BLACKFOOT, Idaho -

Gun shops in eastern Idaho have struggled in recent years to keep .22 caliber ammunition on shelves.

.22 caliber ammo is often used for small game and target shooting. It's hard to come by, which puts gun shops in a difficult situation.

"If someone buys a rifle or pistol or 22, they're leaving with ammo," said A to Z gun shop owner Tim Jenneiahn. "When people asks to just by ammo I have to tell them "I'm sorry. We aren't going to do it.'"

Jenneiahn said he has to keep his business fair, but he sometimes has to refuse service to keep from selling out of merchandise.

"Most people, not all by any means, are buying it for the purpose of resale or to hoard it," he said.

Many gun shop owners across the valley have many theories on the shortage. Some said it's due to an increase in gun purchases, but others believe its the result of shady business.

"There are a lot of unscrupulous businesses and individuals that are charging a huge premium for it (.22 caliber ammo)," said Jenneiahn.

Jenneiahn said the retail price for ammunition has not changed in all the years he's been in the gun business. He said no one should pay more that $3.50 for 50 rounds, and ammo bricks should run gun enthusiasts around $30.

Several shops across the valley are completely sold out of the ammunition. Many said they haven't had the product in stock for several months. Jenneiahn said he would sale .22 ammo without the purchase of a gun, if customers have a genuine need for more.