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Penticton  

Ammo hoarders hurt supply

You might not know it, but Canada is in the grip of a national ammunition shortage.

Hunters and recreational shooters alike are struggling to find the right ammo to pursue their pasttime - hunting for small game or plinking at cans and paper targets. 

".22 ammunition is hard to get, and there's every conspiracy theory in the book about why that is," said Dave Johnston, owner of Back Country Sports in Penticton. 

Basically, it comes down to limited supply and hoarding when its available. 

"People find out there's a shortage of .22 ammo, and they say 'maybe I'll take four bricks instead of one,'' Johnston said.

A 'brick' of .22 ammunition is 500 rounds. 

Chris Weber, co-owner of Weber and Markin Gunshop and Gunsmiths in Kelowna says the problem is due to all of Canada's supply coming from the U.S.

"They're (U.S. distributors) supplying their domestic customers first and that leaves very little for the Canadian market," Weber said. "There is no .22 ammunition made in Canada -- there is no firearms ammunition manufacturing going on in Canada, period." 

Weber and Johnston agreed that ammunition supply began to dwindle when President Barack Obama came into office. 

"Ever since there's been even a hint of restrictions on firearms (In the U.S.), consumers are just buying and buying and buying," Johnston said. "They're spooked."

Many suppliers in the Okanagan Valley have struggled to keep stock.

A sales representative from Wholesale Sports in West Kelowna said February marked one year since they have had .22 long rifle ammunition in stock. 

Canadian Tire in West Kelowna has some, but Canadian Tire in Kelowna and Penticton do not and haven't for months. 

Johnston says Back Country Sports in Penticton has never completely run out, although availability is somewhat limited.

Another part of that issue is pure economics.

Profit margins are smaller on .22 long rifle rounds and the cost of what has traditionally been an inexpensive round has begun to creep up. 

Johnston said the days of inexpensive ammo are behind us as the cost of smokeless gunpowder, lead and copper have all gone up, while availability has decreased. 

"The last Federal (Premium Ammunition) ammo we bought, we pretty much paid what we're selling it for," Johnston said. 

Nigel Farren, a hunter from Kamloops, said he mostly sees shortages around peak seasons.

"During grouse season we ran out and went to Powder Keg, Canadian Tire, Wal Mart and Wholesale Sports and couldn't even find 20 rounds!" he said. "About a month later (when the grouse disappear to mate) that's when Wholesale got a big order and I bought as much as I could afford at the time, which was about 2,000 rounds."

Johnston echoed that comment for other calibers as well. 

"Anything that's cheap enough that it doesn't pay to reload your own, there's a shortage of," he said. ".223, .243 - you can't find a .243 right now. That's kind of your varmint gun and its varmint season right now, so it's getting eaten up."

According to Statistics Canada, in 2012 there were an estimated two million licensed gun owners in Canada.

Before the long gun registry was repealed in 2011, there were approximately seven million non-restricted firearms in Canada and approximately 800,000 registered firearms. 

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