If by now you haven't experienced the frustrating bullet shortage or voiced a loud complaint about it, it's a fair bet you don't shoot for a hobby - or shoot at all.

One of the most-persistent Internet rumors that hits my computer weekly is that the Department of Homeland Security has contracted with ammunition suppliers for some 2 billion rounds of ammunition.

The gist of these messages generally runs to hints that the federal government is stockpiling ammunition to wage war on the citizenry.

Doing what I do - writing about guns, teaching firearms and being deeply involved in the gun culture - I am dragged into conversations on a weekly basis about the conspiracies involved in the ammunition shortage.

I extricate myself as quickly as possible from these because a) I can't stand idle talk short on facts and long on conjecture and b) there's nothing you can do about it anyway. I've got enough to worry about - like where my next box of 9mm rounds is going to come from and what sort of premium I will have to pay for it.

If you want some reasoned explanations of the ammo shortages, simply Google NRA-DHS. You'll find all the explanation you want in easily understood language.

But I think Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, answered this very well with a May 31 letter to a constituent.

This letter was quoted at length in The Gun Mag (www.thegunmag.com), the monthly publication of the Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org).

Incidentally, the SAF is well worth your consideration as another place to invest a small amount of your funds towards protecting your Second Amendment rights. This organization has led the battle in taking cases to the US Supreme Court, and files many, many lawsuits across the nation in defense of gun rights.

The SAF filed the first lawsuit against the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the NRA got the press, and it was well-deserved. But the SAF led the charge, as they frequently do in such cases.

Congressman Gibson's letter addressed concerns by constituents on recent procurements by DHS:

"While these reports are partially correct," Gibson wrote, "they do not give the whole story. In regards to the reports that the DHS has purchased almost 2 billions rounds of ammunition, this is untrue. While this number itself is exaggerated, it also refers to a cap on the number of rounds of ammunition the entire DHS can purchase over a five-year period, not the rounds actually purchased. The cap has never been reached; instead various agencies within DHS have purchased a combined total of a little over 100 million rounds each year …. When the DHS does not purchase up to the statutory cap, it returns the funding to the Treasury Department."

"DHS contains more than 45 percent of the total federal law enforcement force with arrest and firearms authority, which amounts to tens of thousands of firearm-carrying or qualified individuals who use hundreds of rounds of ammunition annually in training and certification requirements alone. …"

A simple Google search for NRA/DHS, or NSSF/DHS (National Shooting Sports Foundation/DHS) will bring up numerous articles explaining and breaking down the usage of ammo by both federal and state law enforcement agencies.

The averages per officer run from 600 to 1,800 rounds per year. As a former police firearms instructor and a sheriff's deputy for many years, I can tell you my agency trained far more than the bare minimum required by Police Officers Standards and Training - the nationally accepted standardized training for law enforcement officers adhered to by most states.

We qualified twice yearly with our handguns in the standard POST 60-round course, But we practiced it several times before shooting for qualification.

We also had to qualify at least once yearly with night-fire training, and at least once annually with shotgun training.

Obviously, ammunition was a large part of the budget of our agency that served a medium-large (500,000 people) county. Our deputies, in the most-basic requirements for our office, fired around 500 rounds yearly. Many practiced much more than that.

Many will remember the runs on .380 ACP ammunition that occurred after Ruger introduced their now iconic Lightweight Compact Pistol. This little gun proved so popular, Ruger could not keep up with demand for over a year.

In fact, other manufacturers, notably Kel-Tec, which manufactured a similar pistol already on the market, benefitted from the popularity of the little Ruger LCP. When customers couldn't find the LCP, they bought a Kel-Tec or similar model.

This led to a severe shortage of .380 ammunition. You had a heck of a time buying it for almost two years.

In fact, in one telling incident, a friend offered to sell me one of his upscale sport wristwatches at a good price. A good price except that he wanted two boxes of .380 ammo thrown in as "boot."

Fortunately, I had some stashed at home and did not even own a .380 caliber pistol anymore, so I was able to meet the demands of the market - and get the watch.

Retailers have begun to aggressively address the practice of the hoarders waiting at the doors of every store that sells ammo. These people head straight for the ammo counters, where they wipe out the pistol ammo that has been placed on the shelves before the store opened. Shortages in most pistol ammo, .22 rimfire, and .223/5.56mm persist because of this.

Many retailers are now limiting customers to one to three boxes of ammo per sale.

Personally, I'm taking up reloading again. You can save half to two-thirds of the cost of every bullet you fire if you reload. It doesn't take long to recoup an investment in equipment if you shoot a lot and are tired of the retail prices of ammo.

I shudder when I think, as much as I love to shoot my 9mm pistols, every time I pull the trigger that it is about the equivalent of throwing a quarter downrange.

According to friends connected and hard-wired into the ammunition industry, we will see some lightening of the crush by fourth quarter this year - but expect shortages to continue for up to another year while the industry continues to operate at full manufacturing capacity and the demand begins to slacken.