February 8, 2013

It’s conspiracy day at PW: “Why are the feds loading up on so much ammo?” [UPDATED]

We’ve discussed this before — Ernst and I had an exchange in the comments recently, and my SF buddy was dubious about some hidden agenda as well, concluding as I and others had that such ammo purchases are in fact routine, if perhaps profligate (using hollow point ammo for plinking and certification practice seems excessively expensive, but then, this is the federal government we’re talking about) — and yet Andrew Malcolm, a seasoned journalist whom I trust and whom I don’t expect to adopt conspiracy theories readily, raises some very compelling questions.  IBD:

The Social Security Administration, for instance, not normally considered on the frontlines of anything but dealing with seniors, explained that its purchase of millions of rounds was for special agents’ required quarterly weapons qualifications. They must be pretty poor shots.

But DHS has been silent about its need for numerous orders of bullets in the multiple millions. Indeed, Examiner writer Ryan Keller points out Janet Napolitano’s agency illegally redacted information from some ammunition solicitation forms following media inquiries.

According to one estimate, just since last spring DHS has stockpiled more than 1.6 billion bullets, mainly .40 caliber and 9mm. That’s sufficient firepower to shoot every American about five times. Including illegal immigrants.

To provide some perspective, experts estimate that at the peak of the Iraq war American troops were firing around 5.5 million rounds per month. At that rate, DHS is armed now for a 24-year Iraq war.

The perceived need for so much ammunition in federal custody is especially strange given Obama’s double-barreled emphasis in his inaugural address on the approaching end in Afghanistan “of a decade of war.” And he also noted, “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

The lack of a credible official explanation for such awesome ammunition acquisitions is feeding all sorts of conspiracy theories, mainly centered on federal anticipation of some kind of domestic insurrection. Napolitano has at times alluded to threats from the extreme right-wing.

Other conspiracists harken back to an Obama Colorado campaign speech in July, 2008. That day he deviated from his prepared text to say:

“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

Writing at American Thinker, Lee Cary noted at the time that the speech context seemed to involve expanded opportunities for community service. But as still happens when Obama goes off-teleprompter, his non-fortuitous word choice on the fly such as “national security force” prompted numerous writers to speculate since about some kind of national Obama para-military force.

And as great as Obama’s unlikely, newly-revealed passion for skeet-shooting might be, that involves shotguns, not handguns over-heated from blasting off millions of rounds.

Referring back (again) to my post that led off today’s output — and realizing now that I may have gathered my thoughts incoherently (or, if you wish to be kind, inelegantly) — let me phrase my question this way:  Are we being too cavalier in our dismissals — that is, too assured of our own sophistication that we are easily passing off as commonplace what may only be camouflaging itself as such?


update: from a SF buddy:

If you click through the two articles, to get at where his “5.5 million rounds per month” number comes from, you’ll see why [the facts are being misconstrued]. Soldiers in a combat zone don’t shoot much – not only do the combat zone soldiers make up a small portion our our nation’s military, but they are too busy running missions/operations to sit around training. The numbers would be similar if you were measuring how many pairs of running shoes they go through – choosing combat zone soldiers to cherry pick those facts is stupid – soldiers in combat zones don’t spend much time running on the track either.

From that same article, you’ll see that the DoD ammunition allotment for training is: “Subsequent to 9/11, … the total DOD training requirement increased to 1.1 billion rounds per year.” There are only a couple million people in the military. These numbers that people are freaking out about, “Oh my god, they bought 150,000 rounds of ‘sniper’ ammo” or “The police state bought 26 million rounds combined, of mixed ammo types” are a trivial drop in the bucket. They are several orders of magnitude away from being even minorly significant, but these authors want us to believe that they are non-trivial NOW.

To put it in perspective, I was once on a 10,000/month training regimen. Sure, that is absolutely not typical. But I was personally going through 120,000/year, and my unit was in the combined tens-of-millions. There are thousands of SWAT teams around the country, and I’d guess they probably average 500-1000/mo minimum per officer.

Until these numbers were in billions per year, I wouldn’t even blink. In a different perspective, if you take this number of bullets (21 million) Homeland Security is buying, civilians are buying 1/10 this many GUNS PER MONTH (2.4 million)!

These numbers seem amazing when they put them in these articles. “21 million! That’s a lot!” You start putting them in perspective, and they are laughably small potatoes. I’d like to see the amount of ammo estimated that civilians buy. I bet it’s several billion per month.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:10am

Comments (40)

  1. They need all that ammo to feed the voracious appetites of their “assault magazines.”

  2. Assault magazines? FFS!

    When I read “assault” magazines, I took that to mean Time, Newsweek and the New York Review of Books…

  3. 2 reasons they bought the ammo … more government spending leading up to the election … and to cause shortages in ammunition … I understand the first reason and as far as the second … its a guess but I’m thinking they assumed that higher ammunition prices due to the shortage would lead to lower guns sales … if the care and feeding of a gun goes up less people will buy them …

  4. I think the most logical reason would be the more they buy the less are available to us.

    Althought watching this clusterfuck go down in LA they may really need that much practice.

  5. I’ve been busy and missed most of the prior discussions on this topic, but has anyone considered the odd possibility that Obama and his apparatchiks might be creating an artificial ammo shortage so as to keep it out of the hands of civilians?

    Until they make a law that strictly limits the amount a civilian can own, at any rate.


    (Notice I wrote “make”, not “pass”… Barry don’t need no Congress.)

  6. … its a guess but I’m thinking they assumed that higher ammunition prices due to the shortage would lead to lower guns sales … if the care and feeding of a gun goes up less people will buy them …

    It seems to actually be working the opposite, folks are buying more guns of varied calibers so they can always get ammo for at least one of them.

  7. I guess I’m hardly alone in my “paranoia”… or is it just cynicism?

  8. I glance back at the Loyola post yesterday and land again upon the question that arose to me as I read it, or in particular, to pinpoint, the phrase in the seventh paragraph “. . . that the limits on Congress’s power to control state governments depend on the national political process itself—in other words, on Congress’s self-restraint“. And on this I fell into attempting to sort out the actual power relations I believe the Framers had in mind, and then, how my understanding fit with Loyola’s view.

    But this isn’t a simple thing to express, exactly. Or at least, not simple for me. “We, the people . . .” it says, and Obama misquotes, and misunderstands. So, what are the powers, really?

    And I think the architecture takes the various powers as three, in the most general terms, or in more atomized terms as 1) the people of the whole, 2) the people of a given state, 3) n (the number of states, each a sovereign power in itself, and 4) the Federal behemoth, divided by function into four further competing entities, taking the House and the Senate as individuated aggressors in the struggle. How many is that?

    Anyhow, the thing is, the people are a power, and it seems to me, from the Framer’s point of view, by far the greatest power and insofar as that is so, definitely the scariest.

    But why this? Because Loyola says “Congress’s self-restraint”, which falls exactly where I’m thinking, “at the people’s insistent instruction”. Or to put this another way, when pointing the finger of blame, or assigning cause, I’m instinctively inclined to point the finger at ourselves.

    It is better, and safer, to align ones schemes with nature, rather than to align a scheme against nature as though to suppose one can make nature simply go away, or come to heel.

  9. Yes, the cost to us going up seems part of the issue. But I wonder if that isn’t just some ancillary benefit, to their way of thinking. And that something else is going on — which we’re to dismiss or ignore because we’ve already come up with certain rational explanations.

    That’s why I used the word camouflaging. This bunch is all about controlling perception. It’s really the heart and soul of their worldview: controlling perception means you own “truth,” even if you had to steal it in order to claim possession of it.

  10. I think the feds realize more clearly than most that their dollars are worth less and less every day, and they’re scrambling to convert those dollars into something more likely to hold value.

    Also, the various department heads are amassing their own stockpiles, because they know they’ll need some means of staying in power when the collapse comes.

  11. This is not the sort of ammo you go to war with, or that you squash an insurrection with. I really don’t get it. Perhaps it has to do with tying up the factories, or perhaps its as simple as departments trying to spend their budgets, lest they be cut.

  12. “Why are the feds loading up on so much ammo?”

    Somewhere or other I saw the suggestion that the Feds were merely doing the people a kindness, aggregating and stockpiling huge stores awaiting their liberation. But surely, even the high competence we’ve come to expect from the Federal bureaucracy wouldn’t be looking quite so far ahead, would it?

  13. This is not the sort of ammo you go to war with, or that you squash an insurrection with.

    Well, it could be, particularly if you’re operating under the assumption that those using it might not be very seasoned firearms users. So you go with quantity and manageability over other considerations.

    That bit about the purchases adding up to enough cartridges to shoot every American five times? That’s a little chilling if you let yourself imagine that it’s accounting for a lot of poor shooting.

  14. Maybe the current administration is setting up a Strategic Ammunition Reserve.

    Or, someone in the administration is a big Metro 2033 fan and Squid is right.

  15. One way to put these quantities in perspective is that it is estimated to be what, 300 million privately owned firearms in the US? If everyone buys 5 rounds for each gun then that comes to 1.5 billion rounds.

    Compared to the ammunition manufacturing capacity worldwide the DHS is simply pissing in a river to make it rise. The private sector is what has made the shortage because the companies only keep in stock what they think will sell within a short period of time.

    Have a run like we have had due to the rhetoric coming from the Democrats and there will be a shortage until the manufacturing can ramp up. If they do ramp up as they may view this as a temporary thing.

  16. Well, it could be, particularly if you’re operating under the assumption that those using it might not be very seasoned firearms users. So you go with quantity and manageability over other considerations.

    If I’m up against a novice shooter, I’d much rather he have a handgun than a Personal Defense Weapon.

  17. I go with the using up budget theory as well. Not too hard to justify, I mean it raises eyebrows but, just say it is “for practice and training” and leave others to prove it is not.

    As to why the type of round, maybe the manufacturers have good salesmen.

    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

  18. Another thing that might be going on here, (might, I emphasise), is that the numbers are somewhat inflated, representing potential purchases rather than actual ones. From what I’ve read (and I’m not going to go dig for examples, unless one of you bastards decides to make it a point of sacred honor or something) these contracts guarantee a minimum purchase of X and a maximum purchase Y per year totalling Z number of rounds over the life of the contract, and it’s the Z number that’s getting reported, sans the 2 or 5 or 10 year span of the contract.

    That said, like others, I believe the government doesn’t mind the fact that it’s messing with the civilian munitions market, creating artificial shortages as manufacturing capacity is dedicated to producing the government runs, and driving up prices for not only 9mm and .40, but for every other caliber as well.

  19. You may be on to something with the poor marksmanship Jeff. If you look at the typical police shooting and the number of rounds expended as opposed to the number of hits.

  20. Ammunition has some wonderful accounting properties. It costs a lot of money to purchase, can be resold with trivial ease and viturally no traceability, and it’s an “anonymously consumable” item. The shortfall between the amount purchased and current inventory is whatever was expended on the shooting range, with no way to verify the consumption.

    It can be traded to other agencies and departments who have shortfalls, sold on the international black market, sold on the above-board international market, or sold back to wholesalers with a wink and a nod.


  21. If I have ten drinks in a bar in a night, can I rationalize it away by pointing out that the bar probably served that many drinks every few minutes to its other patrons?

  22. Rubio is not covering himself with glory lately.

  23. Today I was wondering why the the Cal democrats are rolling the dice on their super majority with this idiotic bunch of useless and unconstitutional laws. I mean, don’t they want to raise taxes at some point (i.e. gut prop 13)?

  24. @ Ernst Schreiber

    That’s how it was explained to us last Friday when Congressman Jeff Duncan (R)made his district-wide 2nd amendment listening tour. He said that those ammunition totals were on an RFP or Request For Proposal and the acquisition would be over several years, not all at once.

    The reason we have a shortage is because we have over 100 million gun owners going out and buying as much ammo as they can in anticipation of a ban or restriction. My local gun shop instituted a five box per caliber per day limit. So yes, I visited the shop several days in a row.

  25. I mean, don’t they want to raise taxes at some point (i.e. gut prop 13)?

    Not to worry, they’re hard at work on that too, undoing Prop 13 protections by pushing several state constitutional amendments in order to lower the vote threshold from two-thirds to 55% in order to more easily raise various and numerous taxes.

  26. Gun Confiscation Bill Proposed in California: ‘We Can Save Lives’

    I say good luck with that. As I noted previously in another thread, CA already has 40,000 existing gun owners there who are felons or mentally ill (and not supposed to possess guns) that they already know about TODAY, but haven’t managed to find the time or resources to address.

    There is no magical pot of cash coming to help them finance an all new gun grab. Just the opposite, actually.

  27. I think one of the features of taking a billion and a half bullets off the public market was that it would create shortages, and there is something to be said for year end budget shenanigans as another perk, but I believe the Obama administration has something special in mind for a billion hollow points.

    I’m currently working on the theory that the Muslim Brotherhood is getting more than planes and tanks in Egypt…

  28. Competetive handgun and 3-gun shooters go through up to 30k rounds per month. SWAT and similar team members would at least *like* to be on that level, though money is the limiting factor.

  29. The reason we have a shortage is because we have over 100 million gun owners going out and buying as much ammo as they can in anticipation of a ban or restriction. My local gun shop instituted a five box per caliber per day limit. So yes, I visited the shop several days in a row.

    Yup. You still can’t lay hands on .22LR in any quality and quantity.

    ammo.net has a pile of Lake City 5.56 back in if anyone’s interested in paying a buck a round. But no .22LR whatsoever.

  30. CDT has some Eley .22LR for about $0.40 a shot, which might be reasonable if you were competing in an Olympic event.

  31. Merovign says February 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Competetive handgun and 3-gun shooters go through up to 30k rounds per month.

    Not hollow points I bet.

  32. Fed. requirements is that they practice with what they carry, thus hollow points.

  33. “Perhaps it has to do with tying up the factories”

    Or tying up the current supply of capacity to make lead ammo, so that when EPA bans lead ammo for the rest of us, the makers will have to retool to supply anyone else.

  34. Lbascom not always but more often than you’d think. Plated HPs are not more expensive than FP or Ball. I’ve often bought or loaded HPs when the price difference was minimal or the HPs were cheaper or more available.

  35. I should say not more expensive to *make*, often they’re marked up for desirability – but not always.

  36. Some interesting related thoughts from Donald Sensing:

    Why is DHS buying all this ammo? Here are the answers I propose in order of my preference of accuracy:

    1. To transfer enormous sums of money to politically-connected or -useful individuals. In other words, the massive purchases are just old fashioned, money laundering graft and corruption. It sure would be useful to know how much Evian was paid for the ammo, because my guess is that Evian’s controllers are buying the ammo from manufacturers at discount, then marking it up at least 40 percent to sell it to DHS.

    What ultimately happens to that 40 percent markup? It goes two places: the bank accounts of Evian’s controllers get half and the other half is funneled through shell-corps, bogus non-profits and established foundations, finally to the Democrat National Committee and Democrat campaigns and causes.

    2. To reduce the supply of ammunition available to ordinary Americans.

    3. To shoot right-wing domestic “terrorists,” although honestly the purchases so far exceed what might be remotely be needed for that even if these presumed terrorists ever, you know, actually started terrorizing, that I can’t imagine this is much related to the reason for the purchases.

    No, this is looting the public treasury, pure and simple, to keep the Democrat party in power.