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Fairbanks experiencing ammunition shortage

Posted: May 27, 2013 - 9:55pm  |  Updated: May 28, 2013 - 8:34am

FAIRBANKS (AP) — It’s common knowledge among frequent customers that Tuesdays are ammo days at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Fairbanks.

Ammunition shipments usually arrive on Tuesdays at the Johansen Expressway store. Popular calibers, such as .22 and .308, generally sell out in minutes despite a store-imposed limit of three small boxes or one large box per customer, hunting department manager Jason Kohfeld said. What used to be a three-week supply of ammunition sells in less than a week.

The surge in demand has been seen across Fairbanks and across the country. It’s part of a nationwide trend that started in December after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting and calls from President Barack Obama for new gun control laws, including restrictions on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports demand has continued even after a bill to require gun show and Internet gun customers to get background checks, one of the meekest of the president’s proposed gun control laws, failed to go anywhere in Congress last month.

In Fairbanks, the shortage has led to often-empty shelves at retail stores and an inflated secondary market for ammo at gun shows and online.

It’s also affected law enforcement’s ability to buy new ammunition but hasn’t led to cutbacks in firearms training as it has in some Lower 48 jurisdictions.

The view from the gun counter

Kohfeld has worked through several demand booms at the Sportman’s Warehouse. There was a surge before the November 2012 elections, another surge after the election and the current run on ammunition that’s continued since December.

Supplies also ran short when Obama was first elected in 2008, but that year there were additional factors, including more demand from the military — then fighting two wars — and shortages in the world lead market, he said. This year, ammo manufacturers are producing ammo as fast as they ever have, and the shortages are caused by the insatiable demand, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to get customers what they want,” he said. “All the warehousers, the distributors nationwide, they’re allocaters now, they’re not warehousers. They get a shipment and it gets split up and goes directly back out the door.”

Behind the demand

Debates in Washington might have contributed to the most recent ammunition-buying frenzy, but local sellers and customers say other factors are more influential.

Joe Nava, a longtime Fairbanks firearms instructor, has been talking about the ammunition shortage for months on his KFAR-660 AM radio show, “Shooter’s Corner.” Part of the shortage is caused by people buying more ammo when they see stores running low.

“What I’ve been doing on my radio show for more than two years now is telling people to buy ammunition and stock it up. It’s going to be scarce, and it’s going to be expensive. Those people who did that, like me, have not been affected by the shortage because I’ve got enough to ride through this shortage and teach all my students until ammunition becomes available again,” he said.

Nava cites news of large ammo purchase from government agencies as another part of the problem. The largest are a five-year Department of Homeland Security contract reached last year for 450 million rounds and reports this year that Homeland Security is pursuing as many as 1.6 billion additional rounds.

These numbers have led some gun advocates to accuse the department of back-door gun control by taking ammunition off the market. The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun-advocacy organization, has not taken an issue with the purchases. It issued a press release in August 2012 after discussions about the 450-million round contract took off on the Internet as well as in Congress.

The NRA concluded the scale of the ammo purchase wasn’t unusual for the number of law enforcement officers and urged members to focus on more direct threats to gun rights.

Nava said he doesn’t think there’s evidence the government is actively trying to manipulate the ammo market, but said the large purchases are taking ammunition away from private citizens.

Gary Junk, a gunsmith and owner of Arctic Gun Works off Airport Way, does not sell much ammo. He occasionally buys it from customers moving out of state. Like any other small business, he finds it difficult to keep up with major retailers who have staff to order ammunition the moment manufacturers make it available.

In addition to gun control debates in Congress, he cites fears of another economic downturn as a reason people stock up on ammo — for survival and defense.

“Everybody that has paid any attention to our news recently has heard the fears of our economy collapsing or going into a depression-type state. And how many people can remember stories from their parents and their grandparents of ‘Back in the Depression, we fed ourselves with a .22 rifle,’” he said.

“They’re putting two and two together and saying not only can it help me feed myself, it’s not a half bad personal house protection gun, let’s go by some ammo. And when they walk in with that hoarding mentality, they’re not buying one or two packets, they’re buying as much as the store will allow.”

Setting the price

Junk also attributes part of the demand spike to scalpers, people who take advantage of the scarcity by purchasing ammo when it does become available and reselling it.

A quick look on the Fairbanks firearms section of popular Internet marketplace Alaska List last week returned mostly ads for firearms, although there were a handful of ads for .22, .223, 7-millimeter and 9-millimeter cartridges. Prices were higher than retail, but most posters did not match the profile of an obvious scalper.

Brent Amundsen, a youth minister in Fairbanks, was about halfway through selling 500 rounds of .22 long rifle ammunition. He was asking twice the retail price, $16 for a box of 50 RWS-brand ammo and $20 for a box of Remington. Amundsen said he was having trouble finding .22 ammo, which he uses for plinking and ptarmigan hunting, so he asked his wife to buy some while she was on a trip to Green Bay, Wis. Supplies were low there as well, so she had to visit several stores, but she ended up bringing back more than he needed, he said.

An end in sight?

Is the ammunition shortage likely to continue?

In the retail world, Kohfeld said, they’re hearing from manufacturers that it will take at least a year to catch up with current demand.

At Arctic Gun Works, Junk also gives it a year, but predicted the ammo shortage is at its height.

“If everything goes the same as the last election, where after 10, 12 months everything kind of mellows out, which I expect to happen here, you will see cheap ammunition on the shelves for sale because the people who bought it who thought were going to quadruple their money selling it on Alaska List are going to be sitting there with a whole bunch of .22 ammo,” Junk said, “and they’re either going to have three-lifetime supplies to shoot up themselves or they’re going to have to sell it for at or less than price they bought it at.”

Nava also expects availability to improve. But he laughed out loud when asked if he thinks ammunition prices will ever drop in the Fairbanks area. “I don’t live in that kind of dream world,” he said.

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,

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spwright 05/28/13 - 08:51 am
The End of the World is Near !

5/28/13 The End of the World is Near !
A ATF SWAT Team is about to Kick Down Your Door & Sieze All of Your Weapons !

Now Hurry & run to buy All of the Weapons & Ammo & more than You can afford.

The NRA & the Gun Makers are LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK & literately $Rolling in the Money$

SPW "Airborne"

Mariner 05/28/13 - 04:28 pm
....more than you can afford.....

Interesting concept....going without other needs in order to respond to the call for acquiring as much ammo as possible. Any call for using reason and common sense apparently is viewed as a "ploy" to distract "us" from protecting ourselves. The concept of "FEAR" seems to drive people to do many things. The citizens of Fairbanks certainly seem to be vulnerable right about now.

spwright 05/28/13 - 10:01 pm
Hurry the End is Near !

5/28/13 I have a family member in Texas that just paid over $2000.00 for a AR-15 that's worth perhaps 1/3 of that amount.
The AR-15 can not be made Fast enough to Keep Up with the Demand. This same family member has a entire arsenal of weapons & he has literately Spent a Fortune on that arsenal. He doesn't quite understand that Small Arms do very little in defense vs Drones & HellFire Missles ?

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 05/29/13 - 08:00 am
Drones and Hell Fire missles

"He doesn't quite understand that Small Arms do very little in defense vs Drones & HellFire Missles ? (sic)"

I would like to hear those same arguments applied in Syria, Libya or Iraq. It seems all four of those countries resistance is alive and well even though they are severely out gunned.
In the American Revolution, a bunch of dirt farmers took up arms against the worlds most formidable military and won.
Vietnam began as a resistance with the use of small arms against the French and later, with Soviet backing, against the US and the south.
SPW, it isn't might that makes right, in most instances it is those with stronger will who may lose many of the battles ... but wins the war!

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

-Thomas Jefferson-

spwright 05/29/13 - 11:42 am

5/29/13 S V P Thanks for the Response.
You are assuming that Alaskans can work together to protect themselves & their families. That would require Empathy & Caring & Participating in Democracy.

Alaskans have already proven to me that none of the above is possible.

Polling place: Soldotna Sports Center, House Dist 30 Senate Dist: Q The Worst Voter Turn-Out of ONLY 5%
That is physical Proof of Alaskan APATHY & not just a opinion.

Actions Speak Louder than Words.

Thanks for Listening SPW "Airborne"

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 05/29/13 - 09:52 pm

History shows that less than 50% of the colonists supported revolting against the crown. Nearly 30% remained loyal to the British and 20-30% remained nuetral.

The first presidential election had just 1.3% of the population voting. Grant it, the Slaves and indentured servants didn't vote, women didn't vote, those who held no land didn't vote and of course children didn't vote. Of the total elligible voters in the country (all white males with land), less than 40% voted. In short, the United States had a population of approximately three million (2.4 million free) and total popular votes cast were about 39,000. Which leads to the theory, the less people who vote ... the more powerful that one vote becomes.

spwright 05/29/13 - 11:47 pm
Very Small Minority

5/29/13 How Right You are My Man.
Only a extremely small number of Alaskans Show Up & make the Time to Vote. Which means only few 100 Votes CONTROLS the ENTIRE STATE OF ALASKA.

Which must be perfectly acceptable to the Majority of Non-Voting Alaska cuz Quite Frankly They Just Don't Give a Damn. Their Apathy is proven time & time again & again.

It's SUMMER TIME ! Got Too Hot today & I had to get out of the Sun. We have EARNED THIS SUN SHINE !


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