The Lodi Police Department used to encourage its officers to train frequently at the firing range. Not today, though. Bullets are scarce and shipments take months to receive, causing Lodi to severely limit the frequency of firearm training.
"We would encourage all officers to go to the range any time they wanted to," said Sgt. Doug Chinn of the Lodi Police Department. "But we've had to ration our ammunition because we just don't have enough."
Lodi is one of many law enforcement agencies across the country experiencing the effects of the current nationwide ammunition shortage.
Outside gun, ammunition and sporting goods shops are long lines of customers, buying all the bullets they can just minutes after the shelves are stocked.
The growing gun control debate has created a spike in ammunition sales. People are sprinting to the stores, fearing the government will limit access to ammunition.
"People are scared of the pending legislation," said Lt. Jim Uptegrove of the Galt Police Department. "They're afraid the price of ammunition is going to go up or they'll have to register for ammunition or get a special permit to buy ammunition. There's not a big supply because everyone's been buying up."
With such high demand, supply is low. And it's forcing law enforcement agencies to plan accordingly.
The Galt Police Department, for instance, spends roughly $10,000 annually on ammunition. But recently the department decided to purchase a two-year supply, which will take 60 days to receive.
"We looked ahead and knew we needed to order more," Uptegrove said. "We bought a couple years worth of ammunition because it's getting more difficult to find."
Uptegrove has been with the Galt Police Department for 27 years, and said he's never seen the ammunition supply this low. But Galt hasn't had to limit training.
Lodi, though, is rationing bullets like water during a drought.
In August, the department placed an order for .40 caliber and .223 caliber bullets. Eight months later, it's still waiting to receive that shipment.
"We can't shoot as much as we did," said Chinn, who added that the department stores a large amount of ammunition in case of an emergency. "And we have to conserve our ammunition for training days."
Without a large supply of ammunition, the department limits firearm practice to its quarterly training sessions. And Chinn said that shooting less often could impact an officer's aptitude.
"Since it is a perishable skill, it does affect us," Chinn said. "However, we bolster our quarterly training so we can keep up on our skills. But in reality, yes, it would diminish our proficiency."
But not all law enforcement agencies are experiencing a shortage.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office planned for shipment delays by purchasing ammunition months in advance, said Patrol Administrative Lt. James Smith.
"Ammunition definitely comes in slower than it used to, and you have to prepare for that," said Smith, who added that he's noticed a sixto eight-month delay in ammunition shipments. "The market is scarce and the price has gone up," he said.
With demand high, Smith said the Sheriff's office had to set aside more money for ammunition.
Meanwhile, Uptegrove, who also works part-time at Wild Bills, a gun and ammunition shop in Elk Grove, said he's noticed ammunition prices nearly double in less than a year.
"I used to be able to buy 550 rounds for $23," he said. "Today, 550 rounds costs $43."
He added that Wild Bills has sold out of several different types of ammunition, which is the case for most shops.
On the day a new supply of ammunition is delivered to Big 5 Sporting Goods in Lodi, roughly 15 to 20 customers line up outside the store, waiting to make a run on the shelves. And minutes after the doors open, all the bullets are gone, said Manager David Mendez.
"We have seen a big increase in ammunition sales," he said.
It's unknown when ammunition supply and prices will return to normal. But Uptegrove said that once the gun debate is settled in Washington, the drought could end.
"It really depends on what they do with this legislation," he said. "Hopefully, once people flood the market, the price of ammunition will go down and the supply will go up."
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.