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Demand for guns and ammo near record highs, but some shops hit hard by supply chain hang-ups

Colorado Bureau of Investigation recorded 487,097 firearm transactions in 2020
Justin Ping with Colorado Gunfighter in Durango shows the handgun he carries with concealed carry permit. Some gun shops say demand is high, but they’re experiencing supply chain issues affecting retail business. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In 2020, as civil unrest was spurred by a combination of political tensions and the still fresh COVID-19 pandemic, Coloradans were buying up guns in record numbers.

The trend continued into 2021 with just slightly less steam, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation transaction statistics.

The CBI recorded 487,097 firearm transactions through 2020, topping 2019’s recorded number of 335,370 transactions.

Although the bureau’s stats for December 2021 are not yet released, a total of 401,903 firearm transactions occurred through November.

Some La Plata County gun stores found success in 2021, but others struggled to keep their stock up to par, in part because of supply chain issues that hit some stores harder than others.

Colorado Gunfighter owner JJ Rouanzoin holds a frangible bullet – a bullet that disintegrates into a powder on impact – in his warehouse reloading room. The reloading room is stocked with Mark 7 reloading machines, but they have been out of operation because cartridge primers are so hard to come by because of supply chain problems. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)

JJ Rouanzoin, owner of Gunfighter Group LLC, has his hands full managing four companies that fall under the Gunfighter Group umbrella.

There’s the full service retail store, Colorado Gunfighter, which features firearms, ammunition and attire.

Then there is Gunfighter Development Group, a professional training company; Tac-Con, which manufactures assisted reset rifle triggers; and Gunfighter Cartridge Co., an ammunition and component manufacturing company.

Rouanzoin upgraded to a larger location about 18 months ago in Durango, giving him more retail floor space. The gun store is getting good business – so much so that he’s trying to open additional shops in nine other states.

Colorado Gunfighter in Durango is experiencing supply chain shortages. Bullets, ammunition and firearm accessories took a dive in inventory during 2021 supply chain issues, according to several local gun store owners. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)
Colorado Gunfighter in Durango is experiencing supply chain shortages. Bullets, ammunition and firearm accessories took a dive in inventory during 2021 supply chain issues, according to several local gun store owners. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)

Rouanzoin, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, attributed the spike in gun sales to political unrest and fear of violence.

“It sucks that violence drives the firearms industry, but that’s what pushes our training company,” he said. “So more and more people are getting trained.

“I just see all the riots and all the stuff that happened when they were burning all the cities in the past year and people are buying more and more guns,” he said.

Colorado Gunfighter owner JJ Rouanzoin moved into his business’ new location nearly two years ago. The new location comes with a warehouse and workshop where bullets are manufactured. Rouanzoin also fabricates small metal parts for other local businesses, such as StoneAge. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)

Despite the lack of promotion on the Colorado Gunfighter website, Rouanzoin said his firearm-training simulator is “getting booked out like crazy.”

“It’s well within people’s rights to protect themselves and I appreciate that, and they are arming themselves well,” he said. “On the positive side, they are educating themselves as well.”

Rouanzoin isn’t the only one frustrated with supply chain issues in the realm of guns and ammunition.

Bruce Dominey, owner of Rocky Mountain Pawn and Gun, said supply chain problems and the COVID-19 pandemic are driving him out of business.

“It’s killing us,” he said. “After 30 years, we’re going out of business.”

Dominey said his pawn shop sold plenty of guns in 2021 – at least until he ran out of guns to sell.

“The supply chains are all screwed up so we can’t get any,” he said. “We can’t get any merchandise. I can’t order guns and ammo to restock my shelves.”

An employee at Durango Goods for the Woods said gun supplies were “terrible,” although firearms and ammo are “rolling in” again this January.

A Colorado Gunfighter employee works in his shop Tuesday in Durango. The local firearms business manufactures lead-based bullets, as well as bullets that lack lead and are considered better for the environment. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)

Rocky Mountain Pawn and Gun also took a hit in its loans business. Dominey said before lockdowns with the arrival of COVID-19, loans would go out and then return with interest at the end of the month.

But as more people stopped leaving their homes, especially when government checks were being delivered to people while businesses were shuttered, they stopped spending as much, he said.

After 30 years of doing business in Durango, Dominey said he’s open to options for new work and is planning on moving back to Texas.

“We’re closing her down,” he said.

According to Powder Valley Inc., a firearms powder, primer and accessories distributor, just four companies in the United States – Winchester, Remington, Federal and CCI – manufacture primers for use by civilians, law enforcement and the military.

“People getting sick, missing work to take care of their kids and self-quarantining – from factory workers to delivery drivers, and all throughout the supply chain – caused a lull in manufacturing this spring,” Powder Valley posted to its company blog in October.

Colorado Gunfighter in Durango is experiencing supply chain shortages, namely with cartridge primers. But owner JJ Rouanzoin has more to offer than just bullet manufacturing. Gunfighter Group LLC consists of four companies that specialize in retail guns and related goods, professional concealed handgun training, specialized rifle trigger manufacturing and ammunition manufacturing. (Nathan Van Arsdale/BCI Media)

Rouanzoin has a line of Mark 7 bullet reloading machines that he uses to feed bullets into bins for storage. But, the Mark 7’s are collecting dust because of supply chain hang-ups.

“These machines are Mark 7’s, they’ll do 3,500 rounds an hour,” Rouanzoin said. “When they’re running, it’s amazing because they’re making money, but right now they just sit here.”


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