The line inside Sportsman’s Warehouse stretched nearly to the back of the large store on Thursday when the week’s supply of ammunition arrived in an 18-wheeler from Salt Lake City.
For the past five months this has been a Thursday ritual at the Casper store. People come as early as 11 a.m. to wait until the ammo has been unloaded and is ready for sale around 3 p.m.
Each customer can buy only three boxes of any particular type.
Ardell Breed’s husband usually makes the trip, but he had to work, so she checked the list from him and her son that she had on her phone. She arrived at 1:45 p.m. and was loading the $750 worth of purchases into her car an hour later.
‘I have more’
Employee Heather Strong shouted “I have more” above the noise of 10 clerks and at least 75 milling customers. Extra employees are assigned to the ammo rush every Thursday, and they say the customers are patient.
Christen Osmotherly describes the point of view of the employees feverishly trying to fill orders: “It’s a rush, hectic. It keeps you on your toes. People are nice about having to wait in line. They know we don’t want to sell everything to the people in the front of the line.”
General Manager Miles Bundy describes the Thursday scene as “mad, panic buying.”
He said that soon after the killings in Newtown, Conn., in December and the calls for gun regulation, people began “buying everything.”
Prices have not gone up at Sportsman’s Warehouse, a fact some of the buyers mentioned appreciatively. But Bundy thinks some of the customers buy to resell at a higher price.
The biggest sellers are the .22-caliber bulk ammunition and .223 ammo.
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Why the rush?
Bill Jackson, who has been a regular Thursday customer for five months, said Casper is one of the best places for buying ammunition; he said it’s harder to find in Colorado and New Mexico.
“People buy them (the ammo boxes) partly because they’re afraid that even if no (gun) laws are passed, taxes may be raised so they can’t afford it,” Jackson said.
He noticed that “everybody wants the .22s; that’s the cheap kind of ammo that people like to use when they just go out plinking.”
Bundy said Sportsman’s Warehouse is receiving the same shipment it always has from a large warehouse in Salt Lake City that supplies a number of the chain’s stores. He added that people are buying powder, primer and items that they need to make bullets.
Customer Dave Kenke’s plan was to make his own ammo, but the store was out of powder.
The mood in the line for ammunition was cheerful for a city where people are almost never willing to wait in a line.
Three employees from one Casper business had slipped out of work to make their purchases, “tag-teaming” to help each other out with the three-box limit.
Another store visitor in town from Douglas just wanted to see all the fuss, but he left, unwilling to wait in line for two hours.
“It’s like hitting the lottery to get the .22 bullets,” Jackson said after waiting in line and finding what he wanted.