Ammo & Gear Reviews

Need ammo? Gold isn’t the only precious soft metal these days

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Cork Graham,

First there’s the conspiracy theory: The US Government is buying out all available ammunition, and telling the manufacturers to not sell anymore ammo to the civilian populace—In other words, the US Government is getting ready for a major, economic and societal shift that will result in all out Civil War, and as many know, those with the most toys, wins!

Then there’s other notion: gun shops are hoarding their ammo and only letting some of it out as they push the prices up even further–$17.49 for a 50 rounds box of .22 Long Rifle?! Just last year it was $9 for a box of 500 rounds!

Another idea launched is that there are so many survivalists, preppers, and newbie/wannabe preppers (they want to prep; can’t afford a gun, but a box of ammo, they can), who are hoarding ammo, either as something to barter, or are just hoarders subconsciously driven to fight scarcity, who now have a new item with which to fill their homes.

And, there’s yet another notion, where the manufacturers were completely taken aback by how effective President Obama has been in creating such divide American people, fearful that he’s taking us down the road of a dictatorship through Executive Order, and removing the Second Amendment, which was put there to protect against tyranny of any form—ironically, especially considering how anti-gun the president has been, no other president in US history has done the gun and ammunition business as good as has Obama highest gun and ammo sales, ever.

…As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in between the extremes.

Here’s the clincher, what none of the commentators mention is one other point: we’re running out of soft metals! In scientific circles, this is called “Peak Copper” and “Peak Minerals.” This is when what were easy to extract metals become fewer, and we phase to expensive and smaller returns on energy expended to get those metals.

This is how they used to find copper: 100 percent pure copper boulder, laying around river bottoms…easy pickings!

China, India and Russia

Part of the strain on copper resources, and for that matter soft metals, is the massive industrialization that has ramped up in China and India in the last ten years—with no end in sight. Demand has become so large from these two nations that a booming business in copper theft has exploded in the United States. They need copper for their own construction needs and will stop at nothing to get it. Just a few years ago, a gas and electric company was the victim of copper wire theft that would have resulted in millions of dollars of copper wire being shipped to China.

Russian arms manufacturers, recognizing this increasing lack of copper, and how brass is an alloy comprised of copper and zinc, have been producing soft steel cases for a variety of cartridges, most notably the AK47 rounds and the American market of 5.56 NATO. Soft metals are being depleted, and the many  wars we’ve had over the last 60 years have added up to our selling off and shooting our finite natural resources in foreign lands, basically making them the natural resources for recycling in those countries in which we’ve fought. 

This was made clear to me all the way back in 1983 and 1984, when I was travelling back and forth between Saigon and Rach Gia for my interrogations and mock trial by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. When we were travelling I noticed rural Vietnamese scavenging off a tank that had been ripped open by explosion during the war. In THE BAMBOO CHEST, I described this scene, as though like African pygmies butchering a large elephant. Perhaps, we’re now at point, where once copper miners could get copper in 100-percent copper boulders, we now have to dig a mile down, a pit two miles wide, to get our copper ore. Can you imagine how expensive that’s going to make shooting your rifle or pistol in the near future?

This is how they have to get copper nowadays…there might be perhaps a cup of usable copper ore in that giant truckload–imagine the fuel and resources energy to get deep down to what used to be laying around on the ground, ready to be picked up by hand.


Soup Kitchens For Shooters

A chat with a friend revealed that a local Big 5 is having people line up, first come, first serve, to purchase ammo, right when they open. It’s like Bass Pro, who just a few weeks ago, received a new shipment of handguns one morning, and they were all gone by 11 a.m.

Here’s the irony, perhaps 30 to 50 percent of those standing in line for ammo, won’t even be shooters. They don’t even own a firearm. All they’re doing is hoarding. They’ve realized that next to gold, when things hit the fan, ammo will be as priceless as gold, perhaps more so. Gold is a pretty colored metal that because of rarity, was made into a form of currency, but ammo is food at the table and an attacker dead on the ground. When currency fails, as it’s continuing to do at a rapid rate, meat and potato systems take their place, and there’s no better meat-n-potato systems than the barter system.

It might even get to a point that you can buy a horse for a 500-round box of .22 LR…

So, What About Your Ammo?

A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with my buddy and colleague, show host, shooting instructor, owner of Student of the Gun, and former Marine, Paul Markel, and asked, “What if this is all because we’re running out of copper—what if the government is doing the same thing as the private citizen, but on a much larger scale, and for very similar, yet different reasons?…Both are hoarding to make sure they have ammo, but the private citizen is doing it because he, or she thinks there won’t be any available due to the government. But what if the government’s hoarding for the same reasons, but it’s doing it because it doesn’t think the raw materials will be available to make that much more ammunition?”

“About ten years so,” Markel answered, “I read one of John Farnam’s quips on his website. He was my first introduction into private shooting instruction. Basically Farnam was talking about how the shrinking of supply of soft metals would lead to us using alternatives, such as steel cases.

..I just don’t get it. When I was a shooting instructor at the NECC (Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, the commander came back from the local fleamarket, flipping out that they were selling used ammo boxes. As though he thought it wasn’t normal for the government to make available to the public the sale of these items. He then ordered all ammo boxes be crushed and sold for the melted metal price.

By the time I finished my training contract, they had at least three to four million spent 5.56 in a heap next to these CONEX boxes, that the DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) could have easily sold to companies that utilize that stuff, spent brass. It was just sitting there, corroding and would be melted down and sold in that form. What a waste—Black Hills could have easily purchased it, and it would have gone to good use!”

Intrigued by the original quip that Markel was talking about on Farnam’s site, I tried to find it, couldn’t  and so called the master shooting instructor himself. Farnam said, “I’ve mentioned it many times, that base materials would become more and more scarce. I’ve mentioned to my student that it’s wise to be able to shoot cases made from other than brass.

Most ARs don’t seem to shoot the steel cased rounds. They’re hard on the bolt and extractor. Sig Sauer rifles seem to shoot them okay.”

A review of videos posted by shooters on YouTube reveals a number of malfunctions as a result shooting steel case, the major manufacturers being Wolf and Bear out of Russia. This was partly to do, especially with Wolf ammunition, with lacquer-coating of their steel cases. Wolf has since stopped applying this coating. But, it’s the steel case itself, as Farnam was clear to say, that’s just hard on ARs.

Could it be that the reason the US Government is buying up all this 5.56, 9mm and .40S&W is because they’re afraid that steel won’t be a reliable substitute for the brass-cased cartridge, either, and if the metals forecasters are off (we’re actually at peak copper and we don’t have another 20 years), it’s better to have a mass of ready to go ammo, 20 years, which is about what it would take for DHS to use up the 1.6 billion rounds they just purchased, than have to re-barrel hundreds of thousands of AR/M4s in service with them?

According to both Farnam and Markel, the answer simple: hoard your ammo…who knows when we’ll be able to get more…

How To Train With No Ammo

For those of Scottish ancestry, the Highland Games are not to be missed, especially the caber toss, stone put, Scottish hammer throw, weight throw, weight over the bar, sheaf toss, maide leisg (“lazy stick” in Scots-Gaelic). What many either forget, or don’t know, is that though entertaining to watch, it was the challenge of these sports that led to their creation.

Scots created these sports to train for war, because the English has disarmed them. So, while they couldn’t train with mace, sword, pike and wall breaching ladder, they could easily do so under the watchful eyes of the English dictators by using these games.  For those who want to save your ammo, or just don’t want anyone to know you’ve got firearms, you can train in the secrecy of your own home, with your firearm, but just unloaded.

There’s the long used standby of dry-firing a weapon. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it needs saying. LISTEN UP: When dry-firing your pistol, AR or shotgun, make sure there is no live ammo within reach. And just like at the live-fire range, don’t train when you’re tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There have been too many instance of a weapon that was supposed to be unloaded ending up “magically” having a round in it and the one practicing sending a round through a few walls of the home…and who knows where. Check and double check, every time you begin and end a round of training with dry-fire, to make sure your weapons unloaded. And even then, you know to treat every weapon as if it’s loaded right? That means you never cover anything or anyone that you don’t want to kill or destroy…!

A tool that is also very good for dry-fire training is any of the many types of laser sights. Put one on your weapon and practice your trigger control with it by aiming and keeping steading on a point on a wall. The point is to make sure your trigger is breaking over, with your sights on target, checked by how little, or none, there is movement of your red dot.

And though, I can longer suggest using a .22 LR rifle or pistol because of how ridiculous those prices have gone I can easily suggest getting good a quality air rifle and practicing with that in the back yard or basement. When I was on the Navy’s shooting team, while a midshipman at UC Berkeley, we trained in a campus basement range, so you don’t need to train always at long ranges to be an amazing shot.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your ammo…



Cork Graham is the publisher of GCT Magazine and Cork’s Outdoors. A former CIA paramilitary operations officer and combat photographer, he wrote the international best-selling Vietnam prison/treasure hunt memoir The Bamboo Chest. For his latest books, writings, and appearances, follow him at,Facebook and Twitter.

Editor’s note: take the time to visit – a lot of good reading to be had there folks.