NFATCA Report: It’s Our Turn on the Ammo Shortage
By John Brown

For quite some time now, everyone that shoots has been complaining about the shortage and, the pricing, of ammo all across the country. All you have to do is visit your local Wal-Mart to see and feel the problem. A recent trip to a local Wal-Mart that was visited a few weeks back and the issue was still the same. Other than all of the new Turkey loads, there was nothing in the glass case with the exception of cartridges for hunting rifles that were questionable for large game applications or a modern day firearm. When the store clerk was asked when he would be getting more .22 long rifle, he laughed and shrugged his shoulders. He looked at me and said, “Sir, this has been the situation for a long time now. Even though I limit customers to three boxes each, they still send their entire family in to buy what they think they need.” And so goes the situation in not only the Wal-Marts of the world but virtually every place that we all used to buy our ammo. Based on all the hoopla and speculation about this issue from some mysterious guy that was wearing a tinfoil hat, it is almost impossible to know who to believe ranging from DHS (Department of Homeland Security) buying 1.2 billion rounds of ammo, to “The government is buying it all up so we can’t get any.” Regardless of the “Mall Ninja” and Internet hoopla, the problem is real and is worthy of a bit of investigation.

First, let’s take on the Homeland Security issue. It is true that DHS has put out several procurements for large amounts of ammunition. The only thing that is alarming about procurements this large is the fact that few of us realized that DHS has grown to this magnitude. Realizing that they have, and figuring how much ammunition it takes to keep a DHS agent tuned up, that amount of ammo is not surprising. In fact it is a good thing that we have not looked across the board from all governments agencies. If we knew that number, I am certain that someone would pass out. With nearly 30 Federal Agencies operating independently, the ammo requirement for an organization this large would be mind-boggling. Keep in mind that DHS is simply one of these thirty agencies. But hold on! Has this not been the situation for many years now? As a matter of fact, yes it is, and will probably continue to grow with “Big Government.” Let’s also keep in mind that most of these agencies have been on the continued increase in government awareness for security for at least ten years now. As government grows, training increases and ammo depletion rises. But wait, there’s more.

Let’s take into consideration the rise of the AR rifle platform in the U.S. In 2013, there are over fifty AR manufacturers in this country churning out more product than you could possibly imagine. The average AR manufacturer is making, let’s say, an average of 2,500 rifles this year. That number is much lower than what is actually being manufactured but, remember, we are trying to get to the bottom of this ammo shortage with a realistic look at what is happening. With the current backlog in major manufacturers, that number is likely closer to 500,000 new production AR rifles hitting the market this year. Let’s pretend that each person buying one of those rifles fires 100 rounds from that gun the first year. Just on this side of the equation we now have a requirement for over 50 million rounds of just 5.56mm ammo, and please keep in mind, this is one gun in one caliber. Take into consideration that with that type of civilian requirement, it is not too hard to imagine, just what ammunition consumption is starting to look like. Getting to a billion rounds a year is an easy yet daunting task, once you take into consideration that this is only one example of consumption with one caliber. Take into account the numbers of rounds consumed by other calibers, like 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP, things really start to heat up in the consumption department.

It is no secret that government agencies are acquiring much more ammo. Basic requests for pricing and proposals call for ten-year supply quotes, where historically quotes were made for two year purchases. This drives the dollars spent and the numbers required way beyond what we are used to seeing.

Take into consideration what we read everyday about government consumption and increases in the threat of gun control; the natural reaction is to stock up. If you don’t believe this, then visit your local gun show and see inside where the line starts. It is always at the ammo tables where, regardless of the price, people are scarfing up ammo like gold.

When a major newspaper like the Washington Times prints the following: “Bullets are easy to store, non-perishable, and they hold their value or even increase in times of crisis…” it just makes sense that even the lonely little .22 long rifle cartridges are being bought up like candy.

If you consider the following:
  • One of this administrations primary objectives is to increase gun control;
  • Sales of firearms are at an all time high in the nation as a result of political pressure;
  • Panic buying on firearms is soon followed by buying ammunition for the guns of our choice;
  • Rumors abound that ammunition could be the currency of the future, and
  • Rumors on all kinds of requirements to buy ammo from taxing to permitting just make it impossible not to go out and buy everything you can get your hands on.

It is only natural that panic buying and hoarding of current production is in the making. Simply stated, we have become our own worst enemy when it comes to the supply that is meeting only the demands of a buying community from 10 years ago. It is no wonder that the shelves are empty. Sales have increased at a phenomenal rate and the supply chain has remained at the status quo.

Major suppliers such as ATK, Winchester, and Remington, to name a few, have been stepping up production by buying new equipment, running multiple shifts and doing everything possible, to meet the increasing demand. The bottom line is that the more the manufacturers make, the more the buyers are willing to stockpile. The sad truth of the matter is that even law enforcement is having trouble fulfilling the ammunition necessary to qualify officers. This particular problem is not brought on by any one source but a multitude of factors, which combined have a dramatic effect on supplies.

If you have convinced yourself that DHS is hoarding ammo, you simply are not looking at the big picture. You are, however, not alone in your concerns.

In May, two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas, of Oklahoma introduced legislation that requires audits on the impact of government ammunition purchases on the U.S. market. This legislation would limit the U.S. government's ammo stockpile to six months supply, rather than the current two years worth stored in federal armories.

What a mess! The bottom line is you still can’t get what you need. My advice is to give it every effort not to hoard ammunition when you have what you need. If both commercial and the federal resources would work together to pace the procurement of all ammunition then manufacturers would get the breathing room they prefer to catch up with the current demand. That will require a cooperative effort on all of our parts. That’s our two cents on what is causing the demand, and how cooperatively we can all work together to fix the shortage. Do your part to work together to bring this fervor under control for all concerned.

If you want to really make a difference come and join us at www.NFATCA.org and help make a difference.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V17N3 (September 2013)
and was posted online on July 19, 2013


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