Guns

Russian Ammo Ban Hurts Gun Owners, Not Vladimir Putin

Stopping the import of Russian ammo is just pretending to do something noble.

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If you're ideologically committed to a course of action, like imposing restrictive policies, it's frustrating when the people you want to hurt refuse to cooperate. It's even more aggravating when some of the folks on your side lose faith and start doing the things you don't like. If you're clever and unwilling to compromise, you might then find a backdoor way to impose your will and, incidentally, prod your allies into line. By all appearance, that's what we're seeing with the Biden administration's ban on imports of ammunition from Russia, an important source for America's tight ammo market.

"New and pending permit applications for the permanent importation of firearms and ammunition manufactured or located in Russia will be subject to a policy of denial," the U.S. State Department announced last week. The start date is set for September 7, 2021, and sanctions are anticipated to be in place for a minimum of 12 months.

The sanctions are ostensibly in response to the poisoning last year by the Russian government of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. That was a truly horrendous crime committed by an authoritarian regime against one of the few figures who continues to rally dissidents against Vladimir Putin's regime, even from prison

"There's no need to apply sanctions on Russia," Navalny told The New York Times this week. "For now, all sanctions were tailored to avoid almost all significant participants in Putin's gangster gang. Do you want evidence? Name one real evildoer who suffered. The airplanes, the yachts, the billions in Western banks — everything is in its place," he added. Navalny recommends directly targeting Putin's allies.

As Navalny's comments suggest, restrictions on imports of firearms and ammunition are less likely to hurt well-connected Russian manufacturers, who will almost certainly find buyers elsewhere, than they are to hurt civilian consumers of those goods. Amid social fracture and loss of faith in institutions, American firearms sales are booming, the ranks of gun owners swelling, and ammunition manufacturers are struggling to meet demand. Cutting off the largest single source of imported ammunition to the United States can only reduce supply and drive ammunition prices higher.

"Availability of cheap Russian ammo acted as a pressure release valve for the prices of brass-cased ammo produced in more developed countries," Greg Ellifritz, a retired police officer and prominent firearms instructor, notes on his blog. "When the regular Russian ammo shooters can't get their fix, they will start buying the stuff that the rest of us shoot. That means the gradual drop in ammo prices will come to a quick halt. Ammo prices will rise across the board this year and next."

"Ammunition exports to the United States are only a small percentage of the GDP of the Russian Federation, but Russian origin ammo makes up a large part of the American ammunition supply," observes the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action. "American gun owners were already suffering from a market where demand was exceeding available supply. This new move by the Biden Administration will severely worsen the present supply problems."

Ammunition for some specialty calibers, such as 5.45x39mm, used in specifically Russian-sourced weapons, may essentially disappear.

So, why would the Biden administration impose trade sanctions that will certainly hurt Americans more than the supposed target government? Well, the administration has demonstrated that it's committed to tightening restrictions on firearms. But, as I've pointed out, gun owners strongly oppose restrictive proposals and are very unlikely to comply—and the government is in no position to compel submission. 

At least as important, though, is the fact that people on the political left and members of traditionally Democratic groups are defying traditional stereotypes and purchasing firearms for self-defense. Much more so than in many years, firearms ownership is an American experience and not one that belongs to a single faction.

"Gun sales reach record highs in 2020 especially among African Americans and first-time gun buyers," the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an industry trade group, announced earlier this year. "Sales among women accounted for 40 percent of all sales, and purchases by African Americans increased by 56 percent compared to 2019."

In 2020, protests and riots broke out over concerns about how law enforcement misbehaves, especially towards minorities. One year later would be an awkward moment to send enforcers after gun owners whose ranks contain a growing proportion of minorities. But tightening the availability of ammunition and making it more expensive is one way to target gun owners and, perhaps, discourage gun purchases without engaging in politically perilous confrontations.

That said, here's a bit of not-so-bad news: Despite some apocalyptic talk about the impact of the sanctions on Russian ammunition imports, including speculation that Russian brands such as Barnaul, Tula, and Wolf represent anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of the market, the situation doesn't seem quite so dire. Imports of ammunition have soared by 225 percent over the past two years, and Russia is the largest source, accounting for 765 million "units" of ammunition out of 3.5 billion imported, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (Mexico and Italy are the next two largest sources). But that's in addition to about 8.7 billion domestically manufactured rounds of ammunition, as of NSSF figures from 2018. Even if I'm missing something (and I certainly am) Russian imported ammunition constitutes a smaller share of the market than many people fear.

But the sanctions on Russian-sourced ammunition will certainly further tighten inventories and hike prices in a market that already features demand outstripping supply. That harms American consumers far more than it hurts Russian manufacturers.

Now is a good time for shooters to make sure they're saving reloadable brass-cased ammunition. Yes, reloading components are also in short supply. But putting aside the cases and slowly acquiring components for reloading ammunition will help gun owners insulate themselves from future ammunition shortages, whether they're caused by supply and demand issues or by political intervention.

The control freaks who gravitate to government office are clever and uncompromising creatures. They're perfectly capable of finding ways to hurt people they don't like while pretending to do something noble. It's up to us to close off those backdoor attacks on our freedom.

NEXT: Brickbat: Love Shack

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  1. The control freaks who gravitate to government office are clever and uncompromising creatures. They’re perfectly capable of finding ways to hurt people they don’t like while pretending to do something noble.

    Sing it, brother! The government is not your friend, it is force pure and simple. Ask yourself what kind of psychopath is perfectly content to force other people to do “good things” and you’ll realize that all politicians and all government workers are evil, psychopathic motherfuckers willing to shoot your grandmother in the head for refusing to obey orders.

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    2. Sing It Brother!

      “all politicians and all government workers are evil, psychopathic motherfuckers willing to shoot your grandmother in the head for refusing to obey orders.”

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    3. Ask yourself what kind of psychopath is perfectly content to force other people to do “good things”

      Every ideological activist ever?

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    4. and the government is in no position to compel submission.
      What do you think all the F-15’s and maybe nuclear weapons are for?
      SleepyJoe

    5. Such psychopaths might reconsider when the see that there is no shortage of bow and crossbow ammo, including dowels, sharpened pencils with duct Tape fins, painted flat black for night ops, steel bolts for heavier shooting, and all the gadgetry of The Green Arrow or Hawkeye.

  2. The guy that armed the Taliban and ISIS-K probably shouldn’t be further involved in anything even remotely related to firearms or ammunition.

    1. Trump’s gone bro. Too bad not before he released 5000 viscous Taliban fighters and their beloved leader.

      1. You do realize that at this point continuing to willfully suffer TDS makes you retarded, right?

        1. No, he would need an iq above 30 to realize he’s retarded

      2. The 5000 released at Bagram were done so under Biden. Thanks. There were reportedly ISIS and Al Queda in there.

        And if you are so against the Taliban, why did Biden just give them the names of Americans still in Afghanistan? If this is the case, wouldn’t you agree that Biden should be tried for treason?

      3. “5000 viscous Taliban fighters”

        They were a sticky bunch.

        1. And thick as thieves.

          1. Oozed right past the checkpoints.

            1. Well, you can’t have a quagmire without getting viscous.

              1. Bunch of clingers.

            2. So tacky.

        2. Goats get them like that.

      4. He’s gone and taken up residence in your pointy head.

  3. “Hurts gun owners, not Putin.”

    Feature, not bug.

    CB

    1. Yup. Hurting gun owners was the point, Putin was just an excuse.

  4. Russian imported ammunition constitutes a smaller share of the market than many people fear

    Maybe communist China can make up for it?

  5. “For now, all sanctions were tailored to avoid almost all significant participants in Putin’s gangster gang. Do you want evidence? Name one real evildoer who suffered. The airplanes, the yachts, the billions in Western banks — everything is in its place,” he added. Navalny recommends directly targeting Putin’s allies.

    It’s exactly the sort of action you would expect a paid stooge to take. I wonder if Biden has extorted any formerly-Soviet governments, like you would expect a puppet leader to do. We should launch an investigation. Or four.

    1. But if we directly target putins allies the Biden is out

    2. It is a continuation of former President Obama’s ban on importing firearms from Russia.

      1. The plot thickens!

      2. He will have more flexibility after the election.

        1. Hard to have flexibility when you have rigor mortis.

  6. Now is a good time for shooters to make sure they’re saving reloadable brass-cased ammunition. Yes, reloading components are also in short supply. But putting aside the cases and slowly acquiring components for reloading ammunition will help gun owners insulate themselves from future ammunition shortages, whether they’re caused by supply and demand issues or by political intervention.

    Excellent advice.

    I’ve never seen the scarcity this bad before, and to not be able to find pistol ammo primers anywhere for years just sucks.

    1. When you add 7 million new gun owners, who ostensibly bought 100 rounds with the new gun, that equates to 700 million rounds of ammunition unavailable to existing gun owners. Dovetail in manufacturing delays due to blue state lockdowns you end up with the current Ammogeddon.

      Have only ever seen steel case ammo from Russia and that does not get reloaded.

      1. People (wisely) hoarding ammo is probably the main factor in the scarcity, but all the new gun buyers are certainly contributing to the problem.

        Recently I’ve seen small pistol primers go down to $250/1000 from ~ $500/1000 on auction sites, where just a couple years ago you could get $30/1000 (after the Obama years shortages, of course) from traditional online sellers like Midway USA. I’ve been waiting for a market solution to bring the prices down, but I think the demand is just too high and I’m not holding my breath. It really says a lot about the state of things in this country that reloaders have been SOL for years on end, it’s unprecedented really.

        1. The problem with a market solution, is that it’s very risky for the manufacturers.

          We’re in a fight between the gun banners, and gun owners. Sooner or later, one side will prevail.

          If the gun banners prevail, and you’ve invested in increased productive capacity, you’ll never recoup the investment because gun control will dry up your market. You’ll be looking at decades of lean years, at best.

          If gun owners prevail, and you’ve invested in increased productive capacity, people stop hording ammo, and many people have enough squirreled away that they won’t need to buy for years. Demand tanks for a while, though not as much as in the first scenario.

          Now, if you’re manufacturing ammo, to some extent your machinery is capable of being used for other purposes. At least is will have salvage value. But if you’re manufacturing primers? Very specialized machinery, no other use for it.

          Also, the primer manufactures are heavily regulated due to working with lead compounds and explosives, so entry into the field is not easy.

      2. Of course, there is also the government aspect. NSSF dismisses government purchases as a concern because those are lucrative contracts and they don’t want to generate outcry. Usually you’ll see some kind of red herring to the military, which is answered as “No! The military is not sucking up the ammo, because they have their own Lake City plant!” This totally omits:
        1) The military does purchase some amount of specialty rounds in all calibers.
        2) Government agencies have use the recent flurry of deficit spending to buy weapons and ammo from the commercial market. In 2020 government spent $4,355,063,964 on the commercial ammunition market, awarding 268 contracts to 70 companies, with an average value of $62,215,199. During 2020 there were an estimated 9.5 billion rounds of ammunition produced. Even at a $1 a round (unlikely) that means the government bought half of the domestic supply.
        3) Government contracts are multiyear contracts. Some Obama contracts are still ongoing to this day. The non-military government at this point appears to have a stockpile of ammunition that would last them 100 years, and they continue to snatch up everything they can.

    2. Where I’m at in Nor Cali, I have been able to get most stuff except powder is basically gone, for everything! Even resorted to loading PB for revolver and 30-30 loads. Lame, but at least I can somewhat still practice and save good stuff for zombies and such.

      1. Sounds like my Clays for 45acp batches

    3. I took a hint back in 2012-13 and got into reloading and “buying cheap and stacking deep” on things like primers [2+ years ago $18.99 case at Cabelas] powder and bullets; also .22s at .04 a pop. I am shooting as often as I want now and that is why. This scarcity is bad but so far you “can” buy pretty much what you want if you are willing to be several times the price [of 2019] + outrageous shipping charges.

    4. That’s find if you’re shooting brass, but almost all 7.62×39 ammo is steel, because AKs have a tendency to tear the rims off brass-cased ammo during extraction/ejection

  7. I guess the Hermitage’s check for Hunter’s artwork bounced.

  8. “But tightening the availability of ammunition and making it more expensive is one way to target gun owners and, perhaps, discourage gun purchases without engaging in politically perilous confrontations.”

    Article got to the entire point of these sanctions in paragraph 13.

    1. Well, there’s a blow for public safety. I can buy a pistol, but not enough ammo so that I can practice regularly and improve my proficiency. When the zombies come, I will be so inept with my weapon that any number of innocent by-standers might get plugged. Or is that the plan?

      1. The plan. In 2020 government spent $4,355,063,964 on the commercial ammunition market, awarding 268 contracts to 70 companies, with an average value of $62,215,199. During 2020 there were an estimated 9.5 billion rounds of ammunition produced. Even at a $1 a round (unlikely) that means the government bought half of the domestic supply. All while they have their own damn plant at Lake City, and a 100 year non-military stockpile.

        1. Plus, it creates a nice black market opportunity.

  9. GOA was on this from the moment it dropped. NRA took days to acknowledge and their opposition was vanilla. They dropped the ball big time. Hopefully they bring some bite to make up for lack of bark.

    1. NRA is done for. They are hemorrhaging members and are basically riding on their old name recognition and shooting sports involvement. GOA, FPC, and the every annoying NAGR (seriously, their email campaigns are infuriating) are the future.

      1. They are hemorrhaging members

        Both the NRA and critical 3rd parties reported 2019 to be a record membership year, 5.5M members. They (and everyone else) took a hit in 2020 but they’re numbers are still around 5.25M. It’s fine if you want to promote the GOA, FPC, or whomever but, if they had any intrinsic value, you shouldn’t have to tear down the NRA to do it.

        1. LaPierre needs to go; has North and Cox succeeded in the “coup” a couple of years ago they would have gotten ahead of the political pogrom by the NY AG and focused the organization on what matters. But instead LaPierre and his crony board of some 40+ members have engaged in sketchy financial shenanigans, spent hundreds of thousands on his fricking wardrobe, and been largely AWOL throughout the 2020 election while high tailing it to Texas. Meanwhile organizations like the SAF have been suing and winning court cases on our behalf.

          Until LaPierre goes nothing will get better for the NRA and they will be wasting their members dues.

          1. I don’t disagree with any of it. I don’t see that any of it confirms that the NRA is done. Does it stay a pro-2A organization? Become a gun-friendly country club that does educational outreach? IDK. Done? Not at all clear.

            1. I wasn’t speaking precisely. I think that they are going to lose ground with anyone under 40. Less cultural significance. Probably less shooting sport involvement as IPSCC and USPSA expand. They’ve peaked and won’t be making any major comebacks, IMO. Even if their membership numbers technically go up and down, I don’t see them having a dedicated constituency and I doubt most of those members are paying for anything beyond the most basic membership status.

              1. Courting the under 40 demographic hasnt’ exactly been a sure thing for building a longstanding membership base either, let alone a principled one.

                Again, if there were a demographic specifically enriched to support the GOA, it would be the NRA membership, to call them foolish for supporting the NRA works against the GOA, not for it. After all, there’s nothing that says somebody can’t cover the bases by being a member of multiple organizations.

            2. The NRA has been trying to become a country club with a museum for decades now, with the membership beating back the attempts. But LaPierre has managed to render the membership almost powerless in every regard except quitting.

              I mean, we can vote for the board, but the nominees are chosen by a nominating committee LaPierre controls, and we get barely more candidates than openings, and only one we get to pick ourselves. And they canceled the member’s meeting to avoid us having that opportunity to act.

              Honestly, at this point, the best thing that could happen would probably be for the NRA to go under, and the membership to switch to the organizations that have some fire in their bellies. And I say that as a life member.

              1. Sadly I concur Brett; that son of a bitch LaPierre has made it all about himself and taken it down the tubes. I’d like to think they’d get their act together, but no more money from me until he’s gone.

        2. That would be true if the NRA didn’t do what the NRA does, which is compromise for lesser infringements rather than draw any hard line. Not Real Activists. Negotiating Rights Away. This often puts them at odds with zero compromise groups. Now, I won’t say that they do NOTHING. There is some stuff in NRA-ILA, but much of it is smaller cases. And sure, they have the visibility which CAN be a good thing (but unfortunately also seems to indoctrinate compromise). But in my lifetime they haven’t done much, and with LaPierre and after the bumpstock fiasco, I canceled.

          Check out https://www.firearmspolicy.org/legal

          1. Their lackluster response to Phillando Castile also really drove it home for me

            1. What did you want the NRA to do? What wouldn’t have been lackluster or, maybe more accurately, couldn’t have the goalposts shifted to be portrayed as lackluster? Sue the PD without standing? Incite riots at the capitol?

              1. It took them 1 year to respond, and this is what we got on CNN:

                ” I don’t agree with every single decision that comes out from courtrooms of America. There are a lot of variables in this particular case, and there were a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently.

                Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over his [traffic] stop? I absolutely do not.

                I also think that this is why we have things like NRA Carry Guard, not only to reach out to the citizens to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when they go through stops like this.”

                I don’t know what to call that, but it sucks.

                1. It took them 1 year to respond,

                  I posted a response from one of their paid spokespersons on their own networks, posted on YouTube, four days after the shooting occurred, and you say it took them a year to respond?

                2. And the latter portion of their response is very much well-measured. Reaching out to citizens and police alike, and outlining a pattern of behavior that can be expected by both sides during a stop is the, the right thing to do. Especially when your membership or constitutency consists of citizens and police officers.

                  It’s not Philando Castile’s fault he got shot, but whether it was his fault or not, the inherent fear that the officer felt walking up to the car was the problem. Shouting “He had rights!” at him and every other officer doesn’t magically dispel the fear. Ask anyone around here, I’m certainly in favor of holding officers to higher, even impossibly high standards, especially when they shoot a civilian and I absolutely oppose the shooting of Castile. IIRC, I called for his firing, pre-trial, based on the video footage alone.

                  Again, what are your proposed solutions? Strip officers of their weapons and defund them (I actually think far fewer cops should carry guns and QI should at least be more narrowly tailored to non-violent and unarmed confrontations.)? Make them more fearful to carry them? More laissez-faire gun ownership/use by citizens and officers?

                  1. Yeah, pretty much.

                    Strip QI. I would probably move to a liability system that finds liability under clear and convincing evidence that the officer (1) was not pursuing an immediate law enforcement concern, and/or (2) did not use reasonable force, meaning their use of force would be commonly understood as not appropriate for the situation or excessive. Under this system I would propose coming up with some standard for sharing liability between the institution and the officers themselves depending on PD policies, orders given, who was involved, etc. Given that officers may be liable for damages, I would expect/encourage some form of policing insurance – much like malpractice insurance. The insurance company should be free to establish policies. If the insurance is relatively free, then they will engage in actuarial activities that determine risk indicators. Subsequent of these risk indicators would be policies that encourage certain behaviors and processes from the police and departments being insured. We also need to revise public unions in general, but particularly the police unions. Where police unions interfere in officer investigations and criminal liability are of most concern. Finally, the more petty interactions with police there are the more petty injuries and deaths there will be. Liberalizing drug laws, sex work laws, etc. It should be clear to people that any law carries the potential of death in its enforcement, either directly or indirectly. For the general public, I think constitutional carry is the way to go. Politics are downstream of culture. Ideally carry of all forms would become legally normalized.

                    For general crime, I recommend detaching housing credits/welfare from section 8. A loose credit would basically be the end of “the hood,” because few people would want to live there when there are better options. School choice, which helps concerned families who live in bad areas keep their kids out of bad schools. No added welfare incentive for single mothers, which would turn around the incentive to have single parent households. And then the stuff that doesn’t market as well – end the drug war, end criminalization of consensual adult sex work, legalize gambling, and end the minimum wage. Strip all profit opportunities for criminal cartels, and remove barriers to employment for the most disadvantaged (and most crime prone).

                  2. I think we probably agree on most things here. It’s just a matter of opinion that we disagree, that opinion being how favorable we see the NRA.

                  3. The video posted was good and better than nothing but I would have preferred an official press release from the top. Castile was legally carrying. He volunteered he was carrying. The officer involved murdered him within seconds and used the excuse of being afraid because he smelled pot. Even delaying until all facts are out is fine but they still dropped the fall here. NRA should have offered a firm rebuke of the murder. Castile died for no other reason than exercising his rights.

    2. When NRA pushed Romney over Paul, I was done. The calls were great. I asked the caller if they knew that Romney had banned guns as Governor of Mass that I legally owned. Silence on that. Then the push for Romney again.

      Wayne LP likes rubbing shoulders with the rich and maybe that was part of it. Not sure. Not anti NRA but they no longer get my dollar.

  10. “So, why would the Biden administration impose trade sanctions that will certainly hurt Americans more than the supposed target government?”

    Duh.

    Relevant progressive moral truisms:
    Guns are bad.
    Russians are bad.
    Unapproved speech is bad.

    Combine these with whatever liberal word salad yard sign phrases you like to justify screwing with “bad” Americans.

    1. That would be “kindness and tolerance is everything” and maybe throw in a “hate has no home here” for good measure.

  11. >>an important source for America’s tight ammo market.

    beature, not fug.

  12. While Russian ammo is 40% of the US ammo market it is more than 90% of the 7.62X 39 supply.

    No one else is in a position to produce inexpensive steel case 7.6 2X 39 using 4 factories that have their machines long ago paid off.
    The Serbs may be able to tool up, buy new machines, and get the import permits, but it will take years and not be as inexpensive as Russian ammo.

    I will also say that no Republican president has ever felt the need to overturn the 90s era Clinton ban on the import of Chinese ammunition.
    If by some miracle a republican were ever elected president again, I don’t see this import ban being lifted

    1. Ukraine has been exporting 762×39 under the brand Red Army.

    2. Chines ammunition; yeah I remember that stuff; I think it was around $100 a case [for 7.62 X 39] and smelled like firecrackers.

  13. Just an observation on the dynamics of the market. 9mm steel cased rounds were available from Russia for months for 50c a round when brass rounds were not available. Every gun shop tech you talked to said that steel is inferior and damages your weapon. Every indoor range refuses to let you use them because the steel cannot be recycled. (The excuse they used was “their floor would be damaged”.)

    Now the online suppler and the local supplier here that I use have no Russian rounds and are selling brass for 50c a round. That is about twice what they went for before COVID and then Biden. I wonder if a ban on the Russian rounds will really have an effect on that price now.

    1. The steel cased ammo mostly from Russia offered a relatively “cheap” alternative to brass and as such helped with the overall pricing. I will not put the stuff through any of my precious weapons, but I appreciated its availability for that purpose.

      Glad I reload and that I bought it [supplies] cheap and stacked it deep. Hopefully Congress will go Republican in 2022, the panic will die down, and I can replenish my stores.

  14. 1. As the article points out, Russian ammo is nearly 10% of the market. That is NOT insignificant.

    2. The author hints at this earlier but seems to forget it when saying 10% of the market is not significant. Those Russian rounds are specific rounds. Rounds are not interchangeable. The Russian rounds represent a much larger share of the market for that particular size round in the U.S., such as 7.62x39mm, I would imagine the Russian market for that round vastly exceeds 10%.

    3. Fuck Biden.

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