From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
From: The Financial Times/London
US asks private sector to ease bullet shortage
By Christopher Bowe / May 26 2004
Even in the age of unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite-guided bombs
and night-vision goggles, the US army cannot fight a war without its
most basic necessity: bullets.
And with more troops in Iraq, more intense combat than expected and
the need for almost every soldier from frontline infantryman to
rearguard logistician to be prepared for an ambush, the army suddenly
finds itself in a bullet crunch.
According to a requisition last week by the Army Field Support
Command, the service will need 300m to 500m more bullets a year for at
least five years, or more than 1.5m a year for combat and training.
And because the single army-owned, small-calibre ammunition factory in
Lake City, Missouri, can produce only 1.2m bullets annually, the army
is suddenly scrambling to get private defence contractors to help fill
The bullet problem has its roots in a Pentagon effort to restock its
depleted war materiel reserve. But it has been exacerbated by the
ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where rearguard and supply
units have been thinly-stretched throughout the countryside,
occasionally without active duty combat soldiers to protect them.
The army’s formal solicitation acknowledges that its current
manufacturing abilities have been all but exhausted. “Increasing
military contingencies have created a situation where the capability
to produce small calibre ammunition through conventional methods has
been fully exercised,” it said.
Specifically, the army is looking for 300m more bullets annually,
potentially rising to 500m a year.
Alliant Techsystems, which runs the army-owned factory in Lake City,
is in talks with the military about remedying the bullet production
shortage, insisting it could expand output by 200m to 300m a year.
General Dynamics, the US defence contractor which submitted its
proposed solution on Tuesday, said it had pulled together several
small bullet suppliers – including Winchester, a unit of Olin
Corporation; Israel Military Industries; and Canada’s SNC Technologies
– to meet the army’s gap.
“We’re using so much ammunition in Iraq there isn’t enough capacity
around,” said Eric Hugel, a defence industry analyst at Sephens Inc.
“They have to go internationally.”
Ammunition Shortage Squeezes Police Nationwide; Officer Training
By ESTES THOMPSON / Aug 17, 2007 (AP)
Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are
firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition
shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some
officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol.
An Associated Press review of dozens of police and sheriff’s
departments found that many are struggling with delays of as long as a
year for both handgun and rifle ammunition. And the shortages are
resulting in prices as much as double what departments were paying
just a year ago.
“There were warehouses full of it. Now, that isn’t the case,” said Al
Aden, police chief in Pierre, S.D.
Departments in all parts of the country reported delays or reductions
in training and, in at least one case, a proposal to use paint-ball
guns in firing drills as a way to conserve real ammo.
Forgoing proper, repetitive weapons training comes with a price on the
streets, police say, in diminished accuracy, quickness on the draw and
basic decision-making skills.
“You are not going to be as sharp or as good, especially if an
emergency situation comes up,” said Sgt. James MacGillis, range master
for the Milwaukee police. “The better-trained officer is the one that
is less likely to use force.”
The pinch is blamed on a skyrocketing demand for ammunition that
followed the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, driven by the
training needs of a military at war, and, ironically, police
departments increasing their own practice regimens following the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks. The increasingly voracious demand for copper and
lead overseas, especially in China, has also been a factor.
The military is in no danger of running out because it gets the
overwhelming majority of its ammunition from a dedicated plant outside
Kansas City. But police are at the mercy of commercial manufacturers.
None of the departments surveyed by the AP said it had pulled guns off
the street, and many departments reported no problems buying
ammunition. But others told the AP they face higher prices and months-
In Oklahoma City, for example, officers cannot qualify with AR-15
rifles because the department does not have enough .223-caliber
ammunition a round similar to that fired by the military’s M-16 and M4
rifles. Last fall, an ammunition shortage forced the department to
cancel qualification courses for several different guns.
“We’ve got to teach the officers how to use the weapon, and they’ve
got to be able to go to the range and qualify with the weapon and show
proficiency,” said department spokesman Capt. Steve McCool. “And you
can’t do that unless you have the rounds.”
In Milwaukee, supplies of .40-caliber handgun bullets and .223-caliber
rifle rounds have gotten so low the department has repeatedly dipped
into its ammunition reserves. Some weapons training has already been
cut by 30 percent, and lessons on rifles have been altered to conserve
Unlike troops in an active war zone, patrol officers rarely fire their
weapons in the line of duty. Even then, an officer in a firefight
isn’t likely to shoot more than a dozen rounds, said Asheville, N.C.,
police training officer Lt. Gary Gudac. That, he said, makes training
with live ammunition for real-life situations such as a vehicle stop
“We spend a lot of money and time making sure the officers are able to
shoot a moving target or shoot back into a vehicle,” Gudac said. “Any
time we have a deadly force encounter, one of the first things we pull
is the officer’s qualification records.”
In Trenton, N.J., a lack of available ammunition led the city to give
up plans to convert its force to .45-caliber handguns. Last year, the
sheriff’s department in Bergen County, N.J., had to borrow 26,000
rounds of .40-caliber ammunition to complete twice-a-year training for
“Now we’re planning at least a year and a half, even two years in
advance,” said Bergen County Detective David Macey, a firearms
In Phoenix, an order for .38-caliber rounds placed a year ago has yet
to arrive, meaning no officer can currently qualify with a .38 Special
“We got creative in how we do in training,” said Sgt. Bret Draughn,
who supervises the department’s ammunition purchases. “We had to cut
out extra practice sessions. We cut back in certain areas so we don’t
have to cut out mandatory training.”
In Wyoming, the state leaned on its ammunition supplier earlier this
year so every state trooper could qualify on the standard-issue AR-15
rifle, said Capt. Bill Morse. Rifle rounds scheduled to arrive in
January did not show up until May, leading to a rush of troopers
trying to qualify by the deadline.
“We didn’t (initially) have enough ammunition to qualify everybody in
the state,” Morse said.
In Indianapolis, police spokesman Lt. Jeff Duhamell said the
department has enough ammunition for now, but is considering using
paint balls during a two-week training course, during which recruits
fire normally fire about 1,000 rounds each.
“It’s all based on the demands in Iraq,” Duhamell said. “A lot of the
companies are trying to keep up with the demands of the war and the
demands of training police departments. The price increased too went
up 15 to 20 percent and they were advising us … to order as much as
Higher prices are common. In Madison, Wis., police Sgt. Lauri Schwartz
said the city spent $40,000 on ammunition in 2004, a figure that rose
to $53,000 this year. The department is budgeting for prices 22
percent higher in 2008. In Arkansas, Fort Smith police now pay twice
as much as they did last year for 500-round cases of .40-caliber
“We really don’t have a lot of choices,” Cpl. Mikeal Bates said. “In
our profession, we have to have it.”
The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo., directly
supplies the military with more than 80 percent of its small-arms
ammunition. Production at the factory has more than tripled since
2002, rising from roughly 425 million rounds that year to 1.4 billion
rounds in 2006, according to the Joint Munitions Command at the Rock
Island Arsenal in Illinois.
Most of the rest of the military’s small-arms ammunition comes from
Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics Corp., which relies partly on
subcontractors some of whom also supply police departments. Right now,
their priority is filling the military’s orders, said Darren Newsom,
general manager of The Hunting Shack in Stevensville, Mont., which
ships 250,000 rounds a day as it supplies ammunition to 3,000 police
“There’s just a major shortage on ammo in the U.S. right now,” he
said, pointing to his current backorder for 2.5 million rounds of .223-
caliber ammunition. “It’s just terrible.”
Police say the .223-caliber rifle round is generally the hardest to
find. Even though rounds used by the military are not exactly the same
as those sold to police, they are made from the same metals and often
using the same equipment.
Alliant Techsystems Inc., which runs the Lake City plant for the Army,
also produced more than 5 billion rounds for hunting and police use
last year, making the Edina, Minn.-based company the country’s largest
ammunition manufacturer. Spokesman Bryce Hallowell questioned whether
the Iraq war had a direct effect on the ammunition available to
police, but said there was no doubt that surging demand was affecting
“We had looked at this and didn’t know if it was an anomaly or a long-
term trend,” Hallowell said. “We started running plants 24/7. Now we
think it is long-term, so we’re going to build more production
That unrelenting demand for ammunition will continue to put a premium
on planning ahead, said Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio,
who so far has kept his department from experiencing any shortage-
“If we have a problem, I’ll go make an issue of it if I have to go to
Washington or the military,” Arpaio said. “That is a serious thing …
if you don’t have the firepower to protect the public and yourself.”