Apr. 13—Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, local gun store owners are still seeing its affects on the industry, with higher prices and supply chain issues causing the biggest challenges.
Darrik Caraway, owner of Whittaker Guns in Daviess County, said his store, which sells an array of sporting goods, has seen demand for guns return to almost pre-pandemic levels.
"Demand has leveled out substantially on firearms and ammunition," he said.
Supply chain issues, however, are having a noticeable impact.
"Our turkey season starts Saturday," he said. "They haven't shipped us the turkey shotguns or the turkey ammunition. We have some, but they haven't shipped the large quantities that we have on order."
Caraway said manufacturers have missed the appropriate timing, and if the items do not arrive in time, he will have to sit on the product for another year.
"It is every industry, it is not just ours, the manufacturers are kind of letting us down," Caraway said. "We had a market, we had an opportunity to capitalize on sales, and they basically couldn't get the volume of product needed to anybody."
Despite the reduction in demand, prices have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Caraway said he is still receiving weekly notices from companies regarding price increases.
"Quite honestly, prices haven't softened," he said. "If there has been any market softening, it is from the retailers that were gouging their customers in the beginning."
Caraway gave an example of a specific brand of 9mm ammunition that sold for $7.99 per box before the pandemic.
"We were paying $6.99 a box," he said. "By April 15, (2020), the cost of that ammunition was over $12 a box. So the cost of goods just skyrocketed."
Caraway said that while imported items are still more difficult to get, some items manufactured in the United States are a little more readily available.
"Manufacturers like Smith and Wesson and Ruger, they have done a really good job of supplying us with products throughout the pandemic," he said.
Barrett Saalwaechter, owner of Bullets Pawn Guns and Jewelry in Owensboro, said the pawn business also saw a significant increase in the demand for firearms during the COVID-19 pandemic, but things have now slowed down.
"Gun sales have slowed down a little since the height of the pandemic," he said. "Guns are seeming to come in more than they were during COVID-19."
"During COVID-19, it seems everyone was holding onto what they had."
Chris Miller, owner of Frank Miller and Son Sporting Goods in Owensboro, said the business is still seeing people who are looking to buy.
Miller said he believes the downswing in gun purchases in recent months has more to do with supply chain issues related to ammunition.
"People are still buying guns, they may not be buying them as strong as they were, but a lot of that has to do with the lack of ammo," Miller said. "Supplies got tight, guns got tighter to get, and ammo is still really tight."