Boch Ammunition shelf
A scene from Wally World in The Time Before (Image by Boch)
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Here in the middle of America, those of us in our regional Guns Save Life group hear a wide range of perspectives from local gun industry insiders. Some have shared their observations in the past few days on gun and ammunition availability. Much of it will scare the empty brass off of people who like to shoot – or who need to shoot.

If you’re like anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention for the last year, you already knew ammo was scarce. But you may not have known about the price hikes. Or how those precious few who have ammo secured it.

Hopefully this will help everyday people understand just how voracious today’s consumer demand for ammunition is right now.

Ammo: Supply & Demand Economics

Welcome to the biggest shortage of consumer ammunition since World War II. You thought ammo supplies seemed scarce in early 2013 and again early in 2020? Welcome to 2021, the year of the empty ammo shelves – for most.

Gun food in stores remains somewhere between extremely scarce and non-existent. A few shops have ammunition, but you as the customer, will pay dearly for it.

Meanwhile, some shops do have ammo in stock. Those shops that formed purchase agreements directly with factories receive their product by the pallet on a fairly regular basis. Other large, cash-flush gun shops have teamed up with their peers to buy imported ammo by the shipping container as part of group buys.

Yes, many of the gun shop/indoor range facilities earmark much of that ammo for range and class use, but some of it is available to the public, usually with purchase limits to make it last longer.

On the other hand, dealers who always relied on distributors for their supply must get by on the dribs and drabs that come through the system, a case here and a case there. Sure, distributors have agreements with factories too, but with hundreds of retailers wanting every round that’s available, a hundred cases of ammo don’t go far.

Gun shops that have maintained their pre-”market rush” profit margins are rationing product to customers to keep supplies from selling out in mere minutes. Other shops have hiked prices dramatically to counter the hoarding.

At the same time, manufacturers have reportedly applied at least three separate 15% price hikes on their products over the past six months or so for one local gun shop. That’s roughly a 52% increase in the wholesale cost of ammo for them.

9mm

As an example, 9mm is the most popular caliber of handgun ammo. The days of $10 or $12 boxes of 9mm practice ammo are long past, a relic of The Time Before. Anything under $25 per box of 50 rounds is a downright bargain today, according to one of our sources.

A few shops have 9mm without purchase limits – but they’re asking at least $1 per round.

And then there’s this . . .

100 rounds of 9mm Winchester White Box for $119.89. Plus $16.95 for shipping and your state’s sales tax. Call it $1.50 per round.  Screencap from Cheaper Than Dirt website.

Online, for in-stock product, prices start at about $.70 a round or so before shipping costs and sales tax. Meanwhile, self-defense rounds are selling for about $2. Each.

Rest assured manufacturers continue pumping product out as fast as they can, but the demand outstrips production by a wide margin.

It’s almost like gun owners have become piranhas.  An email from Fenix Ammo in Michigan describes it perfectly.  But first, who is Fenix Ammo?  The company achieved some national notoriety recently by refusing to sell to Joe Biden voters.

They also were cited for failing to wear masks in Michigan.  Their response:  “Guess who isn’t doing business with law enforcement agencies ever again?”

They sent this out in an email to customers in late February:

Q: Did you actually list anything yesterday? Or, ever? I never seem to be able to get any ammo.

A: On February 25th, we listed 300,000 total rounds at 10AM EST, just as we said we would. 100,000 9mm 115gr were sold in under 60 seconds; 100,000 9mm 147gr were sold in under 110 seconds; 100,000 9mm 124gr were sold in 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Our last inventory update on February 11th took approximately five minutes to sell the same quantity of ammunition. So far in 202[1] we have posted four separate inventory updates totalling 1.2 million rounds which have lasted a combined total of 20 minutes. We do not expect things to change in the near future.

That ammo wasn’t cheap, either. Fenix charged $31-34 per box of 50 rounds of that aforementioned product. And they had a whole lot of buyers. One guy didn’t say, “I’ll take all 100 cases of that.”

.223/5.56
Meanwhile, practice rounds of another popular caliber, .223/5.56 ammo are selling for anywhere from $.80 to $1.50 per round where available. If you should luck out and see some for 50 or 60 cents per round, you really ought to buy all the store will let you have.

Image by Boch

Got an ammo fort?

Do you have an ammo fort in your basement? Are you considering selling some ammunition to pay for your kid’s college tuition?

Think long and hard. It may be a long time before you can buy a case of ammo at anything that used to be considered a reasonable price again. Or even pick up a few boxes in a single trip to the store due to strict rationing in most stores that actually have product.

“Normal” ammunition inventories won’t return any time soon and when they do, our sources tell us you will yearn for the prices you were paying a year or two ago.

Guns

At last, firearms have begun to arrive at dealers in larger numbers. But in many cases, there’s catch.

Distributors, seeking to unload slower-moving merch from their warehouses are frequently bundling the hottest-selling, most desirable firearms with less desirable product in package deals. While his helps distributors clear their shelves, it burdens local shops with stuff their customers don’t really want.

Not only that, but the wholesale firearm prices continue to climb. For instance, those semi-automatic pistols that sold for around the $500 mark just before COVID are now $600-700 guns in many places, if you can find them. Remember that popular SIG P365 you saw for $499 in early 2020? It’s probably selling for closer to $599-$649 today. Or more.

Magazines

Thankfully, one bright spot at the moment involves magazines. Most forward-looking shops have stocked up on mags. For now at least, they remain plentiful. Unlike ammo and guns, prices have not (yet) spiked, but that will change soon if the “high capacity” magazine ban makes progress in Washington.

The US House will take up gun control legislation soon, and will likely pass a ban on production of standard capacity magazines and probably some semi-auto firearms. That will kick off yet another buying frenzy, especially for AR-15 magazines.

If you need magazines that would be covered by a “hi-cap” ban, now is the time to stock up.

Scarcity to the horizon

Given the Democrats’ and the BidenHarris regime’s eagerness to embrace gun control measures, extreme volatility, scarcity and higher prices will likely remain the norm for quite some time to come. A year from now, a dollar a round might be the new normal.

Here’s some sage advice: If you find ammunition available for anything approaching a sane prices in stores, buy it. Even if you don’t need it, there’s a strong likelihood someone in your circle of friends does. Do them a square and they’ll likely reciprocate down the road.

In the coming weeks and months, watch for stories about local law enforcement agencies scrambling for ammunition for training and qualification. At the rate it’s going, they will be begging, borrowing, and stealing from members of the community to have enough ammo to do their legally-required qualifications.

Those departments that have built a lot of goodwill among their communities will probably have an easier time acquiring ammo from within their jurisdictions than departments that treat gun owners poorly.

Here’s the high-res version of the featured image if you want to look at prices from The Time Before. Note that those 100-round Winchester White Box 9mms were on sale at a Walmart for $17.97…or about $100 less, per box, than Cheaper Than Dirt sold them before eager consumers bought them all.

Image by Boch. September 3, 2019. Pontiac Illinois.  Right-click “view image” to see full size.

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65 COMMENTS

  1. THANKS ON INFOR , YEP THEM WHERE THA DAYS . AMMO AT REASONABLE PRICE ON THA SHELF AN PLENTY OF AMMO FOR SELL .
    WONDER AFTER DEPLETE MY AMMO IF I WILL CONTINUE TO BE ABLE TO SHOOT 22LR .

    • Your ammunition shortage is already having flow on effects in other parts of the world. This weekend I’m planning on stocking up with .22LR as it is the only caliber I can’t reload. Last time it was $60 per brick of 500. I’m hoping the price is still the same.

      • If this is what panic buying looks like for something relatively non-essential (only the first few mags worth are truly essential), think what would happen if people panic buy food. That would be ugly.

        Then again, I am more of a gardener than I am a reloader.

        Glad I layed in a reasonable ammo supply over the last decade. I’d like to have more, but at least I have some.

  2. Yes I do remember the “going-out-of-business” sale that Walmart held for their handgun ammunition. A box of 5.56/223 ammo for just $2.50 for a box of 20 rounds. Normally it would have cost between $7 and $9 a box. A bought all they had on hand in the display case.
    I still have alot of that ammo.
    I Never enough ammo.

    • Yep, I paid $350 and change for 1,400 rounds of Remington UMC 230gr .45 ACP (800 of that was JHP) at my local Wally World during the sell off. I got there late and missed out on the 9mm & I’d have bought more if they had it but I got everything they had left in .45 ACP. Once in a lifetime purchase. Laughing myself silly thinking about the fools who refused to buy from WalMart at the time because of “FEELINGS”.

      • I’ve still got all my Walmart clearance ammo. The 9mm was going for 7.5 cents/round and the 5.56 about 15 cents/round. At those prices I could shoot it and make money selling the brass. Unfortunately now range time isn’t as fun because I’d see the dollar signs if I’m going to shoot it.

        • I haven’t been to the range in almost 2 years so I haven’t touched mine either. That’s going to change here pretty soon though. Moving to 11 acres in the Ozarks the 1st of May (FINALLY ESCAPING MICHIGAN FOR GOOD!!!). Nearest neighbor is 3/4 of a mile down the road and no one else for another mile in any direction. Time to hone some shooting skills.

  3. Try piecing together a decent AR15. My go to Diamondhead Clamp On Rail Height Gas Block seems to be a thing of the past. BTE Rail height gas block link doesn’t work although you can e-mail them for a phone in source. There are a few others that pop up and there are the set screw type which I won’t use. RRA Arms has a clamp on that is probably OK. And barrels? Take a ticket and get in line. It’s a piece here and a piece there if you can find the stuff that is not junk.

  4. Showing Cheaper Than Dirt is an example of some of the worst price-gougers I’ve seen during the pandemic. Fortunately, I have a decent supply, and I reload so I have not succumbed to their low down methods. On the other hand, I have had the good fortune of buying from local shops, and some online retailers that are more reasonable in their pricing. I will remember those people, and patronize them in the future. I will also remember the gougers, and avoid them at all costs (no pun intended). Make sure you praise the retailers that are being as fair as possible, and chastise the ones that aren’t.

  5. The sad fact is that I have discontinued most of my recreational and competition shooting and likely will not be shooting much of anything for the next several years. The ammo situation is going to be a holocaust for small scale local matches and the competitive scene in general. People just aren’t going to spend $100-150 in ammo to shoot a match.

    After the 2020 boom, the ammo situation is probably going to provoke a crash in the gun hobby. It’s going to be years before prices stabilize, and even then it’ll be 150-200% of pre-covid prices. Tula will never be $7 a box again. Primers will never be $30/1k again. HSTs will never be 45cpr again.

    At this point I’m expecting no significant shooting before 2025.

    • Arc,

      “At this point I’m expecting no significant shooting before 2025.”

      If we are lucky. Unfortunately, I share your pessimism.

      We can imagine/guess that stocking up for “the end of the world” (due to COVID-19 and the summer of love riots) should be winding down quickly, if not already. The question going forward is: to what extent will Democrats try to ban firearm, magazine, and/or ammunition manufacturing/ownership? If Democrats put forth a serious effort (and especially if they succeed at all), then expect this ammunition drought to continue as long as Democrats have enough juice to pass more such laws.

      • “We can imagine/guess that stocking up for “the end of the world” (due to COVID-19 and the summer of love riots) should be winding down quickly, if not already.”

        I wouldn’t bank on that. Riot Season 2.0 cometh.

        • strych9,

          Meh, the weather has been quite nice across much of the nation and the only rioting has been in Portland, Oregon. Unless there is some questionable event where a law enforcement officer of European ancestry maims/kills someone of African ancestry, I do not anticipate enough rioting to fuel panic-buying of firearms and ammunition.

        • @uncommon:

          I’ve long been of the opinion that this has little to do with the weather. It’s more about the kind of free time high school and college age kids have during the summers.

          When school (or what passes for it these days) lets out then idle hands become the Devil’s workshop.

          And they’re keeping a lot of this race stuff on a low simmer so they can crank it back up to a boil as desired. With trials ongoing and the basically guaranteed video of a minority getting smoked by the cops coming out later this year…

        • “…they’re keeping a lot of this race stuff on a low simmer so they can crank it back up to a boil as desired.”

          This reminds me of Larry Correia’s saying that the Left that they may have an activism-agitation-violence knob that they can dial up and back down as desired, but the Right only has a peace/kill switch.

          I can feel public patience wearing thin. At the rate we’re going, I give it a year at most before we all find out what happens when the Left flips that switch for a large number of formerly peaceful people.

      • Well with mass shooting events rolling out near daily (another in CO right now) after a year of near-total radio silence, just in time to prop up a huge gun control push, the panic-buying sure as hell isn’t going to let up this year.

        When it gets warm again we’re also going to discover that a Democrat in the White House didn’t magically make the extremists and criminals stop rioting.

        • Don’t forget the massive increase in the money supply pushing prices higher to boot as more dollars chase less product. You can already see this happening with copper and copper products which includes… brass.

          Gov’t loves that M2 for a reason.

        • “Gov’t loves that M2 for a reason”
          Well in flyover country or the bible belt as some people call it. One of my local gun stores is selling 50 BGM ammo. So if you have the right caliber weapon, they will sell you all the ammo you want.

        • @Chris:

          In this case I meant the M2 Money Supply but you raise a valid point. I haven’t seen, at least locally, a jump in .338 or .50 prices.

        • ” I haven’t seen, at least locally, a jump in .338 or .50 prices.”

          Little impact, from what I’m seeing, surprisingly enough, in .50BMG.

          I thought I might try myself some serious long-range shooting, so I checked the prices of .50 BMG on ammoseek, and Gunbroker.

          Lake City production .50 BMG is currently about $2.50 USD per round, in 100 round quantities.

          Isn’t that pretty much what it was pre-SARS-CoV-2?

          $1,200 for a single-shot Serbu RN-50 .50 BMG is mighty tempting, considering my current finances…

    • “Tula will NEVER…. Primers will NEVER… again. HSTs will NEVER…”

      “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

      Just like the naysayers who said “Gas will never never never ever ever ever be $1 a gallon.’ Yet last year…..it was.

      • Well the BidenHarris presidency is working its way to the campaign-promised price of $10/gallon for gas, one blocked project at a time, so…. : )

        • Govt grifters gonna grift. Goons getting green.
          Your tax dollars hard at work screwing you (and the rest of us) over.

      • Right because that had nothing, nothing whatsoever, to do with a government enforced ban on doing most things that would require gasoline.

        When government puts its finger on the scale price discovery you do not have.

      • We heard that same “never ever” talk back in 2012-2013. A couple years later, I was buying .22lr for $15/500 and .223 or 7.62*39 for 16-17¢ a round.

        If things muddle on as usual, prices will drop in a couple years. On the other hand, if the world totally goes to pot, then we will look back at this time as the “good old days”. I think ” totally goes to pot” is likely, but God alone knows what the future holds.

        • Art Out West,

          For reference, it was about five years before I saw pricing finally drop to about $20 for 500 rounds of .22 LR bulk ammunition. I do not recall ever seeing 500 round bulk .22 LR ammunition for $15. The lowest prices that I saw was around $17.50 for 500 round bulk packs — and that was from Internet-based distributors only. (And keep in mind that you had to pay something like another $12 to $20 for shipping which raised the effective price to at least $20 for 500 rounds — assuming that you purchased five such bulk packs in one order/shipment.)

          I have no doubt that we could be looking at a similar time scale for ammunition pricing to return to “normal” once market factors settle down. And keep in mind that a LOT of people will probably be stocking up big-time (so that this sort of thing never happens to them again) when prices get anywhere near close to “normal” which will tend to extend the length of time before pricing finally returns to pre-2020 panic “normal”.

        • Uncommon,
          You are right. It was more like five years on the 22 ammo. Other stuff settled out quicker but the 22lr took a long while. The $15/500 ammo I bought was in about 2018, and it was Remington (which I don’t like). Maybe my local dealer got a bargain on it. I think I also got some Federal bulk pack around that time for 16-17, and I like the Federal a little better than the Remington. Again, both were from my LGS, and I picked up several thousand rounds that way.

    • I’m going to a long-range shoot in May where I expect to go thru 350-400 rounds of 6.5 Creedmoor. If I didn’t reload, that would be $1000-1200 at current prices. That’s almost 5x the registration cost of the event…

  6. Thank goodness I learned from the previous 20 years of panic buying and done just that – buy ammo when it is reasonable, and buy all you can.

  7. Once again the Democrats have CREATED the crisis. Sure people were buying up guns and ammo early in the pandemic, but things were beginning to settle back down right before the Left found the spark they needed with the Floyd incident. It’s funny how it took the protestors about 5 seconds to go from Minneapolis to the White House, as if the President had anything to do with a local police force. The Leftist Horde will never be accused of being deep thinkers. They run on pure emotion, which makes them easy to manipulate.

  8. I would suspect that in the immediate there’s no gun control out of Congress but you may see an obnoxious EO or three. Much as the gun-control lobby would like it Congress is going to put their political capital towards, uh, “more lasting measures” before they spend any on gun control.

    ” It may be a long time before you can buy a case of ammo at anything that used to be considered a reasonable price again.”

    Yeah, like years, a number of them. Really though, my money would be on “five minutes after never”. What you’re seeing now is the “new normal” and, realistically, you’ll pine for today’s prices in a year or two. Barring a doubling or tripling in production capacity it can be no other way because basic economics.

    • They’ll try to get away with as much as possible while they can, which means they’ll try gun control, but it isn’t a major priority. Their main priority is robbing the coffers and permanently changing the country through immigration. The Democrats have an extremely racist and xenophobic immigration policy since they’re focused on bringing only Hispanics from south of the border. The Hypocritical Moronic Leftist Horde™ is too dumb to figure that part out.

      • Realistically I think they’ll focus on shoring up support first, because they basically have to. Main focuses for legislation will be amnesty. The main executive priority will be “doing something about the border crisis” while not doing anything.

        This whole thing is about a nationwide redux of Cali post Reagan amnesty with a eye towards creating the same environment as Mexico ~1929.

        Once they have that then they’ll focus on other priorities. It’s basically the NRP playbook. They took over in 1929 but didn’t actually enact what we consider “gun control” (that is, completely eviscerated Art 10 of their Constitution) until 1971.

        That attempt here will likely move much faster here in the US as the NRP already had a weakened RTKB post 1917, which gave them far more latitude to “take bites at the apple” over time.

  9. I stocked up at the beginning of 2020, and I do not shoot as often these days. Whatever stockpile you have may need to last for several years.

    • Yeah.
      So, while moving I’m counting what I have that I could spare.
      If I sold half my ammo at a respectable price, I might be able to buy another house.
      Going to have to seriously look at that.

  10. I live in flyover country. While there is a demand for fmj for fun and practice, the real problem in the Southern States is not having a decent ammo supply for critter control – primarily feral swine. TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, TN, SC, MO, and OK. Between us we have north of 5 million feral hogs that cause several billion dollars annually in damage to the environment, crops, equipment, livestock(thru diseases they carry), etc. It’s a huge problem and we need to use every possible means from trapping to shooting from helo’s to kill the damn things. We desperately need large volumes of high power large caliber ammo at reasonable prices to help control them. And if you think the problem is only for us, think again. They are spreading and breeding like a prairie fire, and the northern states are going to have the same problems in a very few years. This is a war and the hogs are winning. All these problems raise prices of essential supplies for people all over the country. It’s everyone’s problem, not just ours.

    Educate yourself and others:

    https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/operational-activities/feral-swine/sa-fs-history

    • There is no swine problem In Texas. Only a farmer trying to make a lot of money problem.
      If there was a problem, they wouldn’t be charging several hundred dollars a day to shoot them.
      Fuk them.

        • Gunnygene,
          Cheap tula soft points in 7.62*39 will work fine for feral hogs. A year ago, they ran about $170/1000. Even last summer, they ran $250/1000. You should have stacked them deep. Even now you can still get fmj 7.62*39 for under $500/1000. Unethical maybe, but for pest control?

        • Correction I see 7.62*39 for $400/1000 on ammoseek right now. Go get some if the pigs are that bad 👍

      • There is truth to that statement. Our local news fell for “the hog problem” and made a story of it. Within hours they had dozens of hunters/trappers ready to assist so the news crew went back to them with the info and got told “no they can pay to do it”.
        It’s a created issue and between no ammo, covid, insecurity and money it’s an expanding issue right now that needs a course correction.

  11. I’m always surprised to not be able to find deer season mainstays… 30-30, 30-06, .243, etc. who hoards that? Even 12 ga load 7.5 / 8 for bird season.

    I once hunted 8 years on a single box of CoreLokt .243.

    • You know it’s bad when .30-30 and birdshot are unobtanium.

      Bought 40 rounds of 5.56 and 20 rounds of 9mm self-defense (some kind of “tumbling” round I’ve never seen before) for $56 today. Could’ve been worse. *Will* be worse.

      Good news is that the latest “your grandkids will be eating dirt” government stimulus check paid for it. And yesterday it paid for a CCW pistol and a shotgun, so the entire fam can finally tool up with a pistol and a long gun if need be.

      I need to take the wife and daughter out sometime this spring to get them basically familiar with all the household firearms, but we’ll be shooting the absolute minimum to do so.

      Shooting is the only outdoor hobby I really enjoy, and it’s been priced out of reach now. Gotta save what ammo I already have in case fit hits the shan. The good times are over for the foreseeable future.

      • Sadly that issue is everywhere. Stimmies come out and all of a sudden r/tacticalgear is full of a ton of new owners for softgoods, rifles, pistols, accessories, NODS, plates, ammo etc.

        And the supply for everyone else is gone for quite a while. Same thing with a bunch of other stuff.

        Ah well, when it spreads to food (which is already happening slowly) people will shit themselves. A bank-run style rush on grocery stores will be entertaining as hell.

    • A year ago, .223 and 9mm dried up, but hunting ammo was available at normal prices. At that time, I started buying more ammo for my .270. I didn’t get tons of it, but did buy a couple hundred rounds over the course of several months. I’m glad I did. It is all gone now.

      I think the resupply of hunting ammo is far less than it is for .22lr ,9mm, .223, 7.62*39. People regularly shoot hundreds of rounds of that stuff. Folks don’t usually pop off hundreds of rounds of 7mm, .243, 30-30, .300 winmag, etc.

      Got to be a forward thinker

    • “I once hunted 8 years on a single box of CoreLokt .243.”

      That’s is why the supply dried up. People just don’t need much. Therefore the supply chain doesn’t stock much.

    • “I’m always surprised to not be able to find deer season mainstays… 30-30, 30-06, .243, etc. who hoards that?”

      It makes perfect sense, from a certain perspective –

      That same hunter who shoots maybe 100 rounds a year, tops, of the major rifle calibers, walks into the ammo store and sees the ammo shelf bare of the usual plinking .22lr, 9mm, .38 and .357 rounds and says to themselves, “Whoa! I better grab a few more boxes before these sell out as well!”.

      That dries up existing stocks real quick, fueling even more of a panic. Prices skyrocket.

      There you go, instant hunting ammo shortage…

  12. I’m OK for now on ammo & guns. Traded my buddy practice ammo for Sig VCrown HP. Got OObuck today. And a riflescope from my favorite pawnshop. To play with & figure out what scope direction to go(it’s a 3-9×40)…the only place to get reasonably priced ammo is an extremely hit or miss Cabelas…

  13. IMHO the craziness will end at some point. People will run out of money to spend on ammo. Rent, electricity, food, overpriced Paris accord gas etc tend to get in the way even for hoarders.

    At the same time the ammo makers are producing like crazy so at some point demand drops (sanity check) and we have a ammo glut. That maybe in 6 months or two years but it will happen. Political events will drive this time frame.

    Lessened learned stock up when it is cheap. Until then I will direct some money towards my truck in the form of upgrades.

  14. Little sympathy for the normies who refused to see what was coming.

    “I didn’t think I’d ever need a gun/ammunition.”

    You didn’t think, period.

    This is why Cheaper Than Dirt! and their pricing strategies exist.

  15. Is if possible that the anti gun Left is buying up everything in sight? We know the Left is very very good at covering all the bases.

  16. “If you find ammunition available for anything approaching a sane prices in stores, buy it. Even if you don’t need it…”

    Says the guy belly-aching about prices and availability. You do understand that this will only make the problem worse, right? Preparing for a crisis during a crisis is usually a poor strategy.

  17. roll your own.

    assuming you can find primers.

    I’ve experimented with making my own primers and 3d printing bullets. They work; I wouldn’t rely on them to shoot someone with but it’s a fun hobby.

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