Unless you've been shooting from your own personal ammo dump over the last year, you're aware of the acute shortage of sporting ammunition available to shooters across the U.S.

The purported explanation is the major manufacturers are working overtime to supply the military with ammunition, diverting most of their manufacturing capabilities to serving that market - and causing shortages in sporting calibers as a result.

Another suspicion has been the stockpiling of practically everything that shoots since the elections in November. In this time of severe economic downturn, the one business that has not seen a drop in sales has been guns.

On March 13, I was alerted by a retailer friend that one of his suppliers told him the government was ending the sale of expended military brass to the civilian reloading market.

This was frightening news. Law enforcement and civilian shooters across the country rely on reloaded ammunition to practice tactical training and sport shooting. If the supply of expended military brass were to dry up, it would have a catastrophic effect on the supply and cost of all sporting ammunition - causing an even larger rush to buy up ammo, and forcing the cost to astronomical levels.

Acting on the tip from this friend, I called Larry Haynie, owner of Georgia Arms (www.georgia-arms.com).

He had just posted a directive on his company website from the Department of Defense informing him he would no longer be able to purchase once-fired military brass unless it was first mutilated, reducing it to scrap metal.

Haynie was outraged and disturbed.

In controlled anger, he told me the sequence of events his company had undergone just that week.

On Tuesday, he had won the bid for 30,000 pounds of fired military brass stored at the U.S. Army munitions depot at Anniston, Ala. Included in this batch was .223 caliber, 7.62 MM and .50 caliber brass-expended shell casings.

On Wednesday, he had sent an "End User's Certificate," required in any purchase of surplus equipment from the U.S. government.

On Thursday afternoon, he had received a directive from DOD canceling the contract, and informing him all military brass henceforth would have to be "mutilated" ("shredded" as Haynie called it) before it could be sold.

"They're putting me out of business," he said. "We load 1.2 million rounds of .223 a month. We are approximately the fifth-largest manufacturer of centerfire pistol and rifle ammunition in the country. We're right behind Hornady in output.

"I'm going to be on the computer and telephone all weekend, cancelling law-enforcement contracts and orders. I have approximately two months of brass on hand, and then I will have to lay off 30 of my 60 employees.

"This order reduces the worth of the brass by 80 percent. It will be melted down, and sold on the metals market for a lot less than its worth to the government as expended brass. Most of it will end up in China, which drives the U.S. metals market right now.

"This will destroy the civilian ammunition market. It will make all sporting ammo skyrocket in price to the point the average shooter won't be able to afford to shoot."

I e-mailed this disturbing news to Tom Gresham, who hosts several outdoor programs on shooting and self-defense, and broadcasts the most popular talk radio show on guns in the nation. Gun Talk is syndicated to more than 100 radio stations across the nation.

After we checked out Haynie's story further, and found it true that such a directive had been issued, Gresham invited him on his Sunday afternoon talk show, where we discussed what was happening to his business and what it was likely to do to the supply on the civilian market.

I wrote up Haynie's story on my blog, www.theshootist.net, and urged my readers to call, write or e-mail their congressmen. Gresham did the same, offering the standard links to get addresses of congressional representatives: www.senate.org and www.house.org.

I included these on my blog along with a copy of the letter I was sending to each of the seven congressmen and two senators from Louisiana, asking them to stop this action. I urged my readers to copy the letter and mail or e-mail it.

At the same time, I alerted other gun bloggers such as David Codrea, who is author of a highly respected Gun Rights Examiner column on www.examiner.com, and writes a blog titled "The War On Guns." Codrea contacted DOD, and received affirmation on the directive. The next morning, he began spreading the word.

But others were on this very early also. The president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, Gary Marbut, quickly e-mailed his two senators, asking them to take action. His letter was picked up by the JPFO (Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership) who began spreading the word all over the web.

The story spread like a California brushfire, and by Monday afternoon, a veritable storm of protests in the form of e-mails, letters and phone calls was being placed to members of Congress, and representatives of the DOD in charge of the military surplus sales.

On Tuesday afternoon, six days after the directive was issued, DOD rescinded the order, announcing it would once again allow the sale of unmutilated military brass to the civilian market. The threat had been averted.

Expecting the new administration to make a move against guns, everyone naturally assumed this was a back-door attempt to limit firearm use in the U.S. by the new administration.

After all, remove the bullets, and the guns are useless, right?

On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association announced the decision to rescind sales was one that had been discussed months before - a broad plan to examine all military surplus sales to ensure hardware did not end up being sold eventually to terrorists and used against us.

According to the NRA, the directive was issued to give the DOD time to examine whether expended brass actually posed such a threat. Once it was determined it was safe to sell such material on the civilian market, the directive was lifted.

Of course, we all know how slow any government agency reacts to change. This had to be a new record for decision-making in a bureaucracy - such drastic actions were ordered and rescinded in a mere six days.

I personally believe the firestorm of criticism had a lot to do with the rapid cancellation of the order. But it doesn't matter what caused it; the good news is the pipeline is still intact.

Whether the avalanche of complaints had anything to do with the change of direction by DOD, it put the anti-gunners on notice. It is like petting a rattlesnake when you start messing with our gun rights. Someone's going to get bit.

 

Read more guns, shooting and politics at www.theshootist.net.

Hutchinson's newest book, written with Todd Masson, is The Great New Orleans Gun Grab, a searing expose' of the scandal of gun confiscations in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is available at www.neworleansgungrab.com.

The Quest and the Quarry, Hutchinson's novel, is a coming-of-age tale of a line of trophy bucks and the youths of a Mississippi farm family that hunts them. It is available at www.thequestandthequarry.com.

Both books have been chosen Outdoor Books of the Year by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and are available from the publisher at (800) 538-4355.