The Ammo Line Shuffle

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I'm number 24. That's not my age, my agent number, a badge number, my waist size, or my IQ; it's my number in line outside of the Big Box Sporting Goods Store. Luckily, it's a Thursday, which means the line isn't that bad. I'm a regular here and I see lots a familiar faces. We aren't lined up for the latest Christmas items, or sales ad promotions.

We're just lined up for ammo. And it sucks.

Why the line?

You see, before the Great Gun Panic of 2013 got good and rolling, this local Big Box Sporting Goods Store came to town and effectively muscled out the competition with prices that the small gun stores just really couldn't compete against. Supply and demand, I get it, capitalism works but is impartial to the little guy. Therefore, by default this large store is now pretty much the sole-source locally to buy ammunition. In 2012, they had an immense assortment with dozens of choices in almost every imaginable caliber, flavor, size, type, and manufacturer. If you wanted 223, you had to choose between 55-grain, 62-grain, 71-grain, et al, then make your choice between Hornady, Remington, Federal, well, you get the point.

They had a lot of bullets. Even though you had to pay sales tax, you still wound up cheaper buying it locally than if you bought it online and had it shipped. Moreover, you had the luxury of touching, feeling, and smelling the actual ammo itself before you put it on the counter with your debit card.

Now that's changed. With the huge spike in demand, supply has evaporated. What used to be piles of ammunition spread out on 72-feet of shelving on three aisles is now down to about 12 feet. But! - - They get a truck in every night but Tuesday and Saturday, and said truck usually has a small supply of ammo on it. Its first come/first serve, still at the same prices as before this artificial panic, and it's hot off the shelves. Hence the line every morning.

The Ammo Line Shuffle - christophereger - photo-2-1035.jpg

The Doors Open

At 0700, the manager comes to the locked door and nods at the growing line. A flick of a key, a tight-lipped smile, and the doors part open to let the tide of hairy shufflers into the door. We are quiet and sedated, peaceful and respectful of all the procedures. Hindu cows are not as subdued. We have all been through this before.

Well, most of us anyway. A few oddballs are here on their first day. Usually some of the old timers tell the new guys, the gun line virgins, the low down, but many wont, thinking these interlopers will beat them to the small manna from the bullet gods. These newbies immediately make a break for the hunting section, where pre-2013, all of the ammo was kept on display.

Friggen newbies.

What they don't know is that the store management, in an effort to get the ammo sold and the lines gone a.s.a.p. in the morning, is now bringing all new shipments of cartridges right to the customer service desk by the front door. The new people must have not gotten the memo. I feel bad that I didn't tell them, but then again, the person who was ahead of me in line was among them, putting me that much closer to the payoff. If it's there...

What's available?

The new stuff that came in last night is laid out on the counter. I realise that I have shot more at the range in a good day than what they have on hand currently.

There is some Remington green box 38, a few cases of 12 gauge shells, Winchester white box .45, some Federal hunting ammo. What I am looking for wasn't on the menu, but I have a couple friends who I texted that asked me to pick up what I could of this, and a little of that. Through the little network of local gun guys we usually have at least one of us at the store each morning, which cuts down on missing too much of your personal life.

The Ammo Line Shuffle - christophereger - img02959-20130303-1536-1037.jpg

Of course, quantities are limited, and the store has a ration system to make sure that no one customer cleans them out, but of the 75 or so prospective ammo shoppers in line at 7:01, most leave empty handed. I see one of the newbies, the guy who was in front of me in line that broke for the hunting section. He is staring at the two boxes of winny .45 in my hand like he wanted to marry it. Normally they wont let you have but a single box, but today the manager allowed me two. I give the newbie one of the pair I picked up for my buddy.

It was hard on me my first day too. It was hard for us all.

I go to the hunting section and see the racks of empty shelves, the mute long arm display cases in which a few single shot 22s and expensive clay shotguns remain, and the handgun case with the same random guns that no one wanted last week.

The Ammo Line Shuffle - christophereger - empty-gun-shelves-1036.jpg

On the ammo section, sleeping bags, coolers, and other items have now taken up most of the empty space so that the dead air has something in it. The only rounds here are some Steel shot, a box of 35 Remington, a nice stack of .222 (not to be confused with .223), several different loadings of 25-06, some 7mm Mauser, boxes of 6mm Rem, one of 257 Roberts, and enough 204 Ruger to start a war. All of which does me no good.

Oh well, there is always tomorrow.

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March 8, 2013  •  12:44 AM
This is a very well written article, it is entirely true and makes me a bit sad.
March 17, 2013  •  02:39 PM
In regards to all the sporting, guns, and ammo stores.
I would like to take this oppourtunity to Thank you from all of us patrons. With out you we would be living like those under complete control of evil, surpressed and controled.
Our Vets are too under attack Mr. O signed
Pub.L.No. 103-159 2013 NDAA in Dec. 2012 while
as usual the doors were closed and we weren't
informed.Our Vets now get to fight another battle
here on the same land they fought to keep FREE.
God please intervine and keep them safe.
March 18, 2013  •  10:02 PM
Remember what companies took advantage of the current situation and hiked up their prices to astronomical prices to make the quick buck. When all of this madness settles down, and it will, take your business to those who did the right thing and kept their prices the same and rationed the few boxes of ammo they did get in so that more than one person got a box. Let those companies that hiked their prices up know that trying to take advantage of us is unacceptable and that our money is better spent elsewhere.
March 19, 2013  •  11:48 PM
I cannot find 7.62 ANYWHERE!! I DID FIND SOME OFF Brand Russian made very cheap. I know this weapon is should spit through anything,but I'd hate to find out I'm wrong the hard way. Im almost to the point of ordering a brand from Finland. But at least the Fins make the best ammo in the world!
March 21, 2013  •  09:06 AM
@ArmyRanger Oh my list is already started, Top of the list is Cheaper than Crap AKA Cheaper than Dirt, they doubled the price of a thousand round of Federal 55 gr .223, not to mention trying to be PC halted the sales of "modern spoeting rifles". Next is CDNN right here in Abilene, TX selling a pair of "para" stripped AR receivers (serial number 1 and 2, like they were something special) for $1600.00, and more recently listed a stripped AR lower for $299.00. I even contacted cheaper that crap and they think they have enough suckers, eh customers that they care not what one thinks. CDNN has always been an A hole and not worth contacting, he just does not care.
March 21, 2013  •  10:05 AM
Like most of you, I am angry and sad over this whole mess. I don't have a problem with anyone going and standing in line to get ammo IF they need it - I do have a problem with the horders, the ones that are grabbing every single round they can so later they can take advantage of the rest of the people that were not fortunate enough to be able to get any. I lump those critters in with the businesses that jacked up their prices. They all are a bunch of dirt bags.
March 21, 2013  •  10:18 AM
You mentioned Winchester White box .45ACP. I recently bought a few boxes of that and I was very disappointed in their quality control. Since .45ACP indexes off the case mouth, the crimps make a huge difference. Some of the crimps were rolled completely down into the bullet, so much so that there was no case mouth for the chamber to index. Some of the rounds were perfect, and everything else was somewhere in between. I realize that they're running 24/7, but ammo that won't rliably chamber due to such large manufacturing tolerances is unacceptable from a giant such as Winchester.
March 21, 2013  •  10:26 AM

I'm not hoarding, I'm preparing as best I can. No ammo that I buy is going to be sold, unless a friend has a shortage, and even then he's going to pay what I paid. This current administration has such a low opinion of our Constitution and the 2nd Amendment that they could do anything at any time. We could wake up Friday morning and find out that there's now a $1.00 per round tax on All ammo. I have a friend that shoots quite a bit of 22LR. Since the prices have soared, he's bought 28,000 rounds, because he knows that between him and his girl, they'll shoot that much within the next few years. I'm buying everything that I can afford, because I might NEED it in the worst possible way, meybe even someday soon. I certainly hope not. GUNS ARE A LOT LIKE PARACHUTES, IF YOU NEED ONE AND DON'T HAVE ONE, IT'S LIKELY THAT YOU'LL NEVER NEED ONE AGAIN.
March 21, 2013  •  12:08 PM
If you have an opportunity try to find the article in Florida's TODAY newspaper for 21 Mar 13 by a retired military officer named DON GILLELAND. If that doesn't get your attention and then send a chill down your spine, nothing ever will. In the 1930's there was a novel by American author Sinclair Lewis titled IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE. Perhaps it's time to find a copy and reread it!
March 21, 2013  •  04:11 PM
It is really crazy but I think it will go away toward the end of the year. The funny thing is I had an idea this would happen and back in late 2011 I started buying two boxes for everyone I shot at the range until I had about 500 rounds of each caliber I shoot. Now I rarely shoot unless its for hunting or someone shows up with ammo they are willing to part with. At the big box store near here you can find just about everything but its so expensive it isnt worth it. And they had a gazillion boxes of .357 the other day which I didnt need.
March 21, 2013  •  05:03 PM

Ammo is a problem here in Connecticut also. The largest gunshow in West Springfield, MA only had a small amount of ammo. The reloading powder guy didn't even come to the event because he didn't have any product.

One of the real questions is to ask why does homeland security need 5 bullets for every resident of the USA, and why do they need thousands of armored vehicles??? Some drones for the Mexico and Canadian borders I can understand, but if we find them flying within our states spying on us, then we have another problem.
March 21, 2013  •  09:21 PM
Problem here in Oklahoma as well Academy sports in OKC and Norman get shipments in every day it seems and by 1500 its all gone, great time to own odd brands or .22lr here. Good luck finding 9mm in the state of OK.