August 28, 2007

Bad Reporting After Bad

We've been over--and debunked--this story before:

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.

To varying degrees, officials in Montgomery, Loudoun and Anne Arundel counties said, they have begun rationing or making other adjustments to accommodate delivery schedules that have changed markedly since the military campaigns began in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As conclusively proved by interviewing three ammunition manufacturers last week, the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have little or nothing to do with police ammunition shortages in the United States.

To recap from that previous post, when the Associated Press ran essentially the same claims (a canned story deserves a canned response):

ATK's Ammunition Systems Group is the largest ammunition manufacturing body in the world. ATK runs the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant under contract, where it has the capacity to manufacture 1.5 billion rounds of ammunition a year, or put another way, a half billion rounds per year more than is being used by our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is also a major supplier of law enforcement ammunition under Federal Premium, Speer Gold Dot, Lawman, and CCI Blazer brands. The law enforcement ammunition is made in plants in Idaho and Minnesota that are completely separate for their military operations at Lake City. These production lines do not, as the AP falsely states, use the same equipment used to manufacture military ammunition.

Those who stayed with the entire Associated Press article might note that ATK spokesman Bryce Hallowell did not buy the AP's conclusion that the war in Iraq was having a direct effect on police ammunition supplies.

He stated further:

"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 capability."

I contacted Brian Grace of ATK Corporate Communications for further information, and he also doubted the Associated Press claim that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were responsible for a police ammunition shortage.

Since 9/11 we've seen a huge jump in demand from law enforcement. In the last fiscal year alone we saw demand from law enforcement jump 40%. By running our civil plants 24/7, hiring hundreds of new employees and streamlining our manufacturing processes we were able to increase our deliveries to law enforcement by 30% in that same period. In addition, we've just announced we'll be investing another $5 million in new production lines at our civil ammunition facilities.

I pressed Mr. Grace to clarify, asking:

Based upon this 40% increase in demand by law enforcement, is it more fair to categorize the difficulty of some departments in obtaining ammunition as a fact of increased police demand outstripping current manufacturing capabilities, and not as the result of the military needing more ammunition and drawing down civilian supply? Is their any shortage of lead, copper, or brass, or it is just a matter of not enough manufacturing equipment?

He responded:

Manufacturing capacity is the main issue. As you might imagine, for a precision manufacturing business that faced many years of steady demand, it can be quite a challenge to suddenly meet double-digit growth in demand. But we're very proud of the successes we've had with increasing our output while maintaining the quality and reliability of our products.

And we're committed to doing everything in our power to accelerate the growth in output, which is what precipitated the recently announced investment in additional equipment.

Let me make that crystal clear.

According to two spokesmen for the world's largest ammunition manufacturer, which runs the military's ammunition manufacturing plant and separately, is a major supplier of law enforcement ammunition, it is a massive and unexpected increase in law enforcement ammunition demand that is causing delays in law enforcement ammunition delays, not the war.

Michael Shovel, National Sales Manager for COR-BON/Glaser, writes into explain that the price increases for ammunition are at least partially because of the demand from China for copper and lead for their building boom:

The reason that PD's and people are having trouble getting ammo and also the price increases is the war effort and also the fact that China is buying up lots of the copper and lead for their building boom. Our LE market has grown this year the same as it has the past 5 years. No big increase but no drop off either. The only issue with our ability to deliver ammunition in a timely manner is getting brass cases and primers. We do only some specialized ammo for the military and it's done in our custom shop instead on the production floor.


Mr. Shovel states that the war effort does play some role in the ammunition shortage, but does not say exactly what it is, and is apparently not speaking for his company when he makes that claim.

He states that their only issue in delivering ammunition has been getting brass cases and primers, and further, that the specialized military ammunition they produce is not part of their normal civilian/law enforcement manufacturing operations.

Michael Haugen, Manager of the Military Products Division for Remington Arms Company Inc., states:

I would say that if they [law enforcement] are not training it is not due to the availability of ammunition.

Remington has one plant that makes all of their ammunition (military, law enforcement, general civilian), and Mr. Haugen stated emphatically that military sales are "definitely not" in any way detracting from the development and manufacture of civilian and law enforcement ammunition, and that Remington has additional manufacturing capacity, depending on the product required.

We now how three major manufacturers stating that their law enforcement ammunition sales are not being impacted by military ammunition sales, which seems to be directly at odds with the claims made first by Associated Press reporters last week, and now by Washington Post staff writer Candace Rondeaux attempting to refloat an already scuttled premise.

And of course, Rondeaux was wrong when she said that the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge used by the military are "223-caliber rounds -- the same round fired by the military's M-16 and M-4 assault rifles."

Of course, had she bothered to contact ammunition companies in this story about ammunition, she might have figured a few of these things out before she went to print.

[h/t PrairiePundit]

Update: I'm not familiar with how the Washington Post cycles their news stories, but this one is no longer accessible from the front page.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 28, 2007 12:14 AM

CF: yes, the MSM is bullshyte, and making crap up, as is their wont, as long as it's typical Leftist crap, attacking the war.

But, the article is CORRECT on one point: a 5.56x45mm M16/M4 round, IS a .223 caliber round!

That's a fact, and your talking to someone who has fired THOUSANDS of each!

However, you are correct in the point that they are NOT the "same" round, because the civilian version, the .223 caliber mainly manufactured by Winchester, is manufactured with lower velocity specs and a fewer amount of grains of powder.

The MilSpec 5.56x45mm has more powder and much more pressure and velocity; thus, you CAN fire a civilian Winchester .223 round out of an M16/M4, but you should NOT try to do the reverse, or you might just damage your hunting rifle, or blow out your eye!

That said, there is NO shortage of civilian or law enforcement .223 rounds in the US, because the US Military is using all the 5.56/45mm rounds in Iraq & Afghanistan!

Two different production lines, two differnt sets of specs!

The issue is as you state, the 40% increase in LE ammo requests since 9/11!

Posted by: Dale in Atlanta at August 28, 2007 12:34 AM

A double debunkage first?. Nice job on the re-debunk.

Posted by: markm at August 28, 2007 08:56 AM

Training has increased quite a bit, and a substantial number of police departments have added .223 rifles to their standard equipment; not due to 911, but due to preparations for active shooter scenarios. Adding a new weapon, particularly one with a substantially different system than pistols, requires a lot more training and ammo demands on top of the old ones.

Posted by: Leo at August 28, 2007 09:11 AM

Alas, the article without inside info is convincing.
I noticed that neither photo allowed you to see what type of round it was. But yeah, theoretically they could be firing .9mm or .40 cal, both of which are in use overseas. And yes, everybody who watches cop shows know that SWAT teams tend to use the 5.56. So thanks for the vital expose. You're very good at this sort of thing and we're lucky to have you around. I find few blogs "vital," but yours is one.

Posted by: Michael Fumento at August 28, 2007 10:14 AM

I was part of the MSM horde in Riyadh during the '90-91 Gulf War and can personally attest that there is no limit to the laziness and stupidity of the average MSM gumshoe. Even worse, they print every anti-government leaning piece of info as gospel, and reserve their skepticism for our government's possible successes.

Posted by: daveinboca at August 28, 2007 10:37 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/28/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by: David M at August 28, 2007 10:58 AM

One aspect that the article hasn't touched on is that a majority of police departments are chronically short on either $$$ for training or $$$ for ammo for training. In my experience: I moved to Florida from Massachusetts in 2004 when I was home on R&R from Baghdad. while finishing packing I realized that I needed to pack up my firearms, to include my M-4 carbine. I was hesitiant to pack all my ammunition and mags however (1200 rounds in boxes, call it half a case of 5.56mm and 20 extra pre-loaded 30 round mags) and because I didn't want to carry it all in the trunk of the car, and the movers wouldn't ship it as "hazardous material" so I drove to the local PD with it and went in to the desk Sgt. and asked if they were interested. The Sgt. was a bit nonplussed at the whole situation (how often do citizens walk in with a triple combat load of 30 round magazines fully loaded and half a case of 5.56 mm? ESPECIALLY in an anti-gun state like Massachusetts? And offer it up gratis for the guys to use?)

He called out to the Duty LT. who also happened to be the SWAT commander, who, when he saw the windfall I was offering and the explanation that I was moving and didn't want to risk a Pan-Eastern trip with THAT much ammo, he was ecstatic!

His exact line to the desk Sgt was "Call the SWAT Team and tell them to draw their weapons! We got us a free day of training to shoot up!!!"

He then explained that there was NEVER enough money or ammo for training and that they were grateful for the opportunity I provided to them.

Just my 2 cents and personal observations.

Posted by: Big Country at August 28, 2007 11:07 AM

My AR has a "Wylde" chamber so it will shoot either 5.56 or .223 accurately - but I reload my own so it's not a problem either. Everythign I've heard is that Police departments are as Big Country said, usually short on ammo-funds - but those would typically be for Civilian and LEO .223, not Army 5.56, and I believe the most commonly adopted Police sidearm is currently .40 S&W which is not the caliber of most Army-issue sidearms either.
But a stick is a stick and any MSM dead-horse will do.

Posted by: DirtCrashr at August 28, 2007 03:20 PM

Hold on. Why is Mr. Grace's company -- and presumably other companies -- experiencing a "double-digit growth" for the demand of ammunition at a time when domestic crime rates have only recently (during the last two years) started going back up nationwide -- and at a pretty miniscule rate?

And can we really trust the statement of corporate executives who need to preserve the price of their companies' stocks and company bond-ratings from bad P.R.?

Not trying to be a wet blanket, just trying to be a healthy skeptic.

Damn. I'm almost defending the Washington Post. I feel a little dirty...

Posted by: Alex Ryking at August 29, 2007 05:23 AM

Hold on. Why is Mr. Grace's company -- and presumably other companies -- experiencing a "double-digit growth" for the demand of ammunition at a time when domestic crime rates have only recently (during the last two years) started going back up nationwide -- and at a pretty miniscule rate?

Why would you believe a 40% police training ammo growth to be somehow related to domestic crime rate?

The days of Barny Fife and shooting one cylinder full of .38's once a year to re qualify appears to have fallen by the wayside and even modest sized cities are sporting SWAT teams now.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at August 29, 2007 08:26 AM
And can we really trust the statement of corporate executives who need to preserve the price of their companies' stocks and company bond-ratings from bad P.R.?

If they're selling their product faster than they can make it, that's good PR in the business world. In fact, it's good cause for further investment.

Posted by: Pablo at August 29, 2007 09:07 PM