CRESTVIEW — Jay Woodbury has owned Jay’s Guns since December 2001. Before that, he spent 20 years in the military and always was around guns.
In all that time, he has never seen demand for ammunition anywhere near what it is today.
Gun stores are reporting massive shortages in ammunition both locally and nationwide.
“We’re getting a lot of product in, but the demand is so much higher than the supply,” Woodbury said. “We’re even dealing with the distributors we usually don’t do business with because they charge too much for shipping and handling fees and their prices are too high. Of course, they’re the last people to have it because nobody’s buying from them. We deal with over 150 distributors and right now none of my distributors have any 9mm or .22 long rifle ammunition. None of them have any 223 or 556 ammunition.
“When they call you, you can’t even ask them how much (it is going to cost); you just have to say ‘I’ll take it,’” he added. “If you don’t, before you can ask them how much it is, somebody else has already bought it out from under you.”
Woodbury said the stockpiling of ammunition started around the presidential election in November. The Dec. 14th shooting at Newtown, Conn. and the possible government reaction to that also has sparked interest in firearms and ammunition.
Business has been so busy that Woodbury has hired two additional employees at each of his four locations in Crestview, Baker, Panama City and Pensacola.
“If you watch the news, all they’re talking about is gun bans, types of magazines bans, ammunition licensing,” Woodbury said. “Everybody’s just going crazy stockpiling ammunition. And when people go to the store and see the frenzy, it even drives them more to want it.
“It’s kind of like when you want a hamburger and you’re hungry and there’s not one around you, you’re just scouring the countryside looking for a hamburger stand and nobody’s got one,” Woodbury added. “The prices of course go up and it just compounds the problem.”
Kevin Camilli, who co-owns Grey Tactical Outfitters in Destin with Eli Caison, said he hasn’t been able to get ammunition in on a consistent basis for weeks.
“At some point I’ll get some in, but I don’t think it will be for a while,” Camilli said. “The government is buying a whole lot of it, which decreases the available supply. The munitions plants, there’s only a limited number of them, and every round they produce before it comes off the assembly line is already sold. When I’m putting an order in, I’m putting an order in for raw materials that haven’t even been mined yet. There is no stockpile of guns or ammo.”
Camilli is attending a gun and ammunition trade show in Las Vegas this week and plans to meet with the manufacturers to try to find out how long the shortage will last.
He said it was not just guns and ammunition that were selling fast, but also survival items such as water filtration devices, nonperishable food and medical gear.
At Ranger Firearms and Mercantile in Fort Walton Beach, store owner Virgil Zetterlind has had to limit customers to two boxes of ammunition a visit to try to make his supply last longer.
“People are concerned about what Congress and the president may or may not do in terms of gun control,” Zetterlind said. “A lot of it is the uncertainty behind that is driving people to stock up. I think once the legislative picture becomes more clear things will settle down.”
Woodbury said the military and law enforcement get top priority from distributors and get their orders filled first.
After that, the big box stores that buy millions of dollars worth of ammunition get their orders filled. Woodbury said it was more difficult for the smaller stores.
At Jay’s Guns, Woodbury said the waiting list is so long that most shipments of ammunition he receives already are sold out before they arrive.
“It’s great for business, but the thing I don’t like from a gun shop owner’s standpoint is that I don’t get to give my customers the attention and customer service they deserve just because it’s so hectic,” he said.
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.