KENDALLVILLE — It’s taking a long, long time to reload.

Police are experiencing a serious backlog on ammunition, as supply issues have stretched out order windows to a year or long to get boxes of bullets.

Local officers thankfully don’t put their duty weapons to use very often on the street, but police departments need healthy reserves of ammo primarily for training purposes to keep officers sharp in case they ever need to discharge their weapon in the field.

At Tuesday’s Kendallville Board of Works and Public safety meeting, Kendallville Police Chief Lance Waters was seeking permission to place a new ammunition order, but noted he didn’t expect to receive it for a long while.

In fact, he’s still waiting for rounds he ordered last year.

“Half of ammo I ordered last December is still not here and it’s three to four months out,” Waters said. “I need to order this now because it’s 12-14 months lead time.”

Waters didn’t have to do much explaining about the problem, as board of works members Jim Dazey and Mayor Suzanne Handshoe were both familiar first-hand with the trouble of trying to find ammunition as private consumers.

Waters said the backlog is both affecting 9-millimeter used in duty handguns as well as the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO rifle ammunition.

“I don’t know where you’re getting 9-millimeter because I can’t find it anywhere,” Dazey said.

Handshoe asked what’s causing the long supply delays, whether it was raw materials or labor, to which Waters replied, “Yes.”

Waters said their supplier in Jeffersonville, Indiana, first got behind during the pandemic and disruptions in manufacturing and delivery have snowballed.

“They are so behind on orders because of people being off for COVID, being short-handed for employees. It’s a supply chain and manufacturing thing that it’s taking forever,” Waters said. “She indicated the factories have been stepping up their production.”

Nationally, ammunition has also been hard to find due to high demand. Multiple factors have weighed into that increased run on ammo, including a boom in new gun owners, unrest following events like the George Floyd death and the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden as gun owners typically rush to buy and hoard guns and ammunition when Democrats are elected on fears on increased gun control legislation.

That, combined with COVID-19 disruptions to the economy have punched holes in the supply chain.

Police officers rarely shoot their duty weapons in the line of duty, but have to undergo mandated live-fire “qualifying” every year to certify they’re still proficient with their firearms.

Waters said Kendallville has its annual qualifying shoot but then also typically does two or three tactical shooting training sessions, which are conducted under stress conditions to simulate real-world situations. Those stress tests are much more valuable for officers than target shooting, Waters said.

But those training sessions utilize a lot of ammunition.

“It depends on the length of the course. For the entire department, when you’re looking at 19-20 officers, it wouldn’t be uncommon for everybody to shoot 100, 150 rounds,” Waters said.

Kendallville does have one advantage in that the department has an uses a virtual simulator, which officers complete using a training weapon loaded with compressed carbon dioxide canisters instead of bullets. Those simulations allow officers to train without firing through a box of now-scarce ammo.

“A 12-gram CO2 cartridge is 50 cents and you’ll get 60-70 shots out of it,” Waters said of the simulator training.

Noble County Sheriff Max Weber said his department is in relatively good shape, because stockpiles are continuously getting built back up.

Weber said he deals with a local wholesaler, and asked that the company’s name not be used because it doesn’t offer over-the-counter sales and he doesn’t want people pestering the wholesaler.

Instead of placing big orders, Weber has what amounts to a standing order.

“If he gets a load he sets aside a percentage for us,” Weber said. “He starts setting it aside.”

Once all of the ammunition in the order is ready, the department picks it up and gets an invoice.

With firearms qualifying required yearly, the ammunition purchases are made to ensure there is enough.

“We try to schedule accordingly,” Weber said. “We know exactly what each guy is going to need to go through the course.”

The sheriff’s department just qualified all of its officers in rifle and shotgun use earlier this month. Handgun qualifying was done in June.

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