Jackson’s ammunition retailers are fresh out of bullets.
As coronavirus worries surged during the past two weeks gun owners flocked to Stone Drug, Big R Ranch and Home and J.D. High Country Outfitters to stock up.
“People bought me clean out of ammo,” Stone Drug’s Ron Jacobson said. “I talked to my sales rep and was like, ‘OK, what did I miss?’”
Jacobson said he realized the sales were related to the pandemic when a customer tried to buy the store’s entire inventory.
“I sold $3,000 worth all at once,” he said. “It’s getting really stupid.”
While the pandemic ammo sales are good for some businesses, the nationwide shortage of ammunition could have a bigger effect on law enforcement’s ability to buy training and duty ammunition.
“Things like this have potential to greatly affect us,” Teton County sheriff’s training Sgt. Trevor Aitken said. “When there’s an ammo shortage, prices go up for us.”
Aitken said gun owners are “panic buying” ammo, as they did with toilet paper.
“It’s not a surprise,” Aitken said. “People buy toilet paper and ammunition when they are afraid. When people are in panic mode and don’t know what is going to happen they feel like they need to protect their families.”
Hoarding toilet paper isn’t about protecting one’s family, but Aitken said ammunition, like TP, is something many people don’t want to find themselves without.
High Country Outfitters is letting customers shop by appointment only to enforce federal social distancing guidelines. Customers there are buying ammunition and firearms along with outdoor supplies.
“We are still servicing 10 to 15 customers a day,” said Beth Rotert, the director of operations for High Country Outfitters. “We are getting a ton of calls.”
Shopping trends at her store mirror what’s happening nationwide, she said.
“The only things we are out of are 9 millimeter, .223 and .556,” Rotert said, “and those are sold out across the country.”
It’s the first time in High Country Outfitter’s history that the store has had to close for an extended period. Requiring shopping appointments helps the store and its customers, Rotert said.
“Our priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees,” she said. “But if there are ways we can accommodate needs and keep dollars coming in we will continue to do that as long as we feel it’s the right decision.”
Aside from guns and ammo, Rotert said, customers are buying camping equipment like freeze-dried meals, fly ties and portable stoves.
“Our customers are coming in for things that will still allow them to get outside,” she said.
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At Stone Drug, where they’re operating on a two shoppers in, two shoppers out rotation, customers have cleared the shelves of not only ammo but rubbing alcohol, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and Tylenol.
“It’s friggin’ nuts,” Jacobson said. “It’s insane. And it’s been hit or miss as far as restocking goes. Suppliers have cut me off on how much I can have at a time.”
As for ammunition, Sgt. Aitken said the general American public actually buys more than law enforcement even when there isn’t a pandemic.
But because the sales are causing a nationwide shortage he expects his twice-yearly orders to be more expensive and possibly on backorder.
“When there was an ammo shortage like in 2008 I ordered it in July and it didn’t get here until the end of the fiscal year,” he said.
The shortage will mainly affect the Teton County Sheriff’s Office’s training ammo, which it uses more of than “duty ammo.”
“I don’t know how bad this ammo crunch is going to be,” Aitken said. “It’s hard to anticipate. But I may be limited on what I can buy for next year.”