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ARNOLD • Stan Dix and his staff at the Top Gun store here take turns getting up in the middle of the night to scour the Internet for fresh postings of ammunition for sale. Availability, he says, is scarce.

“Wholesalers get their supplies in overnight, so I’ll get up around 2 or 3 a.m. to check their websites,” Dix said. “We’re kind of doing what we have to, and limiting sales to use at our range.”

Dix and other firearm retailers say President Barack Obama’s gun-control initiative, and reactions to the Sandy Hook school shooting, have driven consumers to buy large amounts of ammunition.

For instance, fourth-quarter profit for the Clayton-based Olin Corp., increased 85 percent, driven by strong sales of ammunition to commercial, military and law enforcement customers, according to reports released Tuesday. In Olin’s Winchester ammunition unit, sales increased to $155.8 million in the fourth quarter, from $122.5 million a year earlier. (See story in Business, A13)

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun and ammunition manufacturers nationwide, said in statement: “We are hearing of spot shortages of some calibers of ammunition at retail. Demand has been high for several years. America’s ammunition makers are working hard to safely produce and ship the quality and quantity of ammunition to meet that demand.”

The organization’s spokesman, Mike Bazinet, said Tuesday that he did not have information about which calibers are running low.

Dix said all calibers are affected but 9mm cartridges tends to be particularly scarce. He said they’re especially popular with people who believe they are the size of choice for many police departments.

Larger police agencies buy in bulk and stockpile ammunition.

St. Louis police, who use 9mm rounds, have enough ammunition for training and field duty for 21/2 years, a department spokesman said, with a shipment pending to cover two more years.

St. Louis County police use .40-caliber cartridges, and armorer John Bozarth said the department has ordered enough for the next eight months.

Dix said he has been getting calls from smaller municipal police departments in the St. Louis and Southern Illinois regions, seeking cartridges for training. But, he wouldn’t name names.

He said the last time his store offered 9mm rounds for sale was the week before Christmas. Since then, it has limited sales to customers for use at the Top Gun range only, and increased prices. “Our policies change almost daily around here, but we have to in this environment,” Dix said.

The staff at Metro Shooting locations in Bridgeton and Belleville also are in conservation mode, and consumers are seeing about a 25 percent increase in prices, said John Stephenson, general manager at Bridgeton.

Stephenson said that about two weeks ago, customers were buying 15 to 30 boxes of 9mm ammunition at a time. The store has since limited sales to two boxes, only to see customers return daily for more.

“Since the election, the whole thing has been picking up, and with the unfortunate shootings at Sandy Hook, that put a feeding frenzy on firearms and ammo and anything gun-related,” Stephenson said. “Once Obama made the announcement that he would try to resurrect a gun ban, it’s added insult to injury. And one thing about Americans is, they don’t like being told they can’t have something, so they react accordingly.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the type of shooting range at Top Gun in Arnold.

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