Is Russian Ammunition Gone Forever?

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, we continually get asked if the United States will receive any further shipments of Russian-made ammunition. President Biden placed sanctions on Russia that would have eliminated all imports of Russian Ammunition beginning September 2023. While we expected that executive order to be moved up, no such move has been made at the time of this blog post. That said, Russian imports are likely done as of today. This will affect the following brands: Wolf, Tulammo (Tula), Barnaul, and Red Army. Below is what we are hearing from our sources:

  • The last shipment of Russian steel-cased ammunition was either seized or held for secondary inspection that will take months to ship to the United States – we have heard both scenarios. This could be Russia punishing the United States for sanctions placed upon Russia for invading Ukraine or it could be Russia holding the product in fear that if shipped to the United States, that product will, in turn, find its way to Ukraine to help fight Russian aggression. So at best, there may be another shipment of steel cased Russian ammunition in the next few months but this will be the final shipment. Remember, sanctions on firearms and ammunition have never been reversed, regardless of which party holds office.
  • We have heard that the United States Customs will not allow a Russian head stamp into the U.S. any longer, although we have not been able to confirm this rumor.

So why can’t Russia send ammunition to the United States if the sanctions haven’t gone into effect?

Even prior to some Russian banks being kicked off the SWIFT banking system, we were hearing that the US State Department had called US banks and forbid them from transferring money to any bank in Russia, effectively ensuring Russian ammunition would not find its way to the U.S. There is no way around this either; US banks cannot wire money to a country that is friendly with Russia and send the money to that bank who would in turn wire the money to a Russian bank.

What if Russian manufacturers sold the ammunition to a third-party country that has not been sanctioned?

In the above scenario, theoretically, a US importer could import the ammunition until September 2023 when official sanctions against Russian ammunition go into effect. We view this as a gray area that is likely being sorted out. Our inclination is that this would be deemed illegal

Will we see steel ammunition in the future?

The short answer to this question is likely, albeit not for a long time. Imported Russian ammunition accounts for roughly 30% of the ammunition sold in the United States. In the short run, this could cause a shortage of ammunition but we feel that this is a big enough market that several new entrants will step up to fill this void. The easy solution would be to ship the equipment from Russia to an eastern block country that is on friendly terms with the United States and Europe but this is problematic for several reasons. Primarily, Russia would never allow this as the equipment is deemed necessary for national security. Secondly, the equipment is old and massive so it’s not as simple as loading up a semi-truck and moving the equipment. We also heard of the possibility of companies looking to build a manufacturing facility in Mexico due to its proximity to the United States (think – lower shipping costs) and the availability of inexpensive labor as opposed to building a facility in the United States. The cost to build a ground-up facility is prohibitively expensive at this point, the most logical answer to seeing more supply will be for some of the legacy ammunition factories in Eastern Europe, which currently manufacture steel-cased ammunition, to expand their production. That said, it will be a long time before anyone can replicate the capacity of Russia’s current output.

What will be the future of Wolf, Barnaul, Red Army, and Tula?

So what happens to these icon steel brands? I imagine we may lose one or two brands, as some are licensed from the Russian factories that own the brand names. The US importers of these brands will probably start importing some new brands from Europe and beyond – possibly under the names you know but it will be brass-cased, not steel-cased.

Conclusions

If you’re an AK or Mosin fan, or just like shooting steel-cased ammunition due to the cost advantages over brass-cased ammunition, you will probably be shooting brass for the foreseeable future. The positive here is that the free market should prevail and someone will come up with an answer to manufacturing steel-cased ammunition at historically aggressive prices again – just be patient.

 

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