In a backroom of a coin and gold shop in Oklahoma City, thousands of bullets, in various sizes, containers and boxes, cover a table.
Chelsey Davis said he's buying most kinds of ammunition, so long as it's been stored properly and is still usable. He's been doing it for about a week.
“The first three days we purchased 10,000 rounds, which was a couple thousand dollars spent,” Davis said. “These are people that had them in the garage, in the closet … they either no longer had the guns or no longer had use for them.”
Ammunition is becoming so hard to get in the Oklahoma City area — and elsewhere across the nation — that Davis' coin and gold shop is now in the “Cash for Bullets” business.
It's the latest twist on a nationwide gun craze, fueled by a presidential election, a mass shooting on the East Coast and — depending on who's asked — a variety of other factors.
Tactical weapons, guns like the AR-15 rifle, are nearly impossible to buy from a retail store. Accessories, such as high-capacity magazines, can be difficult to find, too.
Now the very bullets needed to load and fire all these guns are becoming scarce.
At Oklahoma Coin & Gold, 4001 N Pennsylvania Ave., the bullet shortage means opportunity. At least that's the hope.
Davis, 39, said he is planning to stockpile the ammunition — for the moment — but said he may sell it in the future. He said it's no different from buying gold, silver or other precious metals.
“People are having trouble trying to purchase them, stores are running out everywhere,” Davis said. “Even the distributors and the manufacturers … there's shortages all the way up the chain.”
On the other hand, there are people with ammunition they don't need.
Davis said he's “creating a marketplace” where the two groups can do business.
“In the U.S., in the Old West, it was used to barter with,” he said. “I don't believe we're headed in that direction anytime soon, but there still are people that keep and store it.
“It has gone up in value over the years. … It is a viable form of currency.”
Guns are popular
Gun sales have soared in recent months, both here in Oklahoma and nationwide.
In 2012, the number of criminal background checks requested by Oklahoma gun shop owners, which are required before completing a gun purchase, indicated that interest in firearms was at an all-time high.
According to records kept by the FBI, the 367,976 background checks requested by store owners last year topped the previous record — set in 2011 — by nearly 100,000.
With some guns sitting on the shelf for just minutes, literally, the demand for ammunition also has trended sharply upward.
At Big Boy's Guns & Ammo, owner Brigette Blackwell said the store can't get enough bullets in from suppliers to meet its customers' demands.
Blackwell said presidential elections always create a surge in the firearms industry but that the current climate is unprecedented. She said the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut remains a major factor in the gun craze.
“Really, people are just running scared, in my opinion,” Blackwell said. “Gun sales are crazy right now, and ammunition goes right along with that.
“I keep thinking it will get back to normal, but it's still crazy.”
To keep her customers at least somewhat satisfied, the shop owner limits ammunition sales when supplies run low.
“We try to be fair … one or two boxes are better than none,” Blackwell said.