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Frank Gray

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
.22 rounds are getting harder to find in the city, with most stores selling out as soon as shipments arrive.

.22 ammo shortage not likely to last

When I was young, I went to a friend’s 10th birthday party, and after we’d eaten cake and he’d opened his gifts, his father walked into a back room and brought out a long box with a special gift.

It was a .22 rifle, a bolt-action gun with a nice wooden stock. It was almost a tradition in those parts to get your first gun when you turned 10 or 12. The gun would last almost forever if you took care of it.

When you consider all the .22s sold over the years, there must be millions of them, and they’re fun to shoot because they’re accurate and the ammunition costs less than bubble gum.

Of course that also means there must be an incredible demand for .22 ammo, but there’s always been plenty available almost anywhere you go.

Until, that is, about three months ago. The .22 ammo has all but disappeared from store shelves.

At one Wal-Mart, which normally stocks a large cabinet full of all sorts of ammo, the shelf was virtually bare.

At a Meijer store, the ammo shelf was completely empty.

It seems that no matter where you go, ammo is in short supply, especially those little .22 bullets.

All kinds of rumors, many generated by the black helicopter crowd, are circulating as to why, but it seems the best answer is that in the last few months there has been a run on ammo, and the pipeline is empty.

One Wal-Mart employee, who wouldn’t give his name, said the store gets ammo in periodically, but it is gobbled up within an hour of the time it goes on the shelf.

At a gun shop called Ranger Supply Co. on Getz Road, where bullets on the ammo shelf were scarce, there’s wasn’t a .22 shell to be found.

The last delivery that shop got was for about 1,600 rounds, and they disappeared quickly even though the shop limited the number of boxes a customer could buy.

At Dick’s Sporting Goods, there were some larger rounds available, but the shop hadn’t had any .22 ammo in a month, perhaps two months, an employee said.

One employee suggested that a lot of people had recently bought AR-15s, and had converted them, switching out the barrels so they could target shoot with .22s because it’s much cheaper.

Over at Freedom Firearms on Directors Row, the shop was limiting ammo sales to one box per customer per day just to make supplies stretch, but it had no .22 ammo at all.

A few months ago, an employee said, pointing to a display in the middle of the floor, he had cases of ammo available. Now it’s all gone.

An explanation is difficult to come by.

Manufacturers, such as CCI, which specializes in rimfire ammo, said on its website that it was working 24 hours a day to meet customer demand.

One shop, Tomlinson Shooting Supplies in Churubusco, actually had some .22 rounds.

Normally that shop carries several brands and bullet weights, said employee Randy Dellinger, but it had only one brand on hand.

The shop had just gotten about 30 boxes, and though it was limiting sales to one box per customer – not much if you like to target shoot – they weren’t expected to last much more than a day or so.

Dellinger, like everyone else, really had no explanation for what it going on, other than to say “everyone has a .22.”

These shortages happen now and then. There was one about four years ago, he said.

“Some of it is panic buying,” Dellinger said. “People think they won’t be able to get it,” so they buy up as much as they can.

This will pass, though, he said, but it might take six or eight months as manufacturers produce it, then send it to distributors before it gets to dealers.

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 You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.