As hunting season approaches, I’ve been shooting my rifle a lot recently at the range, with the goal of shooting accurately at 300 yards. But recently, the supply of my bullet of choice, Remington .270 (130 grain), ran dry. All the gun and hunting stores have bare spots on the shelves where boxes of ammunition used to be stacked, with hunting bullets being among the most scarce. This could make it tough to put meat on the table this year.
“It’s not looking good for hunting season,” one wholesale ammunition dealer told me. “Hunting rifle ammo is a lot scarcer than AR (assault rifle) loads,” he added.
A gun store employee (who, along with most people I spoke with, didn’t wish to be quoted on the record), told me that manufacturers are focusing their energies on producing AR loads at the expense of traditional hunting ammo. This might explain why one type of ammo not in short supply is for AR calibers, like .223 and 5.56 mm.
According to the Remington website, of the company’s six new bullet offerings, three are in AR calibers. Two are for pistols, and only one is for hunting—especially if you like hunting with an assault rifle.
Remington’s new hunting bullet is called the Hog Hammer. Of the seven calibers in which Hog Hammer bullets are available, four are for ARs—such as the 450 Bushmaster, mentioned in the Hog Hammer blurb:
“For whacking and stacking swine, nothing delivers like our new Hog Hammer.™ It penetrates even the thickest-skinned pigs with a Barnes TSX Bullet at its heart. With all copper construction for 28 percent deeper penetration than standard lead-core bullets, it’s the toughest expanding bullet on the market, offering near 100% weight-retention on-hog, while expanding rapidly to deliver devastating wound channels. Hog Hammer utilizes a flash-suppressed propellant for nighttime or low light hunts, and uses nickel-plated cases for reliable feeding in today’s hog rifles. Available in seven calibers, including 450 Bushmaster. Hog Hammer. Full-boar annihilation only Remington can provide.”
The recent push for hunting with ARs gives those weapons a more noble purpose than what they are most known for: war game fantasies, the occasional killing spree and even a Zombie attack (seriously, see below). If a case can be made for a wholesome use for assault rifles, the gun lobby will have an easier time justifying their accessibility.
In February, Guns.Com noted, “Remington’s making a great case for AR hunting with these guns. They’re pretty, functional and just begging to be suppressed.”
They’re espoused as good hunting setups for game as big as buffalo. And if you’re hunting at night, as Remington endorses, you would probably want a target as big as a buffalo.
Meanwhile, another new AR ammo goes by the name Zombie, and comes in a case that appears to have been designed by a comic book artist. It includes the ironic warning that “This is not a toy” and the slogan “Just in case.” While the implication is that Zombies might attack, consumers are free to substitute other would-be attackers in place of Zombies, like “government agents.”
Lee Matthews, host of the Oklahoma radio show “Firearms Fridays” told KFOR, an Oklahoma City television station, that he receives “a lot of phone calls, a lot of literature from people thinking it’s the government buying all the ammunition and not letting us have any!”
But he’s not buying into any government conspiracy theory theories.
“It’s just being swallowed up for unrealistic reasons,” says Matthews, noting that many factories are producing ammo “24/7.”
As best as I can tell, Matthews is right. Hoarding is to blame, fueled by paranoia of a shortage that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“The reasoning,” he says, “seems to be stretching from a worry of government intervention to, ‘Well, it’s getting hard to find, I better stock up as much as I can.’”
The shortage certainly isn’t coming from the supply end. Remington’s third quarter earnings report shows a 30 percent increase in ammo sales, from $79.7 to $110.6 million in the third fiscal quarter of 2012.
In light of this, the guy from the gun store seems to have been on target: Manufacturers are making extra assault rifle ammunition at the expense of traditional hunting ammo.
After an email to Remington with questions about the shortage went unanswered, I reached an ammunition specialist at the company by phone. He wouldn’t comment on the causes of the ammo shortage, and told me that the wholesalers determine what the manufacturers produce by telling Remington what they need (all of Remington’s ammunition customers are wholesalers). He also said that they were done making .270 caliber for the year.
But the wholesale dealer I spoke with said they only get to sell what the makers supply them with. If he’s right, it wouldn’t be surprising that Remington would want an alternative story. There would be a lot of angry hunters.
At first glance, hunting might seem a good use for an AR. If you really want to get something, what way could be better than mowing it down? It could be great for trophy hunting, but it opens the door to irresponsible and unethical shooting, such as the unfathomable practice of hunting at night; I wouldn’t want to be in that hunting party.
It’s sad that ammo makers are tilting the playing field away from meat hunters who want to feed their families, and toward the insane practice of hunting with ARs. That, along with market forces driven by fear, is turning paranoia into reality.