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August 6, 2013

Machine guns, cannons and drones at Arizona's Big Sandy Shoot

(Continued)

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

Eric Lutfy is at the Big Sandy Shoot to sell ammunition. He has been in the "gun business" since he was 18. He lives in Laveen, Ariz., and is the president of Thunderbird Cartridge Co. Inc., a purveyor of reloading components and reloaded ammunition. Ammo is stored in neatly labeled boxes beneath a folding table behind the shooter stations. A whiteboard lists his prices: A count of 150 tracer .50-caliber rounds sells for $300, for instance.

Reloaded ammunition is basically recycled and rebuilt ammunition. After you shoot a gun, the spent casing will fall to the ground near you. If you happen to own a reloading machine, you can prime and resize the used casing, fill it with gunpowder, and cap it with a new projectile. It's tedious, hard work, but if you shoot a lot, it's cheaper than buying new ammunition.

Ammunition costs are skyrocketing, due in part to nationwide hoarding, which inflates the price of ammunition, which causes more ammo hoarding. Michael Bazinet, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Association, an industry group, says ammunition manufacturers now "work round the clock" to fill consumer demand. For 34 straight months, he says, gun sales have gone up, and so have attendant ammunition sales. In 2012 combined retail sales for guns and ammo totaled $6 billion.

Gun control proponents suggest the gun industry is driving a profitable panic. They say the industry is needlessly frightening gun owners into thinking their guns and ammo will be taken from them via gun control legislation. Bazinet says it's not true. Consumer demand simply exceeds manufacturing capability, he says. He agrees, though, that if people think "access might be limited," they will buy more ammo and guns.

John Watson and his friends have brought 5,000 rounds of ammo to the Big Sandy Shoot. They've reloaded some of the ammo at home during "loading bees." Watson, a 69-year-old retired fire marshal and Vietnam vet who lives in the Phoenix area, also brings along a mannequin named Mary Lou.

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