Guns and Gear

Foreign ammo imports doubled in early 2013 to meet exploding U.S. demand

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The American ammo shortage has been a boon for foreign ammo makers as ammunition imports into the U.S. doubled during the first months of 2013.

According to data from the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission, imports of ammo cartridges as well as shotguns have just about doubled during the first two months of 2013.

For the first two months of 2013, about 457 million cartridges were imported into the U.S. — more than double the amount of cartridges that were imported during the first two months of 2012. Shotgun shell imports have more than doubled as well, from 10 million during the first two months of 2012 to 24 million during the same period in 2013.

“There is no question that importation of ammunition has increased, so foreign manufacturers do see the market opportunity,” said Mike Bazinet of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Data also shows that cartridge imports nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, from 1.6 billion to 2.1 billion. Again, shotgun shell imports increased dramatically during this time as well, from 82.9 million to 116.2 million.

Foreign ammo maker Armscor International wants to double its production capabilities to accommodate the growing popularity of its ammunition and firearms. The company recently announced plans to increase its presence in the U.S. by building new production facilities in Nevada.

“We are thrilled with the demand for our Rock Island Armory branded products in the US,” said Martin Tuason, CEO of Armscor International and Rock Island Armory.  “Our new facility will give us the opportunity to increase production and reduce delivery timelines. This marks our 3rd facility in the United States and represents a critical progression in growing our markets in North America.”

Despite the doubling of ammo imports, some gun dealers and shooting ranges are still having trouble getting hold of ammunition.

“There’s still a shortage of it because of it coming through customs and having to get brought into the United States,” says Kathleen James, who runs the Arms Room gun store and shooting range in League City, Texas.

“[The ammunition] is hitting our military and law enforcement before its coming into the civilian market. So even the foreign ammo is hard to get,” James told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This week we have one single box of 50 rounds of .380 coming our way,” she said. “We’re buying what we can get. We have probably 150,000 rounds on order and we’re getting one single box of imported 50 rounds.”

“We do get some Russian ammo, 7.62x54mmR, there’s a very small number of firearms that that actually will shoot out of,” she added. “So we got a big pallet of it late last year, we still have some of it because we got so much and there’s such a small number of firearms that it will work in, and we had it on order for a year before we even got it because of it coming through customs…”

James said that most of the foreign ammo coming in is a lower quality than U.S.-made ammo, with a few exceptions.

“Most of it is lower quality,” she said. James added that not all foreign ammo is a lower quality, as ammo the Italian company Fiocchi Munizioni “is outside the norm” because they use higher quality components.

“All ammunition is really expensive right now,” she told The DC News Foundation.

Many gun and ammo retailers are finding themselves in a tough spot after the reelection and of Barack Obama and the Sandy Hook shooting fueled speculation that new federal firearms restrictions could make it harder for Americans to get firearms and ammunition.

“Every time there’s a comment about some sort of gun control… that triggers a negative response among firearms owners, because they see it as a limiting factor,” said Paul Erhardt, an editor for the Shooting Wire.

Guns and Ammo reported that ammo makers have been producing near capacity for the past decade and had trouble meeting America’s demand for bullets the recent “panic-buying mode’ began.

“We absolutely are in uncharted territory,” said Larry Hyatt, whose family owns Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C.. “Our store is 53 years old, and we have never seen anything like this. We have had some spot shortages and busy gun times in the past. This is a level (of demand) never before seen.”

“It’s been very difficult, we’ve seen a very large decrease in our firearms classes, the capacity of our shooting range, it is hurting our business,” James told The DC News Foundation. “The guns are getting easier to get, the ammo’s getting harder.”

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