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Ammunition shortage leads to cuts in police training

Published On: Mar 26 2013 06:50:52 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2013 07:22:18 PM CDT

Law enforcement agencies are feeling the effects of a national ammunition shortage.

From first glance around Deerfield Pistol and Archery shop, one might not notice the fewer boxes of bullets. That's probably because Brett Fankhauser and his co-workers aren't selling them to just anyone anymore. The ammunition in high demand can only be bought by those loading their guns on the range.

"Ammo is next to impossible to find. We deal with 10 wholesalers, and you call any one of them, and there's nothing in stock," Fankhauser said.

Fankhauser said handgun bullets are nearly impossible to track down. He said a list of customer requests has gone from a page-long document to a wish list that's about nine pages long.

Fankhauser said he can’t even begin to guess when the shortage is going to end.

"(People say), 'It's going to let up soon. It's going to let up next week. You'll see ammo on the shelves in a week,'" Fankhauser said. "But until it happens, it's hard to believe anything. You just kind of, you wait for it.”

The surge in demand for certain weapons and ammunition was triggered by talks of federal gun legislation. When customers swarmed the shelves for the products, the supply quickly diminished.

Now, law enforcement is feeling the effects.

The DeForest Police Department is relying on reserves from last year’s ammunition supply. Lt. Dan Furseth said the department plans to purchase ammunition once a year, but now it's on back order that could last anywhere from seven months to a year.

It's common practice for officers to shoot 100 rounds a piece for each training, according to Furseth. Furseth said the shortage could have a significant effect on how they train their officers and how often.

"Before, the number of rounds was kind of dependent on the type of training we were doing. Now, we're focusing on the availability of the ammunition that we have available," Furseth said.

DeForest's police force does arms training five times a year. Furseth is considering bringing that down to four, and focusing more on Air Soft weapons and tactical training than pulling the trigger.

"You still have to be qualified," Furseth explained. "You still have to have your skill set up because it's one of those unfortunate things that you hope you never have to use, but the public definitely wants the highest trained and capable officers protecting their communities."

At the Waunakee Police Department, shelves are still pretty well stocked. Lt. Joseph Peterson explained the force now orders ammunition a year in advance, which helps the department avoid shortages for at least some time.

"We don't want to sacrifice training," Peterson said. "But we may have to revisit that depending on the supply that's available to us."

Peterson added while working with suppliers to get the ammunition well in advance works for his department, the method might not work for every force.

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