Why are the feds stocking up so much?

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.

At the same time they want to disarm the rest of us.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow. Would Lincoln have droned Robert E. Lee?

80 thoughts on “Ammunition”

  1. Perhaps they want to dry up the supply and drive up the price of ammo. Perhaps they realize that for ordinary non-sniper troops, thousands of rounds are fired for every enemy killed. It does make me wonder who they’re targeting.

    1. Given the other moves that have been made to try to further gun control causes through the executive branch, such as fast & furious, this explanation seems the most consistent with the evidence.

    2. That’s the same thing I think Larry J.

      It’s easier for Obumble to tie up the ammo manufacturers making ammo, thus taking it out of consumers, that’s easier than trying to get laws passed on guns, ammo, magazine size, etc.

  2. The DOOM part of this is that apparently no one can ask, or there is no one to ask, about why this is happening. It’s like we’re all Kremlinologists now, instead of informed citizens.

  3. Rational people don’t stockpile unless they see a potential need. But I’m not sure we should attribute rational thought to the people currently leading the regime. Whatever the reason, I doubt it is good for We the People.

  4. Off topic, maybe, but the LA Times has a picture of a pickup truck used by two women who were shot by the LAPD. One woman is said to be shot in the hand, the other in the back, no word on the seriousness of those injuries. The two women were using the truck to deliver newspapers.

    The LAPD is on “high alert” owing to a Mr. Dorner, a fired LAPD officer, who is on a shooting spree, has ambushed and killed a police officer already, and is at large. It is believed that the shooting of the women in the truck by the police is somehow related as their truck fit the description of Mr. Dorner’s vehicle.

    The picture shows the pickup truck just riddled with bullets — from the rear. Did this make any national news outlets?

    Is this where all the ammo is going?

  5. I think this has more to say about the size of our government. 24-year Iraq war levels doesn’t consider that we have less military in Iraq than government employees, not just cops, that carry hand guns and have to qualify regularly with those weapons. Then again, didn’t Obama want his own Hitler youth?

    I wish we had some perspective on this story.

  6. Larry J — come now, that doesn’t make any sense. Surely they’d know that by increasing the demand like that to drive up prices they’d only succeed in bringing more production online to supply it. And as soon as they ever stopped buying, all that excess production would drop the price dramatically.

    That’s just basic supply and demand. The Obama Administration couldn’t be that economically ignorant…

    1. That’s just basic supply and demand. The Obama Administration couldn’t be that economically ignorant…

      Surely you jest. And I know, “Stop calling me Shirley!”

      As for demand driving increased production, why do you think they’ve enacted all those regulations that serve to kneecap businesses from expanding and hiring? Plus, if you need to expand your factory to meet the increased demand, how many legal and regulatory hoops would you have to jump through? The environmental impact assessments and zoning changes alone can take years.

    2. Is that the plan? Buy up supply so companies borrow to expand, then dump it all so the companies are stuck with excess capacity?

      Nah, there’s no way our idiot ruling class is that smart.

    3. Makes sense but ‘time’ is the missing factor of production. New ammo factories can’t be built without time.

      Also; ammo doesn’t keep unless it is kept in a low moisture environment. Depending on when this is delivered I wonder how much they’ll loose of it due to this.

  7. Where’s the evidence that they’ve actually ordered that much ammo? “According to one estimate” is pretty thin sourcing.

    An earlier scare chain email was debunked last year. In that case it was a an order for no more than 450 million rounds, meant to keep DHS supplied for five years; it came out to about 700 rounds per year per weapon-carrying DHS employee.

    1. Uh Jim. I realize you linked to Politfact, which has an odd way of ruling a statement they acknowledge as factual as mostly False. But I point to this key bit:

      Our ruling

      Homeland Security has contracted to buy up to 450 million .40-caliber bullets — and that total exceeds the nation’s population.

      That email was from the spring. In late summer, another request went out for 750 million more rounds. And then more recently, the 20 or so million rounds mentioned at Rand’s link.
      I’ll leave you this link to figure out how people learn of these thing. It took me about 30 seconds to find a new solicitation put out Feb 5th for another 100,000 rounds (a bone for small business only). Here’s the solicitation number for 250 million rounds requested this past December 2012: HSBP1013R0023 See if you can find it.

      Glad I could help you learn how our government works. Try getting your facts from factual places rather than politcal hack sites like PolitiFact.

    2. So the government is using hollow points for 5 years of shooting practice? In Jim’s world, the practice targets would of course be live dissidents. Kinda like Jim’s hero, Che Guevara.

    3. Jim if you had the intelligence or education you would know the government must post its contracts for bids. This data is available to the public. Try and google it, if you can manage it.

  8. The government, DHS is buying all this ammo through companies that did not exist very long ago. It is less about ammo and more about fraud. Course with the group running the company that would be a twofer.

    Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.

    1. 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.

      1. George, your comment has been the most reasonable explanation I’ve read so far. It’s a perfect inter-department currency.

      2. Interesting that it is almost all pistol ammo. I doubt that such ammo is in big demand by the Mexican cartels, but I could certainly be wrong. A couple of days ag I thought perhaps DHS was trying to dry up the supply of ammo for the urban drug gangs, but I decided that was unlikely. Why the hell do they need this ammo? Some have suggested that it’s all for training purposes. Possibly correct, but if so we have FAR to many folks in DHS who are shooters.

        But, we already knew that.

        1. I thought it odd that most of the ammo was hollow-point – which you don’t use in training because it’s the most expensive. I subscribe to the cornering the market view as trying to fill these large orders, there’s now no incentive for manufacturers to allocate production capacity to make the less expensive and less profitable ammo.

          1. I’ve read that the feds actually do train with their carry ammo. I don’t know whether the source really knew what he was typing about but if so that puts a slightly different angle on it.

        2. There are precedents for “handgun ammo” in shoulder arms; the Thompson in .45 and Uzi in 9mm are better known. I also personally own a rifle in .357

          That said, I am not aware of any rifles / SMGs in .40 caliber.

          1. Beretta CX4 Storm. I have one in .45, but it’s also available in 9mm and .40. I don’t believe it’s common police or federal issue, though.

          2. The MP5 which is a common shoulder fired, closed bolt, sub-machine gun is commonly 9mm. That would be the choice of tactical units everywhere.

          3. The venerable MP5 came in a .40 variant for a while, and the H&K UMP still does. According to wikipedia both the US Customs and Border Patrol as well as the Pentagon Force Protection Agency use the UMP40. And both also have standard issue pistols chambered in .40 S&W. Other local law enforcement agencies also use the UMP40 but I don’t think there’s a global list any where.

      3. Old:
        Bribe people into voting with cigarettes.

        Find something less traceable. That might also have the same crazed “desired” side-effect as Fast and Furious – for the same reasons.

      4. Hey Al,

        Wasn’t that how things were done in the old Soviet Bloc? They’d over-order whatever goods they dealt in, then do back door trading with the overage.

        The people that were in position to do that at the time of the break-up, formed the basis of the initial, extremely flawed, capitalist system in Russia and other former components of the bloc.

        Also the Russian mob.

        Strange parallel, but I can’t think of a better one.

  9. While helping Jim, I found this:

    NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service requires the following items, Purchase Description Determined by Line Item, to the following:
    LI 001, 16,000 rounds of ammunition for semiautomatic pistols to be factory-loaded .40 S&W caliber, 180-grain jacketed hollow point (JHP).

    NOAA? 16,000 rounds? Jacketed hollow point? WTF?

        1. Yes. Regular people don’t because of the cost — something government doesn’t give a rip about.

          (The military doesn’t because treaties forbid its use on the battlefield.)

          1. It’s also a good idea to train with the ammo you’re going to use in the field, but yeah cost is a big issue if you’re paying for it yourself.

          2. Not just the cost, also the health and environmental hazard. If you are shooting in an indoor range then shooting lead can result in high concentrations of vaporized lead, high enough to be not so desirable for health reasons. Also, piling up a crapton of little lead bits onto the range can be a hassle to maintain clean up safely, which adds a lot to the cost. But if you can afford to throw tons of money at the problem then you can build extra fancy facilities, have outdoor ranges, spend a lot of money on ammo and cleanup, etc.

        2. Unlikely. JHP is pretty expensive for practice, at least for us peons. ‘Course the gummint is shooting on our nickel, so what do they care?

    1. NMFS has the fisheries enforcement agents which are federal law enforcement agents.

      The NOAA Corps is not an armed service but a uniformed service. Seven uniformed services, the five armed services plus NOAA and Public Health

    2. I was playing it up a bit. But consider, 16,000 rounds for NOAA. Then think about how many service men that covers (George says 380). That’s 42 rounds per agent.

      DHS in just one order in December was 250,000,000 rounds. DHS only has 230,000 employees. That’s 1,000 rounds per employee, but not all DHS employees are armed. For example, most TSA agents are not armed. Then there is the administrative bureaucracy of DHS which isn’t armed. The new order of 26,000,000 rounds, adds an extra 100 rounds per employee. Again, NOAA gets by with 42.

  10. NOAA might need the ammunition to fight off global warming deniers who will be enraged when the media finally let slip that NOAA has been fudging its temperature records to try and maintain public perceptions that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a real threat, not merely a hypothesis that continues to fail test after test.

    1. What shocks me is that we expect NOAA to fight mother nature with only 380 people and 16,000 pistol rounds. Shouldn’t they arm up with nukes or something?

      1. NOAA does fisheries enforcement.

        There armed personnel essentially are like Game Wardens, Conservation Officers.

        1. Then wouldn’t spear guns make more sense than hollow points?

          Most fisheries crime is fish on fish.

  11. Perhaps they are operating on some inside information about something coming that might sharply constrict market supply in the near future, and are stocking up ahead of it.

  12. My thought was that the ammo was a payoff to Holder for supplying all those nice guns and all the boxes were marked “Property of Mexican Army”

  13. “Ammunition has some wonderful accounting properties.”

    Once read a story about how, during the Italian campaign in WWII, an American jeep accidentally fell off a high cliff and was lost. One obscure supply sergeant saw this as the solution to his problem about how to account for his lost equipment. He put it all on the “lost” jeep. He shared his inspiration with some supply colleagues who solved their equipment discrepancies the same way. The practice spread through companies, battalions, regiments, divisions, and corps. Finally, in the end, an army auditor determined that this single 60 horsepower jeep went over the cliff with about 2 million pounds of equipment on it.

    1. I once read the wartime memoirs of a Canadian Navy officer who was First Lieutenant of a destroyer off Normandy. They took a hit in a store room, and he said for the rest of the war any lost equipment turned out to have been in that space.

  14. Went to Walmart the other day and they were totally sold out of every size and shape of handgun ammo. Everything! Bare shelves!

    Bought some 12 ga. shells there then went to the local gun shop where all sales were limited to one box per person per day. They had a few boxes of .40 S&W on the shelf, so I grabbed one.

  15. There are a number of possible explanations for the massive ammo buy by DHS and other federal agencies. It could be a back-door form of gun control via choking off the civilian market for ammunition. After all, what good is a firearm without ammo? Second, the feds may be armed up for some unforeseen event? Do they know something we do not? Third, Obama spoke openly of wanting a civlian security force as well-armed as the military; many signs point to DHS and TSA becoming Obama’s paramilitaries – some believe them to be his “Brownshirts.” Fourth, Obama and Holder are funneling arms and ammo to their allies, in and out of government, foreign and domestic. Fast and Furious and Benghazi prove the point. Best of all for them, the taxpayers – those saps – are picking up the tab. Fifth, it is typical federal govt. waste and incompetency at work. Sixth, some of the ammo is undoubtedly to be used for training and qualifications – but 1.7 billion of them? To put that number in perspective, our at-war military has a “burn rate” of something like 5.5 million rounds a month.

    1. The purchases are contracted to particular companies (Smith and Weston, ATK) so it appears to me to have no impact on the normal markets. They aren’t buying what’s on the shelf, but paying companies to make huge additional amounts of ammunition.

      1. Ammunition manufacturing, like any other industry, has a set capacity. Large buys by the Government will utilize a lot of that capacity. The nature of a Government contract is that you will fill those orders first, since you either hit your delivery schedule or the odds of you getting another contract are lessened.

        So capacity going to Government orders equals less capacity restocking commercial vendors. Combine it with panic buying and you have empty shelves and inflated prices.

        1. Ammunition manufacturing, like any other industry, has a set capacity.

          No, it doesn’t work that way. If the Feds are buying a lot of ammo and the public is as well (both at elevated prices I might add), then that’s a tremendous incentive to expand production.

          1. While on the phone ordering something a year or so back, I got into a discussion with someone in the firearms industry. He explained that ammo factories had been at three shifts-full capacity for a while now, but had no intention of sinking money into investments in new plants or employees because of future economic uncertainties, Obamacare, etc.
            They were running full out overtime with what they had, but that was the upper limit. November 2012 blew the lid off that.

  16. I tweeted about this earlier, truth implied in jest, saying: This is just more $$ for Obama’s Education efforts. The program is mentored by BillAyers.

  17. I read that ammo – along with agricultural land – is a great value preserver in the event of a currency crash.

  18. “Fourth, Obama and Holder are funneling arms and ammo to their allies, in and out of government, foreign and domestic. Fast and Furious and Benghazi prove the point. Best of all for them, the taxpayers – those saps – are picking up the tab.”

    Well the taxpayers pick up the tab no matter what the Feds do…..

  19. “Would Lincoln have droned Robert E. Lee?” Well, of course he would have, had he had the technology.

    War isn’t polite. Why do we keep wanting to pretend it is?

  20. They are buying the rounds because they are worried about the people donating bullets to the government at very high speeds. Of course, the people that choose to donate bullets will do so with much greater accuracy than the police (as seen in LA and NYC), so the effort to reduce the supply in the people’s hands is wasted, but that is government for you.

  21. If Obama and company can get these handguns banned, the coming end of the war on drugs won’t be such a hard blow to the Mob’s income. However, the newest contraband won’t have any ammo stocked at Walmart anymore.

  22. Looking at the numbers, it’s worth noting a few things. First, Jim is probably right. It’s a lot of ammunition but the amounts over the time scales work out to about what law enforcement would use to train. Second, I’m not confident that there’s actually been 1.6 billion bullets contracted for, much less, actually in warehouses somewhere. I think there’s been some double counting, such as the 450 million bullets in early 2012 are probably part of the 750 million bullets mentioned in mid-2012. If true, that’s a quarter of the number right there. And orders don’t translate into bullets on hand. It seems that these bullets will be supplied over several years.

    Third, that’s a hell of a lot of armed federal employees. While googling around, I see a story from 1997 noting that there were over 60,000 armed federal employees (law enforcement plus customs agents) at the time. Currently, I gather there’s something like 135,000 armed federal employees (don’t know how many would count as law enforcement) in the DHS alone and that number has been growing significantly each year since at least 2000.

  23. Perhaps the Fed is buying ammunition in bulk with the intention, having reached a certain inventory, of shutting down most ammunition factories. A quantity sufficient to supply their needs in the interim between shutdown of most/all existing plants and startup of their own ammo plant would be needed.

    1. ” A quantity sufficient to supply their needs in the interim between shutdown of most/all existing plants and startup of their own ammo plant would be needed.”

      They are only conttracting a couple calibers in this contract. Ammo production isn’t 100% fungable so this has a limited impact on other calibers.

      And American ammo plants can produce tens of billions of rounds a year.

      Most people, politicans especially, havent a clue how much ammo is made and sold per year. There are hundreds of billions of rounds just in civilian hands at this time.

  24. Folks, these are long-term, multi-year contracts and DHS fronts purchases for almost all of federal LE anymore. And the contract is kind of an open-ended thing bigger than the amount they are likely to acquire so as to lock the manufacturer into a set price. It isn’t they they are actually buying X number of ronds, it is they have the option to buy X number of rounds. And Fed LE tends to shoot their service weapons far more than local cops as they actually have a training budget.

    This is really a big nothing story that people who don’t understand federal contracting see, fixate on a number and freak-out about.

    Dear Lord, I am in agreement with Jim.

  25. I have to agree with M Puckett here. Back in August during one of the earlier scares on this topic, a friend of mine linked to an article claiming the feds were buying 750 million rounds of ammunition.

    I clicked the link and read the article. It didn’t seem to add up so I clicked through to the original federal solicitation and did a little reading. The details of the actual solicitation are quite a bit different than the article indicated. It is for an IDIQ firm fixed price contract with a one year term and four optional one year extensions. IDIQ is a common feature of government contracts like this. The DHS wants to lock in a five year price for the training ammo they buy so they sign a firm fixed price contract. IDIQ means “Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity”. In other words, they don’t have to actually buy anything. They simply want the vendor to guarantee the price.

    In this particular case, they have stated that the minimum purchase under the contract is 1000 rounds per year and the maximum is 70 million rounds per year. Within the contract, however, are estimates of what they actually expect to order. The first year estimate is about 10 million rounds and for each of the four one-year options the estimate increases about 10% per year. I suspect that’s just a simple formulaic way to make estimates for the out years. In fact, they will buy each year only the amount they actually need, and that’s why they structure it as an IDIQ contract. This is all pretty typical of how federal contracts work.

    Now 10 million rounds per year is still a lot of ammo. But as Karl Hallowell points out, there are a lot of armed federal officers. If there are 135,000 officers and they each fire 80 rounds a year at the range that would be over 10,000,000 rounds per year total. So it’s a perfectly reasonable number. I’m sure the other solicitations are similar to the one I read.

  26. Most DHS federal law enforcement officers (GS 1801s and 1810s) and criminal investigators (GS-1811s) shoot this ammunition into the dirt at ranges across the United States. Additionally, they provide ammunition for weapons qualification of Federal Protective Service contract guards. Most armed personnel are required to qualify at the live fire range quarterly. They shoot 50 rounds for qualifying and an indeterminate number of rounds for fam fire and practice firing. Regarding the contracts, they are IPIQ (Indefinite Price/Indefinite Quantity) because they are master contracts. The Master Contracts are just a means to make a procurement; they don’t actually order the ammunition. Separate Task Orders (sub-contracts) are issued by each DHS law enforcement component. When ammunition is needed, the firearms training unit issues a Task Order against a particular Contract Line Item Number (CLIN), such as one that might specify 9mm ammunition or .40 cal ammo. In most cases they only order the number of rounds needed for the year because the funds allocated for ammunition is from annual appropriations (also known as “1 year money”).

  27. So I think the lesson learned is the pitfall conservatives have in arguing like progressives. Gov. Cuomo spits out “You don’t need 10 rounds to kill a deer”, and people act like its an epiphany that could only come from the wisdom of a NY governor. Followers run to the streets and in front of the Sunday show cameras saying “see, you can get by on just 7 rounds!”

    Contrasting this is the government making orders in the range of 3 to 4 rounds per US citizen. Now responsible gun owners realize that 3 to 4 rounds is nothing. It’s less than 10 seconds on the range. But they are told by the Intelligencia that they only need 7. No mas. Well turnabout is fair play, right? No. Because rational people deal with logic. They can’t just shutdown the logic in order to score political points.

    So ok, limit ourselves to honest debate… The government expands its spending, while arguing to regulate and limit our freedoms.

    Yes, IDIQ is the way to make these orders (although how a contract prepares for a 50 million order capability that could just be 1000 rounds is a nightmare). 10 millions rounds per year seems reasonable. And sure, NOAA has law enforcement positions (as well I suspect armed guards, but as those are likely contract themselves, they may have to provide their own rounds).

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