I-TEAM: With skyrocketing gun sales, ammo becomes a high-demand commodity

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 3:45 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s been almost a full year since the pandemic started, and the I-Team found many gun owners are biting the bullet. That’s because ammunition is short in supply -- extremely short.

Some say it’s been harder to find than toilet paper.

That shortage was pretty short-lived, but it could be another year before the gun industry fully re-loads.

His gun was a gift, but Chance Briley isn’t taking any chances.

“Well, you know, now that I’ve got the weapon, better know how to use it,” Briley said.

That’s why he and his brother signed up for expert instruction. The I-Team found these new gun owners have a lot of company.

We combed through FBI data and uncovered five consecutive days in March account for half of this top 10 list of days with the most background checks ever to buy firearms.

The I-Team also found a run on ammo quickly followed suit.

“You can’t find it, or if you do find it, it’s extremely expensive,” Buddy Lichty, owner of Shooters Indoor Range and Gun Shop, said.

Prices tripled and quadrupled and haven’t budged.

“What used to be anywhere from $8 to $15, a box is now $40 to $60 a box,” Lichty said.

Lichty’s business has been forced to ration ammo as a result.

“We started a ration and we were rationing it to 100 rounds per caliber per person at that time, and in early May, we went to 50 rounds per caliber per bench,” Lichty said.

That’s not even ammo Lichty buys. It’s ammo he and his staff make and they can’t make it fast enough. Bullets he saves for customers to use on his range only, even though people ask on a daily basis to sell it.

“It’s limited and being rationed for our range customers only,” Lichty said. “And they don’t understand that. Well, it’s because I’ve got to keep my doors open.”

The shortage of ammo poses a risk for responsible gun owners because the I-Team found experts suggest gun owners practice at least once a month.

“Unfortunately, the ammo shortage being what it is, you know, it might be a little difficult to do that,” Briley said.

It’s also a concern for Arthur Peralta, special agent in charge for the Atlanta Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

“A firearm is, is a tool, it’s not something that, you know, most people can just buy, and throw in the drawer,” Peralta said.

There is no federal law requiring gun owners to take a class or practice with their weapon.

With so many new gun owners last year, we found only a few states, including South Carolina, require a training class for a concealed carry permit. Georgia does not.

As for the legal gun owners needing ammo to practice, it’s going to be a while before things can get back to the way they were pre-pandemic and pre-election.

“The current speculation is it’s going to be 2022 before things probably start to settle down,” Lichty said.

Leaving people like Briley relying on people like Lichty making bullets until everything is back on target.

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