Last year, the Social Security Administration put out a procurement request for 174,000 rounds of “.357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point pistol ammunition,” prompting a few on the Internet to work themselves up into something of a frenzy. “It’s not outlandish,” claimed Paul Joseph Wilson, one of a team of professional paranoiacs on the Infowars website, “to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest.” “Something strange is going on,” harmonized Breitbart’s William Bigelow. Even Mark Levin was concerned. “I know why the government’s arming up,” he deduced. “It’s not because there’s going to be an insurrection; it’s because our society is unraveling.”
The Social Security Administration’s purchase was by no means an anomaly. A year earlier, the unlikely pair of the Department of Agriculture (320,000 rounds) and the National Weather Service (46,000 rounds) had both put out tenders for ammunition. And slightly less odd, but still staggering, were the FBI’s professed intention to purchase up to 100 million “hollow point” rounds and the Department of Homeland Security’s concurrent request for 450 million rounds. The Department of Education got in on the weapons-supplying spree, too, purchasing “27 Remington Brand Model 870 police 12-gauge shotguns.”
As we said in a recent post, our office has criminal investigators, or special agents, who are responsible for investigating violations of the laws that govern SSA’s programs. Currently, about 295 special agents and supervisory special agents work in 66 offices across the United States. These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests.
Our investigators are similar to your State or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty.
Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered. In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies. OIG’s special agents use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety. Additionally, the ammunition our agents use is the same type used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
If one were inclined to tin foil hattery, it’d be more interesting to ask why NRO is doing a story on something that’s a year old.
A solid point is made in HotAir’s comments:
We have been getting plenty of e-mail about purchases and contracts for ammunition by government agencies, which seem to have prompted a run on ammunition by private consumers and the shortages that these runs usually entail.
State ammunition acquisitions didn’t prompt a run on ammunition, by the People.
Dictators who would disarm the People prompted those runs.
This was, first and foremost, about firearms, not bullets.
OhEssYouCowboys on March 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM
Government contracts have next to nothing to do with runs on ammo. Runs on ammo come after runs on guns, because guns need ammo. Not rocket science. I’d be surprised anyone emailing them would think that (I’d doubt Ed does, though the sentence could be taken that way), but I guess they’re agitated about something from a year ago, so who knows?
From the NRO piece, a bit of reassurance that isn’t reassuring, because while the ammo orders aren’t sinister, other things are:
Whatever the federal government has become, it is not yet plotting violence against the people.
Tell that to these guys:
Update: Since HotAir linked back to us, here’s a repost of the original from April 2012. Now, mind you that entire post was written before the Sandy Hook murders and before the current maniacal leftist push for gun control that’s spurred on purchasing at the cyclic rate; plus there’s another year’s worth of inflation, metals prices fluctuations, and new costs of doing business that manufacturers are now faced with. All of those factors are going to change prices even further.
I’ve seen this story reported several times, and have been asked about it by friends.
I posted why over at Sipsey Street, I’ve explained to people I know, but since it keeps coming up, I’ll repost it here (and hopefully the explanation will make it to the top of search engine results so people can stop freaking out about it – and freak out about the things that need to be freaked out about – like the F&F coverup, the implications of the commerce clause being expanded to make you buy a product, etc.).
To give some idea as to how the big numbers make sense, a USBP trainee goes through about 2000 rounds before leaving the academy during training, practice quals, and basic proficiency. A class is 50 students, so that’s over 100,000 rounds per class, not counting remedials, which may bump the number up to 110,000 rounds or so.
In 2007-2012, the academy was graduating some 100+ classes per year, resulting in easily 10,000,000 rounds per year just to new agent training.
A USBP agent goes through quarterly firearms qualification, which is a 72 round course, usually with some additional training tossed in, so about 400 rounds per year minimum that they will fire in the course of training.
Ammo issue is usually 150-300 rounds per quarter (depending on stations’ budgets and ammo availability), so each agent will get 600-1200 rounds per year issued to them, of which they might only use 400 for official training – the rest is proficiency ammo for them on their time, or sometimes for proficiency fire after quals if there’s more training scheduled.
Take let’s say 25,000 agents times around 1000 rounds per year and you get some 25,000,000 rounds per year. That’s not including firearms instructors (who go through ammo at the cyclic) or Bortac/Borstar and SRT or whatever they’re calling it these days.
Spread this out over a potential 5 year contract to supply up to 450,000,000 rounds to DHS, and 125,000,000 could easily go to USBP alone, if not closer to 150-200M.
Add in the potential for what the academy was burning through in the last 5 years of the hiring pushes and you’re looking at over half that 450M going to USBP. Hiring for USBP is down, but ATK has to plan for it anyway.
Add in other branches of DHS, US Marshals, FBI, US Customs, etc., almost all of whom use the .40 S&W as their primary round, and you end up with a very plausible, normal number to base a contract off of.
US Marshal service just had a hiring push for 5000 applicants – if they take even 1000 of those, with training similar to USBP, that puts them in the 2 million round mark, if over 5 years, 10 million round mark just for new hires. Add in quarterly qualifications, and you’re looking at millions upon millions more rounds.
450 million rounds is a good forecast number for the 5 year period (1 + 4 extension).
Hope that clears this up a bit.
One other thing to look at is the same thing effecting reloaders – materials prices keep going up. Copper keeps going up, which increases the costs of ammo.
Anybody who’s been shooting for a few years has seen what’s happened.
The ammo types there are different types of .223 and 5.56mm, and amounts are per 1000 rounds. To compare to today, a mere 5 1/2 years after wards, the XM193 is $9.79 for 20 rounds. That’d be $489. To make the chart Al-Gorean:
If you order 450 million rounds at today’s prices, you don’t end up paying tomorrow’s prices. Given the rate of increase in ammo prices, due to monetary inflation and metals prices and shipping costs due to fuel prices, buying now for tomorrow makes more sense.
Or, as milsurpers have said for a long time about ammo: “Buy it cheap and stack it deep.” It makes economic sense to buy against increases, it makes good sense to buy the amount you’re going to use in the future. 450 million rounds is not unreasonable. It just seems odd at first until you crunch the numbers.
I’d be more worried about prospective ATF head Andrew Travers’ past work with the anti-gun Joyce Foundation.
As a final note, for those who’ve gotten this far – having read the repost and all – and who wonder why they’re buying JHP rounds and not FMJ for training, I believe the answer is a combination of contracts, bean counters and lawyers. If you’re a contractor and you can convince an agency to always “train how it fights” – which isn’t a bad thing, it may be more expensive for the government, but you may make better margins. With the organizations I’m familiar with, ammo allocated for federal training of new agents is allocated to the agent – if the agent drops, the company gets the ammo back, the govt. doesn’t get a refund. Instructors may be able to use that student’s allocation for other students, so sometimes it’s not wasted, either.
If you standardize your purchases, it’s less to keep account of – in inventory, purchasing, allocations, acquisitions, and in usage.
Were you to issue training ammo that accidentally got taken to the field and proved insufficient to stop a bad guy who then injures or kills the agent, the savings on using FMJ or other training ammo might not be worth the wrongful death lawsuit for failing to equip the agent properly. So it’s also an expensive CYA. If you spend an extra $5 million on ammo but prevent a $10 million lawsuit, it’s economically worth it.
It also goes to economy of scale. Buy it cheap, stack it deep.