The 2010 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show has come and gone and the event owner/sponsor, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has been quick to declare it a huge success. They announced an overall attendance figure of just over 58,000 people, including exhibitors, dealers and media representatives. That's a bunch of people and second in pure numbers only to the Show in Las Vegas in 2008. Clearly a lot was happening and those of us from Officer.com who attended will be reporting on the interesting things we saw or did.
In my column last month I said that a top priority for me was to talk with the various ammunition manufacturers to try and get a handle on what is happening with the current ammunition supply, particularly as it relates to law enforcement needs. I'll tell you up front, the ammo people don't want to talk about it. Well, not on the record anyway. I spoke with a number of people, both from companies involved and others who at least think they know some of the details of the situation. All of the companies have their prepared statements, which, when distilled down to simple English, all say the same thing: We are producing ammunition as fast as we can. Beyond that, they seem unwilling to publicly discuss details of their production policies, capacities or future plans. Most will say that they are publicly traded companies and therefore have an obligation to make sure they don't divulge any secrets, while continuing to provide an appropriate return on their shareholder's investments, of course. And, shareholders are happy. After all, the ammo business is booming and they are selling all they can make. Who wouldn't like to have that kind of business?
Beyond the business-speak, however, I did have some interesting conversations that I can at least paraphrase in such a manner that individual companies, or their representatives, won't get burned for taking a few minutes to discuss the Great Ammunition Shortage with me. As a result, don't look for direct quotes from identified sources here.
All of the manufacturer reps that I talked with were willing enough to acknowledge that military contract obligations have a big impact on their overall production and ammo availability. All of them also said that they do not give any specific priority to the production of law enforcement ammunition. In fact, it seemed to me that they had not even considered the idea. LE ammo is just another product line and they produce it along with everything else. They may market it as something special, but no one is pushing it out the door ahead of the rest of their offerings. As a result, what affects the overall production, affects the LE ammo. With that in mind, it may be appropriate to begin this discussion with a review of how we got to where we are in the first place, and then look at what we can do to make the most of a bad situation.
The current ammunition shortage really began several years ago. Some say as far back as 2004 and at least by 2005. That was when the effects of increased military consumption began to be noticed. Companies that received military contracts were obligated to deliver on those products on a demanding schedule and production was altered accordingly. For a time, the existing system took up the slack and some increase in production capability was fueled by the long-term and consistent nature of the military demands. In other words, it was worth their while to invest in new buildings, new equipment and more manpower because there is a long term income stream to go with it. This is an important difference from civilian or commercial sales because, even after all this time, they still see the commercial demand as a temporary situation that will not last long enough to support long term investment.