Guns, ammunition sales surge in Downstate Delaware

Shooters Choice customers parked on the shoulder of U.S. 13 because their parking lot was full on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

SMYRNA — Ron Jackson’s futile search for a Glock 42 .380 caliber handgun continued on Monday.

A quick check at Smyrna Sporting Goods downtown didn’t pan out.

Earlier, he had no luck at Shooter’s Choice less than eight miles to the south on U.S. 13 in the Cheswold-Dover area.

“They didn’t have one there either,” the 62-year-old said. “There’s another place in Dover I might try next, so we’ll see.”

Mr. Jackson wanted a firearm while hoping he’ll never need to draw it or pull the trigger.

“I’m 62 and have never had a problem, but these days you never know,” he said. “Carrying (a gun) is something I need to do for my safety.

“(I’m doing) this because of the virus. In hard times when there’s the possibility of robbing and looting, people will do just about anything to get what they need. This is more or less to protect myself.”

Local gun shops have been swamped for days as widespread business closures neared in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Shooters Choice customers wait to enter the gun store on Saturday.

At Shooter’s Choice Monday, the first customer was at the front door by 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes before opening. He and a handful of others made up the first wave allowed inside, and 30 patrons waited outside in a cold drizzle bordering on full-fledged rain.

Staff unlocked the door as one person entered and locked it as one exited.

Dover’s Mike Andrews was the first one in to “buy a gun and ammunition.” Behind him, another person in line said he waited 90 minutes to enter a couple days before. Someone else reported that Cabela’s at Christiana Mall in Newark was hopping as well.

A few spots down the line, Felton’s Chris Rupp said he was waiting to buy ammunition “because this might be the last time the store is open for awhile.”

While Bridgeville’s Rick Wetherbee said he wasn’t afraid of the current conditions, he believed many others are.

“A lot of this is because of everything people are hearing, the great uncertainty of it all,” he said. “There’s a fear of anything, there’s a fear of everything.”

On his way out and heading to his vehicle, Ross Wellwood, of Frederica, informed everyone nearby what ammunition remained.

“Most of the popular stuff is gone,” he said.

Before entering the store, Mr. Wellwood railed on Gov. John Carney’s order for the non-essential business closures until May 15 or until the public health threat is eliminated.

“When I saw that the date was May 15 I was like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” he said. “Seven weeks is such a long time for anything to be shut down. It’s hard enough for small business to get through during regular times and this could wipe out a bunch of them.

“That’s going to hurt you, me and everyone else.”

“Ammo and guns”

Inside Smyrna Sporting Goods on Main Street, Brian Brown moved as quickly as he could to meet the steady line of customers. At one point he was on the phone providing buyer information for a federal background check, before rushing to the register and then hurriedly checking stock in quick succession.

“All they want is ammo and guns, ammo and guns, ammo and guns,” he said.

According to Mr. Brown, “There’s very little left in the store that’s for sale. People are coming in and buying shotguns when they have no need for a shotgun.

“They’ll buy any gun that’s still available, they’ll buy any ammunition that’s in stock.

Customers line up Monday during a rush of firearm and ammunition purchases inside Smyrna Sporting Goods. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

“Right now, they just want something that goes ‘Boom.’”

With 17 years experience in the business, Mr. Brown said there’s never been a sales surge like this.

“This is far more (busy) than Hurricane Sandy (in 2012),” he said. “What’s happening now dwarfs Sandy.”

Great demand will likely continue to outpace supply by a lot for a long while, Mr. Brown said.

“There’s a shortage of raw materials overseas, lead and powder just aren’t coming here,” he said. “It will be months before that changes.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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