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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Because of scarcity, boxes of .22 ammo have stirred a frenzy at local retailers.

Ammo triggers routine frenzy at local store

If you’re wishing for some .22 ammo for Christmas, you should have started writing to Santa Claus around last February.

The small-caliber ammunition is popular because, historically, it’s been dirt cheap. Not that long ago, a person could buy a handful of boxes of ammo and spend an afternoon target shooting for not much more than the cost of the gas it took to drive to a target range.

For the past couple of years, though, the ammo has been hard if not impossible to find. Prices have gone up significantly, and if you are in the market for a box of ammo, you have to compete with people who, when they find some, have been gobbling up as much of the ammo as they can.

For some people, that has gotten to be a routine. It’s been months since I first heard about the crowd of guys who were showing up hours before opening at one sporting goods store on mornings when supply trucks arrive.

So earlier this month I dropped by the Gander Mountain store on Lima Road about half an hour before the store opened. In an enclosed entryway there were already eight men standing there. One had brought a small portable television, and they talked of showing up before 5 a.m. one day around Thanksgiving and buying buckets of .22 ammo that were on sale.

The crowd eventually grew to about 15 people, and one man in the crowd suggested that people determine in what order each had arrived and give themselves a number. This would help prevent a Wal-Mart moment, the man said.

Inside the store, employees were thinking the same thing. As the doors opened, people were given numbers as they walked in so there would be no cutting in line. Once inside the store, one man groused that it was the same people every week.

The numbers, it turned out, weren’t necessary. The store had gotten a large shipment of .22 ammo that day. Customers were limited to 10 boxes of ammo. That might sound chintzy, but depending on the brand, one box contained as much as 525 rounds. Most of those in line grabbed shopping baskets and piled in 10 boxes of ammo, more than 5,000 rounds.

Exactly what they were doing with those 5,250 rounds – and the rounds they had spoken about buying just a week before – isn’t clear, but there is speculation that some are reselling it for profit.

At 8 minutes after opening, everyone had bought his limit and there were still about 14 boxes of ammo still on the shelf. Usually, I was told, it took about four minutes to sell out.

So on Friday I paid another visit, showing up about half an hour before opening. There were already about 18 people waiting, including a woman who said she had bought her son a .22 for Christmas and needed ammo. Another woman said she was there to buy a gun. I suggested she buy the ammo first.

At 8 a.m. the door opened and people poured in, in order, but before many people in line even got to the area where the bullets were displayed the announcement was made. They were out of .22 long-rifle ammunition, an employee shouted. The truck that day hadn’t delivered much, just a handful of boxes of 50 rounds or so.

People walked away disappointed, but there would be more trucks before Christmas, and next week, who knows what might be on it.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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