This is most evident on store shelves. Select types of ammunition – ranging from the .308 caliber typical in self-defense guns to the .223 caliber usually associated with assault-style weapons – are nearly impossible to get in many parts of the country. Prices are up by more than half over last year. Assault-style weapons are back-ordered for months. Springfield, Mass., gunmaker Smith & Wesson is one of the few brights lights on Wall Street, its stock price up by 70 percent on the year. A few weeks ago, the gunmaker took orders of over $9 million in one day.
The FBI is hiring extra processors to deal with a glut of background checks that have increased by 25 percent year to year every month since November – a good indicator of sales. In the wheat-and-cattle corner of Oklahoma patrolled by Sheriff Bill Winchester, concealed-carry permit applications are up by 300 percent, including a request by an elderly man whose hands were so unsteady that he could barely scribble his name.
"There's just so many people that would never have knocked on our doors before that are now coming in," says Bob Roddy, a longtime clerk at Chuck's Firearms in Norcross, Ga., outside Atlanta. "There's a level of desperation which I don't ever recall seeing before."