ammunition business down volume buyer behavior
Dan Z for TTAG
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By Southwick Associates

Based on public reports filed by manufacturers, demand for ammunition has been in decline. Several possibilities have been cited as driving this trend, including a firearm-friendly White House and U.S. Senate which has reduced the fear-driven sales seen prior to the 2016 election.

Many in the trade speculate that consumers previously purchased excess ammo and now are ‘shooting through’ their surpluses. But what do ammunition consumers say about the matter?

ammunition sales slump analysis
Dan Z for TTAG

According to a survey of active hunters and recreational shooters by Southwick Associates, the nation’s leading outdoor market research and economics firm:

  • 24% of ammunition purchasers say they now spend less on ammunition than they did three years ago;
  • 38% report purchasing about the same amount compared to three years ago, while…
  • 33% say they now buy more ammunition than they did three years ago.

Five percent of respondents weren’t sure of their spending trends over the past three years.

ammunition slump sales analysis
Dan Z for TTAG

While only a third of active ammunition consumers report spending less than they did three years ago, the difference is in the size of their purchases. On average, those who report spending less have reduced their annual purchases (in dollars) by 38%, while those who report buying more are buying only 23% more. When combined, the net effect of the two groups translates into a roughly 2% decline in overall retail ammunition sales.

The differences between manufacturers’ reported declines and the numbers reported here can be attributed to this survey’s orientation towards more avid spenders and retailers’ inventories which affect the volume of orders received by manufacturers.

ammunition sales slump analysis
Dan Z for TTAG

Over the past five years, stockpilers, or those who set aside 20% or more of their ammunition purchases for future use, account for 44% of all ammunition purchasers. Reasons given for storing ammunition include:

  1. Uncertainty about future supplies, 69%
  2. Uncertainty about the political climate, 64%
  3. To save money, 57%
  4. Uncertainty about future economic conditions and income, 54%
  5. To save time, 39%
  6. Other, 8%

This significant portion of consumers with their various reasons for buying excess amounts of ammunition certainly had an effect on the industry’s recent record ammunition sales. “Concerns about future availability drove many consumers to buy greater supplies of ammunition than normal,” said Nancy Bacon, Vice President of Southwick Associates. “It is our opinion that, once excess ammunition supplies are shot, we’ll see a lift in sales and a return to normal, stable buying patterns – barring any new political shocks.”

Digging deeper into the purchasing habits of ammunition consumers, Southwick Associates found the average annual spending on ammunition by avid hunters and shooters was around $400, with 65 percent of them spending $300 or less each year. Only 15 percent of those surveyed reported spending more than $600 on ammunition in the past year. Another insight examines frequency of purchase.

ammunition sales slump analysis
Courtesy Southwick Associates

Over the remainder of 2019, Southwick Associates will be releasing new insights and services to help companies better understand trends, sales and purchasing motivations within the hunting, shooting and personal protection markets. Stay tuned. Please contact Nancy Bacon for more information.


Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. For more than 25 years, Southwick Associates has established a proven reputation for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics assisting business and strategic decisions across the entire outdoor industry; from government agencies, industry associations and non-profit organizations, to affiliated businesses and manufacturers. Aside from custom market research, Southwick Associates also provides syndicated participation, media consumption and equipment purchase tracking studies utilizing their proprietary sportsmen panels. Visit for more information.

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  1. Great time to buy right now, if you can. Because you know there will be another “shortage” at some point.

    • The reason ammo sales are down is because of the stupid trend of long range shooting taking over people of the gun. Pulling the trigger once a minute will never add up to an ammo shortage. And making this problem even larger is the fact that gun manufacturers are wildly overcharging for extra mags (cough cough SIG, cough) causing further delays in wasting ammo downrange.

      We need to get the patriotic youth of our county to fall in love with mag dumps again. It’s the only chance we have to save ourselves from ourselves.

      • “We need to get the patriotic youth of our county to fall in love with mag dumps again”

        This was the real value of bump stocks. 🙁

        • Yep. There’s way too much forced adoption of another’s opinions just because their opinions are stated in a loud and abrasive fashion.

        • Hunters, preppers, LEOs, instructors, plinkers, builders, reloaders, collectors, competitors, etc., etc.

          There’s an entire spectrum of gun owners, all with their own different levels of commitments and ammo needs. A hunter who reloads and shoots only 20 rds through a particular rifle (15 for zero, 5 at game during hunt season) is fully committed to that gun, but entirely different from a handgunner who attends professional classes over the course of a year and expends 3000 rds for training. There’s just no way to fairly compare anyone in the community against anyone else.

    • the obama administration did their best to cut into ammo availability…thus producing near-panic levels of buying…that seems to have gone by the wayside and with it the impetus to overbuy….

    • Agreed Bryan….Number one; ammo prices were to high in the first place.. Number two; today there are more ammo manufactures than I can name… Number Three; it is estimated there are 7 trillion rounds in the hands of the private owner BD(Before Democrats)….And further you are right, now is a buyers market stock up.

  2. Well, for my part, I just ran out of money because I lost my 2nd job. Before that I spent hundreds (though very low hundreds) a month on very expensive components and loading tools that may or may not have been worth the price.

  3. Thats a lot of talk and numbers.

    Reality isn’t a hunter or target shooter sport capacity.
    Reality is that there were a lot of panic buying, people are now stocked up or broke, a down trend is normal.

    It’s not rocket science.

    Same reason Google saw a spike in searches for dragons when Game of Thrones became big, 10 years from now you wont see Google writing an article asking why there’s been a down trend in searches for dragons…….

    I like to call these articles, “filler and fluff”

    • Reality is that there were a lot of panic buying, people are now stocked up or broke, a down trend is normal.

      Stocked up yes, broke no. Thy economy is better than ever. I pay very well and I’ve been raising salaries and wages in my business continually and unemployment is so low it is hard to fill positions.

      And panic buying is not really the right term. People buying another gun and stocking ammo post Newton and especially with the prospect of Hillary in the White House were not panicking, but making a sober decisions.

      it is like saying people who buy auto insurance but then don;t have an accident were panic driven in buying their insurance.

      • Chris, well said. I used to buy 7.62 NATO 5000 rds. at a time, $100 a 1000. Those were the days. .556 wasn’t much more expensive. Thousands of both still stacked. Along with handgun and 10,000s of rds of .22 LR. Saw it coming a long time ago. Buy what you can when you can. Establish a basement where you go no lower. Then begin buying more. Shortage? Don’t dip into the stash.

      • Don’t assume your company defines the norm, not everybody got raises. While some place are doing as you said, a lot of that extra incoming cash is going to catching up where cuts had to be made from decades before. Newer vehicles, home repairs, medical bills, credit card debt, the list goes on.
        Now that the, as you call it, foresight to buy ammo, is down, those extra funds turn to other needs or wants.
        No matter how you word it, they’re spending less because they don’t feel they need it, not because interest in firearms is reducing.

  4. Ammo is way better when you pay 1$ a bullet for it. You feel like you really have something of value.

    Which is why we need Kamala/Biden 2020, to feel good again like in 2013! Vote for gun profits!

  5. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack in December, 2012, pretty much all ammunition calibers were basically unavailable (completely sold out) within four weeks. If I remember correctly, the following 24 straight months there was basically ZERO .22 LR and .223/5.56mm NATO ammunition on the shelves and close to zero availability of all other calibers. And there was only minimal additional availability over the next 24 months after that. Thus, we saw about four years of zero or extremely limited ammunition availability.

    I was not initially concerned about the run on ammunition immediately after the attack. However, I became seriously concerned after two years of near ZERO availability. Thus, I began slowly and surely purchasing ammunition (on the rare occasions that ammunition hit store shelves) to ensure that I would be in good shape for the short term. As supplies started returning to near-normal levels in 2016, I set about purchasing some more when it was at/near pre-drought prices.

    My purchasing has tailed-off now that I was able to pick up a few 550-round boxes of .22 LR ammunition at Wal-Mart for $19.99 per box. At this point I cannot justify purchasing any more ammunition until I run through some of what I already have, especially given that I saw at least 15 of those 550-round boxes of .22 LR available for purchase recently at my local Wal-Mart.

    I imagine that a lot of other people did pretty much exactly what I did and that is why many people are no longer purchasing ammunition like they did over the last four or five years.

      • KGM,

        My condolences.

        While I am giddy about the fact that I can purchase 550 round boxes of 36 grain, copper jacketed hollowpoint .22 LR ammunition for $20 at my local store, I am definitely NOT giddy about the horrible weather (compared to California) where I live. It rained 22 out of 30 days in April and it was quite cold. The month of May has been only marginally better. I doubt that it even rains 22 days the entire year where you live!

      • the profit margin on .22’s is lower…so it stands to reason they’d be the last to recover…under obama the govt. overpurchased ammo deliberately as well as his attempts to limit lead production….and, yes, wal mart has some really good deals on .22’s…frequently under 20 bucks for a brick…..

        • Balljoint,

          In case you are not being sarcastic, Michael in AK is referring to the handgun caliber .40 S&W officially defined in January of 1990.

      • Michael in AK,

        And THAT is one of the reasons that my everyday carry handgun is chambered in .40 S&W.

        Note: even .40 S&W ammunition was in short supply during the Great Ammunition Drought. About half the time that I made the circuit to my three local stores, one of them would have one or two boxes. That was most certainly not the case with .22 LR, .223/5.56mm NATO, and 9mm Luger.

      • I have two 40 cals, a glock and a sig, and we shot those all the time during the shortage as you could always find 40.

    • (@uncommon_sense)
      I was lucky enough to get into firearms in Dec of 2012. I was able to pick up about 300 rounds of 9mm, then I learned what empty shelves look like. I piecemealed together a supply when I could, then worked on stocking up when supplies became common. Unless I’m working on a new caliber, I’ve dialed back on stocking up.

      • tmm,

        While I was somewhat serious about firearms a few years prior to 2012, I was not really serious about my ammunition supply until 2014, basically like a LOT of other people I suspect.

        And now that you pointed out the idea of empty shelves, that was a first in my lifetime. Come to think of it, that was probably a first ever in the history of United States, or at least since World War II anyhow.

  6. I do my best to help the economy, but through judicious purchases over the last ten years plus several huge scores on used reloading equipment and supplies I’m pretty much good for the next ten years or more.

  7. I’m in moderately OK shape ammowise. I don’t have unlimited funds but I try to buy boo-lits once a month. Now it’s 223/556. BTW what’s everyone’s go to AR15 defense ammo? I see wildy varying opinions on FB and YouTube…

    • Forgive me in advance for being pedantic. You almost certainly know this but I can’t help myself from answering this way. Of course, what is good for others might not be best for you. What is your barrel length and what do you most want it to do? Good terminal performance at 400m or punching level III armor at close range for instance. I have mostly M855A1EPR projectiles and load my own. That could be good or horrible for you. I hope others give you a more satisfying answer.

        • I bought 600 them two years ago when American Reloading got a few thousand due to some odd (I forgot what they said) circumstance at the Lake City Arsenal I think. They also had M80A1 but fewer. Since I do not have a 5.56×45 gun I am not going through them very quickly. I loaded and fired a few for testing with my stepfather’s AR though. I thought I was going to get a .223WSSM at the time but got a .243WSSM instead. I watch the prices on Gun Broker though and there seems to be a dribble coming from somewhere. I guessed the American Reloading resells would be gone by now.

    • Because no one else (and thus no one else more qualified) answered – I re-read your question several times and think perhaps it was more specific than I originally thought. I kind of think of almost all my ammo as ‘defensive’ since I rarely squeeze the trigger hunting and don’t expect to be ‘offensive’ (whatever that may be) very much. I suppose your definition of defense could be much narrower. Maybe short range and effective against the most likely target – un-militarized criminal in the open or perhaps behind a light barrier. Everybody I know who has a 5.56 rifle (all 3 of them) mostly uses whatever both reliably cycles their rifle and is on sale. I have trouble faulting that solution. If you are going to ‘operate’ I suppose my earlier non-answer is better;-)

    • My favorite .223/5.56mm NATO ammunition for self-defense is MK318 62-grain barrier blind open-tip match — which I cannot find available anywhere. My second favorite is anything with softpoint bullets.

      • Well, I have a sweet surprise for you. 1k rounds of MK318 for about 280 each. How is this possible you ask? Well its quite simple, A Swiss Company was hired by Winchester to create MK318 for a government contract. This contract was cancelled so the company was left with a bunch of MK318. So they re-branded it as 62 grain OTM ( open tip match) and are trying to sell it on SGAMMO. Luckily most people are completely ignorant of mk318 and their ignorance of this ammunition is causing really bad sales. So Sgammo then renamed it as “open tip hollow point” because people didn’t nkow what open tip match was and they thought this would help sales. But its hurting it more now. The good news is you can get 1k for mk318 for around 280 shipped where it would normally cost 750 dollars for 1k. hopefully this comment will be the most useful part of this article. I am including the link below. Once I post this, not sure how long the stock will last so get it while you can.

        • SuddenImpact,

          Thank you very much for the heads-up. I will be ordering momentarily.

        • Order completed!

          Note: the order quantity is actually 900 rounds rather than 1,000 rounds. Nevertheless, that is still a very good price for that ammunition. (That works out to 31 cents per round if $280 for 900 rounds.) Oh, and SGAmmo says the ammunition was manufactured in Sweden rather than Switzerland.

        • Sold. Just bought a case, it costs the same as the Wolf Gold .223 I buy to mag dump at the range. Thanks for the tip.

    July 01 2019 add background checks for each purchase. Big box stores may just quit selling. Leaving the rip off vendors and greedy FFL’s.
    YUP, criminals and nut jobs have been stopped cold. LOL LOL LOL

  9. As a temporary resident of California, I bought 10’s of thousands of rounds of ammo before these stupid new laws went into effect and I am shooting my way through it. It will be a little while before I need to restock. I contributed to an uptick in the prior years and a downtick now. Im sure many of other Californians did the same thing (all of my friends certainly did). I know one individual who stockpiled over 100,000 round of 5.56 alone, even he says he got carried away. It will be awhile before he buys more.

    • Basically what I did. I figured my age and how many rounds I would need for practice and hunting and a stockpile in case of shtf.

      If I don’t live to be 102 I’ll be ok, ammo wise.

    • Lifelong Californian here.

      I’ve been buying regularly (about twice per month) since 2012, when Obummer was re-elected. I basically buy double what I’ll need for my next trip to the range, and stockpile the extra by cataloging, dating, and storing in sealed ammo cans. To any non-gunner, my inventory list looks like an arsenal, but due to my regular training (at least 6 times per year at the range, plus professional instructor-led classes), it represents only about three years’ worth of supply.

      When I started stockpiling years ago, I admit that part of my reasoning was “just in case” ammo became unavailable due to supply issues or CA ever started implementing restrictions. And lo and behold, here we are now, looking at July 1 approaching with actual registration and background checks! Ten years ago, nobody in the nation would have ever believed this would come to pass, but our Dear Leaders in Sacramento are taking us full speed ahead into the abyss, so I built my own guns (legally, before last year’s cutoff date) and have been buying ammo constantly. Gonna buy another few boxes again tonight after work.

      Almost moved out of CA back in the 90s, but remained due to my good job. Now I’m finally going to be taking a road trip later this year to check out a few places in person for a possible permanent move. The CA I grew up in is gone.

  10. I sill purchase when ammo is on sale. I don’t like to be price gouged. Some sellers still seem to think odipshit is still prez and try to price accordingly. Mostly in the smaller towns.
    When I get the chance to hit the bigger cities I try to find ammo at a good price and will splurge somewhat.

  11. Well..ammo is a lot cheaper than it was several years ago …so that accounts for some of them drop off.

    Speaking for myself, I have what I consider a reasonable cushion of practice 9mm and 380. I replaced it as I use it.

    I continue to buy defensive HP ammo as I see good prices. Federal has jacked up their HST prices of late so I have switched to deals on other good ammo.

    For 38 and 357, i buy defensive ammo and have component for reloading many thousand rounds.

    Have plenty of 22s…got out of the habit when they were unavailable or the price of centerfir ammo. Need to roll out the rimfore again and do more fun shooting.

    • When .22 ammo was not available I bought a pellet rifle for practice. It has been years since I shot my .22s. And I have ammo for them. I just lost interest. I’m basically holding onto them for my grandkids.

      • jwm,

        I also bought a pellet rifle when .22 LR was unavailable. It is a great plinking platform. And the bonus: I can plink with my pellet rifle in my back yard with nothing more than a piece of sheet metal or 3/8-inch plywood for a backstop. In order to plink with .22 LR in my back yard, I would have to construct a significant backstop and I would need a suppressor.

  12. I try to stock up when I find a good sale. Most of my stock is .22 LR, though I’m building up a decent amount of 9mm (almost all range ammo), and have what is probably for most folks today an unusually large supply of 32 ACP.

    Someday, I might get into reloading. I save all my .38 special brass for that reason.

  13. As an online ammunition retailer, we have not actually seen a drop off from ammo sales EXCEPT for those coming from California. When the new ammo laws went into place in 2018 we lost 20% of our revenue from folks stopping their regular ammo subscriptions and opting out of picking up their shipment at an FFL. I could be wrong but my sense is that a lot more people started reloading in CA. In other states, a lack of a sense of urgency (ie no “panic buying”) has brought the market to what a normal healthy market should be. Can you think of any other product that you go to the store and see bare shelves? Batteries? Toilet Paper? In the US this just doesn’t happen. Thankfully we’re back to a normal market where you can buy just about any caliber in any configuration you need at reasonable prices. Hopefully, we are done with panic buying forever as manufacturers have added capacity and consumers have learned to keep enough of a cushion at home (or elsewhere) and then not rush out to strip the shelves clean at every well-publicied mass shooting.

  14. Purchase our ammo via the internet, as price comparison prohibits us from purchasing locally, mostly because of local gun shop and range prices seem to be extremely high. I normally purchase anywhere from 500 to 1000 rounds for each caliber depending on price. We also purchase our targets over the internet. Our local range charges $1.50+ per target depending on size and they are normally paper targets. We use 10X18 heavy tag board color (Glow Shot) targets which splatter when hit and the display is shown with bright colored ink. Each hit can be seen from quite a distance.
    I convinced my wife to join the Club. Taught her the rules and regulations of the Club, proper range etiquette, etc. Unfortunately for me, she’s a lot better shot than I am.

  15. There’s another factor in this that may not have been considered – or may have an influence on the reported sales figures. That being a seasonal effect, as well as the fact that some States (MS for example), have an annual 2A sales tax free holiday in the Fall. I and many others will take advantage of this 2 day holiday to buy large amounts of ammo at what amounts to a 7% discount. In my case, I also get a year round 10% Military/LEO discount on ammo at my local gun shop. A 17% discount amounts to a significant savings that I save up for, as do many others.

  16. Its simple. A few years back during the prestaged shortages and price gouging by the ammo makers. Some of us brought a few thousand rounds of every caliber we had. Myself, I still have over 7k rounds of assorted ammo. Including 3 or 4k of 22lr. I wont need any ammo for a few more years.

  17. I have not bought less ammo than before. About the same. I still have to by another 1K in three Calibers and couple thousand more .22Lr. I just tend to buy in case quantity.

    But the prices have been lower because of that. And I say stockpile even more, because in less than six years There will be a complete ban of all guns. And also a complete ban of all ammunition sales. And the government will start confiscating guns by force and killing all who oppose. The nukes will start dropping in less than 7 years from now. And that’s the conservative estimate on my par there will be a complete ban of all guns. And also a complete ban of all ammunition sales. And the government will start confiscating guns by forcing killing all who will oppose. The nukes will start dropping by the middle of 2026. And that’s at the latest. Expect a complete ban of all guns in the next six years or less. It will happen. They will get A complete and total band of all guns and gun ownership. And then when they have that power they will lose it all.

    • Whoa! Did I miss an important memo?

      Whose nukes are gonna drop ?….. and where ? ….. so I can be…. not there!

      I hate it when I get left off the newsletter.

    • Yeah I’d like to know more about this nuclear war as well? If you have some insider info to share that would be great to know.

  18. 400 bucks in ammo for a year?
    That’s a weekend with Joe Grine and the other lads. But I reload, so there is significant savings there.

    • That’s what I was thinking too Tom. I tend to stockpile factory ammo and shoot reloads. I’ll throw in some factory but sparingly.

      They should do a study on reloader stockpiles. That would be an eye opener! Ha ha ha!

  19. This is for Vic Nighthorse(my phone is crap). All I’m asking is what’s yer preference? NOT killing cops. Softpoint? Hollowpoint? Greentip? 55gr? Heavier boo-lits? Varmint? I have a S&W Sport( not gen 2). Probably 1 in 9 twist but it’s possibly 1in 7 5R. Since it’s “new” never fired but “used” I can’t tell. It’s perhaps the best reviewed AR (5 stars in TTAG)ever so I’m not worried…

  20. I used to buy ammo online about $1,000/yr. Past 1.5 years, buying local, it’s been at a rate of $250/mo. I remember buying ammo 2013/2014, not doing that again. It’s currently hard to find match grade 308Win and 6.5 CM on sale from the LGS. Still buying a lot of 22LR, 9mm and 5.56 when they go on sale. A few months after July 1st, I foresee most CA gun owners going to the ranges less and/or shooting smaller calibers.

  21. I’d buy a lot more ammo if it was priced like it was before Newtown. Now, I only buy practice ammo when it’s deeply discounted, and when it is, I buy in bulk.

  22. Mayor Pete will save us from low gun profits. He will dig deep into the problems, and bend over backwards to get those prices up!

    Vote early and often, and lets get it up with Mayor Buttgag!

  23. I’m currently hoarding ammo like it’s going out of style. I’m buying more ammo then anyone I know, and more then I ever have before. Because the next panic is coming.

    • most of us have bills to pay…and more pressing things to spend our money on…get what you think you need….whatever that is….then move on….

      • You think I just magically don’t have bills? I didn’t say I’m a millionaire. In fact you probably make more then I do. I organize my money as I would a buisness. Quarterly I spend a certain amount on bulk ammo. My goal is to get to the point not just to have a decent stockpile but still be able to actually shoot during the next panic/drought thats coming in a few years.

  24. It is not clear if this study includes purchases of reloading components as well as factory produced ammunition. When prices skyrocketed in 2013-1014, I learned to reload. As a result, other than a few bricks of .22lr each year, I seldom buy factory ammunition now. But if you include reloading components, my contribution to ammunition sales is considerably greater.

  25. Ive hoarded ammo fer years. Just now gotten into my 1980’s stock. Ill never shoot it but I cant stop myself from buying it up. Filled up 2 storage units like a sickness. Cant pass an ammo shelf without gettin all sweaty hands and trembling. After a big purchase I may go back to the store just to get that feeling again and hang out while they re-stock the shelves. You just cant get that kind of thrill mail order. Its the smells, the sounds and the overall ambiance of a gun shop that can only fullfill that kind of desire. And I dont even own a gun.

  26. “Buyer Behavior: Why Ammunition Sales Are Down”

    Because during the obama created shortage, people, including myself got into reloading and loading our own, only to find out that we can produce ammunition that is far superior to anything factory produced…

    • This is very true. Even when I include the cost of my time, I still find my reloads more desirable to shoot, especially for handguns.

  27. Here’s another angle: The winds are shifting in WA with recent gun control legislation passing the last 3-4 years. Seeing future bans and/or restrictions on the horizon some locals have paused buying ammo and switched to buying rifles that are likely to be on a future restricted / banned list. People I know who are into guns have picked up AR rifles, stripped lowers, and other semi-auto rifles in the last couple years.

    Next up is a push for mag restrictions which was barely defeated this legislative session.

    Ammo purchases will likely go back to “normal” here (modest but gradual stocking up) once there is some stability.

  28. Has anyone considered the fact that many people had gone to reloading. I can remember going out to an area where I shoot and see a lot of center fired brass. Nowadays I can rarely find any

  29. Except for .22LR, the ammo shortage didn’t bother me at all. I reload everything I shoot. Been doing it for 6 years. Powder, primers and projectiles always were available, although the prices did see a small increase, maybe less than 10%. I reuse my brass until it fails, usually when resizing, some cases will split at the neck. If it’s a 5.56 I cut it down and use it for 300BLK. I bought in bulk when I had the money to spare, because a certain big box retailer with reloading supplies upped the prices 50% over online prices. A pound of powder for $25 online is $30 in the store. Primers for $28.50/1000 online are $50/1000 in the store. I usually bought 8 pounds or more and 5000 primers online to spread the HazMat fee across everything since it is one fee for up to 70 pounds.
    Both UPS and FedEx are now charging $35 per package for HazMat.


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