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LE agencies experiencing delayed ammo shipments

By D.L. Wise
Greensboro News-Record

GREENSBORO, N.C. — As the equipment officer and firearms instructor at the High Point Police Department, Officer Byron Low used to receive ammunition shipments in 30 days.

But now he has to wait — and wait. A shipment he ordered last June arrived nine months later.

Law enforcement agencies in the Triad and across the nation have received delayed ammunition shipments because of the military’s high demand for small-caliber ammunition and the high demand for natural resources to make ammunition from Asian countries.

“We’ve experienced delivery delays in ammunition, and that is common when there is military action,” said Gary McNabb, logistics supervisor at the Greensboro Police Department.

McNabb said the department tries to plan ahead and make allowances for the delays, which can be from three to five months.

The Army’s demand for the small-caliber ammunition that is also used by local law enforcement rose from about 426 million rounds in 2001 to 1.5 billion rounds in 2006, said Stephen Abney, the chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army’s Joint Munitions Command.

Abney said spending for such ammunition has more than doubled from about $242 million in 2001 to $688 million in 2006.

But Linda Powell, manager of press relations for Remington Arms Co., which is one of the main state contractors for ammunition, said the company’s supply and demand is not being affected by the military.

Powell attributes some tardiness in ammunition production to competition from China and Japan. She said those countries are buying natural resources needed to make ammunition, such as copper, lead and steel, extensively.

“We’re in competition with them for the supply,” she said.

Representatives from Remington and the other state contractors — Winchester Ammunition and Alliant Techsystems — said their facilities are running at full capacity to keep up with the demands of the military and local law enforcement.

Local police still have to make due with the ammunition they have for shooting practice and firearms qualifications.

"(The delays) made us reschedule some things for training, but it hasn’t affected the way we patrol and how we protect the public,” Low said.

But he said he has to keep up-to-date counts of ammunition and once thought that the department might have to take rifles off the street in the future. “I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point, but that’s one of the things we’ll have to keep in mind.”

Copyright 2007 Greensboro News-Record