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Russian Ammo Imports Halted, May Send Demand, Prices and Shortages to New Levels

The Biden Administration has poured gasoline on the ammo-shortage fire by banning imports from Russian with new sanctions added to the CBW Act; here's what we know and how this might affect the shooting industry and you as a firearm owner.

Russian Ammo Imports Halted, May Send Demand, Prices and Shortages to New Levels

Barnaul, 9mm Luger shown here, is one of several Russian-made ammo brands that will be affected by the new CBW Act sanctions. (Guns & Ammo photo)

We knew from the start that the Biden Administration would be tough on gun owners. Those predictions have unfortunately become a reality. On August 20, 2021, we saw the latest in a series of unilateral executive actions by this administration aimed at limiting access to imported firearms and ammunition

The U.S. Department of State announced that "New and pending permit applications for the permanent importation of firearms and ammunition manufactured or located in Russia will be subject to a policy of denial,". That’s right, in the midst of what is surely the most critical ammunition shortage since World War II, the U.S. government is putting an enormous bottleneck on the already-struggling supply chain. The importation of firearms and ammunition from Russia will be effectively banned starting September 7, 2021, until further notice, i.e., forever.   

Bad news often comes on Friday afternoons and this action was no different. According to a Fact Sheet published on the Department of State’s website, “Pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (the CBW Act), the United States will impose a second round of sanctions on the Russian Federation over its use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny.” You read that correctly, our government is using the attempted murder of a Russian opposition leader, which had nothing to do with firearms or ammunition, as justification for these actions. 

According to the U.S. Code, the 30-year-old CBW Act was initiated “to mandate United States sanctions, and to encourage international sanctions, against countries that use chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or use lethal chemical or biological weapons against their own nationals, and to impose sanctions against companies that aid in the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons;” A noble goal, no doubt. 

The Act mandates that the U.S. government will terminate arms sales with a country found to have violated the act, including the “termination licenses for the export to that country of any item on the United States Munitions List.” It does not, however, mandate that the government ban imports of munitions from such a nation. 

Make no mistake, this attack on American gun owners has nothing to do with punishing the Putin Administration for its actions against Navalny. If that were the case, the U.S. would be imposing sanctions to stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia’s natural gas supply to the European market. Though the Department of State recently issued sanctions against two Russian ships involved in the construction of the pipeline, it made an exception for the German firm that is actually running the project, meaning that the pipeline will continue. Reports indicate that the project will be operational by October, transporting 5.6 million cubic meters of liquified fuel this year alone. If the Administration really wanted to damage Russia’s economy, it would go after this $16 billion project.    

So, what does this mean for American gun owners considering the current ammunition supply shortages? We reached out to one of the largest importers of Russian ammo, Charles Brown of MKS Supply, to find out. 

“We are still trying to get a grasp on exactly how this will affect MKS and our marketing and sales efforts regarding Barnaul ammo from Russia,” Charles Brown said. “At this point, it looks like they will (be) denying any new Form 6s [import licenses] for ammo. We have several million rounds of ammo on approved right now, but that will go very fast. We also had several new caliber (cartridge) selections being developed to import in the future, so it looks like those are DOA right now.”

According to Brown, roughly 40 percent of the ammunition sold in the U.S. originates from Russian sources. Gun owners have become reliant on the ability of companies such as Wolf, Tula and Barnaul to provide reasonably-priced ammunition to the marketplace. Our reliance on Russian-made ammunition only increased over the past 18 months, with any brand or type of ammunition becoming virtually unobtainable. 

During this time of unprecedented demand, the administration has just cut off nearly half of the available supply. This announcement comes just as American gun owners were seeing the light at the end of the ammo-shortage tunnel. Ammunition was beginning to become available at retailers and prices were ticking downward. A supply and demand situation that would have likely stabilized within months, will now take years.   

U.S. manufacturers will not be able to fill this void in the foreseeable future, which means that all ammunition supplies will be stretched to the limit. We aren’t just talking about 7.62x39mm, .223 Remington or 9x19mm ammunition, either. The shortages of those calibers have led to a squeezing of the balloon and individuals are buying whatever firearms they can obtain ammo for. Panic buying will continue to wipe out supplies of nearly all hunting and sporting ammunition. Sorry Mr. deer hunter and sporting-clays shooter, this will affect you as well. So much for only going after “weapons of war.”      

Unable to pass gun-control legislation through Congress, the Biden Administration is taking an end-around approach. Executive actions relating to brace-equipped pistols and so-called 80-percent receivers will negatively affect millions of gun owners. This latest action, though, will affect us all. By taking nearly half of the U.S. ammunition supply out of the equation, our government is tipping the ammunition market on its head. We can expect short supplies, high prices and limited selection for years to come.


Editor’s Note: Guns & Ammo will continue to follow this developing story as more information becomes available; we will keep you updated.

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