Why Is Ammo So Expensive? Ask Uncle Sam

You’d think at a time of 10 percent unemployment, rising taxes, out-of-control government spending, and deficit spending out the wazoo, you’d think that Uncle Sam would jump at the chance to save a buck or two, by selling off some stuff from their vast, overstocked warehouse. And you’d be wrong.

You might not have considered this before, but our military goes through a boatload of ammo on a monthly basis. There’s just no acceptable substitute for practice with live ammo.

One of the advantages of military life is that our country’s finest never have to suffer through using remanufactured ammo. Our governmental bean counters determined that it’s not cost-efficient to use reloads, even for practice on the range. So what to do with all that spent brass?

Well, in the days before Obama, the military sold the spent brass to companies that would recondition and reload them, to resell them to consumers as practice-grade ammo. Good plan, and it netted the government a tidy profit.

Then the Obama administration decided that it didn’t want to do anything that would encourage private citizens to own guns. They instituted a policy change that prevented the military from auctioning off their spent brass cartridges to remanufacturing companies. Pandemonium ensued.

You see, ammunition prices were already skyrocketing, due to an increased demand for raw materials (from China and our own military) and increased demand for ammo (due to fears over Obama’s rep. as anti-gun). Add an abrupt end to the steady supply of cartridges from the military to re manufacturers, and you have a recipe for disaster.

As you might expect, gun owners did not take this news lying down. They complained. A lot. And the policy was reversed. More or less.

You see, the brilliant thing about bureaucracies is that they never quit pursuing a goal. If at first you don’t succeed, try an end-run around the problem by jiggering the rules. WIthout regard to the lowly U.S. Taxpayer. This from AmmoLand.com:

The cure that was arranged by Montana Senators Baucus and Tester to fix the intended military destruction of once-fired cartridge brass last year appears to be suffering from a fatal end-run.

Interested persons will remember that a year ago, helpful intervention by Montana’s senators persuaded the Department of Defense to rescind a fresh DoD directive to military installation commanders requiring them to destroy once-fired brass, prior to selling it at auction into the civilian marketplace for ammunition reloading and other purposes.

An end-run is being done around the rescinding order through quiet and sweetheart side deals with installation commanders that is being aggressively promoted by ATK.

Here’s the straight dope: ATK won a no-bid contract to manufacture ammo for the military at the last government-owned ammo manufacturing facility. ATK gets to keep the profits it makes from manufacturing the ammo for the military.

Government Liquidators is another private firm that handles the liquidation of government surplus items, like spent brass casings. In times past, Government Liquidators would take the spent brass, sell it to re manufacturers, keep a small percentage of the profit, and hand the rest of the money over to the U.S. Treasury (i.e.: U.S. Taxpayers). That would be you and me, in case you’re not keeping score.

After the Obama administration first stopped, then restarted the sales in response to the protests, it looked as though things were heading back to normal. But no.

ATK has been encouraging base commanders to sell the brass directly to them, so they can destroy it and then melt it down to recast it as new cartridges for the military – thus saving them the cost of acquiring brass.

ATK makes a tidy profit, and the base commanders are allowed to keep the funds they get from selling the brass in their own discretionary fund. The U.S. Treasury (remember – that’s us taxpayers) get nada. Nothing. Nyet. Bupkis. A big, fat zero.

ATK is using the full force of their marketing clout to sell the program to the various base commanders. Here are some quotes from the ATK brochure:

Currently handling brass scrap for ATK Lake City — for sole purpose of recycling material and preventing any reloading of spent cases by the public with military grade brass.

Keeps Military Grade Brass from being re-loaded by unauthorized users.

To PREVENT anyone from using your scrap ammunition components for non-military purposes. (Emphasis in the original)

Assurability for the [military] installation, that no one can use this cartridge against law enforcement or our military personnel, by reloading the case.

Note the emphasis on the supposition that allowing civilians to purchase remanufactured ammo equates to arming posse commitatus-style militias. Sheesh…

So the bottom line here is that instead of surplus military spent brass going to auction where it would earn top-dollar for the taxpayers, it’s now being sold in a sweetheart deal, where ATK makes money, base commanders get a slush fund, and the taxpayers take it up the tailpipe.

So the next time you wonder why ammo is in short supply, or why practice rounds cost so much, thank your Federal government. Alternatively, email this article to your Senators and Congressmen with a comment. Because despite what they think, Uncle Sam is supposed to work for you.

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About Brad Kozak

Brad Kozak is an iconoclastic, curmudgeonly graphic designer/marketer/writer/musician/advertiser/conservative creative guy. In 2007, he completed a gradual transition from a conservative semi-pacifist to a proactive, armed citizen, willing to exercise his Second Amendment rights to protect his family and property. His idea of “gun control” is hitting where he aims.

20 Responses to Why Is Ammo So Expensive? Ask Uncle Sam

  1. avatarJeff says:

    Then the Obama administration decided that it didn’t want to do anything that would encourage private citizens to own guns.

    Speaking of damned lies, any sources for this claim?

    Perhaps ATK was lobbying early on in the Obama admin for the sweetheart deal and the admin ruled to stockpile the spent casings in response. Perhaps the admin saw value in the military-grade brass and believed in stockpiling for future conflicts (Iran). Who knows?

  2. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    There ARE sources for this claim. Check out this letter from the DOD:

    March 12, 2009

    Larry Haynie

    Georgia Arms

    PO Box 238

    Villa Rica, GA 30180

    Re: Event 7084-6200:

    Dear Larry Haynie,

    Effective immediately DOD Surplus, LLC, will be implementing new requirements for mutilation of fired shell casings. The new DRMS requirement calls for DOD Surplus personnel to witness the mutilation of the property and sign the Certificate of Destruction. Mutilation of the property can be done at the DRMO, if permitted by the Government, or it may be mutilated at a site chosen by the buyer. Mutilation means that the property will be destroyed to the extent prevents its reuse or reconstruction. DOD Surplus personnel will determine when property has been sufficiently mutilated to meet the requirements of the Government.

    If you do not agree with the new conditions of your spot sale, please sign the appropriate box provided below stating that you do not agree to the new terms and would like to cancel your purchase effective immediately. If you do agree to the new terms please sign in the appropriate box provided below to acknowledge your understanding and agreement with the new requirements relating to your purchase. Fax the signed document back to (480) 367-1450, emailed responses are not acceptable.

    Please respond to this request no later than close of business Monday, March 16th, 2009.

    Sincerely,

    Government Liquidation.

    In plain English, this means that the Dept. of Defense decided that they would stop selling spent brass to the remanufacture trade. The DOD made this change after Obama took office. The DOD reports to the President. There are plenty of citations on the web (try Google…it's a fairly useful resource for this kind of thing) that illustrate how the Obama administration's policy drove the DOD decision.

    Obama has a clear track record supporting strict gun legislation. You have but to look at his voting record. I pay little attention to what he says – and look at what he and his administration does.

    Regardless of their motives, the bottom line is that the policies of the Obama administration have resulted in shortages in the market for practice rounds, which drives up the price of all ammunition. The fact that a private contractor is benefiting from this change – and taxpayers are suffering because of it – illustrates at best how the administration is not considering the consequences of their actions, and at worst, forging ahead with their agenda without regard to those consequences.

    Just to make things clear, I don't care WHO is in charge in D.C. – this is a brain-dead ruling, and I would be every bit as against it, had it come from the Bush administration, as it has from the Obama administration. A dumb move is a dumb move – no matter who is behind it.

  3. avatarJeff says:

    The onus is not on me to search Google for your claim that Obama doesn't want people to own guns. The burden of proof rests on the side that affirms; and I see nothing in your example that leads me to believe your claim.

    You're saying that a policy that causes a short-term shortage of ammo, which drives up prices, was implemented during the Obama admin, so that proves Obama doesn't want people to own guns. Sorry, but that gun doesn't shoot.

    P.S. Thanks for the story. I'm going to use it as an example of logical fallacy for a class I'm taking.

    • avatartk says:

      @Jeff: open your eyes…..feds are buying 1.6 BILLION rounds, and keeping spent brass from being reloaded and put on the market for us non-military consumers…..if there is no ammo, guns become less effective than a knife…this administration is not going to just broadcast “we want to ban all gun sales and confiscate ones currently in your possession”…instead, they are doing via stealth…you are just too friggin’ blind to see it…

  4. avatarHans Beta says:

    IF military are cycling spent brass, then the military is making a closed loop in brass resources, netting a much smaller drain on the overall brass market supply. While the proposed intent of ATK is dubious (I'd bet that they don't give a damn either way–they just want a no-bid supply of resources), the end result should be less demand by the military on the overall brass market.

  5. avatarHans Beta says:

    BTW. One should ask why government should be such a player in the market place that they can distort an entire industry. Then one should stop and ask what is wrong with an industry that it should allow government buyers to rule them so thoroughly. Have they no self-respect? Is this situation not a betrayal of gun owners in America–who, btw, are the only true owners of the country.

    So, if government decided tomorrow that citisens should not own guns or ammo, how many gun and ammo manuf. would stop making guns & ammo? Probably none, I think. Hence, the companies would be taking the side of government in an open dictatorship. The people should ask themselves and the manufacturers who's side they are on–government, or a constitutional republic? If manuf. continue to allow gov. to dictate and rule their industry, then the are directly culpable in the outcome. If citisens cannot arm themselves with adequate ammo, then is it not the fault of manuf.? Yes, for the reasons stated above.

    Government isn't the only bastard in this situation. Gun owners should hold the manufacturers accountable as well, for being such toads.

    • avatarJeff says:

      One should ask why government should be such a player in the market place that they can distort an entire industry.

      The government is a big player because it's waging two wars. The ammo manufacturers are capitalists.

      Capitalist does not necessarily equal patriot nor fascist.

      If citisens cannot arm themselves with adequate ammo, then is it not the fault of manuf.?

      No. If Person A can't afford ammo, but Person B can, why is that the fault of the ammo manufacturer? It's supply and demand. If demand is high because of two wars and fears of ammo shortages or bans, then prices will increase. Simple economics. Of course, everyone wants cheap ammo, but why should the manufacturer subsidize those customers that can't afford it? That's anti-Capitalism.

      • avatarandy says:

        The problem in this country is capitalism itself. Everyone who claims to be a capitalist seems to have no problem dropping there ethics and morals at the sight of a dollar. We’re such capitalists that’s why we outsource everything to china kill business here and put good people out of work for a cheap product that’s sold at top dollar. This isn’t about obama the wonder boy this isn’t about officer or soldier saftey this is about backdoor deals and huge profit margins for the few. As taxpayers we should be outraged at any government plan that takes money away from the taxpayer koffers. And if the president isnt aware of something this huge going on with his military he should find himself another job instead of going through another term as a mute point..

      • avatartk says:

        @Jeff – remember, your president ended both wars and closed guantanamo as well…and lowered health care premiums by $2,500 !

  6. avatarHans Beta says:

    BTW. the above argument about gun and ammo. manufacturers should be applied to the entire defense industry. Then you can decide who's side they are on–The Republic, or the dictatorship.

    We currently have a system that has migrated into a type of "somewhat" friendly fascism.

    Americans should stop being such "law abiding" sheep.

  7. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    Fact: We're in a recession. Fact: The less money the government spends – and the more it saves, the sooner we will get out of the recession. (Oh wait…as a progressive, you believe that we can spend our way out of a recession. When a government does that, we call it "deficit spending" – when you're an individual it's called "writing hot checks." Good luck with that.) Fact: The government WAS selling spent brass to remanufacturers, which was putting money in the coffers of the U.S. Treasury. Fact: now that they are allowing this incestuous deal between ATK and the base commanders, the U.S. Taxpayers (through the Treasury) get NOTHING on the deal – and in fact, pay more (the purchase of the spent brass as scrap metal by ATK is a pass-through cost, passed-through to taxpayers. At the very least, they should get the brass for free, so that we wouldn't have to pay for MORE brass.) Fact: Obama has made MANY public statements on limiting the private ownership of guns. Fact: The change in the DOD policy began AFTER Obama took office. Fact: the DOD is part of the Executive Branch – which if you've not read the Constitution lately, reports to the President.

    If Obama was concerned about taxpayers (um…not so much) he would immediately stop these shenanigans and trumpet his move to make the military more "green" by promoting recycling. Not gonna happen. And if you sit around waiting for a (forgive me) "smoking gun" connecting Obama to moves by his administration that waste taxpayer money, further an anti-gun ownership agenda, or in any other way help to "connect the dots," you'll be one of the sheeple watching as your Constitutional rights are marginalized or wiped off the map.

    Oh, and please do take the article – AND THE COMMENTS – to your class on logic. If your professor is not a knee-jerk liberal, you might lean that you're not making any valid points, and have failed to prove your side of the argument.

    Liberals. Sheesh…

  8. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    Hans – you’re right. Jeff – you’re wrong. You are mistaking your (obvious) Liberal/Progressive bias for “logic” and “reasoning” on this issue. Let’s take the issues one at a time:

    Fact: Obama has made a number of public statements (as an Illinois State Senator and as a U.S. Senator) regarding the private ownership of guns. Since you believe you are too busy to Google facts to bolster your arguments, I’ve taken the liberty of doing it for you (hint: this is not going to turn out well for you…)

    FactCheck: Yes, Obama endorsed Illinois handgun ban

    Obama was being misleading when he denied that his handwriting had been on a document endorsing a state ban on the sale and possession of handguns in Illinois. Obama responded, “No, my writing wasn’t on that particular questionnaire. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.”
    Actually, Obama’s writing was on the 1996 document, which was filed when Obama was running for the Illinois state Senate. A Chicago nonprofit, Independent Voters of Illinois, had this question, and Obama took hard line:
    35. Do you support state legislation to:
    a. ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns? Yes.
    b. ban assault weapons? Yes.
    c. mandatory waiting periods and background checks? Yes.
    Obama’s campaign said, “Sen. Obama didn’t fill out these state Senate questionnaires–a staffer did–and there are several answers that didn’t reflect his views then or now. He may have jotted some notes on the front page of the questionnaire, but some answers didn’t reflect his views.”
    Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Philadelphia primary debate Apr 16, 2008

    Respect 2nd Amendment, but local gun bans ok

    Q: You said recently, “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns.” But you support the D.C. handgun ban, and you’ve said that it’s constitutional. How do you reconcile those two positions?
    A: Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.
    Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview Feb 11, 2008
    Provide some common-sense enforcement on gun licensing

    Q: When you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners. Would you do that as president?
    A: I don’t think that we can get that done. But what we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement. The efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers. As president, I intend to make it happen. We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country. You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership. It is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot. Then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago. We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.
    Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008
    2000: cosponsored bill to limit purchases to 1 gun per month

    Obama sought moderate gun control measures, such as a 2000 bill he cosponsored to limit handgun purchases to one per month (it did not pass). He voted against letting people violate local weapons bans in cases of self-defense, but also voted in2004 to let retired police officers carry concealed handguns.
    Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.148 Oct 30, 2007

    Keep guns out of inner cities–but also problem of morality

    I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manfuacturer’s lobby. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels someone disrespected him, we have a problem of morality. Not only do ew need to punish thatman for his crime, but we need to acknowledge that there’s a hole in his heart, one that government programs alone may not be able to repair.
    Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.215 Oct 1, 2006
    Bush erred in failing to renew assault weapons ban

    KEYES: [to Obama]: I am a strong believer in the second amendment. The gun control mentality is ruthlessly absurd. It suggests that we should pass a law that prevents law abiding citizens from carrying weapons. You end up with a situation where the crook have all the guns and the law abiding citizens cannot defend themselves. I guess that’s good enough for Senator Obama who voted against the bill that would have allowed homeowners to defend themselves if their homes were broken into.
    OBAMA: Let’s be honest. Mr. Keyes does not believe in common gun control measures like the assault weapons bill. Mr. Keyes does not believe in any limits from what I can tell with respect to the possession of guns, including assault weapons that have only one purpose, to kill people. I think it is a scandal that this president did not authorize a renewal of the assault weapons ban.
    Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes Oct 21, 2004
    Ban semi-automatics, and more possession restrictions

    Principles that Obama supports on gun issues:
    Ban the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons.
    Increase state restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms.
    Require manufacturers to provide child-safety locks with firearms.
    Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test Jul 2, 1998

    Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

    A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. Voting YES would:
    Exempt lawsuits brought against individuals who knowingly transfer a firearm that will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime
    Exempt lawsuits against actions that result in death, physical injury or property damage due solely to a product defect
    Call for the dismissal of all qualified civil liability actions pending on the date of enactment by the court in which the action was brought
    Prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or delivery of armor piercing ammunition, and sets a minimum prison term of 15 years for violations
    Require all licensed importers, manufacturers and dealers who engage in the transfer of handguns to provide secure gun storage or safety devices
    Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S 397 ; vote number 2005-219 on Jul 29, 2005

    But…there’s more…

  9. avatarDavid says:

    This blog may be old, but I still want to throw my hat in the ring…

    Jeff, if you want to disprove someone’s claims about a given topic, supplying factual evidence that backs up your opposing view is a prerequisite. The simple fact is that you have no basis for your argument against Brad and should come better prepared the next time you want to sit at the grown-ups table.

    If you want to use a transcript of this conversation as an example of logical fallacy, make sure to include the entire transcript, especially the parts where Brad provided documented factual evidence to back up his claims, and you responded by saying that it’s not your job to search the internet to find evidence that disproves those claims.

    While I’m tempted to reference a link to merriam-websters defining the word “fallable” for you so that you can see how hilarious this is, perhaps a link defining the word “moron” might be a better fit.

  10. avatarScott says:

    I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but if memory serves ATK also owns CCI, Federal, Blazer, and Blackhawk (3 of which also make ammunition). My brother-in-law who works for JPL (NASA subcontractor also owned by ATK) buys ammunition at cost. Sweet deal for him. Perhaps not so great for the rest of us. Any idea if a portion of that ‘recycled’ brass ends up in ammunition sold to the civilian market?

  11. avatarDemocrat says:

    I’d love to believe your bullshit about Obama and some of it may even be true but, all you are is another greedy republican trying to say Obama is a bad president.

    • avatarBrad Kozak says:

      What does my “greed” (or lack thereof) or my party affiliation (whatever it may be) have to do with Obama’s fitness for office? Frankly, I think anybody who still wants to raise taxes in this economy is past unfit, regardless of their party affiliation. And anyone that can’t see the financial disaster handwriting on the wall is not paying attention, in denial, an idiot, or some or all of the above.

  12. avatarDrew says:

    I find this interesting: “including assault weapons that have only one purpose, to kill people.” Are not all weapons or guns designed to kill people? I think a semi automatic can kill a human being just as well as an automatic. And also, I do think there is a thing called target practice where one can shoot any weapon, automatic or not, at targets instead of people.
    I also find it ironic that so many politicians, Obama included, think that Automatic weapons are so inherently more dangerous than semi-automatic weapons.
    If one knew anything about guns they would know that the automatic setting on a weapon is not actually that effective unless in close quarters combat. And even then, it is only effective if used by a trained individual. Going rambo just means you’re more likely to miss your target(s). If you are at range of more than say 25 yards or so, using full auto, unless supported by a bipod in a prone position, means that the shooter, even if a trained service man, will end up spraying the air. If you are spraying the air your not hitting anyone. This is even more likely if the individual is a gangster or some one not trained in weapons. To sum that up, an automatic assault weapon will most likely result in LESS deaths at a crime scene than a semi-automatic weapon.

    Why?
    As stated above, automatic weapons are highly inaccurate in most situations, ie mounted weapons or bipod supported. Anyone who knows anything about weapons knows that a weapon is best fired in the semi-auto setting. Here’s why: A semi automatic weapon fires one shot, count it ONE shot with each trigger pull. That means that a shooter, if he is accurate, kills a person, then he has to move to the next target and pull the trigger again. That conserves ammunition; all the ammo is NOT spent on one target or in the air. (Because who is going to aim up in the air when they have targets? A full auto weapon will rise up due to recoil). If you are spending less ammo on each person, you are going to have more to spread around. This in turn means that more people die.
    Now it does also depend on the experience of the shooter. If someone is shooting from the hip, their not going to hit squat. If the shooter is an EX navy seal, they can hit anything, even with a full auto rifle. (But again, he would most likely use the semi auto setting making the title of full auto invalid).

    So to make a long story short full auto bans are completely misguided. In most scenarios they will result in less deaths. Are the more effective at killing than a semi auto? Certainly, but only if used properly. Most people wouldn’t know how. The politicians see full auto and go into a frenzy. They should be banning semi auto weapons. (No not really but I’m making a point at how dumb some politicians are).

    If they really want to make a dent in deaths they would have to collect all the magazines over five rounds destroy them and ban all magazines over that size. After all what good is an AK 47 with only a five round clip?

    Yes this stance and argument is all personal opinion, but it did come about through considerable experience and logical thinking.

  13. avatarLieutenant Rob says:

    The Department of Defense is not “part of the executive branch.” FACT. The DoD reports to both the executive and legislative branches. Our government is not a monarchy. Duh.

  14. avatarBubs says:

    @Jeff

    What did your kindergarten teacher think of your use of this story as a “logical fallacy?” Still think Obama doesn’t want to take guns away?

  15. avatarBrian Kemp says:

    Very interesting in the context of 2013. Now as memory serves the first issue with recycled military brass was an attempt to sell it as scrap brass to China. That actually got a reaction, that they would run it through a foundry and sell it back to us at a profit to make more cases, Dumb!
    I have to ask it they are now actually “destroying” the cases. Common sense in a for profit world would be to return the cases and reload them after inspection and cleaning. Thus saving melting and reforming the brass and allowing for a higher profit on the enterprise.
    Now any thinking person realizes that Government doesn’t do much for the people. They do it for the profit makers and wealthy so they can keep their jobs. And they all agree that having an armed populace is counter to their safety. History should show sufficient examples for anyone wanting to check this. Example the French Revolution.
    The second amendment was formulated by people who had knowledge of this and similar events and what caused them. They did not want this country to ever become subjugated by government. An armed populace is safer for the populace.

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