ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Consumers have seen shortages of many products over the past year, but one of these is having a bigger impact on law enforcement: Ammunition.

Jason Peterson, chief deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, said he has been waiting more than a year for rifle ammunition to arrive.

Jason Peterson
Jason Peterson

"We have ammunition, but we have to limit the amount," Peterson said. "Every agency is in the same boat right now. ...

"We're supposed to have some in October," he said. "They told me August, now they're saying October (is when) they're going to start processing."

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In the regular report he provided to the Alexandria City Council last month, Police Chief Scott Kent also said his office has been waiting a year for ammunition that has still not arrived.

Scott Kent
Scott Kent

"(We) have had to cancel one of our range trainings and adjust to what we have available in order to train," the report read.

Peterson said his office also needs ammunition for training.

"We have to shoot so many times a year, and we're just limited in the amount we can shoot right now, between patrol staff and our SWAT team and everything else," he said.

Law enforcement is a large program at Alexandria Technical and Community College and the school's gun range helps officers from wide area train and certify during the summer. Scott Stumpf, law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Tech, said that program is keeping its head above water.

"We had just enough to get through skills this summer and were able to receive a shipment to cover us for this school year, so we're happy about that," he said.

Stumpf said there has been more difficulty with the permit to carry classes he teaches to community members. He said he tells those class members to allow themselves plenty of time to look for the ammunition they need.

"If I go into Fleet Farm, I typically take a swing past the ammunition area just to see if they have any, and if they do, I take advantage of that," Stumpf said. "If suddenly you were going to take a permit to carry class this Saturday and say, 'Oh, I should go get some ammo Friday afternoon,' chances are you're not going to find it."

"We have to shoot so many times a year, and we're just limited in the amount we can shoot right now, between patrol staff and our SWAT team and everything else."

— Jason Peterson, chief deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Local merchants are also feeling the pinch. Although they recently received a shipment, Jason Leigh, sales manager at Alex Pro Firearm said he has "definitely noticed" the difficulty in getting ammunition.

"The ammo we have gotten we've had to use for the manufacturing of our firearms, so we haven't had a terrible lot to sell over the last year, year and a half," he said.

Peterson said that while there have been shortages in the past, he has not seen any on this scale, adding that his office may have had to wait a year for its orders to come in, but never a year and a half.

"Usually it was six to eight months that we got the ammunition that we ordered," he said.

Leigh agreed, saying, "Our entire customer base spans all across the country, and nobody's able to find what they need in the quantity that they need, or even the caliber that they're after."

Stumpf said there are several reasons behind the shortage.

"Any time you have a change in presidency, especially if you're going from a Republican to Democrat, there are always concerns about gun laws coming into play and things like that. People will often react to that," he said.

Looking into the face of another wave of the pandemic also doesn't help, Stumpf said.

"That doesn't … stabilize things at all, and it doesn't necessarily calm people," he said. "I think everybody was hoping that we would be coming out of this and not looking back, and here we are looking in the face of it again."

Because of the shortage, when ammunition is available, it likely won't be for long because people will buy what they can, and also tell their friends who are looking for it, as well, Stumpf said.

"That's kind of how it goes sometimes," he said. "If you find out (a store) has some, you have to be quick to move on it sometimes. If you wait a day or two — sometimes if you wait hours — it won't even be there."