More stockpiling ammunition: Fear of potential Obama laws causing mass sales



By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic



FLORENCE – Every day, Darren Newsom’s three Bitterroot Valley Ammunition facilities crank out 300,000 rounds of ammunition.

It’s not nearly enough.

“I’m going about 100,000 rounds in the wrong direction every day,” Newsom said. “We probably have about six months of back orders right now.”


Fearful of the Obama administration’s potential to tighten gun control laws, people from all over the country are stocking up on guns and ammunition.

“I went through the Clinton years and there was a bit of a scare then,” Newsom said. “This is like the Clinton years on steroids. � On the day of the election, our phones started going nuts. It hasn’t stopped since.”

As a master distributor for ATK – the world’s largest ammunition business – Bitterroot Valley Ammunition supplies other ammunition manufacturers around the country with the components needed to make bullets.

“I get a million primers in every other day and most are shipped out the very next day,” he said. “I have 100 million primers on back order right now. We just can’t get enough of them.”

At a recent gun show in Salt Lake City, Newsom sold somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 rounds in the first two hours.

“It’s just unreal,” he said. “Somewhere in lots of basements around the country, there are millions of rounds of ammunition being stored.”

Local businesses have felt the ammunition shortage.

At Bob Ward’s in Hamilton, Mike Matteson said there has been quite a run on ammunition and reloading supplies like bullets and powder since the election.

“We are especially low right now with pistol ammunition,” Matteson said. “There are four or five calibers that we don’t even have on our shelves.”

Matteson said he didn’t believe manufacturers were prepared for the panic buying that’s occurred since the election.

“They tell us that they’re months behind on some calibers – .22 ammo is really tough to come by,” he said. “Our gun sales are up somewhere between 30 (percent) to 35 percent or better. A good percentage of those sales are pistols.”

Firearm and ammo sales aren’t the only place where concerns about gun control are cropping up.

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman has seen a marked increase in the number of people applying for concealed weapons permits since November.

Montana is a “will-issue” state for concealed weapons permits. Any law-abiding citizen who fills out the application and can show they’ve completed some form of firearm safety course can obtain a permit.

The county is averaging about 38 requests for renewals or new permits a month. Last year, the requests averaged about 25.

“It’s definitely a noticeable increase,” Hoffman said.

The sheriff said he’s hearing from people who are concerned about what might happen over the next four years with the gun control issue.

“We are being asked what would be the stance of local law enforcement if the federal government calls for the confiscation of firearms,” Hoffman said. “That’s a very real concern for people.”

Gary Marbut, the longtime president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association in Missoula, said the seeds of the current ammunition shortage can be traced back almost a decade to the Y2K scare.

“Many people became concerned about their ability to get ammunition back then and they stocked up quite a bit,” Marbut said.

In the intervening years, China blossomed and bought up world copper supplies. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan used up warehouses full of U.S. ammunition that needed to be replenished. That forced higher prices for civilian ammunition and people started using some of the bullets they had squirreled away after Y2K, Marbut said.

And now, with the current economic and political uncertainty, people are looking to restock their supplies at a time when most ammunition manufacturers aren’t willing to expand their operations.

“The whole demand side of this is so flexible and the supply side is not,” he said.

The ammunition shortage is creating a bit of an economic boon for Ravalli County.

Newsom plans to open a fourth manufacturing facility in Stevensville sometime in September. He employs about 50 people right now and could add up to another 100.

“There are a lot of people out of work right now,” he said. “Two years ago, I probably couldn’t find 10 people to go to work for us. Now I have 10 people a day coming in here looking for a job.”

Newsom believes the need for ammunition won’t go away. This scare is creating a whole new group of ammunition customers for the future, he said.

Need proof?

Take the .380 caliber pistol. A year ago, Newsom said there was hardly a demand for the ammunition. Since then, the .380 auto pistol has become very popular with women.

“One year ago, it wasn’t in demand and now it’s some of the most sought ammunition in the U.S.,” he said. “There are more people getting into shooting and that’s one thing about ammunition – you can only shoot it once.”

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