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Huge run on ammo amid fears Obama will cut Russian bullet imports

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Gun Control,Barack Obama,Hillary Clinton,Russia,Vladimir Putin,Sanctions,Ukraine,Crimea

American gun owners are gobbling up cheap Russian ammunition in huge quantities, worried that President Obama's tussle with Vladimir Putin over Moscow's grab for Crimea will result in new trade sanctions cutting off imports of bullets.

“We've seen an ammo-hoarding effect,” said Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C., one of the nation's biggest gun stores. “It's almost like milk and bread when it gets ready to snow: It's just a mass of people running out and buying some of it, probably more than they need,” he told Secrets.

Driving the ammo binge are gun blogs warning that the supply of surplus AK-47 ammo and other cheaper bullets manufactured by Russian makers like Wolf and TulAmmo will be cut off if sanctions are expanded by the president. The two companies make the 7.62x39 ammunition used in the popular AK-47 and variations for the AR-15. They sell it for $3-$4 a box, versus the $9 charged by U.S. manufacturers.

Some websites are also warning that Putin is considering retaliating against the U.S. by cutting off the supplies. So far, none of the rumors appear true. However, an administration officials said that Treasury, under the president's new executive order, "will be looking to use this broad authority as appropriate, given the situation on the ground."

Also playing a role is the fear in the gun community that Obama will push for gun control and pass on that agenda to Hillary Clinton, should she succeed him.

“The politics of imports and gun laws really are a big factor in in our business. We used to have the hunting season and the Christmas season and now we've got the political season,” said Hyatt. “The stock of gun manufacturers is probably going up because they see that as long as President Obama is in office and as long as Hillary is threatening to run, they see sales staying good,” he added.

Hyatt said that once the Russian trade sanction rumors began last week, sales of Russian ammunition exploded in his shop. “What we are seeing is people buying it by the case instead of the box,” said Hyatt, who is selling 10 cases of AK-47 ammunition a day now.

As a result, he and other gun store owners are planning to limit sales. Hyatt said gun buyers typically also want to package gun purchases with ammunition, so when it’s unavailable, sales of guns like the AK-47 dry up.

Ever since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., ammunition has been in short supply due to hoarding, and the current rumors are making that situation worse -- and bump up the price of ammunition.

“There has been a shortage of ammo for a year and a half,” Hyatt said. “We are usually begging for ammo anyway. So when you have a semi-shortage of ammo to start with, and you get something like this [to] happen, you can quickly run out.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.