Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Folks Are Questioning ATK's Motive For Contracting To Sell DHS Up To 450 Million Rounds of Ammo

I think, with all due respect, they are questioning the wrong thing. I think they are not focused on the right target.

Specifically, I have seen the question: "Would ATK rather arm the government than the people?" at
Armed And Safe and at under the: St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner. I think the question misses the mark but I will answer it and then will explain why I think our sights best be on a target other than ATK (aka: Alliant Techsystems).

No, I do not think
ATK (the parent company of Federal Cartridge Company necessarily would rather arm the government than the people. Yet, I will point out that ATK is a major manufacturer and supplier of aero-space technology, missile systems, military armaments and of sporting/law enforcement ammunition and yes that means they have a lot of government contracts. What I do believe about them is they enjoy the fruits of capitalism in the free market. I believe that they would rather make the most money they can from whomever they can get it legally. Thus, they advertise accordingly toward whichever clientele to whom they are trying to sell products at any given moment. They sell to both the government and to private citizens with ads that are attractive to both, or to one or the other, all depending on to whom they are selling. In essence, that is capitalism and marketing at its best.

When it comes to small arms ammunition, the obvious truth is that they sell by way of military and law enforcement contracts but they also sell a very large amount of ammo on the free market to non-law enforcement, non-military, private citizen customers. I personally can attest to it because I see Federal ammunition for sale at guns stores, shooting ranges, over the Internet, at places like Wal-Mart and at gun shows all of the time. As a matter of fact, I have a decent supply of federal ammo on hand right now. All this questioning, and implied criticism, of them for contracting with the government, trying to make it look as if they would prefer to sell only to the government, seems so much ado about nothing when you look at their sales to private citizens as mentioned above, doesn't it?

Now, it was pointed out, in the fine op-ed piece at the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner, that Federal Cartridge annotates the packaging of some ammunition as having been manufactured and distributed for sale to "Law Enforcement Only". When you think about it, the 'law enforcement only' thing is very effective advertising. This is because it not only attracts law enforcement sales by making them feel special since it is marked LE Sales only but it also attracts non-LE folks who buy that type of ammunition. Why? Because people think they are tacticool when they have 'law enforcement only' items or because they think that because it is marked 'law enforcement only' it is better than ammo that is not so marked. Let's face facts, tactical stuff, especially ammunition, marked "law enforcement only", when not required to be marked as such by law, is a big seller on the open market and it often sells at a higher profit margin than ammo marked as sporting ammunition. It sells at a higher profit margin because people believe it special, they believe it special because, among other things, it is marked and advertised to make it seem such whether it really is special or not.

To believe it is actual company policy only to manufacture and sell that ammo to law enforcement as marked, as opposed to it being effective advertising to mark the product in that manner, either shows some naivety on the part of the person saying it, or probably means one of the following: that law enforcment agencies have bought it then redistributed it to dealers in violation of manufacturer policy, or that every dealer who is selling to the public is doing it in violation of the manufacturer's policy, or that the manufacturer has the policy but does not enforce it thus making it non-policy (and which in essence gets us back to the naivety of anyone who truly believes it company policy). If it were the case, that it truly was company policy, then they would no longer be selling to those departments or dealers who violated the policy. It is, I believe, mostly an advertising gimmick to mark their ammunition as 'law enforcement only' ut maybe that is just the cynic in me.

Winchester Ammunition, unless I am sadly mistaken, has been doing basically the same thing, for years, with its Ranger line of ammunition. That is marking it as for 'law enforcemen only'. I don't hear anyone complaining about them. So that makes me think, it is merely the fact that ATK has contracted with the government, especially with the extremely unpopular DHS (parent department of even less popular agencies such as ICE and TSA) that has gotten some people riled up. Because the contract is with a government department, one that is often seen as a floundering behemoth, cloaked in secrecy and wrapped up controversy, it has set up anyone who does big business with them as a target of criticism. Or, at least has some people questioning motives by asking if ATK prefers doing business with the government instead of non-government entities. This despite the fact that in all probability, ATK is just a capitalist organization, making money in the free market, by selling to all comers.

I think the more important thing we need to focus our sights on is the fact that DHS has contracted for up to 450 millions rounds, of .40 caliber, ammunition over a 1 year contract, a contract that can only be extended 4 years beyond the initial year for 5 years total. I think questioning this government department as to why it needs an astronomical amount of .40 caliber ammunition is what needs be addressed. What is the motive behind DHS contracting for up to 450 million rounds of a single caliber of ammo over 5 short years?

Think of it this way: If DHS has 15 thousand armed personnel (I am just throwing out a number, it may or may not be that high, probably is higher when you consider the Coast Guard is part of DHS but do Coast Guard personnel carry pistols in .40 caluber) and each one shoots 250 rounds, of .40 caliber ammunition, per quarterly qualification - training session (a reasonable amount), then they would use 15 million rounds per year or 75 million rounds in 5 years. Multiply 75 million rounds of ammunition by 6 and you would then have them shooting up 450 million rounds over the five year contract but that would mean each armed person in DHS (if indeed they have 15,000 armed personnel) shooting 1,500 rounds each quarter. That is just a preposterous notion. Now you also could multiply 5 years by 6 and then wind up using the 450 million rounds over 30 years but the government, at least DHS, is not that far reaching in its thought processes from what I can tell. There also is no way that you would multiply the amount of my estimate of armed DHS officials by 6. The amount of armed officials at DHS is nowhere nearly as big as that - at least not yet - is it! DHS, in all likelihood, will never realistically need that much ammunition.

So the question is this: Why has DHS contracted for up to that much ammo? Does the government anticipate a major threat about which the public is unaware, one that could possibly require such a huge stockpile of ammunition? Is the DHS preparing for the end of the world with the end of the Mayan calendar later this year? (Things more absurd have taken place in our government.) Is there something I am missing as to how much ammo the personnel at DHS could possibly use in 5 years time? Is the government planning something nefarious by way of its armed civilian workforce? (Bear in mind, while running for the presidency, Senator Obama called for a civilian force as strong as our military but never said why he wanted it.) Or could it be government corruption, smoke filled room deal making, lobbying and stuffed pocket politics as usual? Maybe there is even a simpler explanation, was the contract merely the work product of skilled ATK salesmen and inept government bureaucrats? These questions are, in my estimation, much more important than asking "Would ATK rather arm the government than the people?" but that is just my two cents.

All the best,
Glenn B

1 comment:

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

I agree; I think it is much ado about nothing. Often such a purchase is actually a pool of many agencies participating under the umbrella of the agency with the most clout.

The manufacturer over-run will wind up for sale to the public at Cheaper Than Dirt and