The great ammunition shortage of 2013 rolls on with only slight improvement in ammo apparent in Southern Illinois.

“Slight would be the key word,” said John Mann, owner of Mann and Son Sporting Goods in Pinckneyville.

Mann said he’s seeing a modest rise in the supply of centerfire handgun calibers, with the exception of 9mm, a very popular item that comes in premium, defensive loads and in less-expensive loadings mainly marketed for shooting practice.

Finding and actually receiving a quantity of 9mm cartridges remains a day-to-day challenge, Mann said.

Supply of centerfire rifle calibers — with the exception of the .223 Remington — appear to be improving a bit, Mann said. His shop’s shelves showed a quantity of .308 Winchester, as well as 7.62 x 39mm, the round made famous by the rifles of the former Soviet Union and its satellite countries.

But, Mann said, rimfire .22LR cartridges, once so common they were nearly forgettable, remain the toughest get. And when .22s come in, they move out at bullet speed, even with per-customer limits.

Justin Walters of Dunn’s Sporting Goods in Marion said he’s seen about the same.

“It’s been back and forth,” he said. “One time a supplier will have an item, the next time it’s out of stock.”

A recent visit to Dunn’s showed plenty of .308 in stock, but no .223.

Revolver rounds including the .38 Special and .357 Magnum were readily available, but 9mm practice rounds were not to be had that day.

Dunn’s did have an assortment of premium, defensive pistol cartridges in a range of calibers, which hasn’t been the local norm.

Some local Rural King stores have upped their limits of a given caliber per customer from two or three boxes to six.

Again, 9mm seems to move out fastest, and getting hold of .22LR is seemingly a matter of being at the store within a couple of hours of a shipment being received and stocked.

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The same seems true of local Walmart stores, which have been limiting purchases to two or three boxes per caliber per customer.

Stu Wright of Wrights Inc. in Pinckneyville said availability of reloading supplies is improving in some areas, less so in others.

Primers are becoming more available, although prices have risen, said the gunsmith and shop owner. For shotgunners, lead shot is out there, but it is still highly priced compared to days gone by, Wright said.

For rifle and pistol cartridge loaders, he said, the frequently missing ingredient is the bullet. Most appear to be going into factory manufactured ammunition.

For their part, makers said they are pushing production as fast as safety will allow. Hornady Manufacturing, which sells both premium bullets and factory-loaded rounds, said it is running production of its most popular items on three shifts daily.

Armscor USA and Armscor International have doubled their manufacturing capabilities and committed $4 million in new equipment, the companies said in a recent news release.

Bill Brassard of the National Shooting Sports Federation, an industry trade group, said the organization has been hearing reports of gradual improvement in availability, but those reports vary from region to region.

“We’re hopeful this is the beginning of a trend toward fully stocked shelves,” Brassard said. But he added, that surely will take time.

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, wrote an opinion piece that appeared last week on The Daily Caller website.

His take: “One supplier says he doesn’t have a shortage of ammunition, but a serious surplus of customers. As long as people have discretionary funds available and are stressed by political and economic uncertainty, or even by perceived political and eco-nomic uncertainty, demand for ammo will outstrip supply.”

Local sources say that pretty much sums it up; when the environment settles down, so will the market for ammunition.

In the meantime, the old standby .22, once the most purchased and most shot round in the country, now may be the most stashed, too.

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