Ammunition for firearms is becoming so hard to find that the scarcity is impacting training at police departments in the Tri-Lakes Area.
Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell said ammunition his deputies use for firearms training is becoming harder to find.
“We are definitely feeling the impact of it,” Russell said. “I talked with my firearms instructor, and it is going to be difficult to get some of the ammo we need for training.”
Russell said his department utilizes some local manufacturers, but their prices have gone up in recent months.
Hollister Police Chief Preston Schmidt said it is impacting his department too, noting that it cost $105 recently to purchase two magazines and .223-caliber ammunition for a department rifle.
“Ammunition is becoming a problem,” Schmidt said.
Lt. E.J. Jones of the Branson Police Department said the limited availability has caused the department to cut back on the number of live-fire drills it conducts.
“We’re trying to make every single round count,” Jones said. “Officers don’t go out and just shoot 100 rounds down range. We try to get the most training for our buck when it comes to ammunition.”
Russell said .223 ammunition in particular is hard to find because it is the same type of ammo used in military firearms.
Branson police utilize .223 rounds in their rifles similar to Hollister, Jones said, but .40-caliber handgun rounds, rather than typical 9 mm pistols.
Schmidt noted the Hollister department has historically gotten its supplies from a vendor through a state bid, meaning that any agency in the state can utilize the same bid price.
The vendors, however, are now experiencing major delays, Schmidt said, noting the current wait is estimated at four months.
Jones said the Branson department’s vendor is backlogged six to eight months.
“We don’t have concerns with being able to supply our officers with the ammo they need to perform their job,” he said.
The delay has caused small departments to start looking elsewhere.
“We’re looking at other means, but it hasn’t been really successful, as of yet,” Schmidt said.
Russell said police agencies stick with factory ammunition.
“Whenever you go using handloads, you want to make sure whoever is doing the reload is very particular about it,” he said. “Most people who handload do it for themselves. They can’t really afford the (liability) insurance to handload commercially.”
Russell said his office has used factory reload rounds in the past for target and training shooting.
Jones said Branson police firearms are under warranty, a warranty that would be voided by using anything other than first-run factory rounds.
“When you talk about first-run, that means every component — the casing, the primer, the powder and the projectile — it’s all brand new,” he said. “Statistically, that’s very reliable. Whenever you start talking about factory reload, it is still very reliable and good for training, but it reuses the brass casing.”
But for use in the field, factory, first-run ammo is best, said Rick Ziegenfuss, Hollister city administrator and retired U.S. Army officer.
“I do believe it is prudent to use first-run ammo in our service weapons,” Ziegenfuss said. “Scarcity is what is causing it to be expensive. Because of the recent spade of shootings, people are concerned about the availability of rounds.”
The possibility of federal restrictions on guns is causing people to hoard both weapons and ammo, Russell said.
“I’m hoping, if we wait a few months, maybe this will kind of settle down and the price will get back in line where it needs to be,” he said. “We haven’t priced it yet, but from what I’ve seen people selling it for, it’s gone up tremendously.
“If they’ll back off this talk of bans, which it sounds like they’re starting to do — if things start to back off on talks of weapons — hopefully that will kind of help.”
Schmidt said his agency doesn’t plan to cut back on its ammunition use in order to meet qualifications.
“We may cut back on some of the other training,” he said.
Hollister police also are looking at more less-than-lethal options, including shotguns in every vehicle which fire non-lethal rounds, and tasers. Taser requalification will be held this week, with nonlethal shotgun certification in the spring.
In addition to reducing ammo use, the move also improves on the department’s commitment to use the lowest level of force needed, Ziegenfuss said.
“Sometimes there’s this belief that smaller departments are less capable, and that’s just not the case,” he said.