FAIRBANKS - Drawn by Interior Alaska’s insatiable demand for ammunition, a new warehouse-style ammunition store will open in Fairbanks next month.
Anchorage-based ammunition business Alaska Ammo started just more than a year ago as a truck-based store that made occasional trips to Fairbanks and outlying towns.
In late September or early October, the business will open a retail and wholesale storefront outside the Bentley Mall. It will be a 2,100-square-foot building that’s twice the size of its Anchorage store. The Fairbanks store is bigger by design, according to owner Cody Brons.
“Fairbanks has always been the ultimate goal. Eventually I’d like to expand to Soldotna as well,” he said. “Fairbanks has always been our busiest area, including Anchorage, even though Anchorage has a bigger population.”
Upon opening, Brons claims the new store will either be the largest ammunitions distributor in the Interior or the second largest, behind national chain Sportsman’s Warehouse.
Brons got into the ammunition business amid a nearly decade-long surge in demand that’s made it difficult for customers to find popular calibers in stock in Alaska and much of the U.S.
Fairbanks retailers blame the shortage on too much demand for ammunition, not a shortfall in supply. Demand has spiked several times after national elections and mass shootings, which triggered speculations about pending gun control regulations. Retailers also blame shortages on scalpers who buy out ammunition to re-sell at inflated prices.
Supply and demand remain out of whack in Fairbanks, but the new store opens at a time when it has been easier to find popular ammunition types, according to both Brons and gun counter managers at Frontier Outfitters and the Fairbanks Sportsman’s Warehouse.
At the Anchorage Sportsman’s Warehouse, popular .22 long rifle ammo now sometimes sits on the shelf for days before it’s bought up, according to Dylan Christisen, the hunting lead at the Fairbanks store.
It’s not as available in Fairbanks. In Fairbanks the store puts out bricks of .22 ammo once each morning and once each afternoon. To give more people a chance to buy .22 ammo, they set a per-person limit of three small 100-round bricks per person or one larger brick, Christisen said.
Brons had his Alaska Ammo truck set up last week at Ken’s Fairbanks Alignment on the Old Steese Highway. It was his last Interior round trip before the brick and mortar shop opens. Despite having the trailer piled high with green ammo cans, he sold out of the .22 ammo he’d designated for Fairbanks within about four hours on his first day in town. Nonetheless a steady supply of customers stopped by to ask about other calibers and about the opening date for the Bentley Mall store.
As his experience with .22 ammo shows, Brons has some of the same limitations as others stores with availability. He nonetheless plans to have more than a million rounds of ammunition available when the new store opens. That will allow him to sell about 2,500 rounds to each customer, about five times the limit at most Alaska retail stores, he said.
Brons said he has access to more ammunition in part because he purchases it through several distributors.
“Places like Walmart or Sportsman’s Warehouse have their own distribution chain. So they can only order from their own warehouses. We can order from anywhere. I order from 10, 15 different places to get the ammo that I want,” he said.
Brons, 29, is a former hotel manager and lifelong gun enthusiast who is originally from central Oregon. As a teenager, he ran a small business in pre-ban AR-15 magazines, a firearms product that jumped in value when the federal 1994 Assault Weapons Ban made AR-15s manufactured after the ban illegal.
“I’ve always been keyed in to the gun culture,” he said.
He moved to Alaska in 2011 to work as the front office manager at Anchorage’s Marriott Hotel. He started selling ammunition as a side business out of his truck. He first came to the Interior in June 2014, when he brought a Ford F-250 full of ammunition to sell in the Walmart parking lot. He takes some pride in the day Walmart asked him to do his business elsewhere because he was competing with Walmart’s sales.
“Actually the store manager, after she kicked us out came by after she got off work and bought ammo from us, which I though was pretty funny,” he said.
The next month he filed to create the corporation 10mm Below LLC. He wanted the business to be a reference to both guns and Alaska’s cold weather, but he’s been using the Alaska Ammo name because it wasn’t obvious enough to customers that 10mm Below was an ammunition seller, he said.
In September he quit his hotel job to work the ammo business full time. He opened his first store in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood in January.
Brons plans to split his time between the Anchorage and Fairbanks stores. He’s hired a store manager from the Lower 48 to run the Fairbanks shop when he’s not here. He hasn’t picked an opening date for the new store but is shooting for Sept. 21 or Oct. 3.
Contact outdoors editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter, @FDNMoutdoors.