BANGOR — Ammunition and gun experts at the 36th annual Bangor Gun Show said there are a lot of rumors floating around about why there is an ammunition shortage, but they say it simply comes down to supply and demand.
“People are concerned they won’t be able to get it, that our Second Amendment is under attack, so they’re buying all they can,” ammunitions dealer Jeff Holt, who with wife, Nancy, are the owners and operators of Farmington-based Appalachian Ammunition Inc., said standing behind a table covered with bullets.
People are having a hard time finding the popular stuff — .22-caliber long rifle, .45-caliber, .223-caliber and 9 mm, said Buyers Guns shop owner Ralph McLeod of Holden
“They’re definitely hard to come by,” he said at the show, while holding a 1861 Richmond, Va. Confederate musket. “Ammo is in such high demand and in such short supply.”
Gun owners who were once satisfied with having a box of bullets in the gun cabinet have changed their minds, McLeod said.
“Now, they want a lifetime supply,” he said.
Larger retailers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods now have regulations in place to limit customers to just three boxes, the Holden gun shop owner said. Even so, the most popular brands are typically gone quickly, McLeod noted.
People fear future regulation and that is why the demand is so high, the ammunition and gun experts at the Bangor Gun Show said.
“We have a pretty good salesman down in Washington,” Holt said, referring to President Barack Obama, who the National Rifle Association, advertised during the elections would be the “most anti-gun president in American history.”
“People fear that there will be more regulations or bans,” said Shane Mowrey of Houlton, owner of Trident Ammunition, who has been in the gun business for 22 years, the last five in ammunitions.
He said that people have repeatedly told him, “If you tell me I can’t have it, then I want it.”
The price of ammunition has also increased dramatically.
“Last year, I was selling (ammunition) for $1 a box and $10 a brick of 10,” McLeod said. “Now, the cheap price is $5 a box and $50 for a brick of 10, so it’s gone up five times.”
This is not the first time the county, and Maine has experienced a firearm and ammo frenzy. A similar situation occurred when Obama was first elected in 2009, when sales for assault weapons, then handgun, then ammunition spiked, Maine Military Supply owner Frank Spizuoco said at the time.
When Obama responded to a question about gun control during the second presidential debate last fall by saying “weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets,” gun sales spiked, Maine gun shop owners said at the time.
The president unveiled the biggest gun control push in decades in January. He wants to eliminate a loophole that allows private gun sales without a criminal background check, and also is asking Congress to enact a new federal gun trafficking law to prevent gun sales from occurring over state lines and to reactivate a 1994 Congressional ban of 19 types of assault weapons that was allowed to sunset in 2004.
Gun and ammo sales peaked last fall and in January. They have since started to abate, longtime Bangor Gun Show organizer Charlie Rumsey said Saturday as people milled past the various tables covered with guns, knives and other weapons, ammunition and supplies.
In addition to increased domestic sales based on fears of future regulation, a federal ban on importing ammunition has put additional strain on U.S. manufacturers to keep up, Rumsey said.
“The American companies are struggling to keep up, and prices have skyrocketed,” he said.
For ammunition makers like Beals resident Dennis Smorch, who loads bullets for himself, and Holt, who makes them to sell, sometimes finding the four components needed to make a bullet has been the problem.
“You need a case, projectile, powder and primer [to make a bullet], and if you go ahead and order all four of them and only three of them show up, you’re in trouble.”
Smorch said he’s always on the lookout for a good deal on the components because, “The price is just ridiculous.” He found some primers at the Trident table that “ain’t too bad” price wise, he said, and purchased them.
The manufacturers who make rounds or the four components needed to make bullets are catching up with demand, both Rumsey and Holt said.
“It’s starting to calm down,” Rumsey said. “Anytime you see a supply is going to be short, people get that hoarding mentality. When there is a storm coming, we’re going to out to the store to get milk, water and bread. It’s the same thing.”
All the proceeds from the annual gun show help fund college scholarships for students studying wildlife conservation or wildlife law enforcement at the University of Maine and Unity College, Rumsey said.