and plan to burn through them at the shooting range, whether the zombies show up or not.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. 
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