WASHINGTON, D.C. –-(Ammoland.com)-The Biden Ban on the importation of Russian ammunition has caused much confusion within the gun world. AmmoLand News has reached out to multiple sources in the firearms industry on and off the record to clear up the confusion and to understand the real impact on American shooters.
Biden claims to have ordered the ban in response to the poisoning of Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Most gun rights advocates argue that Biden used the poisoning of Mr. Navalny as an excuse to enact backdoor gun control since Russian arms and ammunition imports to the U.S. account for less than 1% of the entire Russian economy.
First, know that the ban on Russian imported ammunition is not immediate. The prohibition on issuing of new importation permits will not go into effect until September 7th 2021. That does not mean no more ammunition will come into the country as of that date, but just that new ammo import permits will no longer be issued. Existing importation permits for ammunition and arms are good for 24 months, meaning any effect to the supply chain will take about two years for the gun owners to see. There are approximately [rough estimates, no one actually knows the exact number] 1.5 billion rounds of Russian ammunition currently in the pipeline to be imported over the next two years.
According to the global small arms and ammunition research group, Small Arms Analytics, in 2020, companies imported 770 million rounds of ammunition from Russia. The total number of imported rounds of ammunition from all sources is 3.5 billion. That means Russian ammo accounts for just over 22% of all imported ammunition to the United States.
It is harder to get a total number of domestically produced rounds. Still, it is understood in the industry that companies import 25% of the ammunition sold in the U.S. All industry sources AmmoLand News reached out to agree that Russian ammo accounts for between 5% and 8% of total ammo sold in the country. The number more accurately is between 5% and 6%. Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer of Small Arms Analytics agrees with the number AmmoLand News obtained.
“Russia has been the U.S.’s largest external ammunition supplier for 16 years running,” Brauer told AmmoLand News.
“While the total number of rounds in the U.S. market is not known, it is likely that Russia supplies about 5% of the U.S. market. The impact will not be immediate as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service apparently will honor existing import permits even if shipments arrive after the U.S. deadline.
“Despite the circumstances, it is perhaps helpful for U.S. shooters to learn that a very substantial part of U.S. ammunition supplies, or parts thereof, come from overseas. After Russia, the next four top suppliers in 2020 were Italy, Mexico, Turkey, and Germany.”
One of the calibers that will be the hardest hit will be the 5.45×39 round used in AK74 type firearms. Almost all 5.45×39 ammunition comes from Russia. Several sources outside Russia produce the round, but none import to the U.S. or have plans to import to the U.S. because most of their rounds are sold to Eastern European militaries. The 5.45×39 A.K. variants make up less than 10% of the total A.K.s in the country.
The tooling cost to produce 5.45×39 ammunition would be prohibitive. It would be hard for companies to recoup the cost of retooling their machines to produce the round. Also, that would mean making less of another round that sells better in the U.S. Right now, the demand for the round would not justify the investment. The demand is up now because of the Biden ammo ban, but companies worry that demand will drop.
However, under new leadership, the Biden Russian ammunition ban can be easily reversed. It is only a political sanction. Companies worry that if they retool for rounds such as 5.45×39 and the embargo is lifted they will have to against mother Russia’s higher production rates. Then they would have wasted money since they would not be able to recoup the cost of producing the tooling.
One silver lining is that it would not take an act of Congress to restart the importation of Russian ammunition. If Republicans are successful in the next Presidential election cycle, the new President will have the power to remove the sanction with a stroke of a pen.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.