I had seen the headlines a few days ago, but only scanned one of the articles, noticing this bit:
The military is in no danger of running out because it gets the overwhelming majority of its ammunition from a dedicated plant outside Kansas City. But police are at the mercy of commercial manufacturers.
That right there made me think that the story might not be as solid as it appeared. Since the military production is separate, how much can it really be contributing to civilian and law enforcement shortages? Is the military “stealing” commercial capacity? The article didn’t claim it was.
Also, re-reading it now, I see that three calibers are specifically mentioned: .223, .40, and .38 Special.
First, I don’t know how many police are using 5.56 NATO and how many are using actual .223. They aren’t exactly the same. I’d bet that a lot of police are using 5.56 as they’re using surplus military rifles, but even if that’s the case isn’t it likely that many (if not most) of them would be using M193 ammunition, and not the current military standard M855? So, concerning .223, we’ve got a situation where many police are using actual non-military .223 and where many of the police using military-grade ammo are using the older M193 instead of what the military is currently producing by the boatload in separate lines. So the direct link between the military demand and civilian/LE shortages is a bit tenuous.
Regarding shortages of the .40 and .38 Special, SHUT UP. The overwhelming majority of military handguns are either 9mm or .45 ACP. There are a few .40s around, but I don’t know that I’m aware of any .38 Specials. Oops. The article doesn’t mention them. So the direct link between the military demand and civilian/LE shortages is bunk.
And yesterday (via Instapundit) we had Confederate Yankee, who made some phone calls:
To understand the ammunition shortage being experienced by some police agencies today, we shouldn’t look at September 11, 2001, but instead, begin with February 28, 1997.
It was on that day in North Hollywood, California that Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Matasareanu, two-heavily armed and armored bank robbers, engaged in a 44-minute shootout with an out-gunned Los Angeles Police Department. The two suspects fired more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition, and each was shot multiple times with police handguns. The 9mm police pistol bullets bounced off their homemade body armor. Phillips eventually died after being shot 11 times; Matasareanu died after being hit 29 times.
In the aftermath of the shootout, the LAPD, followed by police departments large and small nationwide, began to feel that rank-and-file patrol officers should be armed with semi-automatic or fully-automatic assault rifles or submachine guns in addition to their traditional sidearms, anticipating an up-tick of heavily armed and armored subjects. The trend has failed to materialize more than a decade later.
As with most trends in law enforcement, the trend towards the militarization of police patrol officers to a level once reserved for SWAT/ERT teams was slow, though one that gathered momentum rapidly after September 11, 2001.
Today, it is this increased and on-going militarization of police forces and the associated training requirements that have caused the ammunition shortages experienced by some police departments, and the lack of ammunition is not related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in any meaningful way.
I wonder, though, how much impact private military contractors, many of which work in Iraq and Afghanistan, might have. I’m not sure how they procure things like ammo, but I would think that at least some of it must come through regular civilian channels.
This is probably as good a time as any to note that I’ve never really thought that the police, which the exception of a few SWAT-type units, need full auto rifles anyway. We should all know that a trained shooter with a good semi-auto is going to out-shoot a “spray-and-pray” moron almost every time. And a lot of SWAT seems to have gone to 9mm submachineguns like the MP5, which is probably the right move.
Anyway, I’m also wondering why my local gun shops always seem to be out of .223 Wolf. Because I hope that that even the police aren’t using Wolf (except maybe for training?). I’ve got a bit of a stash built up, but not nearly as much as I’d like.
Picture from the Tucson Citizen.
UPDATE: Via a commenter:
Patrol rifles are generally semi-only, not full-auto. Most dept’s. generally don’t issue full-auto to patrol guys, only SWAT types.
That’s good, though I’d be interested to see the percentages. One county sherriff I was talking to some time back said that they had been granted some surplus M-16s but that they weren’t using them because there was no money in the budget to get them de-autoed and they didn’t want full autos and definitely didn’t want to pay for the ammo use on full autos. I probably took this one conversation and extrapolated it out to the entire law enforcement community.
A lot of SWAT teams have NOT gone to 9mm, in fact the opposite. A lot of teams have gone/are going to .223 rifles because they know that the .223 is far superior to the 9mm/.40, for its intended purpose.
I am also glad to hear this, though again I sometimes wonder if our police forces are becoming too militarized. Oh, well. If some of the police soldiers ever save my butt I’ll be pretty thankful. I still seem to see the majority of SWAT-type guys with submachineguns, though.