National ammo shortage affecting central Indiana police departments

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COLUMBUS, Ind – A national shortage of ammunition is forcing central Indiana police departments to cut back on practice and training at firing ranges in an effort to conserve existing supplies.

“We placed an order at the beginning of last year and it didn’t arrive until December,” said Columbus Police Department spokesperson Lt. Matt Harris. “And we’re several months into 2021 and we’ve not received this year’s shipment yet.”

Departments are being told by supply companies that orders that used to take 3 to 4 weeks to arrive could take 9 months or up to a year to come in.

“We’ve heard stories of police departments traveling two, three, four hundred miles to somewhere they can find ammunition to purchase it,” Harris said.

The problem is a national run-on gun supplies that started with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued through summer riots and the election cycle.

Luke Surface, manager of Atkinson Firearms in Greenwood, says he remembers the rush when Governor Eric Holcomb issued announced Indiana’s 14-day stay home order.

“That day is when we started with a stock of firearms and ammo more than this, and within three days we pretty much sold out,” Surface said. “That’s when you started seeing stores and shops started to limit stuff, you know two boxes a day. A lot of stores still do that.”

For civilian shoppers, a box of 9-millimeter rounds that used to cost $14 now costs $50 or $60. While many police departments are price protected by contracts, they’re still dealing with the same lack of supply.

“A lot of police officers coming in, saying ‘We only had 60 rounds at the range, usually we have 320 or 400 rounds to use,” Surface said.

“As a law enforcement officer, we’re responsible for very round that is fired out of that weapon, and it’s one of the most important trainings that we do,” Harris said. “We would have an open range day where officers are able to come in for additional training and work with our firearms instructors. With the way things are right now, it’s probably not going to be a possibility.”

Columbus Police were able to complete their mandatory spring firearms qualifications using the remnants of their 2020 ammunition order. Harris believes the department has enough ammunition on hand to make it through the summer. However, mandatory fall qualifications are scheduled in September and the department doesn’t know when their 2021 ammunition order will arrive.

“We have just a little bit of ammunition left over so we’re waiting for this year’s shipment to arrive, which we ordered just over 100,000 rounds,” Harris said.

Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess said an order placed in December of 2020 may not arrive until December 2021.

Area agencies are hoping manufacturers will be able to ramp up production in order to catch up with the current demand. Meantime, Harris says the Columbus Police Department has already placed its 2022 order, anticipating a long wait time.

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