Gun Laws & Legislation

HOOBER: Big News In Ammunition

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Sam Hoober

There were two big pieces of news as far as ammunition manufacturing is concerned, one of which you might have heard about and another that flew well and truly under the radar but is well worth knowing about.

As we all know, our ability to shoot depends on our ability to keep the guns fed. No ammo, no shooting, and that’s a problem and it’s been a problem since April of 2020!

First with the obvious.

The Biden Administration, in their wisdom, have declared that they are not happy with the Russian government for the 2020 poisoning of Alexey Navalny, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin and leader of an opposition party.

Navalny was given a nerve agent, which nearly killed him. He was airlifted to Germany for emergency treatment (testing in Germany determined it was a nerve agent) which was successful, but was promptly arrested on his return to Russia.

Among their economic sanctions are a ban on the importation of certain Russian goods, which – unfortunately – includes Russian ammunition. A lot of people shoot cheap Russian steel case ammo (this writer included) to save money, so it cannot be overemphasized how catastrophically bad this is for the shooting sports.

Not only that, but imported ammo is one of the chief sources of supply for certain calibers, including 9x18mm Makarov, 7.62mm Tokarev and – more importantly – 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm, all of which have precious little factory support in the United States.

Now, that doesn’t mean no more ammunition will come into the country, but it does mean the supply is going to dry up sometime in the near future.

So, here’s what not everyone knows.

Import permits (for ammo companies, anyway) aren’t for a particular company to have any business whatsoever in the United States. They’re for lots of ammunition or other goods.

In other words, importers get a permit from the ATF to import a specific amount of a specific type of ammunition, just like they’d have to have a permit to import a specific number of specific guns. The items have to be catalogued and so on and so forth.

So what does this mean in terms of Russian ammo?

It means that when Biden’s sanctions take effect (in a few weeks) there aren’t going to be any new permits issued to importers.

There are some minor silver linings.

First, the sanctions are only for a year, and they may not get renewed.

Second, it’s entirely possible that some enterprising person will set up a manufacturing concern in another country that can produce a boatload of steel case for cheap. The Ukraine maybe, if the Ukraine isn’t weak on ammo production.

However, there was another development in the ammunition industry recently that should be of a little more interest.

Some time ago, a very sharp person wrote on this very website that a couple of nascent companies were developing polymer-cased ammunition, primarily with an eye on military contracts but with civilian sales being in the offing as well.

It isn’t new, either; shotgun shells have been about that plastic life since the 50’s, and scatterguns have hardly been the poorer for it.

Now, polymer casings wouldn’t be reloadable, but what they would do is allow for faster, cheaper and higher-volume production of ammunition once at scale. Any new technology or process is expensive at first, but as it gets more widely adopted, costs decline.

True Velocity is now offering polymer-cased ammunition on the commercial market. It’s offered in .308 Winchester to start, with 7.62mm NATO, .338 Norma Magnum, 6.8mm TVCM, 6.5mm Creedmoor and 5.56mm NATO to follow.

Bear in mind, though this isn’t deliverance from scarcity yet.

True Velocity’s commercial offering is a match load, with a 168-gr Nosler Custom match projectile. In other words, they’re starting with the bougie target loads first, so we’re still a few years away from any cheap poly case that Bubba may use to righteously riddle the berm with.

And you’ll pay for the privilege; it costs $69.99.

Yes, it’s expensive but the same loading in brass from Nosler themselves is still pretty damn expensive too.

But here’s why this is encouraging. True Velocity has about one quarter of the production capacity of the (ginormous) Remington ammo plant but 10 percent of the production space. In other words, polymer case ammunition has the potential to all but cure ammunition shortages, if it takes off.

Let’s hope it does so soon.

Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.