Shooting sports enthusiasts in the county say they are not sure why they are having a harder time than ever finding ammunition and other supplies to pursue their hobby.
But they do know they are spending more and traveling farther to get bullets for a session of target practice or shells for a few hours shooting clay pigeons.
Supplies are short and unpredictable at locally owned as well as national chain stores in the area, shop visits and conversations with managers and customers confirmed.
“You can still find it if you know where to go,” said Dick Chiapparoli, range coordinator for the Izaak Walton League of America’s Rockville chapter.
But it may mean calling around and trekking farther afield, around or outside the county or in another state, Chiapparoli and others said.
To get the ammunition their firearms require, some folks are driving to Pennsylvania, said Lee Hays, who is first vice president of Izaak Walton’s Rockville chapter.
“Seems to be no problem there,” Hays said.
However, short supplies have been reported in communities across the country.
Stephen Schneider, who owns Atlantic Guns in Silver Spring and Rockville, said he recently turned down a large ammunition order from a university police department because he could not fill it.
The police department, which he declined to identify, needed the ammunition for qualifying officers on the shooting range, Schneider said.
Montgomery County Police did not return calls about whether they have been able to get all the ammunition they need.
Maryland State Police have had enough ammunition, so far, to supply the department and its training needs, although they have adjusted some training dates to cope with delayed supplies, said spokeswoman Elena Russo.
“The solution to the supply problem, obviously, is building a two-year supply to offset any delayed shipments,” Russo said.
As for the reason for the shortage, Schneider said, “I don’t know for sure why it’s happening.”
National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Mike Bazinet said his organization believes “it’s a consumer-driven shortage” that stems from growing interest in shooting sports and people’s heightened concerns that they could lose access to some firearms and ammunition.
Since the end of the year, there probably has been some hoarding, Schneider said, particularly in the wake of mass shootings that led to calls for more restrictions on guns and ammunition.
“But that doesn’t answer why it hasn’t caught up by now,” he said, and distributors have told him they don’t know either.
Schneider said he probably gets 10 percent of the ammunition he orders.
At The Gun Rack in Burtonsville, owner Alan Rolinec estimated that shortages probably have caused him to have to turn away 75 percent of customers’ ammunition requests.
“It’s the first time in 28 years I’ve been out of 9 millimeter [bullets],” Rolinec said, adding that when he gets a couple of cases, he sells it all within a couple of days.
Finding popular handgun ammunition has become even harder than finding the right shotgun shells, sellers and buyers agreed.
At Dick’s Sporting Goods in Gaithersburg, a sign posted on lightly stocked shelves cites “high demand” as the reason the store “is limiting all rifle and pistol ammunition to three boxes per customer.”
Sometimes lines at Dick’s are so long on delivery days that employees hand out numbers so that elderly or handicapped customers don’t have to stand in line, an associate whose name tag identified him as “Ron” confirmed.
Pickings also have become slim for shotgun shells.
“It used to be people would get on you if you didn’t pick up your [spent shotgun] shells, [but] now people will pick them up for you,” Chiapparoli said, because they are reloading and reusing them as new ones are harder to find.
Now some reloading equipment and supplies are scarce, he said.
Several ammunition manufacturers did not return calls about why ammunition supplies have lagged behind demand.
Bazinet of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said the shortage seems more pronounced in some parts of the country, but that almost all ammunition manufacturers are gearing up to increase output.
Remington Arms Company LLC, of Madison, N.C., announced in May that the company plans a major expansion of its Lonoke, Ark., ammunition manufacturing plant. The company said it wanted to increase availability and decrease waiting time.