If you’re a hunter or recreational shooter who’s been struggling to find ammunition, you’re not alone. A national shortage of ammo is being felt here in Maine, and no matter what kind of bullet or shotgun shell you’re looking for, you’re likely going to have a hard time finding it.
“In the run of a week, I’m turning away between 50 and 100 people for .410 and 20 gauge [shotgun shells for bird hunting],” said Byron Dill, owner of Dill’s Outdoors in Bangor. “And that’s not counting the rifle ammo and people looking for certain [popular] brands. In the run of a week there are easily 100 to 150 people [we can’t serve] because we don’t have the ammo they’re looking for.”
Some hunters posting on social media have also been voicing frustration, while others somewhat gleefully celebrate the ammo stockpiles that they’ve been tucking away for years.
Dave Lorenz, who owns Old Town Trading Post in Old Town and Whitney’s Outfitters in Lincoln, said he’s getting used to giving hunters and shooters the bad news.
“We say, well, unfortunately we can’t get what you’re looking for,” Lorenz said.
While it didn’t pinpoint the exact causes of the shortage, a recent Newsweek story said there’s been a nationwide increase in demand for ammo for almost a year. The pandemic, election fears and civil unrest are all being suggested as catalysts by different groups, according to that story.
Read more ON PANDEMIC GUN SALES
Another reason for the shortfall: Remington Outdoor Company, a firearms giant, has been selling off pieces of its business in bankruptcy proceedings. Late last month a judge approved Vista Outdoor Inc.’s purchase of the ammunition side of the business for $81.4 million, according to the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal.
Vista announced the acquisition’s closing on Oct. 13, and said that it was looking forward to offering the iconic Remington ammunition in the future. It did not lay out a timeline for ramping up production.
Lorenz said getting his hands on ammunition has been difficult for several months. At first, .380 caliber handgun ammo was in short supply. But since then, he has struggled to find other ammo, including shotgun shells used by bird hunters.
Lorenz said he wasn’t sure how many factors are contributing to the shortage, but said it seems that all kinds of consumer products are facing the same production challenges.
“Many of these facilities were closed due to the COVID situation. It is so wide-reaching,” Lorenz said. “I think of it this way: Everything is short right now. Electronics, computer, rope. Everything is short for different reasons.”
But a severe shortage of Remington ammo during bankruptcy proceedings certainly played a role, Lorenz said.
“In this country that green and yellow [Remington] box is pretty important. Everybody uses it,” Lorenz said. “When you remove that from the market, it wouldn’t be too hard for [stores] to struggle to keep up [with demand].”
Much of northern Maine is experiencing a bird boom this fall, with a high number of ruffed grouse drawing hunters into the North Maine Woods and other areas. But Dill said he has found himself trying to sell hunters shotgun shells that they may not be used to.
Some of the brands he’s able to get his hands on are from manufacturers that he’d never heard of, Dills said. And for the hunters looking for shells with No. 6 shot — a bird-hunting favorite — he has been only able to offer No. 7 1/2, which is a smaller pellet.
“I’ve told people, if you’re going bird hunting, maybe you want to try some of the 7 1/2’s, and just get closer to the birds,” Dill said.
And until the shortage ends, Dill said he’s trying to find new ways to get his hands on the ammunition his customers want, through vendors that he hadn’t dealt with before.
“Basically, it’s being creative and looking at other avenues for ammunition,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of contacts that let me know when ammunition is available.”