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National gun sales hit record highs in 2020, with more than 8 million people buying guns for the first time, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported.
A demand for more ammunition has kept manufactures scrambling to keep up — and, in some parts of the country, the shortage means police can’t practice their gun skills, according to Lexipol, a national police training and consulting company.
Northeast Michigan police haven’t felt that pinch, said Alpena County Undersheriff Erik Smith.
Anticipating the shortage, the sheriff’s office ordered 8,000 rounds at the beginning of the year. Those rounds have not arrived but officials expect the shipment soon, and the office has plenty of ammunition for training in the meantime, Smith said.
The state mandates firearm training once a year for their office, Smith said, but Alpena County deputies typically train twice per year, shooting several hundred rounds per person at each training.
The Sheriff’s Office tweaked its most recent training to expend fewer rounds and conserve ammunition, Smith said.
Officers at the Presque Isle County Sheriff’s Office have enough ammunition to fill the multiple pistol and rifle holsters they carry daily, Deputy John Eby said.
“There’s a common saying for police officers,” Eby said, “‘You never know what you’re going to get into.'”
Even a traffic stop could turn into a shootout that lasts five or 10 minutes in which, Eby said, “you can go through a lot of ammunition.”
To keep police stocked and able to train, ammunition suppliers prioritize law enforcement and military orders, said 1st Lt. John Grimshaw, commander of the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post.
Post troopers and sergeants just finished their fall shoot, one of four annual firearm training sessions in which officers practice skills with handguns, shotguns, and rifles.
The post has access to adequate ammunition to continue its training regimine, Grimshaw said.
Though Northeast Michigan police may respond to violent crime less frequently than officers in metropolitan areas, he said, local officers need practice to ensure they can handle their weapons properly when necessary.
“If you have to use it, you use it appropriately, and you use it well,” Grimshaw said. “It may be the thing that saves your life, plain and simple.”
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