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    Exclamation Police Encounter Ammunition Shortages


    Ammunition hard to come by
    Iraq war, politics, slowing deliveries to law enforcement

    Advocate staff writer
    Published: May 13, 2007 - Page: 1a

    Law enforcement agencies are finding it harder to get something they cannot do without — ammunition.

    The military’s increased demand for ammunition has put a strain on manufacturers, people in the business say. And a rise in the cost of raw materials has caused ammunition prices to skyrocket.

    Jill Angelle, an officer with the state’s probation and parole office, retrieves casings after she and her colleagues fired 3,000 rounds during training.

    “We’ve been informed by manufacturers that the military is placing huge orders for certain calibers of ammunition,” said Cpl. Robert Knight of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Firearms Training Unit. “The ammunition plants are working 24/7 to meet the orders, and any surplus ... on hand is now gone.”

    Law enforcement agencies and the military are competing against each other for .223-caliber and 9 mm ammunition, experts say.

    The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Special Weapons and Tactical Team and the Police Department’s Special Response Team both use .223-caliber rifles, said Knight and Sheriff Greg Phares.

    The rifle is similar to the M-16, the U.S. Army’s primary infantry rifle, said David Faught, general manager of The Armory, a Virginia-based retailer that sells ammunition and weapons in stores and online.

    The U.S. military also is one of the largest users in the country of the 9 mm pistol, a weapon most police officers and sheriff’s deputies carry, he said.

    “We use 9 mms virtually every day to qualify our road deputies,” Phares said. “Fortunately, we have a reasonable supply of 9 mm practice ammo and I don’t, at least in the short term, see any crisis there.”

    Locally, the situation hasn’t reached the point where law enforcement officers must share ammunition or reload it themselves.

    But they are having to pay more for ammunition, order shipments much earlier and spend more time shopping for the best deals.

    Knight said the Police Department has ordered enough ammunition to carry it through the year, but shipments of .223-caliber rounds have been delayed.

    “We have been advised by various manufacturers that this is due to the war,” he said.

    Knight said large orders are hard to get in a single shipment.

    “We often receive a partial shipment and are advised that the remainder is on back order, sometimes for several months,” he said.

    Phares said the Sheriff’s Office is having difficulty getting .223-caliber ammunition.

    “We anticipated the 2007 price increase and ordered substantial amounts in late 2006 with expected delivery early this year at 2006 prices,” he said.

    That shipment has not come in yet.

    Brian Trace, a spokesman for Alliant Techsystems — the parent company of Federal, one of the nation’s largest small-caliber ammunition manufacturers — said the war isn’t the only thing to blame for shortages and delays.

    Law enforcement’s demand for ammunition has increased “tremendously” through the increased availability of grants from the federal government, he said.

    “We are working 24/7 and have hired more people to keep up,” he said.

    Also, several European manufacturers have pulled out of the U.S. market because of currency issues, Trace said.

    Faught added that politics also is playing a role.

    After the Democrats gained control of Congress, people began to horde weapons and ammunition, he said. He said the same thing happened in 1994 when Congress passed the Brady Bill, which placed restrictions on handgun purchases

    Some people anticipate additional changes in the country’s gun laws that would restrict ownership, he added.

    Manufacturers say heightened demand and an increase in the cost of raw materials, especially copper, is causing ammunition prices to jump.

    The cost of .223-caliber rounds and 9 mm cartridges have gone up almost 100 percent within the past few years as a result.

    “The availability of raw materials is hurting us more so than the war,” said Eddie Stevenson, a spokesman for Remington, the Madison, N.C.,-based gun and ammunition maker. “The cost of the primary metals used to make ammunition all have gone up.”

    Knight said in 2005, the Police Department could buy 500 rounds of .223-caliber bullets for about $70. Now 500 rounds runs about $120.

    To get the best price possible, Phares said, the Sheriff’s Office will look for alternate suppliers. But even smart shopping isn’t going to deliver prices that law enforcement agencies had become accustomed to paying.

    “It is almost inevitable that we will pay significantly more for ammo than had been anticipated,” Phares said.

    For Baton Rouge police, the price hike has prompted a change in what officers shoot during training. Instead of live rounds, they use ones filled with a detergent-based, water-soluble, colored-marking compound, Knight said.

    “The projectile breaks upon impact, marking the target and allowing trainers to assess their accuracy and their hits,” Knight said.

    Phares said training deputies is “an absolute priority” and that they will reload their own cartridges if needed.

    “Our first and most important mission is to be competent to deal effectively with incidents like the Virginia (Tech) tragedy,” he said. “That takes training, and training will continue.”

    Faught said he thinks the prices of raw materials will stabilize in August or September.

    “We are starting to see supply reach demand,” he said. “But we will never get back to where it was in the late ’90s.”

    Clint Huisinga, owner of Stars & Stripes Custom Ammunition based in Florida, isn’t as optimistic.

    “During the first Gulf War, we had similar market situations which caused shortages and price spikes, and nothing really came down much when it ended,” he said. “They remained at a plateau with some slight increases of a percentage or two each year after an initial, small market adjustment — until this latest conflict.”
    Last edited by TXCharlie; 06-07-07 at 02:13 AM.

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  2. #2
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    Last edited by TXCharlie; 06-07-07 at 02:12 AM.

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