Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Why surplus ammo is drying up. What I found out, and what I didn't.
A while back, I mentioned in a post on the Mosin Nagant rifles that surplus ammunition for them was much more costly than it used to be, and much harder to find with less of a selection to choose from. I said that I believed much of this was due to the U.S. Department of State either issuing a significantly more limited number of import permits than in the past, and or reneging on some they had already issued.
An individual I have known for several years asked me for further information. In researching this, I decided it was a good topic for a brief magazine article. I've written those, from time to time, on different aspects of survivalism and enjoy doing it.
I based my concerns about the Department of State on two articles I read on line. Not forums, or blogs, but news articles. Once upon a time, I put a link to articles I thought were interesting on the right side of the blog, but I've let that practice slip as no one seemed to read them. This made it hard for me to find them again when I wanted to, because when you google any phrase relative to the idea, you get hundreds of hits that aren't the exact ones you are looking for.
I read many of these links I did come up with, but most of them dealt with people expressing their views on forums, which was not what I was looking for.
So, in an attempt to get more definitive information which I could reference for an article or follow up post, I contacted Century International Arms. I've been a customer of theirs for decades, and they are usually a good source of information when I'm researching a firearms issue. This time, they declined to respond.
I contacted two individuals I know who are associated with big import companies dealing in surplus arms and ammunition. These are people I have a personal relationship with. Both declined to comment even on a non attribution basis. One just didn't want to discuss it at all. The other said that right now, in that business, the survival strategy was not to make any comments at all on issues related to surplus arms, ammunition, or parts being imported into the country. Both of these fellows are good men, and not moral cowards. Both know that when I say "on a non attribution basis" I mean it. This very cautious approach to a straightforward question concerning a firearms issue is not something I have run across with them in the past.
I wrote the Department of State and asked the question. I have had no response and even given the way the bureaucracy works, I should have heard something by now. This comes as no surprise. I am fairly certain that if they even opened the letter, it went into the circular file immediately thereafter.
Finally, I made a trip to see someone whom I thought could help. This person lives in another state, retired now from government but she keeps up with old cronies. She was willing to tell me what she knew about it, and it was a chance to see her again after a long period without much communication between us.
First, she primarily attributes the decline of surplus ammo availability to the exhaustion of supplies. Her opinion was that all the low hanging fruit had been picked in that regards. While some of the more common Eastern Block ammo is still being released from old storehouses, ammunition common in the West such as British .303 and 30.06 is harder to find. While there is undoubtedly some truth in that, I don't think I concur that this is the primary cause. There can't be any shortage of surplus 7.62X54, for instance, the production runs during the cold war were too vast. But this may be a contributing factor to the shortages.
She said that foreign governments who favor the U.N. treaty on regulating the flow of small arms and ammunition have started limiting sales of these items. She cited Germany as a specific example. This is certainly true, and there's discussion of the issue on the NRA web page if anyone wants to research it further.
Her opinion is that the information on import licenses being rescinded probably refers to the "cause celebre" of the M-1 Carbines and Garands from South Korea. That is old news, but still generates a lot of outrage. Other than that, she is not aware of any licenses being pulled after being issued. My acquaintance had no doubt at all that the process of issuing licenses for import was dramatically slowed by Hillary Clinton and that this is being continued by Kerry, but she stressed this was her opinion. We enjoyed seeing each other again, but I did not really get anything I can use since this was a private conversation and she does not wish to be named. There is a certain element of frustration involved with all this, since I can't seem to get people to talk honestly with me if they know they will see their names in the article. But if I can't name them, the value of the information for writing purposes degenerates to near zero.
All in all, while I am fairly confident that the government is limiting the import of surplus ammo by using the bureaucracy to get around congress, I don't have references I can put in an article to support the contention. I find it very strange that such a simple, innocuous question should be so hard to get a straight answer to. It speaks volumes to me that there is such reticence on the part of individuals in the trade to touch this question at all.
I can understand their concern though. When I worked in oil and gas, it was a given that any discussion of fracking that portrayed the process in a negative light, or implied it might have adverse health impacts on people, was an open invitation to being fired. People who own businesses are not political extroverts. They want to make money, period. The rule is, keep your mouth shut and your head down. I am surprised to learn this is the mantra in the arms importation trade as well.
So, at this point, I'm not in a position to write an article that I can go to a publisher with. I need at least two or three verifiable, attributable statements from credible individuals or publications that would support my premise. Over the years I've enjoyed good luck with my articles, largely thanks to Jim Benson, former publisher of American Survival Guide. I've learned that conjecture without substantiation doesn't make for a good article. Without some solid facts, such a submission is just another "rant" and they are free and numerous on the internet already. Publishers don't buy them.
If anyone knows of persons who could be helpful on this issue, and would be willing to give me an introduction, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you've seen an article, even a small newspaper article or magazine article, that you consider from a reputable source, please send me the link. Of course, if I reference an article I give full credit to the publication and author.
I'm not giving up on this yet, but it's certainly proving to be more difficult than I anticipated when I started working on the idea.