The COVID-19 pandemic – combined with violent protests in some U.S. cities – has led to “a totally unprecedented” surge in demand for firearms and ammunition, according to Sean Manning, the owner of White Birch Armory.
Manning, a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran and Purple Heart recipient, said he’s “never seen anything like it,” when asked how much sales surged when the pandemic began.
“The demographic has completely changed,” Manning said about people who bought firearms or now use the shooting range at the White Birch Armory. “Before March there were a lot of people who had an anti-firearms mentality, and were screaming for additional restrictions or bans.”
“Then COVID hits and they’re saying, ‘Oh crap, I should go buy a gun,'” Manning said. “There’s a massive number of brand new firearm owners.”
The trend is being seen nationally.
The Washington Post recently reported firearms sales nationally from March to June exceeded predictions by about three million guns. Sales in June reached record levels since data collecting began in 1998, the Post reported, citing a Brookings Institution study.
Protests around the country that in some cases turned violent also contributed to the surge in demand, Manning said.
“It definitely added to it with all the rioting going on. Those things paired together, people were definitely fearful about the potential bad things that could happen,” Manning said.
The demand for firearms and ammunition was so high when the pandemic started that at times it was incredibly hard to get either, especially if you were set on a specific model, Manning said.
“When COVID hit back in March, our online order volume was 25 times what it normally is,” he said. “You had manufacturers that had tens of millions of rounds in stock, and it was all sold within two to three weeks.”
For someone seeking to buy a new firearm, White Birch Armory still has a good supply, Manning said.
“We’re very aggressive with our purchasing. We have dozens and dozens of sources that we use,” he said.
Before COVID hit, “we could get any product we wanted in a short period of time,” Manning said.
Now if someone is “looking for a specific firearm, an exact brand, an exact model, it could take a very long time to get that,” Manning said. “But if they’re looking for a handgun for self defense, we are able to provide them with a lot of different options.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the demand was so high that “it got to the point where people were buying whatever was available,” he said.
“People were buying firearms to match the ammo that was available too,” he said.
He does not see the demand for firearms sales dropping anytime soon.
“The demand is still high for every single type of product, not just firearms and ammunition but all things firearms, including spare magazines,” Manning said.
He stressed the need for any first-time firearms buyer to get the proper training.
“If they ever had to use the firearm, whether it would be for going out to the range or self-defense, if they don’t know how to property use that fireman, they could potentially be doing things in an unsafe way for them or people around them,” Manning said.
The White Birch Armory is offering a series of introductory classes at their facility off Industrial Park Drive. The facility has a 16-lane, 25-yard indoor shooting range.
“We do offer classes every day and we’re frontloading all of the introductory class offerings now,” he said.
They have a six-hour introduction to handguns class at their facility.
“Most of the work is done in the classroom where students learn all the firearm safety rules,” he said.
That includes “how to property maintain and clean the gun,” Manning said, and “how to properly clear the gun so you know it’s unloaded.”
It’s only after the classroom work has been completed that students go to the range to shoot, he said.
“We provide firearms and ammunition in the classes, so you don’t have to have a firearm to participate,” Manning said. “For anybody who’s a first-time buyer, we absolutely recommend training.”
They are also committed to keeping their customers and staff safe during the pandemic, Manning said.
“All employees wear masks and we’ve got signs out for social distancing,” Manning said. “There are hand sanitizer stations throughout and we wipe down and disinfect all of the surfaces.”
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