It's really strange when I visit my friends that work in local gun shops right now. Most shelves are still loaded up with the normal stock of accessories and supplies that shooters and hunters use. Deer rifles and hunting shotguns are still plentiful. But when it comes to the number of pistols or boxes of ammo on the shelf, it has the feeling of a going out of business sale.

The number of background checks on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in June hit an all-time record in June. 3,931,607 checks were processed by the FBI, over 200,000 more than the previous record set in March of this year. These checks don't include checks that were for non-firearm reasons like pistol permit applications. The number also doesn't include people who have concealed pistol permits that allow buyers to bypass the background check, like South Dakota's Enhanced permit.

The number of background checks run in South Dakota was not up as significantly as you might think. Checks increased significantly in March as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting, rising 3,370 to 11,332. But that number is not abnormal for March as it is often the most popular month in the spring for gun sales. However, the 9,844 background checks run last month in South Dakota was the biggest June in the last ten years by 24 percent.

The statistics don't necessarily describe how scarce pistols and ammo are right now, at least locally. My friend Duane at Gary's Gun Shop sent me a pic of what their pistol counter looks like currently, seen above. Normally all three levels are filled with various handguns. Now they all have lots of breathing room. They are still getting new stock in regularly, but many first-time gun buyers are snatching them up as soon as they come in.

Ammunition is also hard to come by for a number of reasons. Panic buying is one. But components for ammunition, like lead and gunpowder that are mostly manufactured overseas, aren't making it into the U.S. as easily because of the pandemic. But in my opinion, knowing how shooters think, there is a shortage because there is a shortage.

I often stop into all of the stores, Gary's, Scheels, Blue Collar Tactical, and any other store that sells ammo just to see if there is any around. It is somewhat cyclical. There will be a bunch for a while, then it sells out quickly.

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