Law enforcement agencies across the country face back orders and waiting lists for tactical assault rifles and ammunition, as a national run on firearms by civilian consumers has started to hamper public safety efforts.While larger departments in Central Texas, including Austin's, are able to make deals that guarantee they have the supplies they need, some smaller operations are struggling, going so far as to encourage officers to conserve bullets by cutting back on range practice.The Rollingwood Police Department decided to update its patrol rifles -- currently government surplus M-16s -- with more modern tactical arms in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. But Rollingwood Chief Dayne Pryor was told he'd have to get in line for the Bushmaster .223 rifles he wanted.The waiting list for the rifles was more than a year, Pryor said, and the waiting list for new handguns is eight to 12 months.The Round Rock Police Department has had tactical rifles on back order since October -- just before the presidential election -- and police departments from Pflugerville to Buda are having trouble getting the ammunition they need for training and certifications.This isn't the first time local departments have seen ammunition become scarce. Shortages have occurred periodically in the last decade because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and because of an increase in consumer purchasing when gun control enters the national conversation."This is panic buying," Pryor said. "People don't realize that it affects law enforcement just like the people buying guns at Academy."Some weapons distributors suspect the shortages for law enforcement are aggravated because arms manufacturers might be giving priority to consumer supply chains, which command higher prices for weapons, over law enforcement distribution."We have seen that with some vendors, in particular one that we no longer sell," said Jim Orr, president of GT Distributors, which sells weapons to commercial outlets and directly to law enforcement agencies. "There was a major gun company that was doing it."Orr, who declined to name the company, said the industry standard is for military and law enforcement orders to get priority. However, manufacturers can set higher prices on the retail products. A new Glock pistol, for example, is priced about $100 cheaper for military and police orders."It's definitely a nationwide problem," said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations. "Anecdotally, it is a problem, and it seems to be growing."James McLaughlin, executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said that many departments are waiting an average of six months for weapons and ammunition, when orders are being taken at all."Everyone is trying to buy something before they can't buy it anymore," McLaughlin said.The ammunition shortage -- .45-caliber ammunition is popular among law enforcement -- is causing bigger headaches for small departments.Pryor said Rollingwood might have to start limiting the time officers spend on the gun range and stretch out periods between qualifications to conserve bullets. "We may have to start getting creative," he said, "calling around to other agencies to relinquish some of their [ammunition]. We just don't know."The Pflugerville Police Department recently sent a memo to officers asking them to conserve ammunition for training, said city spokeswoman Terri Waggoner.Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said his department is on a one-month waiting list for ammunition.Casey Wagnon, a manager at Tex-Guns in South Austin, said consumer demand has been beyond anything the shop has seen in years."It has increased tremendously since about Dec. 18," Wagnon said. That's when President Obama announced plans to crack down on gun violence, possibly through increased gun regulation. "All my suppliers are out of guns and ammunition because they have been bought up."