"We get very little supply in right now and too much demand," said Joe Gooch, owner of Southern Rod & Gun in Sikeston, Mo.
The ammunition that has been the scarcest is that used in handguns commonly associated with self-protection, such as 9 mm, .380-caliber and .38 Special bullets, gun retailers said.
Ammunition for those types of weapons has been "really hard to get," said Rowdy Enderle, manager at Shooters Gun Shop of Cape Girardeau. Shooters recently got a shipment of those types, he said, but keeping consistently stocked has been difficult.
Fear that possible new federal taxes under the Obama administration will cause the cost of ammunition for personal weapons to increase has caused many gun owners to begin stocking up, Enderle said.
At the Cape Girardeau Wal-Mart, a customer recently purchased about $1,600 worth of ammunition for a handgun, said sporting goods associate Jason Jackson.
The warehouse that supplies Wal-Mart has been running low on .380 and 9 mm ammunition, Jackson said.
"We get boxes here and there; before the election we got it every day," Jackson said.
Southern Rod & Gun used to get five to 10 cases of ammunition at a time from suppliers, Gooch said.
"The other day I got just one box," he said. "That's hardly worth putting on the books."
Law enforcement agencies have not been exempt from the difficulty in getting ammunition, said Lt. Barry Hovis, support services coordinator for the Cape Girardeau Police Department.
"The cost has continued to rise; now it's availability. We can't get it," Hovis said.
Back orders at suppliers have extended the time the department has to wait to receive a shipment to up to 90 days in some cases, Hovis said. Previously the wait time was 30 to 60 days.
Hovis said he tries to order ammunition a year in advance, so the department should be in good shape to meet demands for spring firearms qualifications.
Concerns that economic woes may cause an increase in crime rates, raw materials for production being depleted by the war in Iraq and the new administration could all be contributing to the problem, Hovis said.
Meanwhile, more people are buying handguns for personal protection than ever before, gun sellers say.
Gooch described recent handgun sales at his Sikeston shop as "tremendous," saying he'd seen about a 25 to 40 percent spike since the fall. He cited wide media coverage of crime as a possible reason for the increase.
"Long guns aren't selling hardly at all," Gooch said.
Enderle said nearly half of the guns sold at Shooters are pistols, compared to about 25 percent several years ago.
"There have been some high-profile shootings here in town that have caused people to run out and buy handguns," Enderle said.
When a Cape Girardeau woman shot and killed her rapist in October after he broke into her home and attempted to attack her a second time, more women came in to purchase firearms, he said. Overall, the number of women who buy handguns at Shooters has risen about 30 percent in the past year, he said.
"Women are finding out more and more they can protect themselves instead of relying on another person," Enderle said.
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