Police Can’t Get Ammo Because of War!

WaPo fronts an obviously dubious story claiming that, “The U.S. military’s soaring demand for small-arms ammunition, fueled by two wars abroad, has left domestic police agencies less able to quickly replenish their supplies, leading some to conserve rounds by cutting back on weapons training, police officials said.” Because, you know, the military uses so much 9mm pistol ammo in Iraq. And cops use a lot of 5.56 and 7.62 ammo in their training with their assault rifles and machine guns.

This story was first reported by the Associated Press on the 17th and debunked by Bob Owens on the 20th. He interviewed several ammunition manufacturers and discovered that, not only do the police and military generally not use the same rounds, they rely on different factories. And, in any case, none of the manufacturers are turning away orders unfilled. Remington, for one, would love to have more business.

Since the story obviously didn’t stay debunked, however, Bob re-debunks it again today.

What’s bizarre is that the story simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

Yes, police departments are buying more assault rifles, mostly AR-15s (a civilian M16 clone), as part of the unfortunate paramilitarization of law enforcement. The WaPo variation of the story notes that some departments are stockpiling ammunition for it “just in case” there is a mass crisis situation such as New Orleans experienced after Katrina. But the quotes in the story are almost entirely about fears of running out of ammunition — or the fact that prices are going up because of increased demand for the constituent metals in the developing world — not actual shortages. Only one plant in the story is characterized as operating at “full capacity.”

The idea that ammunition manufacturers wouldn’t be able to step up production to meet increased demand is silly. Perhaps not quite as silly, though, as the suggestion that war policy should be made on the basis of the impact of domestic supply of 5.56 cartridges.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Wayne says:

    Thanks for the links. When I first heard the story I thought is was BS but didn’t see anyone debunking it and I scan many sources. I figure one of these blogs would do it sooner or later. Now I have hard sources for my arguments. Your blog is one of the best I found for easy to find hard references. I don’t always have time to do the research myself. Thanks once again.

  2. Michael says:

    Now I’m generally on the liberal side of most issues (I know, may come as a shock to some here), and I generally rate the war in Iraq as the third worst idea ever (#1: electing GW, #2: re-electing GW), but even I called BS when I heard this report.

  3. Sindarian says:

    Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking to my local gun dealer who was complaining that he was not able to fill an order for the local police department. Yes, it was for M196 5.56mm cartridges for use in the department’s AR-15s. The supplier shorted him 700 rounds and they did not know when they would fill the back order.

    If you are interested James, I can put you in touch with that dealer here in Southern Illinois.