Flathead Feels Ammo Shortage

By Beacon Staff

Gun legislation still sits in the forefront in the United States, and, as a result, many firearm and ammunition manufacturers across the country are having trouble keeping up with the demand for their products.

The Flathead Valley has not been immune to the lack of supply, especially when it comes to ammunition. Law enforcement officials and businesses that sell ammunition report a difficulty procuring cartridges, with no relief in sight.

“It’s tough for the manufacturers and the distributors to fill orders,” Doug Toelke, store manager at Snappy Sport Senter in Evergreen, said. “The whole pipeline is dried up.”

Toelke said most of the store’s ammunition is running low, but .22-caliber and .223-caliber cartridges are the tightest. The store received 10 boxes of .22 ammo several weeks ago, when normally they’d receive a pallet.

The boxes were gone in an afternoon, he said.

Pistol ammunition is in short supply as well, he said, and Snappy’s has had to limit customer purchases to try and spread the ammunition as far as it will go.

“We’ll put it on our shelves and we’ll limit it to five boxes per customer and it might last an afternoon,” Toelke said.

Bridget Fulk of Big Bear Firepower in Kalispell said the store is experiencing a shortage on most of its products, from survival equipment to firearms, but ammunition has also presented a challenge.

Big Bear is a licensed munitions manufacturer and has been for about five years, Fulk said. Right now, it’s difficult to buy the brass needed to make the ammunition, she said, and it’s nearly impossible to keep any other reloading supplies on the shelves.

The store has had to resort to ordering some ammunition from national manufacturers because the Fulks can’t keep up with demand for their own ammo.

“If we can’t get the brass we can’t make the ammo,” Fulk said. “There’s a huge demand right now and it’s getting to be more and more every day.”

To help alleviate some of the demand pressure, Big Bear has halted national shipments in order to better serve local customers, Fulk said, and there is a limit of two boxes of ammo per customer.

“Most people are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, that’s what I’m hearing,” she said.

Toelke reported a similar struggle to keep reloading supplies on the shelves at Snappy’s. His impression of the rush on ammunition is that it’s a combination of people hoarding and others who are recreational shooters and regularly purchase several boxes of cartridges a week.

Neither Fulk nor Toelke had a clear idea of when the manufacturers and distributors would be able to catch up with the increased demand, but Toelke said they ran into this same problem four years ago and it took eight to 10 months to recover.

An ammunition shortage also poses a problem for law enforcement. In Whitefish, Police Chief Bill Dial said “we are having a problem” with the ammunition shortage, and was told by distributors that it could take up to three to four times longer to get a shipment of ammunition, which means anywhere from 10 months to a year.

The police department does have ammunition stockpiled, Dial said, and his officers will be resourceful with their remaining cartridges, meaning more will use the simulator for training.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said his office doesn’t have a shortage of practice or duty ammo, because it regularly buys in bulk.

“It’s harder to get ammo right now just because of the huge national rush on ammunition but it hasn’t affected us,” Curry said. “We always look at ordering far enough ahead.”

Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset said his department has enough ammo stockpiled at the moment because it ordered in bulk before the Sandy Hook shooting and the debate in Congress over new gun-control measures ramped up, but the fiscal year ends in July and the department will have to consider ammunition purchases at that point.

At Snappy’s, having major demand for ammunition is good for business, Toelke said, but it’s difficult to keep anything related to munitions on the shelves. They’d like to satisfy their customers, but at this point they’re just waiting on deliveries like much of the rest of the country.

“It’s everything that makes a gun go bang,” Toelke said, adding, “It’s great to have the demand but it would be nice to have the supply.”

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