Ammunition shortage delays police from getting bullets


Some police officers take their weapons to the range to qualify three or four times per year, but Richmond Police Lt. Louie Tirona has his officers shoot monthly. He buys the department's ammo, which can take nine to 12 months to get.

"We're having to alter our training to a certain degree to maintain the skill level we require of officers and that the community expects out of us," said Tirona.

And the increase in prices was sudden and jarring after last falls' presidential election. Tirona said a few years ago he could get duty ammo for $200 a case. Now it's $800 or $900. Practice ammunition prices are also through the roof. So his officers are doing more training without ammo.

"We'll do 5-10 repetitions without any ammunition so they get the mechanics down, and then we'll do several repetitions with live fire," said Tirona.

The department is also making more use of what some of us may think of as toys.

Officers are using an airsoft pistol -- just like the one you can buy in any sporting goods store -- to learn how to draw and shoot quickly. We were shown a replica gun that shoots a laser to help officers put the weapon on target. Tirona said officers training this way show no loss of skill.

"Because we're trying to train smarter, their actual effectiveness is as high or even a little bit higher," said Tirona.

Tirona spends a lot of time on the Internet looking for bargains, and for now the department has just enough. But, for the recreational shooter, there are still shortages, some of it due to panic buying after president Obama was re-elected.

"The fear of new laws and regulations and restrictions, I think that really drove people to say, 'Hey I got to get it now before it's gone,'" said Kevin Anderson, president of the United Sportsman, Inc. shooting range in Concord.

United Sportsman tries to sell ammo at 10-percent over cost, when they can find it. Some competitors charge three times as much, but limited availability means limiting customers to two boxes per day. Anderson and Tirona both hope things will calm down over the next few months.

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