Grocery stores aren’t the only businesses seeing runs on their products due to the coronavirus outbreak. Firearms dealers say they’re having a problem keeping up with the demand.
“We are wide open,” said Michael Blackman of Country Boy Outfitters in Whiteville.
“Our gun sales are up 100 percent, and our ammo sales are through the roof,” said Dave Manolis of Dixie Steel Guns-n-Ammo near Chadbourn.
Despite the rise in hog hunting and the opener for turkey season being just a few weeks away, the vast majority of the weapons purchases in recent days have been for home defense, both men said.
“Most of our sales have been in the $200 to $350 range,” Manolis said. He and his partner Randy Norris have been seeing a drastic increase in walk-in traffic as well as telephone calls.
“A lot of our customers have been first or second time gun buyers,” Manolis said. “People are concerned about protecting their homes and families.”
Blackman said sales have increased due to the national insecurity surrounding the spread of the illness.
“People want to be able to feel secure,” he said. “If things get bad, they want to be able to defend themselves.”
Both businesses reported that obtaining ammunition and firearms from wholesalers has become difficult.
“We’re supposed to get a big shipment this week,” Blackman said. “I hope it gets here. We have people waiting.”
Several popular suppliers, including Palmetto State Armory of Charleston and Del-Ton of Elizabethtown, have notices on their websites about extensive wait times for components and completed firearms. Both firms manufacture the popular AR pattern rifle, for which many parts can be ordered online. Lower receivers and completed rifles must be purchased through a licensed firearms dealer, and require a background check.
“It’s not just the AR rifles we’re selling,” Manolis said. “Handguns, shotguns, and other types that are designed for defending your home.”
Blackman and Manolis both said their suppliers are doing their best to keep up with demand.
“The popular rounds – 9mm, .223, .40 – are scarcer than hen’s teeth,” Blackman said.
“As soon as we get a shipment in,” Manolis said, “We have people wanting to buy it.
“We saw a big increase when Walmart quit selling many kinds of ammunition,” he said, “but this is even bigger.” He noted that he and Norris have added additional hours at their store to accommodate customers.
“I think a lot of people are concerned that as the stores empty and supplies are delayed, thieves will start looking elsewhere for things they can sell, whether it’s food or drugs,” Manolis said. “The 24-hour news cycle is scaring people, and that causes runs on the stores, including ours. As people stockpile groceries and medicines, it makes it harder for people to get what they need.
“If folks would just take a breath, and only buy what they need – maybe a little more – things would calm down, and the suppliers could keep up. When the stores sell out immediately, that makes people more desperate for the next shipment, even if they already have enough. That causes more shortages. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle,”
Blackman said his staff is going the extra mile to help their customers.
“People are unsure about what is going to happen tomorrow,” Blackman said. “They want to be ready.”