It’s been a wild ride for the last couple of years, and the supply/demand for certain consumer items has been impacted significantly. The ready availability of (reasonably priced) ammunition for instance has been affected in some cases, and when there’s a strong marketplace need, it can give rise to unscrupulous and predatory sales practices.
Depending on what you shoot, you may have found that the ammo you need is either in short supply or has substantially risen in price. This is based on a number of factors including supply chain breakdowns, increased transportation and raw material costs and the fact that gun sales have gone through the roof. Ammo supply can be cyclical at best, but the onset of the pandemic really derailed the situation as millions of Americans purchased their first firearms. Ammo flew off the shelves and it forced retailers to limit the amounts that they could sell to individual customers.
When the more conventional sources of ammo like local gun stores and trusted online retailers aren’t able to accommodate a customer’s needs, many shooters have opted to use alternative channels, often with the promise of getting great deals. The issue is that everything may not be what it seems on the surface. From sketchy gun show or private sellers to bogus websites, you may be in for a nasty surprise.
Quality & Price
Typically, if a deal seems too good to be true – it probably is.
If you buy enough ammo over time, you’ll have some sense of what the average market value is for certain types of rounds (new or remanufactured). At this stage, pricing that is at or below pre-COVID levels should immediately flag as suspect. Like finding REALLY cheap gas somewhere. Something’s got to be fishy. You may also have seen some sales offers that include ‘throwing in’ a quantity of rounds with the purchase of a new gun to sweeten the deal. Turns out in some cases though that this ammo is currently valued at more that the gun itself. Sound like a good business model? Not likely.
The question is – what are you really getting? Imports? Reloads? It’s all good as long as they come from a reputable source with all of the proper controls in-place. The real risk is in getting cheap counterfeits that are inferior in quality and performance. Worse yet, these knock-offs can be downright dangerous to fire.
What To Look For
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a round is a fake or a (bad) reload unless it’s really obvious. There are also factory rejects out in the marketplace and even practice-grade ammo being passed off as match grade. It’s important to know what you’re looking at by doing a little research and by comparing samples to what a new factory round should look like. What are the basic characteristics? How are they packaged and in what quantities? You have to know what’s right to know what’s wrong.
If a price seems like it’s just too good, turn your attention to the brass and look for damage and/or inconsistencies such as:
- Mixed head stamps
- Micro cracks
- Ejector marks
- Excessive or inadequate crimping
- Discoloration such as watermarks or traces of blue/green corrosion
Other indicators might include:
- Mixed primers
- Primers that aren’t fully seated
- Damaged projectile tips
- A potential ring around the projectile from a universal bullet seater (for reloads)
- If the overall weight of the round is off
- The size/diameter of the projectile and how far it’s seated
- Steel content (checked with a magnet)
- Any other non-uniform markings or characteristics
Obviously no sales deal is worth an accident. When in doubt – don’t shoot.
Many of us make online purchases from a variety of sites already, and most folks are pretty savvy about what may or may not be legitimate. Buying ammo online is perfectly safe as long as you’re working through a known reputable company. The issue is though that some of these scammers and their online retail storefronts are getting more sophisticated, so it can be hard to tell sometimes what’s real. Some of the sites are set up to look like other brands, with stolen or fake logos, product photos and content – and will promote themselves with slight variations on actual URL’s. These ones often pop up from overseas but then get shut down fairly quickly. Many others simply use social media ‘stores’ to do their transactions. In any case, if the pricing seems unreasonably low or if they’re asking for more personal information than usual, you may be dealing with a shady seller. You may also get nothing shipped to you at all.
Other red flags for bogus online sales might include:
If a company doesn’t actually have a website outside of their social media channels.
If their preferred method of communication is through direct messages or chat apps only.
If they use 3rd-party payment platforms only or offer odd discounts for using crypto currency etc. This makes it much more difficult to get your money back.
Websites that do not indicate HTTPS or that have no valid SSL certificate to help protect your data.
Confusing or awkward sentences, bad grammar or typos in the written site content.
Incorrect or non-existent business addresses listed.
Claims that everything is in stock – no supply issues – buy as much as you want.
If there is a claim that they will ship directly to all States with no restrictions (no point-of sale-background checks).
Ammo scammers may see a rich opportunity during uncertain times, so it helps to be extra wary whether you’re buying direct or online. Don’t let the potential of a great sale cloud your judgment. Your best bet is to buy from trusted sources only and be prepared to walk away if in doubt.
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