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Special Report: Out of Ammo

WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Some consider it a valuable commodity, like a jewel or a rare find.

Gun owners are searching for weeks and months for this ammunition.

But rounds of .22 ammunition are in short supply, leading to a buying frenzy in Michigan and across the country.

Rumors are spreading, including government conspiracy theories, as the reason for the ammunition shortage.

Newschannel 3 looked into what's real and what's not, and how it's affecting everyone, from gun owners to businesses.

The running joke in some circles is these small bullets are gold--searched for, unearthed, stockpiled for a rainy day--as a shortage made them hard to come by.

Dan Grimes, of ASR Group, teaches gun safety and responsible gun ownership. He tells us .22 is one of the most common rounds in the world today, used for a number of things, from hunting, to skill shooting competitions, to training beginners.

During the last year or so, a shortage of this ammunition reached crisis levels.

"It's involved in anywhere from youth shooting, when you get people into shooting sports. It's the easiest for recoil purposes, and it used to be the most inexpensive," Grimes said.

Rumors spread of gun owners hoarding these rounds as demand led to increased sales, which led to even more demand.

Stores started limiting sales, going along with a major spike in new gun owners during recent years.

"A lot of sporting goods and gun stores in the area, you can only buy 4 boxes at a time, 2 boxes at a time," Grimes said.

Newschannel 3 investigated the myths and rumors that spread like wildfire as to why this is going on.

From the Department of Homeland Security hoarding ammunition--a federal report actually shows it's buying fewer rounds--to President Barack Obama, school shootings, and tougher gun laws curbing access to bullets.

"Two years ago, when I was buying ammunition, I could buy .22 by the pallet load, and now they're putting restrictions on how much you can get and how you get that ammo," said Jonathan Southwick with Ammo Inc., of Otsego.

Ammo Inc. is building a new seven-thousand square foot store off M-89 to deal with demand of all things gun-related. Southwick tells Newschannel 3 they sell ammo, guns and tactical gear, and do most of their business for now at gun shows.

"Every morning, I call one of my distributors and ask him if he got any in overnight. I email my other two to see if they got any and throughout the day constantly checking my emails to see if any come in, and then at the close of business, I give them a call," Southwick said. "It's basically hourly right now."

Reserve officers are receiving gun training in Hastings--the course led by Barry Township Police Chief Victor Pierce.

He tells Newschannel 3 that some agencies buy these rounds to save their ammunition budget, but they're not the only rounds hard to come by.

"Some duty ammo that we tried to order were eight months backlogged, and I know some training academies, they plan on ordering it for their police academy, they have to plan almost a year in advance," Chief Pierce said.

We're told the situation is on the rebound, slowly getting better, and according to everyone we talked to, no one believes the rumors. But it may never reach levels seen before.

For some, the answer why is fairly simple.

"We've got more gun owners throughout the U.S., hence there's greater demand," Chief Pierce said.