The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 8, 2014

Big shots, little powder at state shoot

By John Zaktansky and Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item

— ELYSBURG — A worldwide shortage of gunpowder won’t silence an estimated 1.5 million shots at this week’s state trapshoot at the Valley Gun Club, according to event media liaison Tom Austin.

“People participating in the state trapshoot may bring their own ammunition or they can buy it onsite from Geiser Guns (of Sunbury),” Austin said. “I’ve been told that Geiser Guns plans to have enough ammo for those who need it at the shoot, but may not have as much for additional purchase.”

The shortage mainly affects “reloaders,” or trap shooters who prefer to make their own shells as opposed to buying pre-made shells. Competitors typically tend to use store-bought shells instead of custom-made ones. The supply of shells is not as badly affected as that of powder, the shortage of which is becoming more and more of an issue, according to Chuck Fritzges, a manager with the Pennsylvania State Sportsmen’s Association and tournament director.

“Our largest vendors here don’t have any powder,” he said.

Matt Geisier, of Geiser Guns, said that while shells were not abundant, powder “is in worse shape.” He said he was lucky enough to get a shipment from powder manufacturer Alliant shortly before the shoot started, but his supplies have been going fast. He was sold out of powder in an hour on Saturday and within about two hours on Sunday.

The shortage is simply due to high demand, he said.

“The factories have so many orders in they can’t keep up production,” he said.

Geiser expected to have more powder when he returned to the trap shoot on Wednesday, but he doesn’t expect his supply to last long.

Brian Lehman, a shooter from York, said there is an extra bit of pride in firing shells you load yourself.

“It’s been getting harder to do because fewer people have it (powder),” he said.

Making your own shells also lets a shooter customize the shell’s different components — for example, Lehman likes his shot to be steadier, with less recoil, so he uses less than a standard amount of powder in each round.

Kevin Gaver, a shooter from Myersville, Md., said he’s been having trouble finding powder both in the Susquehanna Valley and at another recent shoot in Ohio. He’s had to buy shells instead of making his own, and he considers crafting his own shells to be “part of the enjoyment of trapshooting.”

“With the powder situation, it has been tough,” he said.

Despite the trying times for gun enthusiasts and increasing costs across the board, the state trapshoot continues to thrive.

The state trapshoot last year surpassed Ohio’s in attendance, becoming the largest such shoot in the country. All 50 states hold shoots each year.

The state organization recently completed $100,000 worth of bunker repairs for this year’s shoot, according to Austin. There are also plans to replace all 53 of the automated trap machines by next year, Fritzges said. The project has not yet been put out to bid so a final cost is not available. Each machine can cost $10,000, according to Austin.

“The machines we have are 14 years old,” Fritzges said, and while they still function it was felt that they should be upgraded. Shooters shouldn’t notice a difference when using the new machines, he added.

The state shoot will be held through Sunday and will draw thousands of shooters from across the country and as far away as Great Britain.

The biggest single event during the shoot is the Krieghoff Challenge on Friday afternoon,” Austin said. “Last year, the event drew 1,238 shooters. The next day, at our Singles Championship, we had 1,184 shooters last year.”

The economic impact of such an event on the Valley can be hard to quantify, but a group will be trying to do just that at this year’s shoot.

According to Austin, representatives of the Columbia County Visitors Bureau will attempt to get a better idea of just how far-reaching the effects of the shoot has on local businesses.

n For more information about the shoot, visit www.pssatrap.org.