A long-feared nightmare of American firearm owners just became a reality, what does this ban on Russian ammo mean for us in the long run?
Promises made, promises kept. Of the millions of first-time gun buyers last year, a sizeable amount of them helped to vote in the current administration and are now surprised that this aggressively anti-gun president is doing exactly as he said he would. Unable to attack the 2nd Amendment through legislation, he has decided to do so through sanctions against Russian ammo manufacturers. They were levied in response to the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny. This story is brought to you by the same mainstream media that lied for over four years about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election as well as the “Kremlin is putting bounties on American soldiers” headline that was widely believed and subsequently debunked earlier this year. Whether you choose to believe that the poisoning of Navalny was a legitimate event or not, it is clear to all sides that the real purpose of these sanctions is to punish law-abiding American gun owners and not the Russian government.
Per the State Department's Website, the new sanctions will have the following effects:
Following September 7th, no new importation licenses will be granted for Russian-manufactured firearms, ammunition or nuclear or missile-related technology. This will be in effect for at least 12 months but may be lifted after this period if the Russian Federation satisfies certain criteria.
Since Russian firearms were already effectively banned in prior sanctions and missile-related products are not available for civilian purchase anyway, the only real effect on the American public here is the ammunition ban. While it can theoretically be lifted following Russia’s cooperation with America’s demands, because the Russian government denies the allegations in the first place it is safe to say they will never capitulate, effectively making these bans permanent. Overnight the once plentiful and cheap Russian ammo that lined store shelves across the country went the way of Chinese arms and ammunition back in ’93—virtually unobtainable.
Importation licenses are valid until either one year past the date of issue or whenever the allocated number of approved items has been imported, whichever comes first. This means that previously approved importers will still be able to import Russian ammo until their current licenses are no longer valid, so Russian ammo in the States will at least be dying a slow death rather than the swift execution many believed it had received on August 20th when the sanctions were first announced.
This has not stopped many from panic-buying as much Russian ammo as they were able. Shortly after the sanctions were first posted the popular deal-finder website Ammoseek crashed from too much traffic. Gun shops the morning after opened to lines of people waiting to get inside to clear out their entire stocks of steel-cased goodness despite the already present markup. 7.62x39mm ammo was priced at about 27 CPR the morning of the 20th and had already shot up to over 50 CPR by the evening. To say that people are worried about the future of ammo availability right now would be an understatement, and the reasons are obvious.
The effects of this ban will not only be felt by AK-aficionados and frugal shooters who only buy steel-cased, even those who only buy premium, brass-cased ammo will likely begin to see prices rise. This is because Russian-made ammo comprised 30-40% of all ammunition purchased in the United States, and its cost was always low enough to force other brands to stay competitive. By pulling the rug out from under the U.S. ammo market, other manufacturers will have less incentive to keep prices low. Unfortunately, it is likely true that no other nation can produce as much ammunition as cheaply as Russia was able to, as no other nation has the pre-existing infrastructure to produce at the same scale. When it still existed, the Soviet Union was the largest country in the world with one of the strongest and largest militaries. With so much of the USSR’s economy centered around arms production both for themselves as well as for export to friendly nations, it is only logical that they would have invested a great deal into domestic ammunition production. Modern-day Russia inherited this production capability and it remains unmatched by any other nation on Earth. It is because of this that Russia was able to provide, for so much of the American ammo market, and keep prices so low. I fear that no amount of increased production volume from Turkey, Romania, Ukraine or the Czech Republic will ever be able to completely fill the void being left by Russia’s disappearance from the market. I hope that I’m wrong about this, but I’m not holding my breath. We will likely never see any ammo as cheap as it was before the Covid panic and these most recent sanctions.
Not all calibers will be as affected as others, however. While it’s true that Russian ammo supplemented the U.S. supply of virtually all common calibers, there are many other sources for .223, .308 and other NATO rounds. Russian calibers like 7.62×39, 9×18 Makarov and 5.45×39 will not be as lucky. 7.62×39 is still one of the most popular cartridges in the world, including with American shooters. There are several factories still producing this caliber outside of Russia, and while they will never be able to fully match the volume of Russia’s output, given time they will likely eventually increase production enough to somewhat offset the difference. The AK-74’s cartridge, 5.45×39, is almost certainly the caliber that will suffer the most from these sanctions. Russia was by far the number one producer of this round and it now appears that the only possible source for it in the future is Romania. Here’s to hoping that they are able to produce enough to keep the AK-74 market kicking. AKs chambered in 5.56 are undoubtedly about to become more popular than ever before in response to this.
With the stroke of a pen, President Biden was able to deal a major blow to the hobby which is intrinsically tied to one of this country’s most important founding principles. Overnight these sanctions managed to raise the economic barrier of entry to own and practice with a firearm. Needless to say, this will have a bigger impact on this country’s impoverished than anyone else. Unfortunately, it seems that all there is to do now is wait and see how the market recovers in the years to come.
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